TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Audubon Society filed a motion in the Florida Supreme Court on Friday asking to enter a brief supporting a suit challenging the constitutionality of Gov. Rick Scott's executive order freezing rule-making.
Specifically, the motion mentions a rule intended to protect Miami's Biscayne Bay that's on hold. "This delay only exacerbates and aggravates the current degradation of Biscayne Bay's vulnerable ecosystem and aggravates and increases the difficulty (and cost) of restoration," say court papers.
Eric Draper, the Audubon Society's executive director, said other rules on hold are also at issue.
"But the Biscayne Bay rule is a good example of the problems we're having with what the governor's doing," Draper said. "It takes a long time to develop environmental rules. There are lots of public hearings involved. There's a lot of discussion among stakeholders. And to take the process and just stop it means that thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work are wasted. We don't know when this rule is going to get reviewed, and environmental protection is brought to a standstill."
The rule freeze was one of Scott's first acts as governor, included in an executive order signed less than an hour after his Jan. 4 inauguration. More than 900 rules on their way to approval were affected. Many have received an okay from the governor, but many more are still on hold.
Earlier this week, a blind woman from Miami seeking to reapply for food stamps filed a petition in the Florida Supreme Court saying the freeze violates the state Constitution.
Rosalie Whiley, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said one of the stalled rules would make it easier for her to apply for food stamps online. She wants the executive order revoked.
Among other things, the lawsuit alleges that Scott is usurping the power given by the Legislature to agency heads to make rules. It also charges that the standards for reviewing agency rules are too vague and that the executive order keeps the secretary of state from publishing rules as required by Florida law.
Janet Zink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7264.