Speak out to stop ‘Dirty Water’ bills that would undercut local rules

Today marks the start of Florida’s annual 60-day Legislative session — a time when lawmakers convene in Tallahassee to consider bills that will impact Floridians and the natural environment.

Communities across Florida have a huge stake in clean water.

But if two bills filed in the state Legislature last week become law, they will abolish local governments’ ability to fight pollution — and inevitably lead to dirtier water.

House Bill 1197 (Maggard) and its Senate counterpart, Senate Bill 1240 (Burgess) would strip municipal and county governments of their authority to regulate water quality, water quantity, pollution control, pollution discharge prevention or removal, and wetlands, including delineation of wetlands.

It’s the latest attempt by the Legislature to “preempt” local authority and instead delegate authority solely to the state.

The problem is, local governments across Florida already have the type of regulations prohibited by these bills; there’s no language in the legislation suggesting that these local ordinances would be preserved.

That means, for example, Martin County’s stringent wetlands ordinance, which protects all wetlands in the unincorporated county, might be scuttled. So, too, may local fertilizer ordinances; at least 34 Florida counties restrict fertilizer use during the wet season to limit nutrient runoff. Nothing in HB 1197/SB 1240 would “grandfather” this practice into any new law — meaning the fertilizer bans could themself be banned.

The laxity of state law and lack of enforcement is why cities and counties feel compelled to adopt tougher local rules in the first place. If the state was doing a bang-up job protecting water quality and fighting pollution, we wouldn’t need local clean-water regulation.

But the proliferation of Florida’s water problems shows we do.

These bills must be stopped. You can help kill them by doing two things. First, call and email  the sponsors, and tell them you oppose HB 1197/SB 1240 because these bills threaten Florida’s waters — therefore threatening Florida’s public health and economy:

HB 1197 sponsor:
Rep. Randy Maggard, R-54
(850) 717-5054 (Tallahassee office)
(813) 780-0067 (District office)
Email: randy.maggard@myfloridahouse.gov

SB 1240 sponsor:
Sen. Danny Burgess, R-23
(850) 487-5023 (Tallahassee office)
(813) 779-7059 (District office)
Email: burgess.danny.web@flsenate.gov

Then contact your local representatives in the Florida House and Senate. Tell them the same thing. If you don’t know who they are, just type in your address here and here to get their info.