Action Alert: Toxic House Bill 703 is bad for Martin, contact elected officials now

Panhandle Republican Representative Jimmy Patronis filed House Bill 703 that seeks to modify environmental regulations in a way that would preempt the ability of local governments to adopt environmental and growth management regulations stricter than those authorized by the state. (Photo source: FL House of Representatives)

Panhandle Republican Representative Jimmy Patronis recently filed House Bill 703. This bill seeks to modify environmental regulations in a way that would preempt the ability of local governments to adopt environmental and growth management regulations stricter than those authorized by the state. The Martin County Democratic Executive Committee is urging residents to contact our elected officials and voice their opinions on this bill.

Much of the bill is targeted at wetlands, waterways, and water use laws. The legislation appears designed to benefit big agriculture and other large landowners and developers.

Specific provisions in this toxic bill include:

  • Retroactive preemption of strict wetlands, spring protection, and stormwater ordinances adopted or readopted by a local jurisdiction after July 1, 2003. These ordinances could no longer be enforced if the county readopted them, even if they had been in effect for years.
  • A requirement that “Board-enacted mandatory and optional elements of the comprehensive plan and plan amendments shall be adopted by a simple majority vote of the local government…”

These two sections would effectively repeal a recent amendment to Martin County’s comprehensive plan which requires a supermajority vote for any amendments that would increase “negative impacts” to the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie estuary and would “adversely affect the water supply.”

Another provision from HB 703:

  • Authorization to grant 50-year permits to landowners for water storage and release projects.

Former five-term Martin Commissioner and renowned environmental expert Maggy Hurchalla comments on this section of the bill:

Under Florida law, the people of Florida own the waters of the state in lakes and rivers and in the aquifer. There is increasing pressure to privatize the ownership of water. That could be disastrous for Florida residents and Florida natural resources.

The language suggests that a landowner who pumped water onto his land from the public canals, could then get a permit for consumptive use that would allow him to sell the water for the next 50 years. We have seen the effect of long term water use permits on Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and the coastal estuaries. Long term permits never get rescinded.

There’s more. Be sure to check out Maggy Hurchalla’s new website, appropriately named www.rivercrisis.com which includes an annotated version of HB 703.

This pernicious legislation deserves a groundswell of determined opposition from “we the people.” Please contact our elected state officials and voice your displeasure with HB 703:

  • Governor Rick Scott
  • State Senate President Dan Gaetz
  • State House Speaker Will Weatherford
  • Senator Joe Negron
  • Senator Denise Grimsley
  • Representative Gayle Harrell
  • Representative MaryLynn Magar

Copy and paste this email string to contact all of the above: rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com, gaetz.don.web@flsenate.gov, will.weatherford@myfloridahouse.gov, negron.joe.web@flsenate.gov, grimsley.denise.web@flsenate.gov, gail.harrell@myfloridahouse.gov, marylynn.magar@myfloridahouse.gov

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