Senate decides not to repeal septic tank law, legislators disappointed

May 10, 2011

The following article was published in the Northwest Florida Daily News on May 9, 2011:

Senate decides not to repeal septic tank law, legislators disappointed

By Tom McLaughlin

State Representative Marti Coley’s full-on effort to secure repeal of legislation that makes inspections of septic tanks a state requirement fell just short this session.

Coley, R-Marianna, pushed the bill through the state House but could only watch as it sputtered and stalled in the Senate’s Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, chaired by Sen. Charlie Dean.

“I am very disappointed that the Senate chose not to repeal the septic tank inspection,” Coley said in a statement released after the Florida Legislature adjourned for the year Friday.

Coley didn’t sit still, though, while the bill she said “became a principle to me” was set aside in favor of compromise legislation put forth by Dean.

She was able to do just enough to ensure that no inspections take place before next year’s legislative session. And she said she’s going to take another shot at the repeal in 2012.

Coley managed to attach a little verbiage onto the existing inspection legislation that requires the Florida Department of Health to provide an economic impact statement before they authorize inspectors to start work.

The economic impact document will have to be ratified by both the state House and state Senate, and that can’t happen before next year, Coley said.

“In the meantime I’m just going to introduce another bill to repeal it,” she said.

The bill that became known as the septic tank bill moved through the Florida Legislature last year as Senate Bill 550 and, when passed, authorized the Department of Health to inspect the septic tanks of property owners and charge them $150 to $200 for the work.

Afterward, as protests rose about the costs of the inspections and the much higher price of fixing septic tanks deemed defective, Northwest Florida lawmakers focused in on killing the septic tank bill.

They were supported in their efforts by tea party groups from across the state.

In November, area lawmakers were able to secure a delay in the implementation of the inspections until after July 1. That, they figured, would give them time to get the measure repealed during the session.

Coley in the House and state Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, championed the repeal measure, but Dean played spoiler.

But the compromise legislation Dean put ahead of the Senate repeal bill mirroring Coley’s, offered by Evers, did not get through the Senate either.

Dean, R-Ocala, was traveling Monday and wasn’t available for comment, aides said.

Coley said she’s well schooled in the rationale behind passage of Senate 550, which was introduced in a package of legislation focused on keeping Florida’s groundwater clean.

But she called the septic tank inspection language a “one size fits all” proposal, and said she favors a less “problematic” means of addressing the issue of waste from septic tanks leaching into the state’s groundwater.

“I think we need to approach this in a common sense way that helps the environment and is not too burdensome,” she said.

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