Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

How the Legislature voted on a 'foul thing'

Third in a series of columns on key votes taken by the Florida Legislature since the last election.

What our Legislature does in the first year of our two-year cycle is too easily forgotten by the next election.

So this is a perfect time to revisit one of the Legislature's "greatest hits" from 2009 — an innocent bill that mutated into a monstrosity.

A lobbyist for Audubon of Florida called it "a foul thing," the worst bill of the session. That was saying a lot, since the same session also included the repeal of a key part of our state's growth laws.

Senate Bill 2080 started out mildly enough, dealing with water conservation. One of its forerunners was intended to promote "Florida-friendly landscaping."

But on the next-to-last day of the 2009 session, the bill was amended, without even the knowledge of its sponsor.

The new version ordered Florida's five water districts to turn over the granting of all permits for water use and for environmental destruction to their staffs — outside the normal process of public involvement and state rules.

An article by my colleague Craig Pittman explained:

Until this week, if a bottling company wanted to slurp millions of gallons of water out of the aquifer or a developer wanted to pave over thousands of acres of swamps, the state permits had to be approved by one of five water management district boards appointed by the governor. The board's vote took place in a public meeting where residents could stand up and give their opinion.

Instead, under Senate Bill 2080, these decisions were turned over to "five unelected, largely unknown bureaucrats."

The water boards could hear appeals only when the staff denied water-use or environmental permits — but there could be no appeal if it granted them!

How did this happen?

It happened without deliberation, without public debate, without any kind of sober process at all.

The last-minute amendment in the Senate was proposed by Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Winter Haven. It passed on a voice vote with no recorded roll call.

"The governor needs to veto this foul thing," opined Charles Lee, Audubon's lobbyist.

But the once-green Gov. Charlie Crist ignored a statewide outcry and signed it into law anyway. At the time, Crist was still a Republican, trying to curry favor with business interests and his party.

After the bill became law, an interesting thing happened. The water districts got power, and declined to use it. Some of them deliberately set up new, even more public processes.

In 2010, the Legislature quietly backtracked and repealed the portion about water-use permits. But the part dealing with wetlands destruction and other "environmental resource permits" stayed on the books. We remain at the mercy of a new governor and future water-board members with a different philosophy.

On this issue, it's easy to keep track: On the final vote in both the House and the Senate, the bill passed unanimously. Either the members knew what they were doing — or worse, they didn't.

For the record, since the ballot does not indicate incumbents, here's the list of our Tampa Bay area legislators who voted for the bill:

Sens. Victor Crist, R-Tampa; Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island; Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg; Ronda Storms, R-Brandon.

Reps. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa; Tom Anderson, R-Dunedin; Rachel Burgin, R-Tampa; Faye Culp, R-Tampa; Jim Frishe, R-Belleair Bluffs; Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City; Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg; Ed Homan, R-Tampa; Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater; Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg; John Legg, R-New Port Richey; Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs; Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill; Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel; and then-Rep. Mike Scionti, D-Tampa.

How the Legislature voted on a 'foul thing' 09/11/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 11, 2010 9:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans trying to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade on a Portland, Ore., light rail train.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  2. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  3. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  4. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
  5. Protest sparks Texas lawmaker threats of gun violence


    AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas' tough new anti-"sanctuary cities" law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense …