PROTECTING AND PRESERVING THE BEST OF REAL FLORIDA
Florida is renowned all over the world for its beautiful beaches, innumerable freshwater lakes and natural springs, and its vast stretches of pristine landscapes which span across the Everglades; and it is often featured for its diverse wildlife (birds, sea-life, reptiles, and animals) that thrive in its complex ecosystem, both on and off-shore. In fact, it is Florida’s reputation for its natural beauty that has attracted visitors from all parts of the globe for decades, and is the bedrock for Florida’s biggest industry—tourism. I have worked hard to keep my promise from when I was first elected to serve in the Florida House of Representatives in 2002--that I would fight to protect and maintain Florida’s natural beauty and ensure that it is preserved for all of us to enjoy for generations to come. To this end, this past year I worked tirelessly behind the scenes and was instrumental in overcoming the legislative roadblocks to the Governor’s initiative which authorizes the South Florida Water Management District to complete an agreement to purchase 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corporation land for the Everglades Restoration Project. Under the contract, the State also retains an option to buy an additional 100,000 acres as funds become available. Once completed, this would be one of the largest land purchases by the State in history which guarantees that future generations in Florida will know their most important natural resource will always be protected. The acquisition will ensure the State has enough land to build large filtering reservoirs needed to cleanse agricultural runoff that flows into the Everglades. All of this will be a major leap forward in the effort to restore the Everglades, where natural water flow has been altered by numerous drainage and flood-control projects over recent decades. Reviving the Everglades’ natural flow would not only save the “River of Grass” but also ensures there will be an adequate supply of clean drinking water for South Florida cities. This restoration project, with the help of our partnership with the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, will stop the dumping of polluted water on both coasts of Florida and improve water quality from Central Florida to the Florida Keys.
I have consistently supported funding for the Florida Forever land conservation program in which the State of Florida has purchased and now permanently manages millions of unspoiled acres of native Florida lands, beaches, and wildlife habitats. And in the 2009 Regular Session I co-sponsored a bill, which the Governor signed, which cracks down on polluters by increasing the penalties and the number of inspectors and inspections of suspected violators of Florida’s tough pollution standards for clean water, clean air, and prohibitions on ground contamination.
Drawing from my many years of experience serving on appropriations committees in the Florida House of Representatives, in 2008, I successfully secured the necessary funding for the only non-profit Manatee Hospital and Rehab Center in the world located at the Lowry Park Zoo. Consistent with my principled view that those who are the cause of the harm should be responsible for paying for the harm, I was able to put into law a new permanent funding source for the care of injured manatees which comes from a portion of the fines issued to boaters for violations on Florida’s waterways, including those which injure manatees.
As your Republican State Senator, I will carry forward the same commitment I made to you as a State Representative and promise to protect our natural resources in Florida so that future generations may enjoy them as we do today.