Keys officials use seafood to make final pitch in Tallahassee

With the clock ticking down on the Florida Legislature’s spring session, Monroe County officials headed for Tallahassee on Tuesday to press the flesh at Florida Keys Day 2017.

Legislators are winding up action on many bills, including those affecting the Keys, while shifting focus to the sharp differences that remain in the House and Senate versions of the state budget.

The lawmakers are pushing to pass a negotiated state budget by May 3 to meet the scheduled May 5 adjournment date.

At last week’s meeting of the Monroe County Commission, county legislative liaison Lisa Tennyson told commissioners that it so far it has been “bad news” for several Keys priorities, including the Florida Keys Stewardship Act.

The House and Senate are about $2 billion apart, Tennyson said. “It’s going to come down to big policy decisions,” she said. “Tose policy decisions haven’t been worked out yet.”

The Florida Senate has penciled in $25 million toward the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, intended to fund conservation land purchases and environmental-improvement projects.

“Unfortunately [the Keys Stewardship] money is not in the House budget at all,” Tennyson said. The conservation-minded Florida Forever Act was “also zeroed out.”

“The House is a particularly challenging situation,” Tennyson said.

Keys legislators State Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) “are acutely aware” on the local concern, she said.

A local bill authorizing funding to provide boat pumpouts, which has successfully prevented significant amounts of unallowed sewage dumping in nearshore waters, was progressing well at last report.

Bills seeking to preempt local governments statewide from taking action on issues like vacation rentals, communication towers and other regulations were still in committee but seemed to be “slowing down” in the House.

Florida Keys Day, initiated by the Leadership Monroe group in 2010, stages events intended to “lobby legislators, network with state agencies, and provide an environment for Monroe County to clearly convey its message to the state government.”

Events planned Tuesday included a two-hour “seafood extravaganza” in the state Capitol’s courtyard with music and key lime pie.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206