It was an adventure and interesting political theater, yesterday in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
An entirely new bill was introduced for CS/CS/SB 1576. But, before that substitute could be debated, several “late-file” amendments were introduced and adopted “without objection.” To the credit of the sponsoring Senators, the amended version has several improvements. What are they?
Deleted was the authorization for local governments to establish Responsible Management Entities. Retained was the state statute on septic systems inspections which serves our state well. And, strengthened was the Basin Management Action plan (BMAP) process for assessing and addressing potential pollution sources.
CPR offered testimony in the committee pointing out the bill still mandates a one-size-fits-all approach to regulating property owners’ septic systems. In fact, in the water quality section of the bill, one third of the language focuses on septic systems. Such mandates could impair the work of the BMAP process which is designed to be spring-shed specific. All potential pollution sources should be considered, not just a focus on one.
CPR, once again, pointed out the need for science-based identification of pollution sources, without which effective remediation cannot take place. However, the Senators have not addressed this in the bill language although they say they want a scientific approach. The bill is approximately 24 pages. And yet, the word science does not appear once; neither do the words scientific data or scientific method.
The biggest surprise of the day, however, was reserved for the League of Cities and Association of Counties. One of the amendments removed the promise of recurring funding to carry out the mandates of the bill. Without such funding, they do not wish to be left with unfunded mandates.
Following a close to the bill offered by Senator Simmons, the Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill.
By way of observation, it is curious that the bill has been heard now in three committees. CPR has not heard one question from a Senator and, not one Senator has asked to be recognized in debate over this bill.
The bill now moves to be considered by the entire Senate. In the Florida House, the bill has yet to be heard in its first committee (the Agriculture and Natural Resource Subcommittee). Without an identical House companion, the Senate bill cannot become law. Please note, even at this late date, the House leadership could call a special meeting of that first committee to hear and pass the bill. It would then be eligible to be withdrawn from its other two committees of reference and be put before the entire House for a vote.
Remain vigilant. CPR will work to keep you informed.
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