Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Environmentalists Win on 3 Fronts as Bills Die Senators Seal the Fate of Land, Rivers Measures

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Environmentalists Win on 3 Fronts as Bills Die Senators Seal the Fate of Land, Rivers Measures

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- For two months, Florida environmental groups worried.

State House members, backed by development and business interests, wanted to pass three major bills that environmentalists said would threaten the state's land and rivers.

But when the 60-day legislative session ended last night, environmentalists hit a trifecta: With the Senate unwilling to go along with the House, all three bills died.

"Sometimes the best years are when you stop the bad stuff," said Senate Majority Leader Jack Latvala, a Palm Harbor Republican who spearheaded efforts to kill the bills.

Perhaps the most controversial bill would have tried to make clear the boundaries between private property and state-owned lands under rivers and waterways. Backers said the bill was necessary because private landowners have long paid taxes on state land, but opponents said it would transfer state land to property owners such as citrus growers and cattle ranchers.

The bill's sponsors vowed to continue fighting for the issue next year.

"This issue is vital to private property owners, and I sincerely hope it will be taken up again next year," said Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow. "Today, the rights of thousands of private property owners throughout Florida have been trampled."

The three bills were among the most controversial issues during this year's legislative session. Lawmakers, along with lobbyists for the development industry and environmental groups, battled throughout the session over the issues.

Putnam's bill dealing with property boundaries also was attacked by Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Comptroller Bob Milligan, who said it could lead to 100,000 acres of state land being transferred to private land owners. But Putnam and his co-sponsor, Rep. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, said the bill was not aimed at giving away state land.

While the House passed the bill, the Senate did not take it up before adjourning.

Much of the battle over growth-management and environmental issues started early this year when Rep. …

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