Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Senator Bob Graham : Demand that legislators stop serving the whims of special interests.

The internet has given voice to virtually anyone with a computer and an itch to say whatever might be on his or her mind, and clearly, a lot of us, me included, take advantage of the opportunity regardless of our credentials.  It is becoming so common that hearing the truly legitimate voices amidst all the clatter and fog is getting more and more difficult.  So, when someone who is truly qualified, credentialed and universally respected speaks out, it’s important we pause and take the time to listen.

Former Florida Governor and U. S. Senator Bob Graham is just such a voice.

Bob Graham was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1966 and reelected in 1968. He was elected to the Florida State Senate in 1970 and reelected in 1972 and 1976.
In 1978, he was elected the 38th Governor of Florida and served from 1979 to 1987.  He served as Florida’s United States Senator from 1987 to 2005. At retirement in 2003, he had served 38 consecutive years in public office.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about his career: 
Graham emphasized education, and placed a focus on improvement of the public universities in the state. By the end of his second term the state university system was among the first quartile of state systems in America, and its public schools and community colleges had substantially improved their academic standing.
In addition, Graham's administration focused on economic diversification and environmental policies. During his tenure as Governor, the state added 1.2 million jobs, and for the first time in state history the per capita income of Floridians exceeded the US average. For three of his eight years Florida was rated by the accounting firm Grant Thornton as having the best business climate of all states in the union.
Graham also launched the most extensive environmental protection program in the state's history, focused on preserving endangered lands. During his tenure thousands of acres of threatened and environmentally important lands were brought into state ownership for permanent protection. His keystone accomplishment was the establishment of the Save the Everglades program, which has now been joined by the federal government in a commitment to restore the Everglades.
Graham left the Governorship with an 83% approval rating.
Last Tuesday, the South Florida Sun Sentinel published a letter by Senator Graham that all of us should read if we have any concern for the future of Florida in any respect.  If you decide not to read his letter because he is a lifelong Democrat, it is probably safe to suggest you might just be part of the problem because partisan politics has become the fundamental cause of most of our problems today, from D.C to Tallahassee.  His message should be viewed absent of party interests, either Democrat or Republican.  Forget about party politics for just a moment and consider what the Senator has to say.  His letter is printed below, in full, with his permission.
Former Governor and
US Senator from Florida
Bob Graham
 The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) was founded after the devastating legislative session of 2011 which rolled back 40 years of bi-partisan environmental stewardship. Since the 1970’s Florida’s Governors and Legislators, Democrats and Republicans, have believed in the importance of protecting Florida’s land and water, and understood the connection between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.  As history shows, this period of stewardship produced some of the best economic years Florida has ever had while improving natural resource management and land conversation. During the mid-1980’s Florida was using a deep tool box, in collaboration with private sector and local government, to manage Florida’s growth. At the same time, Florida was adding jobs at a rate of over 150,000 per year.  And these were quality jobs; for the first time in the state’s history, Floridian’s per capita income exceeded that of other Americans.
Since 2011 that legacy of stewardship has been replaced by the false mantra “environmental protection hurts the private sector”.  Now, pro-environmental legislation is dead on arrival, and virtually every anti-regulation bill considered is drafted by special interest industry lawyers and handed off to willing Senators and Representatives.  Florida’s conservation groups, not given an equal seat at the table when legislation is being crafted or considered, must fight back bad bills and amendments to hold on to what is left of our environmental legacy.
Jimmy Petronis
Sponsor of the
"... the worst bill
of the session"
            This year, we were faced with the best example yet of this system run amok.   The worst bill of the session, House Bill 999 and Senate Bill 1684, was blithely described by House Sponsor Jimmy Patronis as “a Christmas Tree” for those private interests who approached him with their special requests.  A 40-page bill, drafted by industry lobbyists, with more than two dozen sections weakening or eliminating environmental protections.
At one point or another, these bills contained language that would prevent local governments from protecting their waters from fertilizers producing algae and killing off native plants and wildlife; restrict the ability of the state to protect wetlands; preempt local governments from protecting critical wetlands; and take Florida a step closer to the privatization of our water resources.
I, and other FCC leaders, worked on this legislation for weeks and went to the Capitol to speak up for those who believe in protecting Florida’s environment for the health, prosperity, and enjoyment of ourselves and our children.  Thanks to the thousands of calls and emails from across the state, excellent coverage by Florida’s newspapers, and the wisdom of some important Senators, all of the provisions above were removed from the toxic train before it passed on the final day of legislative session.
Unfortunately, even with all these improvements, there is nothing in the bill that serves the public interest.  Perhaps the worst provision remaining in the final bill, annihilates the legal rights of a citizen or group to challenge the controversial 30 year no-bid leases granted by the Governor and Cabinet to two sugar companies in the Everglades Agricultural Area. For those who support consistent and meaningful environmental policy in this state, HB 999 is still a bad bill; bad politics and bad policy. Legislation like this does nothing to find solutions to the problems facing our state, economic or environmental.
There were some “victories” this session. Two bills proposed early in the session, Senate Bills 584 and 466, attacked public land conservation, our state’s most effective tool for protecting ecosystems, natural resources, and wildlife. Each of these bills died in committee following public opposition.
Other limited victories include a $10 million down payment towards the estimated over $100 million cost of repairing Wekiva, Silver, and scores of other imperiled Florida springs. Everglades restoration received a $70 million allocation. Funding for Florida Forever, although greater than recent years, is still dramatically below the $300,000,000 historically spent by the state on land conservation.  Most of the Florida Forever funding is not likely to become available as it is dependent on the sale of other public lands.
We should all be proud of the great work done by Florida’s conservation groups and concerned citizens this session, but Florida cannot take another special-interest serving legislative session.  We must start promoting legislation that strengthens environmental protection and fully funds land conservation and spring and river restoration.
Already, the response from the people of Florida and subsequent defeat of many of the most environmentally damaging special interest giveaways and legislation this year has sent a message our leaders in Tallahassee. Conservation groups are working well together on priority issues.  Next year we must demand that legislators stop serving the whims of special interests, and focus on their responsibilities to our, and future, generations of Floridians.
Senator Bob Graham

1 comment:

  1. Awesome!

    I sit and ponder the world conditions at time. I think of how bad it is “at home” and what we have to go through to try and keep the invasion of the Greed Monster at bay. There are times when “us against them” seems like a LOST battle. But I know we must keep on keep’n on. Good vs. evil.

    Thanks for your crusade efforts, Sonny. I talk with various friends on occasion and am awed by their ignorance of what is going on in government. Worse yet, blown away that so many exhibit what I call “the great-don’t-give-a-damn” attitude. As long as it’s not costing them ---DIRECTLY, PERSONALLY -– out of their pocket, they just don’t care. It’s “Me, Myself and I.” I fear that the arrival of the worst case scenario is the only cure, but by then it’ll be all over and done for. By then, people will be in bondage and UNABLE to do anything ….. especially if we let them take our guns away from us. We just CAN’T let that happen!!!

    Please express to Senator Graham for me my personal appreciation for him giving so unreservedly of his time and influence to help keep Florida LIVEABLE through his work with the Florida Conservation Coalition and whatever other mediums may have his attention.

    God Bless.

    Clint Schultz