April 01, 2015

Senate restores some funding for Amendment 1 land acqusition

In an effort to quell anger from environmental advocates who supported Amendment 1, the Florida Senate agreed to spend in next year’s budget $35 million for Florida Forever land acquisition and another $20 million for land acquisition for springs restorations.

“We want to send a message to those who supported the amendment and tell them, we hear you,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park.

That’s not the message those groups heard two weeks ago when the House and Senate released their proposed budgets.

The Senate's budget sets aside $2 million for the Florida Forever program, which was created in 1999 to fund public land acquisition and was initially authorized to spend $300 million a year. The proposed amount represents an 84 percent cut from this year's budget and $118 million less than what Gov. Rick Scott proposes.

The House says it has set aside $205 million for Florida Forever, but most of that money is actually tied to other projects, such as reservoirs, springs restoration and other programs, leaving only about $10 million for the land acquisition program.

Supporters of Amendment 1, which passed with 75 percent of the vote, say they intended that the money from documentary stamp revenue would be spent on land to be used as parks, wildlife habitat and trails. Groups like 1,000 Friends of Florida are asking members to call senators, who were supposed to have provided more money to Florida Forever.

“Please call you senator right now and ask him or her to support amendments to increase funding for Florida Forever,” stated a 1,000 Friends of Florida blast email on Tuesday.

Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, had proposed an amendment to provide $300 million for Florida Forever, but withdrew it after supporting Bradley’s amendment instead.

“The people of Florida rose up and got an amendment on the ballot,” Altman said. “I do think our budget falls short of the intent of that constitutional amendmemt. But this amendment moves us in a very positive direction.”

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, had opposed adding any more money for Florida Forever, saying the state already had more than 9 million acres of land set aside for conservation. He added that Bradley’s amendment come at a cost: reducing by $10 million a plan to control invasive plants, eliminating money for hybrid wetlands.

March 31, 2015

Amendment 1 advocates turn up the heat on Sen. Charlie Dean

Supporters of Amendment 1 are busy phone-banking a key state lawmaker in support of setting aside millions for the Florida Forever land acquisition program. Their calls have been targeting Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, chairman of the Senate Environmental Preservation and conservation Committee, the sponsor of the Amendment 1 implementing bill (SB 584) that is on the floor calendar for Wednesday's Senate session.

"I'm asking him to please support Amendment 1 money for the Florida Forever program," said Kathleen Betsko of Sugarmill Woods, a community in Citrus County in Dean's sprawling district. "I thought Senator Dean was going to be in favor of this and it sounds like that's not what they're doing."

Betsko identified herself as a Democrat who has voted for Dean in the past. She is among the 75 percent of Florida voters who approved Amendment 1, the so-called water and land amendment, in the November 2014 election. Conservation groups across Florida are emphasizing the same message in phone calls and on social media.

March 27, 2015

Official Naked Politics poll* results: Amendment 1 is for land buys

* Not even close to scientific.....

On Wednesday, Naked Politics asked you, dear reader, why you voted for Amendment 1. Thanks to get-out-the-vote efforts by the Florida Senate Democrats on one side of the issue (buy more land), and Associated Industries of Florida on the other side (land and water maintenance), the votes poured in. 

By a 2-1 margin, the side advocating for the purchasing of more land carried the day.

Here are some of the reader comments. See if you can tell which side is relying on the same talking points.

Continue reading "Official Naked Politics poll* results: Amendment 1 is for land buys" »

March 26, 2015

Jon Stewart: No 'climate change' for Scott but how about a 'surprise pool party'?

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, got some national TV airtime last night — but maybe not for what he’d like.

In a Daily Show segment on Gov. Rick Scott’s alleged ban on the phrase “climate change,” Jon Stewart showed last week’s Senate committee meeting, chaired by Latvala, when lawmakers gave Bryan Koon, chief of emergency management, a ribbing for refusing to say...those words.

Said, Stewart, focusing in on Latvala, who almost fell out of his chair from laughter: “I think that one guy needs the Heimlich!”

But don’t worry, Gov. Scott, Stewart has some suggested phrases to replace “sea level rise” in the Florida vernacular: Let’s try “moisture inconvenience,” “statewide jacuzzi-fication” or maybe get ready for a “surprise pool party.”

March 19, 2015

The pain continues for Amendment 1 supporters with release of Senate plan

Environmental groups hoping the Florida Senate would do better than the House in respecting the intent of Amendment 1 were disappointed on Thursday.

The Senate’s appropriations subcommittee on general government, which is chaired by Sen. Al Hays, R-Umatilla, released its $4 billion spending plan for next year. It includes the Senate’s plan on following the new constitutional amendment, passed overwhelmingly by voters in November, that requires 33 percent of documentary stamp revenues be spent to buy, restore, improve and manage conservation lands.

The Senate proposes spending $714.2 million on Amendment 1, which is about $58 million less than what the House proposed and $43 million less than what Gov. Rick Scott set aside for it.

The Senate’s proposed budget includes just $2 million to fund land acquisition under Florida Forever, an 84 percent cut from this year’s budget, which passed before Amendment 1 was approved..

Florida Forever was created in 1999 to allocate funds for public land acquisition and was initially authorized to spend $300 million a year. But since the recession, it has struggled. In 2011, it wasn't funded at all. In this year’s budget, lawmakers set aside $17 million, of which $5 million went to deals with private landowners.

Yet this year’s proposal of $2 million, just months after Amendment 1 passed, is an affront, said Will Abberger, chair of the Amendment 1 sponsor committee.

“The intent of the 4.2 million voters who voted Yes for Amendment 1 was clear: fund the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the acquisition of parks and natural areas,” Abberger said. "The Senate’s budget proposal appears to ignore the very reason that Florida voters approved Amendment 1.”

The Senate’s spending plan includes money for agency operations and other expenses that were never intended to be funded by Amendment 1, said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, the sponsor committee for Amendment 1.

“We are deeply disappointed by this proposal,” Moncrief said. “There’s no way that anyone could have read the Amendment and consider this budget to be adequate.”

The Senate version was especially disappointing for Amendment 1 supporters Senate leaders had promised an upgrade from the House version.

On Wednesday, the Senate’s appropriations chair, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said the upper chamber’s version would be more inclusive.

“We’ll end up with a much more balanced approach, to make sure all of the stakeholders involved in Amendment 1 have some outcome that they were hoping for when those expectations were set,” Lee said.

That appears not to be the case, however.

In Senate testimony, top Scott adviser won't say 'climate change'

Gov. Rick Scott's chief of emergency management, Bryan Koon, testifying Thursday before the Legislature, had a half-dozen chances to use the term "climate change."

But he would not say the C-words.

Scott has denied news reports that employees of the Department of Environmental Protection were barred from saying "climate change," "global warming" and "sustainability," but he has declined to discuss the subject in detail.

Koon was talking to a Senate budget subcommittee about his agency's request for federal funds to improve emergency life safety notifications for residents and visitors in advance of floods, tornadoes and hurricanes in Florida. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, asked Koon if it's true that states need to have "climate change plans" to qualify for that federal money.

Yes, Koon replied, referring to "language to that effect."

"I used 'climate change,'" Clemens said, "but I'm suggesting that maybe as a state, we use the term 'atmospheric reemployment.' That might be something that the governor could get behind."

Senators roared with laughter, and the chairman, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, almost literally fell out of his chair.

Koon said Clemens was right, and the state's next hurricane mitigation plan, due in 2018, must include "language discussing that issue."

"What issue is that?" Clemens asked.

"The issue you mentioned earlier," Koon replied. 

March 12, 2015

How one Florida congressman reacted to state's distaste for using 'climate change'


U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, took to Twitter on Thursday to jab Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott over his administration's aversion to using the terms "climate change" and "global warming" in writing. (The state says it's not true.)

John Kerry takes on Rick Scott over avoiding 'climate change'

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that elected officials who ban the words "climate change" are unwilling to face the facts, a non-so-subtle dig at Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration.

Kerry, a longtime champion of combatting climate change, said the officials were ignoring the scientific facts.

"Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say 'climate change,'" Kerry said during a speech at The Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. "Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible."

Kerry did not refer to Scott by name but said that he had read in the last "couple of days" reports about the ban.

More here.

March 11, 2015

Florida's aversion to 'climate change' extended to other agencies

via @fcir

No one told Bart Bibler not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” during his six months on the job at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Then, on March 4, he walked into a Florida Coastal Managers Forum, a teleconference with representatives from other state agencies.

When he introduced himself, Bibler congratulated everyone for the “exciting” work being done to address the impact of climate change, and then he mentioned his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline project.

“The reaction was mostly shock,” Bibler said. According to Bibler, the forum moderator, Ann Lazar, said she hoped his advocacy on the conference call wouldn’t result in cancellations of future ones.

“Obviously, she's nervous I had violated this unwritten policy of talking about climate change,” Bibler said. “I didn’t get the memo.”

Lazar declined to comment.

DEP officials put Bibler on a two-day leave. The letter of reprimand chastised him for expressing his personal views about the pipeline. It also stated that a summary of the meeting Bibler supplied to his supervisor “gave the appearance that this was Ann's official meeting agenda that included climate change.”

More here.

Fact-checking Rick Scott on environment, sea level rise claims

Gov. Rick Scott’s record on the environment has faced renewed scrutiny after a news report stated that administrators in his Department of Environmental Protection were banned from using the terms "global warming" or "climate change."

Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, which broke the story, cited former DEP officials who said they had been told verbally to avoid such phrases.

"We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’ " said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection from 2008 until 2013. "That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel."

After the report appeared, FCIR responded to critics who noted that the phrase "climate change" can be found on DEP’s website. FCIR explained that the majority of the documents predated Scott and that DEP’s servers host reports from other agencies and that the unofficial censorship system is porous.

The Washington Post then reported that a DEP official underlined the phrase "climate change" in a scientist’s paper multiple times, and she was told to remove it.

In the past, Scott has largely dodged questions about climate change using the refrain "I'm not a scientist." (Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has also used that phrase.)

Scott and his administration have denied that any such policy existed.

"It's not true," Scott told reporters in Hialeah March 9, without going into specifics.

Instead, Scott repeated familiar broad talking points about his environmental accomplishments without addressing whether any of them would address climate change.

"Let's look at what we've accomplished," he said. "We've had significant investments in beach renourishment, in flood mitigation. Look at what we've done with the Everglades: We settled a lawsuit over the Everglades. That litigation had been going on for decades. We put money in the Tamiami Trail, to raise that, to push water south. We've had - I think we've had record investments in our springs."

Here’s a look at some of PolitiFact Florida's previous fact-checks of Scott’s claims about the environment and his progress on environmental-related promises.