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Time to raise the bar

November 20, 2019
North Fort Myers Neighbor

To the editor:

State Rep. Ray Rodrigues' glossy flyer, recently mailed to Republican voters in House District 76, was a classic example of slick Madison Avenue marketing selling a deceptive and defective product. Rodrigues's mailer attempted to portray his accomplishments in education, environment and private property rights.

Rodrigues touts higher education reform legislation but, avoids the stark reality that Florida remains in the bottom quartile in the nation in state expenditure per student, K through 12. In fact, state education funding in Florida ranks 43rd in the nation, below Arkansas and Louisiana. Sadly, the Florida Legislature spends more money on prisoners than students.

Noticeably absent from town hall and regulatory agency meetings concerning the devastating impacts of harmful algae blooms on our environment and economy, Rodrigues boasts about funding for Everglades restoration but continued to support legislation throughout his years in office that undermined land and water resource policies and protection.

In the 2015 legislative session, Rodrigues, in violation of the public trust, supported re-directing Amendment 1 funds, intended to protect the public's water resources and restore the Everglades, to balance the state budget. In 2016, Rodrigues voted in support of the "Water Policy Bill" that undermines water resource protection from Apalachicola Bay to the Florida Keys. The bill greatly impedes efforts to cost effectively prevent water pollution at its source. The bill eliminated the regulatory permitting process that included performance standards for potential pollutant loading of lakes, rivers, streams and coastal estuaries. It eliminated a January 2015 deadline, which the state didn't meet, for compliance with nutrient levels without creating a new deadline, thereby delaying cleanup of Lake Okeechobee.

Despite overwhelming documentation that fracking for oil and gas across the United States is harming communities by contaminating drinking water, polluting the air and harming people's health, Rodrigues authored ill-advised legislation to allow the continuation of fracking while advocating further study on the impacts of fracking, further delaying meaningful legislative reform to address public health concerns.

Hiding behind the veil of a private property rights advocate, Rodrigues has a long history of voting to undermine land use laws and regulations necessary to manage unregulated growth that results in impairment to drinking water supplies, congested roads, over crowded schools, incompatible zoning and demise of environmentally sensitive resources. Rodrigues's penchant to extend the long arm of State government over local home rule has led to state preemption of local government's efforts to prevent contamination to surface and ground water resources and ensure that the impacts from new development does not result in a financial hardship to existing taxpayers.

Florida is the third most populated state in the nation and desperately needs legislators with vision and courage to provide quality education for a growing student population, responsible stewardship of our environment to ensure clean water and public open space and land management policies and infrastructure to protect our quality of life and long term economic prosperity.

Rodrigues has announced that he is running for Florida Senate District 27 in 2020. Given Rodrigues's abysmal performance during his eight years as a state representative, it is imperative that a viable candidate, representing the public interest, step forward to offer voters an opportunity to raise the bar in the Florida Legislature.

Ray Judah

Fort Myers



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