At the beginning of each legislative session, there is a feeling of optimism as FCV works cooperatively with legislators to file and support good water quality bills. Invariably, bad bills will emerge during this time that weaken protection for our precious water or strip money from true conservation needs. Policy can be complicated, and bills have to pass through many committee stops along the way to becoming law. That’s where you, members of FCV, help. During session, we create calls to action so that you can talk to your legislators and make your voice heard on the issues that matter to you.
As week seven wraps up, here is a status update on some of the water bills we’ve been tracking.
SB862/HB561: Implementation of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force
This good bill addresses some of the recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force. It would develop an inspection program for septic systems and prioritize pollution reduction and water conservation projects that yield maximum results. FCV has supported this commonsense bill for the past two years and is disappointed that it has not passed. Implementing these recommendations is an important step to addressing water pollution from various sources that can cause harmful algal blooms.
Status: The Senate bill passed two committee stops unanimously (Environment and Natural Resources, and Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government). The House bill was not heard in a single committee and therefore cannot be added to any other bills.
SB198/HB349: Water Resources Management
This is the bad seagrass mitigation banking bill that would create a pathway for developers to destroy more of our seagrass in exchange for paying private mitigation bankers to transplant seagrass to areas already within public ownership.
Status: Both the House and Senate bills passed one committee but have not progressed further. While language could be amended onto other bills, significant pressure from FCV and conservation partners, coastal residents, and editorial boards have made this a toxic issue. See the op-ed from FCV’s Water and Land Policy Director about how this could further endanger dying manatees.
SB1000/HB1291: Nutrient Application Rates
This bill would allow for additional fertilizer application to citrus crops if recommended by a certified crop advisor. Pollution from agriculture is already a leading source of water quality pollution in many water bodies. This bill would allow for more fertilizer application without any targeted water quality monitoring. It would also direct the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences ( IFAS) to study this technique for other agricultural commodities. FCV feels that this is premature and may lead to additional fertilizer usage, further impairing water quality.
Status: The Senate bill has passed the floor. The House bill has passed three committee stops and will likely be scheduled for the floor. It is expected to pass both chambers.
SB1400/HB603: Land Acquisition Trust Fund
This bill would allocate $20 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for water supply projects in the Heartland Headwaters area. Its current language could allow for money from the LATF to be used for gray infrastructure projects, like wastewater systems as well as pipes and pumps. While nature-based solutions like protecting natural wetlands still are allowable, the LATF was not established with the intention to use for infrastructure projects. FCV recommended limiting the projects being considered for state LATF funding to only environmental restoration or conservation, however, those recommendations were not accepted.
Status: The Senate bill has passed two committee stops and is next scheduled for Appropriations. The House bill has only passed one committee (Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations).
Tuesday, March 1st is day 50 and the last day for regularly scheduled committee meetings. If a bill has not passed its full set of committee stops, it cannot pass as a full bill. However, if a bill has passed at least one committee, language can be amended onto other bills if they reference the same existing statute. This can provide a pathway for good (or bad) legislation to move forward.
Thank you to all FCV members that have been engaged in these issues and have spoken up for clean water. As the pace quickens during the final two weeks of session, we’ll be counting on you to be ready to take swift action. Keep an eye out for emails and visit our action center