Red tide: Tampa Bay lawmakers want to keep studying blooms even during government shutdowns

Red Tide
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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A bipartisan group of U.S. House members entered a new resolution to the legislative session last month, aimed at preserving funding for services that track Harmful Algal Blooms even when other services are delayed or paused due to a government shutdown.

The legislation, H.R. 1954, was introduced by Florida Congressman Byron Donalds, R-Fla., on March 17. It is co-sponsored by Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Bill Posey, R-Fla., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Gregory Steube, R-Fla., Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

The full text of the House legislation has not yet been submitted to legislative analysts in the Congressional Research Service, but an earlier form of the legislation was in the previous legislative session by Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla.

According to a summary given on the resolution’s online tracking site from the 117th Congress, the intended effect is, “to amend the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 to clarify that during a lapse in appropriations certain services relating to the Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecasting System are excepted services under the Anti-Deficiency Act, and for other purposes.”

In the version submitted by members of the 116th Congress of the United States, H.R. 3297, lawmakers wanted to amend the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 to ensure that during a lapse in appropriations, services relating to the Harmful Algal Bloom Operational Forecasting System are able to continue operations and counted as “excepted services under the Anti-Deficiency Act.”

The current version submitted by Donalds has been referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology as well as the Committee on Natural Resources while awaiting consideration.

The “Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act” would elevate red tide forecasting to the same public safety level as other federal programs deemed necessary to maintain during a shutdown, Buchanan said in a statement. In the same release, Buchanan said the need for the bill was underscored during the 35-day shutdown in 2019 that happened when Southwest Florida saw a “virulent outbreak of red tide,” and government scientists were unable to analyze satellite images coming in due to the shutdown.

Should the legislation make it to a full House vote and pass, it will need to find a sponsor in the U.S. Senate and head to the relevant committees.

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