On Friday, Senate budget negotiators led by Niceville Republican Don Gaetz let a House measure that would undo large swaths of Florida’s growth management laws into a budget conforming bill. The Senate had proposed its own growth management rewrite, but now the changes are part of a bill that can’t be amended and will be debated and voted on with the other bills that implement the state’s budget, not as a separate measure.
St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jack Latvala objected to the maneuver, and according to the St. Petersburg Times, he took a walk while the rest of the economic development negotiators unanimously approved the deal.
He later said the move was “unbecoming” of the Senate.
Senators sometimes refer to their chamber as “the deliberative body”: a place where the concerns of individual members are expected to be given greater weight than in the 120-member House, and home to veteran lawmakers like Latvala who are sometimes better equipped to understand the historical significance and policy consequences of major legislation.
It will be up to the Senate to debate the consequences of another major environmental bill, which was cleared by the House Friday night without questions or debate near the end of an all-day session.
Panama City Republican Jimmy Patronis, the sponsor of House Bill 991, made some last-minute changes that addressed concerns brought by local governments.
An amendment by Patronis and another offered by Lake Worth Democrat Mark Pafford with Patronis’ blessing struck two of the provisions most decried by environmentalists. One would have limited local governments’ ability to regulate rock mines and the other would have hampered citizens’ ability to challenge decisions made by environmental regulators.
Patronis didn’t have much chance to explain the improvements he made to the bill, because it was rushed to final passage in a matter of minutes.
House members also missed an opportunity to publicly debate the provisions that remained, including one that bars rock mines from being scrutinized as “developments of regional impact” and one that eliminates some requirements for public mitigation banking (a complex practice intended to offset the loss of wetlands, examined by the St. Petersburg Times for the bill specifically here and in award-winning detail here), which according to an analysis by House staff will have a “significant negative fiscal impact” on the state.
Friday’s maneuvering may offer a preview of what lies ahead. Today marks the start of the last week of the legislative session, sometimes called “the most dangerous week in Florida,” because of the major surprise provisions that can get tacked on to other pieces of legislation.