A Senate bill establishing a body to help coordinate improvement projects in Biscayne Bay advanced through its second committee stop Thursday, leaving one final hearing before it’s ready for the Senate floor.
GOP Sen. Ileana Garcia is behind the measure (SB 1482). During Thursday’s hearing, she introduced a strike-all amendment to mostly bring her version in line with the newly-amended House companion (HB 1177). Republican Rep. Bryan Avila is behind that measure, which has cleared all scheduled House committees.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government approved that amendment before advancing the bill unanimously, 11-0.
Under the measure, the newly-created Biscayne Bay Commission would help coordinate public projects in the area and work to secure funding for those efforts.
The amended bill sets up the Biscayne Bay Commission within the Department of Environmental Protection. It also contains a single, nine-member commission, where the original version was divided between a policy committee, chief officer and a working group.
The House and Senate bills do differ on the composition of that nine-member commission.
Both bills would direct the Miami-Dade County Commission to select three of its own members to serve on the Biscayne Bay Commission. One member of the South Florida Water Management District Board who lives in Miami-Dade County would also serve. The Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Inland Navigation District would each select one member as well.
In Avila’s version, the final two spots would be filled by members of the Miami-Dade County League of Cities, to be selected and approved by the DEP Secretary. Garcia’s bill only allots one slot for a League of Cities member, with the final slot filled by a gubernatorial appointee.
That disjunction between the two bills will need to be resolved going forward.
Miami-Dade County has designated Biscayne Bay as a conservation area, but the popular tourist spot has still dealt with serious pollution problems. The new legislation would also bar sewage disposal facilities from dumping waste into Biscayne Bay without providing advanced waste treatment.
Garcia’s bill has one final stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee before moving to the Senate floor.