A day after the Senate advanced a major water policy measure as part of their slate of budget bills, Gov. Ron DeSantis bashed the bill and the process behind it, saying it left his agencies “in the dark.”
The measure (SB 2508) emerged Friday and was approved Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee, after more than an hour of public comment. Remarks mostly came from South Florida fishing guides alarmed that the bill seems to divert funding for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, a key project in managing polluted water from Lake Okeechobee.
“I have been a champion for Everglades restoration and oppose any measure that derails progress on reducing harmful discharges and sending more water to the Everglades,” DeSantis said in a released statement. “Moreover, I reject any attempt to deprioritize the EAA Reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee.”
The statement produced a sharp response from Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, who claimed the bill was an attempt to retain state oversight over Florida resources.
“Floridians have invested billions of their hard-earned dollars in environmental restoration and this Senate is going to safeguard that investment,” Simpson said in a released statement. “I am never going to cede one inch of state authority over our water resources to Joe Biden’s federal government — the same administration that did not include one dollar of federal funding for the reservoir in their so-called infrastructure bill.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) chairman Chauncey Goss, a DeSantis appointee, said neither he nor his staff were consulted on the bill.
SFWMD is in charge of managing the waterways surrounding Lake Okeechobee, and the bill directs the agency to ensure water is available for “existing legal users” — which opponents of the bill argue is a description of the sugar industry, a major political donor to both parties.
“Rather than advancing legislation seeking to affect a major change in policy, SB 2508 is being rammed through the budget process, short-circuiting public engagement and leaving affected agencies in the dark,” DeSantis added.
In his response, Simpson said that he agrees with and supports DeSantis’ push for $2.5 billion in funding for Everglades restoration over four years when he first came into office but took issue with DeSantis’ criticism that his agencies weren’t consulted on the bill.
“No Senator has to check in with a state agency before filing a bill,” Simpson said. “I report to the people of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco Counties, not appointed bureaucrats.”
The flap over the bill is the latest scrap between DeSantis and the powerful sugar industry.
As a member of Congress from 2012 to 2018, DeSantis routinely voted against federal subsidies for the U.S. sugar industry. Donations then flowed to his GOP Primary opponent for Governor, Adam Putnam, in 2018.
DeSantis even said he would refuse sugar donations at one point, although he has since accepted donations from groups backed by large sugar companies Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar, such as Associated Industries of Florida.
Florida Crystals has donated nearly $2.2 million to candidates and political committees ahead of the 2022 elections, including $85,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $20,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. For the 2020 election cycle, it was more than $5.5 million in total.
U.S. Sugar Corporation has given nearly $3 million in political donations this election cycle, including $10,000 to the FDP, $100,000 to the FRSCC, $75,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $75,000 to the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee.
February 11, 2022 at 11:09 am
DeSantis has a vendetta for the EAA Sugar Farmers, Robert Coker VP of US Sugar and the Ag Industry as a whole due to all of our support for Adam Putnam. Who, no doubt would have been a much better Govenor.
DeSantis is a repugnant, egotistical tyrant who I hope runs for President so we can get rid of himin Florida!!!
February 13, 2022 at 7:43 am
All the pro waterways restoration groups, along with the Gov agree.
Really badly clouded judgement and fake lies by you once again.
Folks like you should be happy with the pro waterways, pro environment Govs efforts.
Typical hate from partisan hacks like you. Dum Manchurian Hater!
America’s Gov, the best!
February 11, 2022 at 6:59 pm
Once again Big Sugar tries to buy it’s way into control in Tallahassee to continue the ruination of the Everglades. Good on yer Gov,tell em to go pound sugar where the sun don’t shine.
February 12, 2022 at 8:26 am
America’s Governor, always with the peeps!
He’s the Repub. leader finch/grinch.
No prob, He will do for America what he’s done for Florida. Make no mistake the line begins behind him. He’s the whiz kid, Gov Kahones standing up for Floridians and Americans everywhere. Florida is the freedom state cause of Ron and everyone knows it, except for the Manchurian in state haters. Who cares.
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