News From The Chair January 2016

News From the Chair

By Maryvonne Devensky

Happy New Year to All of You and Your Families! We are starting a New Year with a lot of the same issues that we were concerned about in 2015. Most important is to push for a Water Bill in Tallahassee that is strong enough to protect our water resources. On December 9, Sierra Club presented a letter signed by 106 environmental groups to Senate President Gardiner and House Speaker Crisafulli, asking for several amendments to be added to the Bills. Sierra Club organized 3 press conferences that day, one in Orlando, one on Merritt Island, and one of them was in Gainesville, at the Ring Park/Glen Springs parking lot. I want to thank all SSJ Sierra Club members who came to this event, as well as Bob Knight, President of the Springs Institute, Steve Robitaille with Florida Defenders of the Environment and Merrillee Malwitz Jibson, President of Our Santa Fe River. All these organizations had signed the letter as we all want these amendments to be put in place. See the Call to Action below, written by David Cullen, our lobbyist in Tallahassee. Photos of the event will be on our website.

We need renewed energy to keep on working together to resolve these issues: 

1) Stopping Plum Creek in their attempt to annex Hawthorne and to change the Alachua County Management Plan for their own profit. Educate yourself and come to the General Meeting on January 7 for an update with Alachua County Commissioner Mike Byerly, and plan to attend a county BOCC meeting at the end of January to voice your concern and oppose the Plum Creek Envision project. Check Agenda of BOCC for exact date. Thanks.

2) Contact your elected officials so that they amend the Water Bills on the floor in early January, SB #552 by Senator Dean, and HB # 7005 by Representative Caldwell. They have to create a strong water bill that we all need in the next 10-15 years to protect our water, our springs and Florida Aquifer.  Please read the following, educate yourself and take action by calling your Senator and Representative before January 8.

The Water bills, SB 552 Environmental Resources by Sen. Dean and the companion bill, HB 7005 by Rep. Caldwell, are ready to go to the floor the first week of the legislative session that starts Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Between now and then is our last chance to get these bills amended to do what they are supposed to do.  Your State Representative and Senator will be in their home district from now until Friday, Jan. 8 and they need to hear from you about how to improve the bills.


This call to action includes amendments Sierra Club Florida and our allies have offered to improve the bills and which would make the legislation worth supporting.  If the amendments are rejected, loopholes and omissions will remain and the waters of the state will suffer for it.

What you need to know about the process:
Pursuant to the Florida Constitution, every bill gets three ‘readings’ (Art III, Section 7): The first reading is when it is introduced and referred to committees; the second, when it is reported favorably by its last committee of reference and sent back to the full chamber for further consideration, and the third reading is on the final passage of the bill.  SB 552 and HB 7005 have been reported favorably from their last committees and are now eligible for second reading.  Bills can be amended by majority vote on second reading and a two-thirds vote on third reading.  It takes a majority vote to pass the bill. Bills that pass second reading are usually taken up for final passage the following day, so there won’t be much time.

Legislators are generally most familiar with issues that come before the committees they sit on; on other issues they tend to follow their leadership’s position unless they have a good reason to do otherwise.  This is where you come in.  Legislators care about what their constituents want.  After all, the people in their district are the ones who can vote them in or out.  If you make an effort to convince them the water bills need work and show them what needs to be done, they are much more likely to do it.  The window of opportunity for us is between now and the beginning of session on January 12.

What to do:
Familiarize your legislators and the members of your county’s legislative delegation with these amendments that address the deficiencies cited in the attached letter signed by 106 organizations and businesses (including Sierra Club Florida).  The amendments are drafted to SB 552 and are listed in the order in which they will appear in the bill.

We have made some progress in improving this legislation, but it’s not good enough.  Florida’s waters need more than halfway measures.  Florida needs a good bill.  Please meet with your legislators or staff and urge them to support these amendments when they come to the floor.

3) Our Sierra Club members in Suwannee County need help getting organized to oppose the Sabal Trail Pipeline coming to their county, and we plan to have a meeting in Live Oak on Saturday, January 16, 2016.  Contact me if you live in Suwannee County and want to participate. Location will be: Suwannee River State Park – Look for Sierra Club Banner/Ask at entrance, Address is 3631 201 St Path Live Oak, FL 32060.  Phone # 386-362-2746. Time:  11:00 to 1:00pm. RSVP to