Florida House committee delays vote on fertilizer bill amid questions, opposition

Jan 18, 2012

The following article wasa published in The Florida Current on January 18, 2012:

House committee delays vote on fertilizer bill amid questions, opposition

By Bruce Ritchie

A House committee on Wednesday delayed action on a bill that would exempt certified landscaping professionals from local fertilizer ordinances after observers on both sides said there were not enough votes to pass it.

Some business groups and landscapers oppose what they say are a patchwork of local ordinances governing fertilizer use. But cities, counties and Sierra Club Florida say the ordinances are needed to protect waterways from excess fertilizer that is carried into streams by stormwater.

HB 421 was amended by the House Community & Military Affairs Subcommittee to exempt landscapers only from seasonal bans on the use of fertilizer. Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, R-Lecanto, said he agreed to limit the scope of the bill after meeting with supporters and opponents.

But some Republicans and Democrats seemed to side with opponents in questioning the bill.

“I don’t think the counties and cities should have to pass [fertilizer] ordinances,” said Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights. “I think state law, period, should limit what we are doing to our waterways.”

He voted against the amendment, which passed 7-6, and said he was going to vote against the bill, which was temporarily passed after more than an hour of public comment and questioning by legislators.

Representatives of the Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Turfgrass Association spoke in support of the bill. Speakers against included representatives of Sanibel and Bonita Springs, Sarasota and Lee counties, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida Stormwater Association.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne and chairman of the House Community & Military Affairs Subcommittee, denied after the meeting that the delay showed the bill was in trouble.

“We had a lot of bills on the agenda today and many of them had lots of questions as you may have noticed,” he said. “All it shows is we ran out of time.”

Backers of HB 421 welcomed the delay because some supporters on the House committee were out of the room, said Jose Gonzalez, vice president of government affairs for Associated Industries of Florida.

“We are confident the chairman will have it back up next week and we will get it out of the committee,” Gonzalez said.
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist David Cullen said, “I think they [opponents] had the votes to kill it.”

Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, agreed. He said groups keep lobbying the Legislature on aspects of the state’s pollution control program.

If some local pollution controls — such as fertilizer ordinances — are removed, local governments will have to use more expensive pollution fixes, Randolph said.

The Legislature “is making that policy decision with about three-fourths of them not understanding that’s what you are about to do,” he said.

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