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Graham tries to fire-up enviros before session begins

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham has sent out an end-of-year call from the newly created Florida Conservation Coalition, urging environmental activists to buttonhole their legislators before the Jan. 10 session begins.

The coalition was unveiled last month, with plans to lobby Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Legislature to revive state funding for water quality programs, the Florida Forever land-buying program and Everglades restoration, which supporters say have been staggered by budget cuts since 2007.

In his email blast to activists, Graham condemns last spring’s policy changes and spending reductions.

“In three short months of 2011, the Governor and Legislature set Florida’s once proud conservation laws and programs back four decades. In so doing they have handed us a very heavy lift. But what choices do we have? We surrender, or we fight back,”  Graham said.

He concluded, “Our immediate job is to convince the Legislature that they went too far and must correct and reverse its misguided actions of 2011.”

The coalition includes Audubon of Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Nature Conservancy, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Trust for Public Land and League of Women Voters.

 

Senate budget chief JD Alexander on prison boss ouster, mental health and more

Thursday, August 25th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate budget chief JD Alexander sat down with Gov. Rick Scott for an hour this afternoon at the Lake Wales lawmaker’s request. Alexander was there to pitch Scott on allowing USF Polytechnic to become a stand-alone university at its campus near his hometown.

Before leaving the Capitol, Alexander shared some thoughts about Scott’s ouster of corrections secretary Ed Buss, the $700 million cut to water management districts’ spending and issues coming up in the next legislative session.

Alexander said Buss’s resignation was called for, citing concerns about a possible conflict of interest with the woman Buss hired to oversee the privatization of the prison system’s health care.

And Alexander harshly criticized Buss’s business plan justifying the privatization of all prisons within an 18-county region encompassing the southern portion of the state, calling it “wholly inadequate.”

Alexander included the privatization of the Department of Corrections Region IV in the budget late during the legislative session that ended in May. He’s convinced it will save the state about $45 million.

Perhaps Buss was not as keen on privatization as others in Scott’s administration or the legislature had hoped, Alexander was asked.

“That’s probably true. Looking not from what he told me during session but what he did after session didn’t seem like he was really taking that seriously,” Alexander said.

Read what Alexander says about what the legislature may do about the water management districts, the shuttering of the prison health care watchdog and state contracts after the jump.
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Senate approves water management takeover

Thursday, April 7th, 2011 by Dara Kam

With no debate or discussion, the Florida Senate overwhelmingly approved a legislative take-over of the state’s five water management districts.

The measure (2142) is the brain-child of Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. Although lawmakers set the maximum amount of property taxes the districts are allowed to levy, the governor, who appoints the district members, has the ultimate say over how they spend it.

That’s not fair, Alexander said. He wants the legislature to have more financial oversight of the districts. The South Florida Water Management District got into hot water several years ago for lavish spending.

Only three Senators voted against the measure: Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston and GOP Sens. Thad Altman of Melbourne and Paula Dockery of Lakeland.

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