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Florida lawmakers ready to levy big fines on sewage spills as 2020 bill advances

'They look at it as the cost of doing business'
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Posted at 6:11 PM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 18:11:00-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A crackdown on illegal sewage dumping is making progress in the legislature.

House Bill 1091 and its Senate companion have now both cleared their first committees in the legislature.

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Representatives in the Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee unanimously supported their version, Tuesday afternoon.

If approved, the bill which would raise all existing fines for illegal sewage dumps by 50%.

The legislation is largely targeting local governments, which the bill’s sponsor said choose to pay current fines instead of investing in better sewer infrastructure.

“They look at it as the cost of doing business,” said Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. “They’d rather pay the fines than fix the problem. So, we’re going to increase the fines and hope it fixes the problem.”

Fine estimated about three billion gallons of sewage was dumped into Florida waterways over the past 10 years, killing fish and contributing to algae growth.

He was hopeful his measure to levy higher fines would reach the governor this year after it failed in the last session.

“This is a priority of Gov. DeSantis,” Fine said. “We have great committee chairs coming up. I’m very optimistic— you never know. Still have a long way to go, two committee stops on each side— but I am optimistic.”

Municipalities worried last year high infraction costs could bankrupt them. Lawmakers reworked how fines are assessed to help, removing per-gallon penalties.

Next Wednesday is the 30th day of the 2020 session, marking the halfway point. To date, lawmakers have yet to send a single bill to DeSantis’ desk.