Speaking out

Senator Rob Bradley and me.

The 2014 Clay County Delegation hearing

Each year the 3 elected officials to the Florida legislature representing Clay County—a senator and 2 representatives—hold a hearing before the legislative session begins. This year the committee work begins in January and the general session begins on March 4th. (The only date during the year that calls for action. Get it? March 4th.)

After introductions of the delegation members and their staff people, the normal agenda was interrupted for a heart-rending testimony of a mother holding her child with brain cancer pleading for more freedom in choosing medicines including restricted substances.

Then came the parade of the local elected officials from the county, the 3 incorporated towns, the school board, the clerk of court, and the supervisor of elections. They all made cases for more money for their various projects. The one surprise was the clerk of court's problem of the lower crime rate meaning less money in fines that are normally used to run the court.

Charitable groups like the Council on Aging, a group that works to employ people with disabilities, an orphanage, 2 groups that work with at risk children, a group that rehabs houses for veterans, and more also described their needs. A couple of people with cancer made their cases for medical use or restricted substances and that the exceptions shouldn't be just for children. A breast cancer survivor made the case for medical coverage of compression garments that are needed for people whose lymph glands have been removed during their cancer treatments. People from Keystone Heights (where the lakes are drying up) plead for more help to direct surplus water to their lakes. Someone wanted to ban all billboards from Florida.

For the past few years I've made a point of attending this hearing to be the one person speaking on behalf of Florida's native ecosystems. See my handout and summary of my remarks below.

It was a very long night. The hearing was supposed to be from 4pm to 6pm, but it lasted until 7:30pm.

I hope that you are speaking up for Mother Nature, too. She doesn't have paid lobbyists and needs all the advocates she can get.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

Politicians and others working the room before the meeting starts.  More seats filled up when the session actually started.

Handout & summary of my presentation

Dec. 16, 2014
To: The Clay County Delegation
From: Ginny Stibolt  gstibolt@sky-bolt.com  904 XXX_XXX

Issue #1: Florida is the "Sunshine State."

As the nation's 3rd largest consumer of energy, Florida needs to develop smarter energy policies, which may not necessarily more profitable to the monopolies that run our power grid. In at least one district, when power consumption decreased the rates were jacked up to keep the stockholders happy. Power should be supplied as a public service in our society and the customers should not be used as a profit center. Florida is also 3rd in the nation for solar potential, but 18th for installed solar systems and by 2016 solar will reach grid parity.

As a step in the right direction, you passed the Florida Energy Act in 2006, which offered rebates to individuals and businesses to install solar systems. The funding has been gutted as approved by the appointed Public Service Commission, which has caved to the power companies' pressure. Scott appointed these people and the fact that 2 power companies have contributed more than $2,500,000 to Scott's campaign means that this commission works for the monopolies and not for the Public. Maybe it should be renamed the Power Company Service Board.

More than one power company has applied for fracking in Florida to find oil and gas for its power sources. Fracking is expensive, uses huge amounts of water mixed chemicals that will pollute our already stressed aquifers, and has caused sinkholes. Fracking should never be allowed in Florida, but you passed bills HB71 & HB 157 that allowed frackers to keep those polluting chemicals that they are mixing with the water a secret. The customers pay the bill for this exploration and environmental ruin. The irony here is that all this irreparable damage to Florida's fragile ecosystems to extract gas and oil would be totally unnecessary if the companies just switched to solar.

There has to be a way to organize the solar effort so that it works for the power companies, so that they never have to build another power plant. Instead they can manage a grid of solar panels: 1) that they install and own, such as in parking lots, 2) that they install on roofs and lease out to businesses or individuals, and 3) by putting privately owned panels on the grid with 2-way meters. If these utility companies don't get to charge their customers for new power plants, they may not make as much money for their shareholders. Shouldn't the public be served with fair policies for their power?

Issue #2: Amendment #1, funding of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund

75% of the voters passed this amendment, which as close to a mandate as we get around here. Do not gut the will of the people to preserve more of the Real Florida. Everyone knows that tourism is our largest job creator, but tourists are not going come to our state to visit a dried up spring, a polluted river cover with green slime, or to see yet another abandoned shopping center. So use the money as mandated and not for sewer systems that would allow even more development. Please don't undo other environmental funding because this money is again available. This is for new projects.

I'm appalled that more than 70 people showed up in Bradenton last week for a hearing of the 10 members of the Acquisition and Restoration Council that recommends land purchases for the Florida Forever conservation program, but the council members did not show. Even the council’s chairwoman, a high-ranking official with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, skipped the public hearing. How rude. The people of Florida deserve better from our state officials.

Issue #3: Redistricting

Why am I worried about your handling of Amendment #1? Because in 2010 63% of the voters passed the Fair Districts Amendment and you have spent more than $6,000,000 for legal fees, billed us for special sessions, used secret email accounts to bypass the constitution. And we still have District 5 that is the very definition of gerrymandering. Is this the best you can do?

Rob Bradley's response to redistricting:
The way the Fair Districts Amendment was written guarantees allowances for districts like District 5. I've known Rob for 10 years and worked with him when he was the lawyer for our special tax district that manages the lakes in our neighborhood. He was on the redistricting committee which had little choice in how that district was drawn. He said that the writers of the amendment either did not know the ramifications of the language or they lied about it—maybe both. Now it will be very difficult to change this situation since it's in our constitution. (Update: in 2016, the Florida Supreme Court demanded new fair districts, which are now in place.)

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