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House passes Everglades bill that pleases Governor, sugar, environmentalists

The Florida House voted unanimously on a bill aimed at protecting the Everglades on Friday.

Apparently, Gov. Rick Scott, an environmental group and the sugar industry are all happy with the bill, which deals with what has been a highly contentious issue.

Here is an early roundup of reaction from stakeholders:

Statement from Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, Regarding Action on HB 7065 & SB 768

Tallahassee, Fla. – The following statement was released today by Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, regarding action taken on House Bill 7065 and Senate Bill 768:

“The Everglades Foundation is pleased by today’s passage of HB 7065 by the full House, which will ensure continued revenue for protecting America’s Everglades, while also protecting the 1993 Statement of Principles that guide Florida’s restoration efforts.  We also thank members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee for their support earlier this week of CS/SB 768, which mirrors HB 7065.

“HB 7065 and SB 768 protect water quality standards, provide a reliable source of funding for implementing the state’s Water Quality Plan and bring together all the stakeholders involved in the future of the Everglades.  Protection and restoration of the Everglades has historically been based on compromise and many parties working together, and I believe this legislation is further proof of that.

“We now look forward to working together with the Florida Senate to usher CS/SB 768 to the Senate floor for full approval, and also working with both chambers to ensure that needed funding is secured to implement the necessary projects and initiatives to continue to restore and protect America’s Everglades.”

Gov. Scott Applauds Legislative Action Protecting the Everglades

TALLAHASSEE - Today, the House of Representatives unanimously approved House Bill 7065, coming on the heels of yesterday’s Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee that unanimously approved Senate Bill 768. Governor Rick Scott issued the following statement regarding the progress of the Everglades Forever Act legislation:

Governor Scott said, “I applaud the work of Senator Wilton Simpson and Representatives Matt Caldwell and Steve Crisafulli for their legislation that moves Everglades restoration forward by funding, and codifying in law, a plan that will ensure the state meets the water quality standards it has set for the Everglades. I would also like to thank members of the agriculture and environmental communities for working toward a solution that will benefit Florida’s businesses, families and the ecosystem. In addition to this important legislation, we will continue working with the Legislature to invest $60 million to protect and restore the Everglades.”


Bill codifies last phase of Everglades plan, recognizes crucial role of farmers

Tallahassee, Fla. --  U.S. Sugar Corp., Florida Crystals Corp., and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida applaud today's passage of Representative Matt Caldwell's Everglades restoration bill, HB 7065. The bill as amended reflects an agreement by farmers, policymakers, and environmental advocates. HB 7065 passed the House with unanimous support.

The bill will align state law and a bipartisan, state Everglades plan that Gov. Rick Scott and the Obama administration agreed to last year in order to move past litigation and finish restoration.

The legislation establishes the appropriation framework and provides for funding for ecosystem restoration project construction. The language calls for Florida's sugar farmers to continue their successful on-farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), paid for entirely by farmers, and recognizes their success as has been demonstrated by a reduction of phosphorus of 55 percent over the past 17 years. It also extends the Agriculture Privilege tax, an additional payment made by Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) farmers, until 2035.

"This legislation demonstrates the art of compromise between all parties and is a victory for all of us who have been part of Everglades restoration efforts for 20 years," said Robert Coker, Senior Vice President of U.S. Sugar. "We are committed to striking the balance that allows us to grow the nation's food and also continue to serve as
partners in the state's restoration plans."

In addition to House passage, the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation amended SB 768, Everglades restoration legislation by Senator Wilton Simpson, to match the House bill and passed it unanimously. This will allow the Senate to move swiftly, pass this Everglades bill, and send it to the Governor for his approval.

"For two decades, the Florida sugar industry has worked together with policymakers, environmental advocates, and other stakeholders in the best interest of Florida," said Gaston Cantens, Vice President of Florida Crystals. "This agreement is a continuation of that successful collaboration and spirit of cooperation we know will get the job done
for restoration."