Today’s experience at the Capitol Building!

Today’s experience at the Capitol Building!

As part of an Ocean Policy course that I’m taking this semester, some of the PhD students (me included) decided to participate in Ocean’s Day at the Capitol Building in Tallahassee, Florida.

This year the Ocean’s Day theme was: Florida’s ocean generate jobs and economic development. We divided into two groups, one that was going to be lobbying for the support and co-sponsorship of Representatives: the House Memorial (HM) 363 Deepwater Horizon Disaster/Penalties and the HJR 383 Ban of Oil Exploration, Drilling, Extraction and Production in Territorial Seas.

The HM 363 urges Congress to allocate the civil penalties that are going to be collected from BP Oil Spill to three different sources: a newly created agency: Gulf Coast Recovery Council (GCRC), the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. With funding allocated to the GCRC, the Gulf of Mexico Ocean Observing System can be developed. This Ocean Observing System will ensure (among other things) long-term monitoring efforts devoted to establishing “baselines”, recovery and restoration in the Gulf of Mexico.

The HJR 383 proposes amendment to s. 7, Art. II of State Constitution to prohibit exploration, drilling, extraction, & production of oil beneath Florida waters between mean high-water line & seaward limit of Florida’s boundaries; exempts transportation of oil produced outside of such waters (copied and pasted from www.myfloridahouse.gov).

We scheduled 6 official meetings with Representatives from the State Affairs Committee (mentioned below) and 1 meeting with the Representative Steube’s aide. In addition, we had a table to showcase our USF – CMS! Magazines, brochures and bookmarks highlighting the College were distributed. Hand-outs for both of the groups are also distributed.

Our overall impression was very good. The HM 363 group had an amazing acceptance from all of the representatives that we spoke to. We had two promises for additional co-sponsorship, 1 official letter of support to it, and 3 promises of support to help impulse the HM in the State Affairs Committee. The HJR 383 bill had a little bit more of skepticism with some of the representatives, however we also left with 1 promise for additional co-sponsorship and 5 promises for support to the bill.

The USF – CMS Ocean Policy graduate students that participated in Ocean’s Day 2011 believe that this was a great and enriching experience. We have fully enjoyed it. We believe that talking with the representatives was a productive influence that will enhance the perspective of the representatives on both bills. Hopefully, they understood the message that we were conveying and will support both bills, specially the HM. In doing so, not only will the GCRC benefit from it but the whole state of Florida will benefit. With the implementation of the Ocean Observing System, more job opportunities can be secured and the it’s research will help increase our knowledge of the oceanography of the Gulf of Mexico.

Let’s see what happens now with these bills!

I’ll keep informing….

Confirmed meetings with state representatives:

1) Representative Luis Garcia, Jr.
2) Representative Dwayne Taylor
3) Representative Alan Williams
4) Representative Kriseman
5) Representative Rachel Burgin
6) Representative Chesnut IV

Brief Update: Representative Alan Williams co-sponsored the HJR bill!

Additional note: If more information on either of these bills is wanted, please do not hesitate to contact me.

PhD students from the USF - CMS
PhD students from the USF - CMS. From left to right: Julia Galkiewicz, Natasha Mendez-Ferrer, Lara Henry, Maria Vega-Rodriguez, Regina Easiley

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