State committee spot gives me an insight on priorities

I admit that I underestimated the effect state government has on my city after being elected in 2018. As State Rep. Evan Jenne said last year during a League of Women Voters workshop, “Government is becoming more centralized.”

So not only funding, but legislative priorities decided upon in Tallahassee can greatly affect my city of Plantation.

But I found a way to provide some input. I joined one of the five Florida League of Cities Policy Review Boards. We meet three times a year and discuss what legislative priority that we, as a body consisting of 412 municipalities, can push for betterment of our cities. I participate in league activities because I want to “borrow” the best practices of other cities and bring them here.

The committee I joined is called the “Utilities, Natural Resources and Public Works” committee, and of the 59 members statewide, I am the only one from Broward County.

  The definition

This committee addresses policies specific to municipal concerns with coastal management, energy,

environmental and wetlands permitting, hazardous and toxic wastes, recycling, solid waste collection and disposal, stormwater, wastewater treatment and reuse, water management, water quality and quantity.

On Sept. 18 we met to discuss several issues that we as a whole could encourage our state representatives and senators to act upon. The difficult part is that we are tasked with choosing only one.

And the policy proposal must be something that supports municipal governments’ goals. That is, we all know the snail darter needs saving. But we want to take a shot at Florida municipal challenges.

Options include:

 Water Quality Mandate: Oppose legislation that prohibits surface water discharges by wastewater utilities by a specified date.

 Tree Preemption: Support legislation to clarify current law exemptions for tree trimming and removal of certain trees on residential property to decrease litigation and eliminate loopholes.

PFAS: Support legislation to limit the liability exposure of local governments relating to PFAS, to require DEP to develop rules establishing maximum contaminant levels for PFAS, and to develop a state program for remediation, mitigation and cleanup.

Water Funding: Support legislation to appropriate a minimum of $625 million annually for Everglades restoration and protection of water resources, including funding for targeted water quality improvements, alternative water supply, and water conservation.

Resiliency: Support legislation to establish a statewide office of resiliency and recommend consensus projections of anticipated sea-level rise and flooding impacts.

Energy: Support legislation to support an Energy 2040 Task Force to project the state’s electric energy needs over the next 20 years and to determine how to best meet those needs.

But FLC Deputy General Counsel Rebecca O’Hara reminds us that arriving at a legislative priority is designed to involve everyone.

“This is supposed to be a bottom-up effort,” she said.

Gaining experience

Even though am I rookie on the committee, I feel like my knowledge base is growing. I had an interest in this because I covered Florida Forever programs during my days at the Sun-Sentinel. Since my election, I attended the Broward County Water and Climate Academy, and apparently my dedication to knowing such things as sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion has had an effect: The Sierra Club of Broward County has endorsed me in my Nov. 3 re-election bid because they know I will do everything in my power to insure that we will have a clean, healthy city, county, state and world to leave to our children and grandchildren.

And I attended Broward Days in January; that’s when local officials from our county visit Tallahassee to solidify existing contacts and make new ones. Yes, it matters if people know who you are. If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it.

And besides, back to what I learned earlier from Sen. Jenne: It’s a different world up there. All kinds of legislators are pushing all kinds of bills, many of which have unintended consequences for our environment.  Having one party dominate the governor’s mansion, the legislature and now the state supreme court has emboldened that side of the aisle.

“We play defense 99.9 percent of the time,” O’Hara said, and, contextually, that was not in reference to one party or another.

So, that brings me to you fine people. If you had a legislative priority related to this committee, what would you pick? Email your thoughts to

Nick Sortal is president of the Plantation City Council.