Thursday, December 14, 2017
Perspective

Water bills ready for quick vote but environmental groups want to slow it down

Florida has some serious water woes: spreading nutrient pollution, the algae-choked springs and, in the Indian River Lagoon, massive sea grass and wildlife die-offs.

Yet for the past two years, the Legislature has failed to deal with the problem. Politics got in the way.

In 2014, everyone from Gov. Rick Scott to a coalition of environmental groups and a consortium of business and industry groups said the Legislature needed to take swift action on water issues.

The Senate was willing, but outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford said no. He wanted everyone to wait a year until his replacement, Steve Crisafulli, could tackle the issue. Water would be the No. 1 priority, House leaders promised.

Yet in 2015, the water policy rewrite everyone wanted again was derailed by politics.

Amid a dispute with the Senate over the budget, Crisafulli's House stormed out of the Capitol several days early. The abrupt departure violated the state Constitution and also left Crisafulli's No. 1 priority dead in the water.

The legislative session that starts Tuesday marks Crisafulli's last shot at rewriting Florida's water policy. He's promising that the bills — HB 7005 and SB 552 — will be voted on quickly.

"That will be a bill that comes up the first week," he told reporters in a Dec. 18 news conference.

But now environmental groups, eco-tour companies and civic activists want to slow things down. They say those bills in their current form are too friendly to polluters and not protective of Florida's citizens.

"They're missing some serious priorities," said Cris Costello of the Sierra Club. She also said the current bills contain loopholes "that make the other provisions ineffective."

Missing, for instance, is language that would establish water conservation as a priority and deadlines for setting the maximum amount of pollution allowed in waterways, the groups contend.

In addition, a section on a new Central Florida drinking supply program calls for letting private companies get taxpayer money for withdrawing surface water from rivers and streams without any assurance they will be effective, the groups noted in a letter to the Legislature signed by 106 of them.

But the House sponsor, Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, said he can't see any reason for amending the bill at this point.

"This (bill) is the result of three years of discussion, negotiation and legislative consideration," he said. The sponsor in the other chamber, Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, is a little more open to changes — but not much.

"I have told people, bring me language and I will review it," Dean said.

Caldwell said he thinks of a bill like this one as being like one of the towers that players build during a game of Jenga. Try loading on too many amendments and a third year may go by without any action on a water bill, he said, because "there's a point at which any more messing with it will knock it over."

Comments

President Trump isnít watching too much TV; itís just the wrong kind.

By JAMES PONIEWOZIKBecause President Donald Trump has said he is a reader ó big-league reader, reads documents, the best documents ó I hope that he is reading this, and not, say, watching a Fox & Friends recording on the gigantic flat-screen TV that ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
PolitiFact: What you need to know about net neutrality

PolitiFact: What you need to know about net neutrality

The Federal Communications Commissionís vote to scrap Obama-era internet restrictions creates the potential for broadband providers like Frontier and Spectrum to divide their networks into fast lanes and slow lanes, throttle rivalsí video-streaming s...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Perspective: Sexual harassment training doesnít work, but some things do.

Many people are familiar with typical corporate training to prevent sexual harassment: clicking through a PowerPoint, checking a box that you read the employee handbook or attending a mandatory seminar at which someone lectures about harassment while...
Updated: 7 hours ago

12Thatís how many cans of Diet Coke President Donald Trump drinks each day, according to the New York Times.3 timesThatís how much likelier farmed salmon are to be partially deaf than their wild relatives. Scientists at the University of Melbourne de...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Perspective: The year Santa Claus didnít come

Perspective: The year Santa Claus didnít come

The doctor studied the glob of puss oozing from the patchwork of scabs along my one-year-old sonís left index finger."Itís definitely infected. And you have no idea when or how it happened?"He didnít say it, but hereís what I heard next in my head: "...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Perspective: An economist explains how to sort facts from fictions

Perspective: An economist explains how to sort facts from fictions

In public debates about economic policy, it can be hard to separate real insights from political posturing. But a few simple rules of thumb can help.Start with information you can count on. Crucial economic statistics ó like the unemployment rate, in...
Updated: 8 hours ago
News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds

News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds

If all you knew about black families was what national news outlets reported, you are likely to think African Americans are overwhelmingly poor, reliant on welfare, absentee fathers and criminals, despite what government data show, according to the r...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Perspective: Is the GOP tax plan an unprecedented windfall for the wealthy? We look at 50 years of data to find out.

Perspective: Is the GOP tax plan an unprecedented windfall for the wealthy? We look at 50 years of data to find out.

The Democrats say President Donald Trumpís tax cuts are a massive giveaway to the rich, the most unequal overhaul of the U.S. tax system in modern history. Republicans argue they are a huge middle class tax cut ó "a great, big, beautiful Christmas pr...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Perspective: Guilt can be good for your kid

Guilt can be a complicated element in the parent-child equation; we feel guilty, they feel guilty, we may make them feel guilty and then feel guilty about that. But certain kinds of guilt are a healthy part of child development.Tina Malti, a professo...
Published: 12/04/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Perspective: Why trying new things is so hard to do

Perspective: Why trying new things is so hard to do

By SENDHIL MULLAINATHANI drink a lot of Diet Coke: 2 liters a day, almost six cansí worth. Iím not proud of the habit, but I really like the taste of Diet Coke.As a frugal economist, Iím well aware that switching to a generic brand would save me mone...
Published: 12/03/17
Updated: 12/07/17