Key senator files plan for Everglades, water money

TALLAHASSEE (NSF) — The Senate’s top budget writer filed a proposal Monday that would put into law Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to spend $625 million a year on Everglades and water-quality projects. The proposal (SB 1878), filed by Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, would carry out a DeSantis priority to spend $2.5 billion over four years on such projects.

The bill would require spending $625 million a year through June 30, 2023 — the end of four state fiscal years under DeSantis. The requirement would be repealed at that point unless reenacted by the Legislature.

DeSantis took office last year, and lawmakers exceeded his initial $625 million request by about $50 million. Putting the $625 million into law could help ensure the requested amount does not get trimmed during budget negotiations over the next three years.

Bradley’s bill spells out a series of specific uses for the money, including Everglades restoration; a reservoir project in the Everglades Agricultural Area; aquifer storage and recovery wells built by the South Florida Water Management District; springs restoration; alternative water supplies or water conservation; projects in the watersheds of the St. Johns River, the Suwannee River and the Apalachicola River; projects within the watersheds of the Indian River Lagoon; coral reef protection and restoration; and red tide research.

The bill is filed for the legislative session that begins Tuesday.

State GOP outraises Democrats in fourth quarter

TALLAHASSEE (NSF) — The Republican Party of Florida raised about $5.24 million from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, more than three times the amount raised by the Florida Democratic Party, new finance reports show. The GOP brought in $5,242,485 in cash, while spending $1,764,498 during the quarter. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, raised $1,566,258, while spending $741,189.

Contributions to the state GOP included $200,000 from Florida Power & Light; $200,000 from Heritage Insurance Holdings, Inc.; $175,000 from Dosal Tobacco Corp.; $150,000 from a Florida Medical Association PAC; $130,000 from a Realtors PAC; $125,000 from The Geo Group, Inc.; $125,000 from the law firm Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley; and $100,000 from United Group Underwriters, Inc., according to the reports filed with the state Division of Elections.

The largest contribution to the Democratic Party was $150,000 from the Forward Florida PAC, which is chaired by 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

2 volunteer troopers catch sleeping car thief on I-95

OAK HILL, Fla. (AP) — Two volunteer troopers helped catch a suspected carjacker who was sleeping in a car on Sunday that had been stolen miles the night before, officials said.

The auxiliary Florida Highway Patrol troopers were patrolling along Interstate 95 in Volusia County when they spotted a 2019 Chevy Malibu on the side of the road, Lt. Kim Montes said in a news release. Troopers Casper Johnson and Bernard Martin saw a sleeping man in the backseat.

They ran the tag and discovered the car had been stolen from a Delray Beach convenience store on Saturday.

Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies came to the troopers’ aid and arrested Samuel Choisie, 20. He was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle.

Auxiliary troopers have 450 hours of training and carry a weapon, but they don’t have authority to arrest anyone and they don’t get paid, Montes said.

Choisie remained in jail on Monday. A lawyer isn’t listed on jail records.