CLAY COUNTY – A bill altering Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ election rules, requirements to serve and other conditions could impact Clay County’s local soil and water …
CLAY COUNTY – A bill altering Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ election rules, requirements to serve and other conditions could impact Clay County’s local soil and water district.
Senate Bill 1078 has passed a few hurdles, including getting support from District 5’s Sen. Jennifer Bradley, and there is a chance it could make Gov. Ron DeSantis’ list of 2022 bill actions, which frequently sees new additions.
The bill would require the board members of each soil and water conservation district to be elected from newly-created district subdivisions, add qualification requirements for board members to serve on the district and provide for the automatic dissolution of soil and water conservation districts if they don’t meet at least once a year with a full quorum.
Clay Soil and Water Conservation District Board Chair Ted Clark disputed the bill, calling it ridiculous. He said the state Department of Agriculture is not designed to draw election maps.
“It really limits who else can run for such office,” Clark said. “Instead of any citizen being able to run for any of the five seats regardless of where they live, now they’re able to run for one seat.”
Clark’s main contention with the qualification restriction is that it ruled out people who aren’t in the agriculture industry.
“It’s ridiculous that the restrictions are compared to other offices when you don’t have to be a police officer to be sheriff or be a teacher to be a (school district) board member or superintendent,” he said.
Wes Taylor, a board member since 2010, said he didn’t think the bill is legal. Taylor and Clark are quick to add the Clay Soil and Water Conservation District is a non-taxing, education-based board where members are elected.
“We do it strictly as volunteers, we do not get paid and are not a taxing authority of any type,” Taylor said.
Clark, a board member since 2018, said the district has a small budget and they seek to enhance conservation projects. Opposed to the bill’s contents, Clark said the people with diverse backgrounds should be deciding what happens to soil and water conservation districts across the state.
“Our bosses are the voters, the people in our conservation districts,” Clark said.
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