Veto SB 7103 that would limit Florida local planning, urge 44 groups 2019-05-29

The Florida Governor should veto SB 7103, which would require local citizens to be stuck with big developers’ attorney bills, greatly limiting citizens’ ability to steer local comprehensive planning. This problem goes far beyond the Everglades, even though that’s the main subject of a letter WWALS co-signed, among 44 organizations. Governor DeSantis did not look much like Teddy Roosevelt when he signed the toll road boondoggle bill, but maybe he will veto this other egregious bill.

legal fees

Citing threat to Everglades, 44 groups ask Gov. DeSantis to veto bill, Julie Hauserman, Florida Phoenix, 29 May 2019.

Forty-four organizations — including all the heavyweight Florida environmental groups — are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill — HB 7103 — saying it would hurt efforts to clean up Florida waterways, especially the ongoing, multi-billion-dollar Everglades restoration.

Former Gov. Bob Graham has also urged DeSantis to veto the bill.

“This bill has several provisions that could negatively impact the full restoration of the Greater Everglades ecosystem,” the groups said in a letter sent to DeSantis Wednesday, “including efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in our waterways; the worst of which were quietly amended onto the bill in the final hours of the legislative session and adopted without public input, meaningful discussion or debate in committee hearings, without any legislative staff analysis, and without any public testimony.”

“In as much, legislators voted without fully understanding the impact of those last minute changes. Good governance dictates that HB 7103 must not be signed into law and deserves your veto.”

The bill includes language saying anyone who sues to enforce local comprehensive land development plans and loses in court has to cover the winners’ legal fees. (See previous Phoenix story: Last-minute legislative amendment penalizes anyone who challenges Florida development).

In their letter, the groups point out: “In general, citizens who may bring challenges to defend against environmental threats, such as loss of wetlands that filter pollution and reduce flooding, do not have the same financial means as developers and/or local governments.”

See also, Environmentalists ask DeSantis to veto bill that could stifle development challenges: In a letter Wednesday, they wrote part of the bill could stop advocates from suing to protect the Everglades in the future, Elizabeth Koh, Tampa Bay Times, 30 May 2019.

I don’t know if WWALS is among “all the heavyweight Florida environmental groups”, but yes, we co-signed that letter.

I already wrote a week earlier in the Gainesville Sun:

Yes, the turnpike bill has a “project development phase” for $45 million and increasing each year, with a “local government official from each local government within a proposed corridor.” But the Legislature also passed HB 7103, which would limit local government comprehensive planning, which is the real local government counter to encroaching construction projects. The governor should veto HB 7103.

So signing on to this letter against SB 7103 was not a hard decision.

This Florida Phoenix article notes that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did not live up to his claim to be like Teddy Roosevelt when he failed to veto that toll road boondoggle bill. Maybe this time he will do the right thing and veto SB 7103.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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