Some History Behind Florida Natural Resource Legislative Changes

A bill that would have allowed offshore drilling for oil in Florida’s waters was shelved during the 2010 legislative session; this happened after the BP oil disaster occurred in Louisiana. The League has opposed offshore drilling, as well as drilling in the Everglades. One of the environmental groups in Florida is circulating petitions for a permanent ban on oil drilling in Florida waters between the mean high tide line and the outermost boundaries of the Florida territorial seas.

During the 2008 session, Senate Bill 360 was passed; the bill eased concurrency requirements for developers relating to schools and roads. The League opposed this bill and asked the governor to veto it. However, the bill was signed by the governor and became law. In October 2009, Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham told senators that SB 360 did not supersede the comprehensive plan already in place in a community, and the relaxing of concurrency rules would not necessarily apply. The first reaction of the committee was to write a new bill that would effectively do away with concurrency in the areas affected by the legislation. Over a dozen municipalities sued, and SB 360 was thrown out of circuit court because it would place unfunded mandates on communities. It may be appealed, although the sponsor of the legislation said that he would prefer to rewrite the bill so that it would not be prone to lawsuits.

During the 2010 session, the Legislature did not reauthorize funding for the Department of Community Affairs when it came up for renewal during this year’s session. The Department was conceived by Governor Bob Graham in 1985, a response to the unbridled growth and sprawl taking place in Florida. The future of the department is unknown at this time, although a majority of its power was stripped by Governor Rick Scott. The “Hometown Democracy” amendment that would require local governments to allow voter participation in changes to comprehensive plans was defeated in the November 2010 election.

In the 2009 session, SB 2080 was passed; it eliminated public input to water management district governing boards. The public no longer could express concerns about environmental resource and consumptive use permit decisions. The governor signed it into law.

On February 18, 2014, League of Women Voters of Florida President Deirdre Macnab sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the proposed conversion of 200 acres of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for use as a private commercial spaceport. Destruction of the 200 acres would be detrimental to the Indian River Lagoon, a precious ecosystem that is already facing a myriad of pollution issues from other sources.

The FAA is petitioning to use the land to create a new rocket launch pad and facility, and they are being met with resistance from the League and many other organizations.

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