A new day could dawn for Florida, should Constitution Revision Commission proposal #24 go on the 2018 ballot. This ballot initiative would allow the electorate to vote for a “Commissioner of Environmental Protection.”
I sponsored this idea, an idea brought to the CRC’s attention by two speakers during the public hearing process, as well as by public proposal #700012, submitted by Mr. Gamez.
Formally expressed Proposal #24 reads:
“A proposal to amend Sections 3 and 4 of Article IV and create a new section in Article XII of the State Constitution to establish the office of Commissioner of Environmental Protection as a statewide elected officer, to provide duties of the commissioner, and to include the commissioner as a member of the Cabinet.”
Full Proposal #24: (http://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0024/ProposalText/Filed/HTML)
Why do I support this idea? Because it is my job as a commissioner to get some of the thousands of public ideas before the CRC, and because I believe the “time is now” for the Environment to have a seat at the table with other cabinet positions.
Yes, environmental protection of natural resources must rise to the top of state priorities just as the state’s oldest and number two economic driver, agriculture, has. Our Natural Resources must be represented in the Florida Cabinet. This year, the Florida Chamber reports that Florida’s population, now at 20,000,000 will reach 26,000,000 by 2030, in just twelve years! It is tourism that is Florida’s number one economic driver. Much of this success is based on the beauty and quality of our beaches, rivers, and springs, and natural lands. We all know, growing incidences of algae blooms in lakes, springs, and rivers, some in areas of natural lands, is not good for tourism.
Let’s look at Florida government’s present hierarchy having to do with natural resources and discuss why it should be changed. The state’s present organizational chart shows a Commissioner of Agriculture as a cabinet position just under and to the right the Governor; a Fish and Wildlife Commission, and a Department of Environmental Protection, as executive agencies under the executive branch of the Governor; and the Water Management Districts in the lowest tier as local government. Interestingly, the Water Management Districts are attached by a dotted line to the Department of Environmental Protection noting at “unique relationship.” This is qualified by the following sentence: “Water management districts have individual governing boards but the Department of Environmental Protection may exercise general supervisory authority over water management districts (s. 373.026(7), Florida Statutes).”
The Fish and Wildlife Commission much more independent, but the Water Management Districts are not. Because Water Management Districts levy taxes from citizens as a special district one must be cognizant so that they not become “arm of the state.” But what would be even worse would be if the Water Management Districts were not answering to the people they tax…
It is time to have a “lead agency.” An agency that can answer to the people.
Let’s discuss leadership. Right now there is no clear environmental protection leader. For instance, in my opinion, for a citizen trying to get answers about why our environment is falling apart the Water Management Districts are pointing in one direction; the Department of Water Quality for the Commissioner of Agriculture’s Best Management Practices is pointing in another; and because the present Department of Environmental Protection is at the whim of politics of every new administration; they are weak, and afraid to lead. With every new governor the pendulum swings. The DEP is unable to fulfill its mission as the state’s lead agency of environmental protection.
And all the while our environment keeps falling apart…
On a personal note, for years, here in South Florida, I complained about the demise of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and surrounding environment and pushed for more action on behalf of the South Florida Water Management District. After years of head nods, I was finally told by a Governing Board member that the District’s number one priority is not water quality, but flood control and that I should be speaking to DEP.
“Why didn’t you tell me that earlier,” I exclaimed.
When I contacted Department of Environmental Protection their response was lackadaisical noting that many entities of the state oversee water quality and environmental issues. For instance, Best Management Practices for Agriculture, and the complicated DEP Basin Management Action Plans/Total Maximal Daily Loads in coordination with the Water Management Districts, and all local governments including cities, counties, villages…
“But who is in charge?” I asked? “The St Lucie River has been labeled “impaired” by your agency since 2002. Why was it allowed to get that bad in the first place and why is it continuing to get worse?”
Again I asked, ” Who is in charge?”
There was silence…
I thought to myself, “No wonder the Department of Environmental Protection is sometimes referred to as the agency of “Don’t Expect Protection.” No wonder every year more of the state’s waters are reported as “impaired.” No wonder D.E.P., Agriculture, and the Water Districts collude to extend the Basin Management Action Plan deadlines instead of getting more serious about the detrimental ramifications of non-point pollution for the people.
Enough is enough. The time is now to give voters the opportunity to vote for a Commissioner of Environmental Protection and finally have a seat at the table.
The commissioner of environmental protection shall have 63 supervision of matters pertaining to environmental protection 64 that the Department of Environmental Protection or its successor 65 agency and water management districts are required or authorized 66 by law to implement and administer.
Full text: (http://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0024/ProposalText/Filed/HTML)
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a commissioner on the 2017/18 Constitution Revision Commissioner; *this proposal will go before the Executive Committee sometime in December or January. If it gets through that committee it will have to make it through both General Provisions and Ethics and Elections. You can support or voice concerns about this proposal by first writing the Executive here: https://flcrc.gov/Committees/EX/
Follow here: http://flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0024
Find all committees here:http://flcrc.gov/Committees
Jacqui can be reached here: https://www.flcrc.gov/Commissioners/Thurlow-Lippisch
Learn about the CRC here:http://www.flcrc.gov
Commissioner of Agriculture/Dept of WQ: Best Management Practices: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Business-Services/Water/Agricultural-Best-Management-Practices
Department of Environmental Protection: https://floridadep.gov
Florida’s Water Management Districts: https://floridadep.gov/water-policy/water-policy/content/water-management-district
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission: http://myfwc.com
Florida Chamber Water: (http://www.flchamber.com/advocacy/issues/water-solutions/)
Florida Chamber Tourism: (Tourism:http://www.flchamber.com/advocacy/issues/tourism/)
Recent pictures of our Florida environment that are NOT good for tourist!
THE FLORIDA CABINET
In 1998 the Constitutional Revision Commission proposed a rewrite of Article IV, Section IV of the Florida Constitution that reduced the Florida Cabinet from six elected officials to three. Effective January 7, 2003, the Florida Cabinet consists of the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer and the Commissioner of Agriculture. The Cabinet offices of Secretary of State and Commissioner of Education became appointed offices and their respective agencies became the responsibility of the Governor. The revised constitution also created a new State Board of Education with seven members appointed by the Governor to oversee the Department of Education. The Cabinet offices of Treasurer and Comptroller were merged into the new position of Chief Financial Officer who serves as agency head for the newly created Department of Financial Services.