Today the Florida House will have a chance to vote on a measure that environmentalists warn would make it harder for citizens to participate in decisions made by regulators. #
State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, added the measure yesterday to House bill 993, a rulemaking bill. The changes now have to approve by the House. He said his measure would prevent “frivolous” challenges to permits, which have been driving businesses to other states. #
Right now, when someone disagrees with an environmental permit granted by a regulator, he or she can object, and force the person or company seeking the permit to prove they have met all the requirements. Bennett’s measure would shift the burden of proof so that the person challenging the permit has to prove it isn’t warranted and gives the person applying for the permit the chance to rebut any evidence against them. #
All of which is a convoluted way of saying: If this passes, it will be a whole lot harder for citizens to challenge permits granted by state regulators. #
“That would be the purpose,” Bennett said. At some point, challenges became too easy. “You could just say, ‘Jeez, I don’t want that railroad coming through here,’ and all of a sudden shut down the whole process.” #
“It’s slowed down development in the state of Florida. It’s slowed down growth in the state of Florida,” Bennett said. “We’re losing businesses to other states, because of the slowdown of that development. It’s taking two or three years to get a development permit in the state of Florida. Something’s wrong.” #
David Cullen, who lobbies for the Sierra Club, said the measure would undo “decades and perhaps centuries of legal precedent and established legal procedure,” and stymie citizen involvement in regulatory decisions that affect the environment. For that reason, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, tried to strike Bennett’s amendment but was rebuffed. #
Last week, Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, said the House likely had the votes to approve the measure, but he allowed an amendment by Mark Pafford, D-Lake Worth, to remove it from his sweeping environmental permitting legislation, with an amendment similar to the one filed by Rich, in an effort to create “consensus” with Democrats and environmentalists. #
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed a lower court ruling that the requirement in the federal health care reform law that individuals buy health insurance or face penalties is unconstitutional. It also upheld the lower court's rejection of an argument by Florida and 25 other states that the law's expansion of Medicaid is coercive to the states.
Gov. Rick Scott stopped by MSNBC's Morning Joe to talk about the GOP presidential race and Florida today. During the interview, he told the panel he is skeptical of President Obama's jobs bill and wants Florida to be a model for the country.