Sprawl-backed bills would sound death knell for local clean-water rules

Decomposing fish scatter the shores of Sanibel Island — a product of persistent red tide blooms along Florida’s Southwest coast. Photo by Leah Voss

Is your local government spending too much time worrying about clean water?

Are your city or county officials too concerned about blue-green algae or red tide? Are they overly obsessed with “nutrients,” spending too much time on dead seagrass or even dead manatees when they could be devoting more time to giving the sprawl industry what it wants?

Then have we got some legislation for you!

Rep. Randy Maggard (R-Dade City) and Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrillis) are the sponsors – maybe we should say “culprits” — behind HB 1197 and SB 1240, respectively, two bills which share the same wording and the same goal: Kneecap local government attempts to crack down on pollution.

The bills, titled “Land and Water Management” — but more accurately called “The Dirty Water Act” — stipulate that no municipal or county government would be allowed pass their own regulations governing water quality, water quantity, pollution control, pollution discharge prevention or removal, and wetlands, including their delineation.

The reason, according to what Maggard told the Miami Herald: “Cities and counties are using water as a weapon to slow down their growth. That is not what water is meant to do.”

Get it? If growth results in more runoff, more nutrients in the water, more water quality problems — that’s no reason for local communities to tap the brakes! Full speed ahead!

Burgess added that because water flows through many jurisdictions, only the state “has the expertise and know-how to responsibly manage our precious water supply.”

And people who follow Florida water-quality issues can attest to what a great job the state is doing.


But the definitive comment — the reason for the legislation’s existence — was provided by Adam Basford, vice president of Associated Industries of Florida, the business-backed lobbying group. “Businesses need as much predictability and consistency in the regulatory structure as we can so that they know what they’re getting into before they start a project,” he told the Herald.

In other words, messy community-by-community rules, adopted in response to local conditions, are an inconvenience for the sprawl industry. Sprawl must come first; your local water quality comes second.

Maggard, the House sponsor of the Dirty Water Act, benefited greatly from sprawl industry campaign contributions during his 2022 run. He and his political campaign, PASCO PAC, raked in tens of thousands from real estate interests and additional thousands from contractors and construction firms. He got one $500 contribution from Associated Industries of Florida. Oh, and he also took $1,000 from the U.S. Sugar Corp.

Burgess’s political committee, Defending Conservatism and Democracy, took in $12,500 from Associated Industries of Florida in 2022; it also got $10,000 from U.S. Sugar, $7,500 from Mosaic Global Sales LLC (phosphate mining firm) and $10,000 from the Florida Phosphate Political Committee. The campaign committee also got thousands from real estate developers.

Think he’s a friend of clean water?

As we so often say, Florida’s water quality problems are political — and here’s a case in point, where legislators backed by special interest propose legislation to benefit special interests at the expense of clean water and local communities.

For whatever those who support the Dirty Water Act might say, ask yourself one simple question: Will this lead to cleaner water?

Unequivocally, the answer is “no.”

But hey, it would make life easier for the sprawl industry.

And in Florida — that’s what really counts.