Sierra Club issues failing grades to Legislature’s GOP supermajority

'There is no other way to put it, this was a very bad Session.'

For all the talk in the Legislature about conservation, adaptation and resiliency, one of Florida’s leading environmental organizations sifted through the words and found actions among state leaders not just lacking, but actively harming the state’s ecosystems in order for others to profit.

On the Sierra Club’s scorecard for the past Session, the Legislature as a whole and, in particular, House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo came up with failing grades.

Passidomo’s grade is largely based on approving a budget line item that allows for preemption of local ordinances meant to limit fertilizer applications. Preemption provides for heavier nutrient applications that can lead to nitrogen and phosphorus running off into waterbodies and exacerbating the state’s algal and red tide blooms.

Renner, meanwhile, gets pegged for overseeing the creation of the fertilizer line item and his support of HB 3, which by outlawing environmentally friendly actions by the government and corporations, shuts the state out of a trillion-dollar bond market for resiliency projects. 

The Sierra Club argues these failures are also the failures of Gov. Ron DeSantis, as the Legislature attempted to provide him a solid foundation from which to launch his presidential bid. 

“There is no other way to put it, this was a very bad Session,” said Luigi Guadarrama, Sierra Club Florida Political Director. “DeSantis sacrificed our economy, freedom and environment for some political stunts. This isn’t leadership. He has betrayed American values and betrayed Florida.”

The entire GOP supermajority got its share of the blame, though. Special mention went to Tallahassee Sen. Corey Simon and Miami Beach Rep. Fabián Basabe, who “helped attack the liberty to invest responsibly and backed backroom fertilizer deals that threaten our way of life.”

The Sierra Club also knocked the Legislature for HB 1191, which would launch a pilot program looking into use of radioactive phosphogypsum in state roads, and SB 170, which allows businesses to sue local governments for actions of those governments that cost the business money.

“At the behest of Gov. DeSantis, the Legislature has presided over one of the most abysmal Sessions of our lifetimes, and every Floridian will feel the consequences,” said Emily Gorman, Sierra Club Florida Director. “We will continue to hold the Governor and his supermajority accountable for their future.”

Four Democratic women topped the scorecard, led by the A-pluses earned by Reps. Anna Eskamani and Yvonne Hinson. The Club argues Eskamani “worked tirelessly” to pursue a better environment in the state, including introducing bills to put the state on a path to 100% clean and renewable energy.

Hinson received special mention for her work regarding the Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU).

“Rep. Hinson steadfastly remains a champion for the people of Gainesville,” said Sarah Younger, Chair of the Sierra Club Suwannee-St. John’s Group. “She stood up to members of the Florida Legislature who were intent on seizing control of GRU against the will of the voters.”

Both Democratic Leaders — Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book and House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell  also received notable A-grades. Both leaders get credit for what the Club calls one of the caucuses’ best environmental records “in recent memory,” with 31 House Democrats receiving an A-grade or higher.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


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