ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – State Representative Anthony Sabatini (District 32) wants to swipe all Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) across the state of Florida off the table.
This wasn’t just lip service or mere conversation. He doubled down by putting it in writing on Facebook and on Twitter, seemingly in response to the Orlando Sentinel’s recent article on the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Board’s attempt to remove Supervisors Daisy Morales and Nicole McLaren.
“These Soil and Water Conservation District Boards have lofty sounding names but literally do nothing,” he posted on both social media accounts on January 19, 2020. “Next session I’ll be filing a bill to eliminate them statewide.”
Image: State Representative Anthony Sabatini’s Facebook account.
Image: State Representative Anthony Sabatini’s Twitter account.
“They don’t actually do anything,” State Representative Sabatini told FNN News in a recent phone interview. “County Commission can educate [constituents].” He offered Seminole SWCD as an example of a board doing a good job of educating people, but insisted that SWCDs “have no power, no budget.”
When asked why he was waiting until the next legislative session to draft the bill instead of drafting it during the current session, he explained to FNN News that the bill proposal cutoff was December 2019, and with each lawmaker being allotted six bill proposals per year, he had already submitted his six.
FNN News also asked if he already has a State Senator who will draft a corresponding Senate bill. He was reluctant to share any names, but said he’s had “good conversations with several senators on board.”
But what if the SWCDs were funded? Could they do more and be better? His answer: “I think they’re pointless, they’re a waste of taxpayer money. I’m not going to spend taxpayer money on that.”
Given his broad brush, FNN News followed up with questions regarding his constituents in Lake County, which has its fair share of rural landowners. So far he has not responded.
However, some individuals directly involved on the front lines beg to differ.
Jeff Moore, President of the Association of Florida Conservation Districts (AFCD)
Associate of Florida Conservation Districts President Jeff Moore (rear, ball cap) meets with Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisors, including Supervisor Daisy Morales (far right) during the AFCD’s annual statewide public meeting. Photo: Willie David/Florida National News.
Jeff Moore, President of the Association of Florida Conservation Districts (AFCD), had this to say in a written statement:
“While it may be true that a couple of SWCD’s may need to refocus on their core mission, that is no reason to abolish all Districts in the State. The overwhelming majority of Districts provide an invaluable service to agricultural producers and the citizens of the State of Florida. Just to touch on one of many, SWCD’s serve as a conduit for many programs and cost share projects. Through our contracts with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, SWCD’s are able to deliver many services. These partnerships allow more deliverables and benefits to reach the end user at a cost much less than if implemented by the two agencies referenced above. The benefits are not limited to agricultural producers and landowners. Work of the SWCD’s enhances and increases enrollments in Best Management Practices (BMP’s) which enhances all Floridians quality of life. Consequently, it would be a huge mistake to abolish SWCD’s throughout the state.” – Jeff Moore, President, Association of Florida Conservation Districts
FNN News contacted both Lake and Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Boards. While there is so far no response from Lake County, Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Tiffany Dziekan (Seat 5) didn’t mince words in her written statement.
Tiffany Dziekan, Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor
Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Tiffany Dziekan. Photo: Willie David/Florida National News.
“According to a commentary published by the Orlando Sentinel on January 27, 2020 – ‘Lake’s state representatives (are) either extremists or useless.’ Maybe Rep. Sabatini needs to find a better use of his time,” she expressed. “Even one of the constituents who replied to his comments regarding abolishing SWBs seems to thinks so: ‘File a bill that is actually meaningful and helpful for our state.’- Bobby Agagnina. Maybe he will go back to trying to take medical care away from transgender children and leave SWBs alone.”
Daisy Morales, Orange Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor
Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor and former Board Chair (background, 3rd from left), takes a group of students on an ECO tour of Conserv II in Orlando. Photo: Willie David / Florida National News.
“I’m disappointed that Representative Sabatini used a questionable article written by Orlando Sentinel about my removal as a backdrop to abolish SWCDs statewide. This seems like a knee-jerk reaction,” said Daisy Morales, Orange Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor and former Board Chair.
“It’s not uncommon for some Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), like other government agencies, to have unique challenges that can be corrected in time. It doesn’t make sense to wipe away almost a century’s worth of environmental activism by these elected boards, which were put in place by the people to serve them.
“Representative Sabatini’s proposal is a “shotgun” approach. If anything, the decision to abolish the SWCDs should be up to the voters in their respective districts. Why not have a conversation with SWCD Supervisors, industry stakeholders and county citizens about what could be done in the interim?”
This is a developing story. Follow FloridaNationalNews.com for updates.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | email@example.com