State Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, filed an amendment to House Bill 457 yesterday that aims to “protect statewide commerce and keep intact all pre-existing local fertilizer rules.”
If enacted, H.B. 457, sponsored by Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, and Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, would prohibit local governments from establishing stricter fertilizer ordinances than the state.
The bill has faced scrutiny from environmentalists, who argue that nutrients found in fertilizers are an enemy to Florida waterways. Many who have criticized a set of statewide numeric nutrient criteria argue that state waterways vary so widely that a “one-size-fits-all” approach wouldn’t be appropriate. Yet the fertilizer bill aims for exactly that: a “one-size-fits-all” system. There are currently more than 40 local governments in Florida with ordinances more stringent than the state model.
The Brandes amendment would allow municipalities to continue adopting additional regulations “under the condition they properly report their rules to state.”
Brandes hails from Pinellas County, a municipality that, in January, passed a bill banning sales of fertilizer with nitrogen or phosphates. His recently offered amendment would preserve that measure and allow counties like Pinellas to keep their specific fertilizer ordinances intact.
According to a press release, cities and counties that choose to follow the current state model ordinance would be protected by homeowner fertilizer-use guidelines (crafted by the legislature-appointed Urban Fertilizer Use Task Force in 2007). This includes “prohibiting the application of fertilizer before a heavy rain, maintaining a ten-foot buffer zone between a fertilized area and any water bodies and deflector shield requirements.”
“At the foundation of this bill is the critical need to provide Florida with the best tools possible to protect water quality and the economy, while ensuring the best available science is involved in every step of the process to vet those tools and regulations,” said Rep. Ingram, in the release. “The state model ordinance certainly can stand on its own as a strong and effective statewide rule, but this new amendment provides municipalities with the state oversight needed to craft local fertilizer rules. I’ve had an open mind and an open-door policy when speaking to all stakeholders. I believe this a sound compromise which makes the bill stronger and offers a new level of accountability that is lacking in current fertilizer laws.”
Votes for embattled Republican state Senate hopeful Jim Norman during early voting will count should he remain on the ballot, but if he is tossed, citizens who voted for him early will not get another chance to make their pick for the seat.