Is the Florida State Legislature in the Grip of “Nutbags”?

Gimleteye over at Eye on Miami sounds like he is losing it in Nutbags Running The Florida State Legislature: The Cuckoos Nest:

Is the Florida Legislature an insane asylum run by high functioning mentally ill, or, is it a barely legal, criminal syndicate protected by corporate-run political action committees? Whatever, legislators and lobbyists are baying at the moon– these are the business interests– the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries and jack-ass-in-chief Barney Bishop, Big Ag ie. Big Sugar– promoting legislation that says, in fact, Florida has to live in the stinking mess it created; this sea of pollution that rings the state.

What’s driven Gimleteye so berserk is that the legislature is considering HB 239 which reads in part in section 55(1):

The department, water management districts, and all other state, regional, and local governmental entities may not implement or give any effect to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s nutrient water quality criteria rules for the state’s lakes and flowing waters, finalized on December 6, 2010, and published in Volume 75, No. 233 of the Federal Register, in any program administered by the department, water management district, or governmental entity.

In other words, the author of this bill, and what Eye on Miami tells us are its powerful supporters, seem to be in the grip of willful ignorance of the Supremacy Clause, Article 6, Sec. 2, of the US Constitution. Or they are just ignoring it. Isn’t this in fact either insanity or insurrection (which is also probably insane, especially in order to help polluters)?

No doubt someone will respond that what we have here is symbolic resistance, and not to get too fussed about it. That the legislators thus violate their oath to “support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States” is, this view suggests, a fusty 19th-century view of public obligation and civic rectitude.

I disagree. I think that this sort of unprincipled proposal is enough to drive anyone who cares about this country — or this state — ’round the bend.

Note: I am aware that sec. 55(2) of HB 239 purports to restore a degree of regulatory authority to the state regulatory authorities:

Notwithstanding subsection (1), the department may adopt numeric nutrient water quality criteria for a particular surface water or class of surface waters if the department  determines that such criteria are necessary based on historic and projected nutrient loading trends, existing and forthcoming technology-based nutrient reduction measures, and existing and forthcoming water quality restoration and protection programs applicable to the surface water or class of surface waters.

And that it further qualifies it in 55(3):

(b) The site specific numeric nutrient water quality criteria established pursuant to this subsection are:
1. Not effective if the United States Environmental Protection Agency disapproves, approves in part, or conditions its approval of the criteria.

You could, I suppose, read these qualifications as an invitation to the agency to employ a back door to spontaneously come up with its own standards that ‘just happen’ to track what the EPA wants, or can be persuaded to accept, thus avoiding the constitutional problem. And perhaps it will be sold to legislators that way (although I think other readings are possible too). But that sure isn’t how it would be sold to the public.  And frankly, I think this would be an invitation for a Catch-22 legal challenge claiming, likely plausibly, that the agency had secretly and illegitimately considered the very EPA criteria it was forbidden to enact. Thus, even if the agency were to open the back door it would just reap a long court challenge and garner a likely loss at the end — thus, bottom line, no regulation at all.

Gimleteye may be on to something here, at least if this thing passes.

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One Response to Is the Florida State Legislature in the Grip of “Nutbags”?

  1. Jamie says:

    I always wonder about “symbolic” protest votes, if that is the intent here. Do we accept the notion (put aside the obvious corporate interests, or assume that they should be at the table, as suits your temperament) that elected legislatures have a legitimate role in doing this? The separation of powers issue seems very real here. Either people believe in some sort of Federalist notion that divides these issues in ways they apparently don’t like sometimes, and local issues are properly local, or locals should attempt to push their agenda upwards.

    And I realize there is give and take, differing interpretation, etc. But shall we simply note that, if it was the intent of the good citizens of Florida to invest their legislature with the mandate to spend money and time protesting the Feds, perhaps that should have been something discussed before the election?

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