Although vetoed June 6 by Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles on a technicality, a bill that would im-prove environmental permittingfor small plastics fabricators may be reintroduced in a special session later this year. Environmental leaders say they will oppose it again, as they did in the regular session.
The plastics fabricator fast-tracking measure was included in amendments to the Florida Jobs Siting Act that would give state agencies only 90 days toaccept a company's siting or expansion plans. The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., based in Washington, had urged Chiles to sign the measure.
In a letter to Florida Secretary of State Sandra B. Mortham explaining his veto, Chiles said the measure, S.B. 152, ``dramatically lowers the size of projects eligible for fast-track permitting but fails to redesign the fee structure to enable these smaller projects to afford ... this option.''
``A fee structure designed for 500-employee projects isn't financially feasible for a project with fewer than 20 employees,'' Chiles wrote.
But Rep. Evelyn J. Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, the measure's primary House sponsor, said Chiles may call the Legislature back to consider an initiative he favors: privatization of the state's Commerce Department. Then, the same fast-tracking language could be included, Lynn said.
``Fee structures are usually determined by rule, not by statute. This is a technical veto. If it comes back in the commerce bill, maybe he'll approve that,'' Lynn said.
``Fees aren't the issue at all. Environmental questions aren't the issue. We have strict environmental regulation in Florida. Our permitting process takes so long it's discouraging companies from coming here, and we need the jobs,'' Lynn said.
When asked about opposition to the bill from environmental interests, Lynn said, ``There was not one person that came to me with an environmental concern'' during the course of the permitting measure's debate in the most recent session.
Bill Newton, staff director of the Florida Consumer Action Network in Tampa, Fla., said his group opposed the measure because the names of many of the companies seeking fast-track permit approval also appear on the EPA's list of top polluters, the Toxic Release Inventory.
``I'm sure the environmental lobby had an effect on him [to cause the veto]. We see this as just allowing toxic polluters to site here without getting the proper permits, where before they might have been denied permits,'' Newton said.