Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rural waste money hit; Growth-bill stripped

Senators and representatives from rural counties pleaded to a legislative conference committee for more money for a DEP solid waste program that provides money for waste programs in rural counties. The program provides for rural counties to collect garbage and to operate landfills, waste collection sites and recycling programs. The Senate and House have tentatively agreed to provide $2.5 million for the program, but some conference committee members said the rural counties need more. "You're going to see any meaningful recycling programs go away," said Chris Doolin, a consultant to 35 rural counties. "You are going to see Hefty bags in the back of pickup trucks getting tossed on the side of the road. You are going to see tires go into places that are very unsightly. That will be the net outcome of closed (garbage) collection sites." The money comes from a disposal fee for new tires, and Sen. Carey Baker, chairman of the Senate Committee on General Government Appropriations, said less tax revenue is being collected because of the sagging economy.

The Senate today stripped a growth management bill of House amendments that the Florida Department of Community Affairs had objected to. SB 360 was approved Wednesday by the House after a divided vote along party lines. The bill would ease restrictions on developments in urban areas with congested roads. DCA supported the bill until it was amended in the House this week. Secretary Tom Pelham said the bill would encourage urban sprawl and unchecked development in rural areas. His opposition prompted Rep. Dave Murzin, R-Pensacola and House Economic and Community Affairs Policy Council chair, to say on Wednesday that he'd like to see Pelham find a job in the private sector. The House passed the amended bill by a 76-41 vote. In the Senate today, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Mike Bennett, proposed a series of amendments that he said made the bill acceptable to Pelham, which a DCA spokesman confirmed. The bill, approved 28-12, now goes back to the House.

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