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FLERAlert – October 13, 2017

October 13, 2017 by flera

FLERA Board Welcomes New Members

The FLERA Board of Directors met on October 4, 2017 in Alachua County and held elections to fill Board vacancies along with conducting other Association business. Please welcome our newest FLERA Board members to the team:

Lisa Spadafina, Secretary-Treasurer, Miami-Dade County
Neal Thomas, Orange County
Steve Hofstetter, Alachua County
Darry Boudreau, The Nature Conservancy.

Board members invest significant time to the Association so we hope you will join us in welcoming them aboard.

October 9-13 Legislative Committee Week Recap

Most of the legislative committees this week were in some way related to Hurricane Irma, Florida’s recovery efforts, and the effect of the storm on the state’s budget. The Governor has over $140M in emergency funds available. This, coupled with the negative effect on Florida’s economy due to the storm itself, means that Florida has gone from expecting a healthy budget surplus of over $50M to expecting a significant budget shortfall of almost $150M.

Additionally, many bills related to Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) allocations have been filed. Senator Bradley is sponsoring SB 204, which currently allocates $50M for the St. Johns River or Keystone Heights. He is also sponsoring SB 370, which would allocate $100M for Florida Forever. Senator Latvala is sponsoring SB 174, which allocates $50M for the statewide beach program. Representative Harrell has indicated that she will file legislation that allocates $50M to the Indian River Lagoon. We understand that additional LATF proposals from other legislators are on their way. These proposals will likely total more than will actually be available in the LATF.

The Florida Keys were particularly hard hit by Hurricane Irma and Monroe County now faces a serious housing crisis, in addition to other significant recovery-related issues. Hurricane Maria is also affecting the state in that Florida schools are dealing with an influx of hundreds of students, many of whom are not English-speaking and have been out of school for several weeks already. It promises to be a challenging budget year, not just for environmental programs, but for everyone.


National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The temporary extension and reauthorization of NFIP expires on December 8. In the meantime, Congress has considered legislation that would promote development of private flood insurance as part of legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and provide hurricane tax relief. The Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) recently wrote Congressional leaders and urged them not to do this, as it would undermine the critical functioning of the NFIP. ASFPM has urged Congress to ensure continuity of the comprehensive flood risk reduction aspects of NFIP today by doing three things:

First, private policies must also vary the federal policy user fee to support mapping and floodplain management functions.

Second, private policies to satisfy the mandatory purchase requirement for properties in floodplains must only be sold in communities that participate in the NFIP (meaning that they have adopted floodplain management ordinances to guide safer development).

Third, several provisions of the existing definition of private flood insurance must be maintained. Current language in Biggert-Waters provides consumer protections to ensure policies would not have excessive deductibles, exclusions, or eliminate some essential coverages such as Increased Cost of Compliance, which provides assistance to policyholders to rebuild in a manner that reduces flood damage in the future.
We will continue to keep you informed on this issue.


FLERA Committee Volunteers

FLERA is currently soliciting volunteers to serve on various committees to assist the organization in advancing its mission.

Conference Committee – We want our 2018 Annual Conference to be a remarkable event and we need your help! Planning is underway and input from FLERA members is critical to its success. This Conference Committee will guide the planning and administration of the conference and other events in the future.

Legislative Committee – The 2018 Legislative Session is quickly approaching and there are many policy and funding challenges ahead. Join the FLERA Legislative Committee to help educate legislators and keep FLERA members apprised of legislative activity.

Finance Committee – The Board of Directors recently established the Finance Committee whose tasks will include reviewing the Association’s financial records and making budget recommendations to the FLERA Board.

If you are interested in serving on one of these committees please contact Valerie Rogers at (850) 701-4797.

Save the Date! The 2018 FLERA Annual Conference will be held August 1-3, 2018 at the Hutchinson Shores Resort on Hutchinson Island in Martin County. Registration and hotel information will be available in the coming weeks.

Budget Update

May 1, 2017 by FLERA

Budget Conferees and allocations were announced yesterday and conference committees began meeting yesterday evening.  Unresolved budget items will bump to the full chairs on Saturday at noon and to the presiding officers at noon on Sunday.  Budgets will need to be finalized, printed and on the desks next Tuesday in order for the Legislature to Sine Die next Friday.

Land conservation programs continue to suffer in budget negotiations.  The Rural and Family Lands Program has not even been a part of budget negotiations to date.  Last year, the program received $35M.  After House and Senate Offer No. 1, Florida Forever has been zeroed out and the item is closed, although Representative Caldwell has indicated that negotiations are ongoing and there may be funding for Florida Forever as budget negotiations continue.  House Offer No. 1 includes $15M for Florida Communities Trust, but the Senate currently has zero funding for this program.

HB 7119 may also appear in budget negotiations.  This bill would streamline and reprioritize Florida Forever.  An amendment in the House would provide funding in out years, scaling up from $57M next year to $200M going forward.  However, HB 7119 does not contain any funding for this budget year.

The Senate met the House position on the Local Government Cleanup Contracting Program and this item has closed out at $13M, a $1M reduction over last year.  The Distribution to Counties from Motor Vehicle Registration Proceeds for air pollution programs was fully funded on both sides at $8.7M and is not part of the current ongoing budget negotiations.

Funding for Beaches is at $30M in the House, with no Hurricane Matthew recovery funding and $100M in the Senate, including $18M for Hurricane Matthew recovery and $50M for the traditional program. Water Projects are currently at $20M in the House and $58M in the Senate.  Although both the House and Senate offer continue to have significant levels of funding for Everglades Restoration, this item will likely be one of the last programs negotiated, as the House and Senate negotiate over SB 10.  This bill addresses water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

Eradication of Tegus

February 20, 2017 by flera

Tegu Lizards & Lionfish

Next week, the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will also hear SB 230 by Senator Artiles relating to Nonnative Animals.  This bill creates a pilot program to support the eradication of tegu lizards, one of Florida’s most aggressive invasive species.  Local populations of tegus are known to exist in Tampa and Miami.  These lizards compete with and prey upon native wildlife, including some threatened species.   The bill may be amended to add lionfish, since the House companion, HB 587 by Representative Beshears, includes both species.

Local Regulation Preemption

February 20, 2017 by flera

House Bill 17

HB 17 by Representative Fine preempts any local regulation of businesses passed after January 1, 2017.  This will essentially lock local regulations into place as of this date and will prevent any new regulations or changes to existing regulations.  The bill will be heard in the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee next week.  No Senate companion has been filed.  The Florida Association of Counties and Florida League of Cities are working to oppose this legislation.  We will stay in close communication with their legislative teams and will continue to advise you on this legislation.

Spending Cuts for Environmental Programs

February 10, 2017 by flera

House Appropriations Subcommittee Debates Spending Cuts for Environmental Programs

This week, members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee discussed a budget cutting exercise they were directed to complete in order to help them make decisions about spending cuts in light of the current budget shortfall.  Some committee members suggested cutting water project spending and figuring out a better way to fund those projects going forward.  Land buying programs also were the subject of much discussion.  The Subcommittee expressed support for the Florida Forever program as well as the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.  While it is going to be a tough budget year, legislators do have land buying programs on their radar and there is support to fund them at some level.

Governor Announces $15M for Emergency Beach Restoration Projects Following Hurricane Matthew

February 1, 2017 by flera

Executive Orders 16-230 and 17-16 to Allocate State Funds for Emergency Beach Restoration Projects

Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that he will use his executive authority under Executive Orders 16-230 and 17-16 to allocate nearly $15.8 million in state funds for emergency beach restoration projects in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia and Brevard Counties. Funding will be used to immediately address critically eroded beaches where there is an imminent threat to beachfront structures, such as roadways, homes and businesses.

Governor Scott said, “Hurricane Matthew was the most destructive storm our state has experienced in over a decade, and while communities have worked hard to rebuild, many of our beautiful beaches remain significantly damaged. Since this storm first crossed our state, we have been fully committed to using every available resource to help our families and communities recover, and we will continue to do so. Today, I am allocating $15 million in state funding to help expedite emergency restoration projects in order to repair our beaches and ensure beachfront roadways and buildings are prepared for any potential future storms.

“Florida’s beaches are not only an economic driver for coastal communities, but also provide critical storm protection and habitat for wildlife. With sea turtle nesting season beginning in May and hurricane season beginning in June, it is crucial that these projects are completed as soon as possible.”

Projects will include replacing sand along beaches and repairing and constructing sand dunes. The Governor’s proposed budget for 2017-2018, which will be announced later this month, will also include the remaining $61.2 million to fulfill the state’s share of needed restoration, for a total of $77 million, based on the latest hurricane damage assessment from both Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine.

A solution for Lake Okeechobee pollution

August 10, 2016 by FLERA
As Michael Grunwald writes in his highly acclaimed 2006 book about the Florida Everglades, “The Swamp”: In 1881 “[a]lmost everyone agreed that the Everglades was a vast and useless swamp.” Americans believed that it was our destiny to drain that “God-forsaken” swamp and develop it into productive land for farming and industry.

2016 Python Challange

October 26, 2015 by FLERA

There’s more than one way to get involved in conservation! Regestration is open now to join in the 2016 Python Challange and help remove an envasive species from the Florida Everglades. See the Python Challange webpage for more information.

“The Florida Everglades is an extraordinary ecosystem, unlike any other in the world! It is home to a variety of rare and unique wildlife including native birds, mammals, fish and reptiles.

However, some reptiles do not belong there and pose a threat to native wildlife. To address this, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is teaming up with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to bring back the Python Challenge™ in January 2016. This exciting conservation effort will help protect the rare Everglades ecosystem and the animals that live there from these invasive, nonnative snakes.

In the early winter of 2013, nearly 1,600 participants in the first Python Challenge™ trekked through more than a million acres of swamps and sawgrass in search of the well-camouflaged Burmese python. Dedicated competitors removed 68 snakes from the Everglades ecosystem — the most ever removed for a similar time period. As important as the removal of these snakes was, the Python Challenge™ also brought international awareness to the challenges Florida is facing with Burmese pythons and other invasive species. The Python Challenge™ also proved to be an unprecedented opportunity to gather data about these snakes and their impacts on the ecosystem.” -from http://pythonchallenge.org/

Expiration Extended – FEMA Elevation Certificate and Floodproofing Certificate forms

October 14, 2015 by FLERA

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) updated the expiration date for the Elevation Certificate and Floodproofing Certificate forms to October 31, 2015. Until the OMB review process is complete, please continue to use the existing forms available on FEMA’s website.

Click here to view the official bulletin.

Source: FFMA

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Volunteer Opportunities

October 14, 2015 by FLERA

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program has been working to restore and protect Tampa Bay since it was formed in 1991. The efforts are paying off, as earlier this year it was announced that seagrass restoration goals set in 1995 have not only been met, but were exceeded. Volunteers from the community have been vital in accomplishing these milestones and will continue to be vital for the continued recovery of the bay. You can be a part of the amazing work TBEP does by volunteering for an up-coming Give a Day for the Bay event, and it’s the perfect time to do so with Saturday volunteer events happening each month from November to January. To top off the reward of helping the environment, they will also feed you lunch!
To read more about the TBEP and to register as a volunteer for upcoming Give a Day for the Bay events visit their webpage at tbep.org.

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