Florida Representative Holly Raschein has filed legislation to create the Florida Keys Stewardship Act. House Bill 447 seeks to invest $25 million per year for 10 years into the Florida Keys’ most significant environmental needs including water projects and land acquisition.
“We need a framework to move forward with our water policy, wastewater policy, canal restoration and water supply. At the same time, we have a pressing need to acquire land due to our ROGO system,” she said, referring to the state-approved building permits set to run out in 2023. The bill specifies funding — $20 million per year over the next 10 years for water projects and $5 million per year over the next 10 years for land buys.
“The Keys’ one-of-a-kind surroundings have a high value not only for the local community, but for the entire State of Florida, especially since the Keys’ three most valuable industries – tourism, military, and fishing (both commercial and recreational) – utilize and rely on this environment every day,” Raschein said. “Our economy depends on the environment.”
A few other areas in Florida have filed similar bills. Raschein said there are bills to restore and maintain springs all over Florida and a bill that supports water quality in the Northern Everglades.
“But there’s nothing specific that speaks to the Keys,” she said. “That’s our justification for our stand-alone bill. We need to remind them that we are a state area of critical concern and that we need to be considered differently.”
The bill is not specifically tied to funding generated by the recently passed Amendment 1 bill. It directs stamp fees to a specific fund to help the environment, expected to generate $xx per year.
“The pot from Amendment 1 is the obvious choice,” Raschein said, “but there are no strings attached. If they want to fund the bill from another source, we will take it.”
Raschein said she would make the Florida Keys Stewardship Act her top legislative priority for this session. The Senate companion bill will be introduced by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby).