As usual, I will be talking today about something I certainly don’t totally understand, but have gotten glimpses into, and therefore want to share…
The state legislature and how it works is very confusing. It is a much larger, shrouded, party-oriented, moodier animal– to say the least, and meetings are not as easy to attend as local county or city commission meetings here at home.
So, how can we begin to approach and understand the legislature and all of its moving parts, in order to get what we want for our ailing St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?
Let’s start out with the very simple…
First, even though the formal legislative session does not start until March 3rd, the state legislature is holding committee meetings now. We must communicate with the legislature now, while they are in committee meetings, and not wait until “session.” Waiting until session is too late. The whole process is fast and furious and during session there is no time to “talk.”
The dates I have from my Florida League of Cities information packet for the 2015 Florida Legislative Committee (and they are subject to change, ) are as follows:
Legislative Interim Committees: January 5-9; 20-23.
Legislative Interim Committees: February 2-5; 9-13; and 16-20.
March 3rd Legislative Session Convenes (begins)
May 1st is the last day of Regular Session.
So politicians are in meetings this week, right now! In order to find out what committees are meeting and where, you have to visit their webistes….we will talk about this in a minute.
Second, who is on what committees, and who are “our” state legislators?
There are many committees and figuring out what bill will be in what committee during session or when they are meeting is not easy, but basically for the “Indian River Lagoon” I try to keep track of two committees: 1. the “Senate’s Natural Resources and Conservation Committee” and 2. the “House’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.” (Gulp, don’t ask me why natural resources is together with agriculture as it seems sometimes the two have competing interest.)
The website for the Senate is: (http://www.flsenate.gov)
And the website for the House of Representatives is: (http://www.myfloridahouse.gov)
It is important to know that the president of the Senate this year is Andy Gardiner and the speaker of the house is Steve Crisafulli. Both of these gentlemen represent parts of Brevard County which is on the INDIAN RIVER LAGOON! Maybe you could write them a note….?
Now, go to both sites and look up “committees,” finding the two I mentioned above. Next, go to “calendar” and determine the dates and what rooms in which the committees will be meeting.
From what I understand, you can fill out a form on-line to speak in one of these meetings; the problem is you could drive all the way to Tallahassee and then the committee chair may decide to cancel the meeting or not allow you much time to talk. Committee chairs are very powerful positions and are determined at the beginning of each legislative session. Nonetheless, look up the chairs of the two Natural Resource Committees. Do you know them? Do you know somebody who knows them?
OK, now, third, is a good time to talk about “our legislators” also called our “legislative delegation.” Let’s find out what committees our legislators are on this year. Then let’s write and congratulate them! This is a good way to start a relationship. To get anything at all, you have to build a relationship. This can be done! They want to hear from you!
Also, don’t just contact them when you want something. Stay in touch regularly. Tell them what you are doing, send them a summary of what you as an activist or your organization is doing. Start by looking up the assistant of the legislator and contacting this person. Over time, try to get an appointment with the legislator. Be diligent; be positive; be polite; keep going back….Don’t give up! Invite them places; invite them to your rallies!
From my recollection, our Martin/St Lucie/Indian River area legislators are:
Senators: Joe Negron and Denise Grimsley: To learn about them go to (http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators) and search by last name to see their committee appointments and if they are chairing a committee.
Representatives: Gayle Harrell; MaryLynn Magar; Larry Lee; and Debbie Mayfield. Look them up alphabetically and find out what committees they are on: (http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx)
This is a lot of work, but if you don’t know anything about your legislators how can you ask anything from them or make a good impression?
Interestingly, you will note many of them, do not serve on the Natural Resource or Agriculture and Natural Resource Committees. (I believe Larry Lee and Debbie Mayfield are the only ones I have seen over the past years….) Nonetheless, as bills move through committees our delegation can give input…if you communicate with them that is. If you don’t, don’t expect your voice to be heard.
The biggest thing that will be affecting the Indian River Lagoon this session besides Senator Negron following through on his Senate Select Committee on the IRL and Lake Okeechobee commitments will be how the legislature decides to deal with the passing of Amendment 1. for lands acquisition.
Just last night, Ted Guy, of the Rivers Coalition, sent out an email stating the Senate was now taking comments on their website from the public on how to utilize Amendment 1, the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, and that a new committee had been formed on its behalf.
Amd. 1. (http://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Water_and_Land_Conservation_Initiative,_Amendment_1_%282014%29) Go here to make a comment: (http://www.flsenate.gov/media/topics/wlc)
St Petersburg article on this website: (http://www.saintpetersblog.com/archives/173843)
So, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but go ahead, stick your feet in the cold, cold water; let’s warm things up, and be the voice of the Indian River Lagoon!
I must thank Mrs Kathy Till of the Florida League of Cities for her advocacy training and insights: (http://www.floridaleagueofcities.com)