Saturday, December 4, 2010

House and Senate Powering Up

The elections are over and important environmental policies will soon be decided.  This is a brief on some of the legislators who will wield influence on issues important to Sierra Club Florida

The House Rules (pp. 6-22) and Senate Rules empower Speaker Cannon and President Haridopolos to exercise control over the legislative process.  They appoint chairmen and name the members of committees and subcommittees in their chambers.  They refer bills to all the committees they must pass in order to come to a vote on the floor.  And for the first time, both leaders have the power of adding an extra vote in any committee by sending in an ex officio member.  President Haridopolos is the first Senate leader to import this practice from the House which has done it for years. 

Since Chairs of committees have the power of the agenda – whether a bill gets heard or not – they too control the prospects of a bill.  Not surprisingly, both Speaker Cannon and President Haridopolos have appointed members who are largely in sympathy with their stated aims to the most important chairmanships. 
Traditionally, the most important committees are the ones dealing with money (obviously) and rules (not so obvious – until you realize that Rules sets the agenda for what bills get placed on special order for floor votes – and being on special order can make the difference between a bill passing or dying on the calendar.)

In the House Rep. Denise Grimsley has been named the Chair of the Appropriations Committee.  She was first elected in 2004 and serves Glades, Hendry, and parts of Highlands and Collier Counties.  Her committee will be charged with shaping the House’s budget proposal which will include such items as funding for Florida Forever, further sweeps and diversions from environmental trust funds, and funding for state agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection.  Her Senate counterpart will be Sen. J.D. Alexander who will repeat his role as chair of the Senate Budget Committee in the coming two years.  Sen. Alexander’s district includes Hardee, Highlands, and parts of DeSoto, Glades, Okeechobee, Polk, and St. Lucie counties.

The House Rules Chair is Rep. Aubuchon and Senate Rules will be headed by Sen. John Thrasher.  Rep. Aubuchon Chaired Transportation Appropriations last year and Sen.
Thrasher was chair of Ethics and Elections.

In the House, the State Affairs Committee  which oversees four important environmental subcommittees will be chaired by Rep. Seth McKeel who sponsored last year’s memorial to end the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  The subcommittees are:
·         Agriculture and Natural Resources
·         Energy and Utilities
·         Federal Affairs
·         Government Operations
Speaker Cannon will name the chairs and members of these committees the week of Dec. 6, 2010.

In the Senate, Environmental Preservation and Conservation will be chaired by Sen. Charles Dean who sponsored last year’s bill to preempt localities from adopting strict fertilizer ordinances.  This year Sen. Dean has filed SB 130 to repeal the septic tank inspection portions of last year’s water bill SB 550.  President Haridopolos has named two new members to the committee: Sen. Latvala, who previously served in the legislature from 1994 – 2002, and Sen. Oelrich who served on the last year’s Select Committee on Water.

Senate President pro tem Mike Bennett returns as chair of Community Affairs and newly elected Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto chairs Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities.

The full roster of committee chairs and members in both chambers will be completed next week and will be available on the legislative websites: www.flsenate.gov and http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/

David Cullen, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist

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