Florida environment gets bipartisan love in internationally controversial legislative session
A number of environmental bills are getting bipartisan love from lawmakers. One would create a decade-long seagrass restoration plan through a partnership with Mote Marine Lab and the University of Florida. The move comes after the state saw a dramatic increase in seagrass loss, linked to record manatee deaths.
“In the Indian River Lagoon and in the St. Lucia River we have lost huge amounts of seagrass and we definitely need the research to find seagrass that will live and be able to purify that water. and increase our population of fish and habitat,” Republican Senator Gayle Harrell said in a vote in favor of the bill.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in the northern portions of the Indian River Lagoon, more than half of the seagrass beds have died, making 2021 the worst manatee mortality event the state has ever recorded. Harrell thinks the state should go further and investigate the underlying causes of seagrass loss.
“I think looking at the basic issues that are creating the death of seagrass should also be part of this whole issue because it’s being addressed holistically,” Harrell said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Linda Stewart is sponsoring a bill to reduce household and commercial waste. “We just have trash and it’s piling up, we ship it sometimes [to] other places,” she said during a hearing on her bill.
Stewart’s bill SB 506 also received unanimous approval in its second stop in committee. The measure requires the Environmental Protection Department to develop a waste reduction and recycling plan.
“So we’re about to have at least one bill that will assess the waste that we have and try to find a way or recommend ways to reduce that and then put it into Florida law,” said Stewart.
Other bills moving through the legislature include an Osborne Reef cleanup off Fort. Lauderdale and DEP funding to mitigate septic tank leaks. Republican Rep. Spencer Roach sits on the House committee dealing with hurricane issues. He considers the bipartisan agreement on environmental policies to be one of the greatest successes of this legislature.
“This is probably the most bipartisan effort we’ll ever work on. I don’t think you’ll find a member of the Florida Legislative Assembly, House, or Senate who disagrees that that preserving and protecting our environment for future generations is really essential not only for our economy, but for our environment, good stewardship of our environment,” he said.
Earlier this week, multiple legislative committees approved more than a dozen environmental bills, all with overwhelming bipartisan support.