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Legislative Session 2024 - A Review


A roundup of the environmental legislation and budget items that we have been tracking during the 2024 Legislative Session and where they currently stand.



Senate Bill 738/House Bill 789

“Environmental Management” by Sen. Burgess & Rep. Overdorf


These bills started out Session as the top priority for FSC because of the impact they would have on non-profits and individuals seeking to go to court to enforce environmental rules. As filed, they would have required the losing party in an administrative challenge to a Department of Environmental Protection or Water Management District decision to pay the legal fees and court costs of the state agency and any intervening parties like developers or water use permit applicants.


Had they become law, it would have effectively ended environmental challenges in Florida. Thanks to testimony by FSC staff and thousands of calls and emails from FSC members we were able to get this language removed from both bills.


But, we didn’t stop there. FSC worked with our coastal allies to also remove a section in each bill that would have required the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a review of coastal permitting procedures which could have weakened protections for Florida’s coasts.


We owe a debt of gratitude to Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, Sen. Tina Polsky, and Sen. Lori Berman for helping fix these bills and appreciate bill sponsors Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Toby Overdorf who listened to opponents and amended their bills during the Committee process.


 

Senate Bill 1126/House Bill 1641

“Auxiliary Containers” by Sen. Martin & Rep. Yeager


SB 1126 and HB 1641 would take away local governments’ and state agencies' ability to regulate any containers or packaging, including single-use cups, bottles, bags, or other packaging. It would eliminate current State Park regulations that keep single use containers off spring-fed rivers like Ichetucknee, Rainbow, and Weeki Wachee, so keeping these bills from becoming law was a priority.


FSC was able to identify a champion for keeping Florida’s springs and rivers clean, Sen. Jennifer Bradley, and thanks to your calls, emails, and a dozen FSC members traveling to the Capitol we were able to prevent these bills from being heard in committee.


Next year we hope to work with Legislators to adopt strong statewide rules to prevent plastic pollution or lift the existing preemption on new local rules to protect springs, rivers, and coastlines, so all communities can have the same protections as our spring state parks.


 

Senate Bill 1620 

Surplus Lands by Sen. Collins


SB 1620 would have gutted Florida’s renowned land conservation programs by allowing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to sell already protected natural lands within the Florida Wildlife Corridor to agricultural corporations who could clear-cut the forests, level the lands, and turn them into polluting and water-intensive row crops.


Agriculture is responsible for more than twice the nutrient pollution to Outstanding Florida Springs as all other pollution sources combined. Currently, the state can only surplus lands determined through an established process to have no conservation value. This bill would bypass that process to benefit agricultural operators at the expense of taxpayers and Florida’s environment.


The answer to healthier springs is more forests. If passed, this bill would have been a death blow to many North Florida springs and to the wildlife that the Corridor is intended to protect. Although SB 1620 was never heard in Committee, it was filed as an amendment to another bill but thankfully withdrawn in the face of intense opposition before it could come to a vote.


 

Conservation Funding


The state budget is the one bill that the Florida Legislature is required to pass each year. It is the clearest statement of the Legislature’s priorities and values.


Budget negotiations are just getting under way, but so far it once again appears the Legislature does not prioritize or value protecting Florida’s springs, rivers, aquifers, or the forests and natural lands that surround them.


Funding for springs restoration projects and Florida Forever are both currently proposed at the minimum allowable under Florida Statutes.


In an effort to improve the budget, FSC worked with two-dozen conservation organizations from across the state to draft consensus budget recommendations that were sent to key budget leaders in the Florida House and Senate. Among other recommendations, we call for $500 million for Florida Forever and $150 million for springs restoration projects.


Read the environmental community’s budget recommendations in detail at https://www.floridaspringscouncil.org/single-post/environmental-groups-2024-conservation-funding-priorities


 

Other Environmental & Planning Legislation Likely to Become Law


Senate Bill 1638/House Bill 1417 

Funding for Environmental Resource Management by Sen. Hutson & Rep. Buchanan


These good bills dedicate 96% of the revenue share payments from the gaming compact between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State of Florida - estimated to be around $385 million next fiscal year - to manage and acquire conservation lands, coastal resiliency projects, and the water quality projects.


Senate Bill 602/House Bill 321 

Release of Balloons by Sen. DiCeglie & Rep. Chaney


These good bills, designed to protect wildlife, make it unlawful for any person over the age of 6 to release balloons outside in the state of Florida.


SB 632/HB 87 

Taking of Bears by Sen. Simon & Rep. Shoaf


Awful legislation that would allow anyone claiming to feel threatened, or even feel their property was threatened, to shoot and kill bears without any consequences.


SB 1084/HB 1071 

Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services by Sen. Collins & Rep. Alvarez


Controversial legislation requested by the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services that, among many other provisions, would preempt the regulation of electric vehicle charging stations to DACS and prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution of cultivated meat products in Florida.


SB 7040/HB 7053 

Stormwater Rulemaking by Sen. Mayfield & Rep. Altman


The Department of Environmental Protection was required to develop and adopt new rules for stormwater environmental resource permits by the Clean Waterways Act (2020). Proposed rules were developed over a three-year process that included extensive negotiations between stormwater experts, scientists, and developers.


Unfortunately, developers and their allies in the Legislature were able to weaken the rules during the Legislative ratification process, including greatly expanding the number and types of permits that would be grandfathered in under the old rules. The amended rules will not protect impaired Florida waters from additional pollution.


SB 1624/HB 1645 

Energy Resources by Sen. Collins & Rep. Payne


These bills remove language that directs the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services to consider energy efficiency, climate change, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of the state’s energy policy and repeals grant programs focused on promoting renewable energy. In addition, it increases the minimum length of natural gas pipelines that require certification from 15 to 100 miles; eliminates the ability of local governments to prevent liquified natural gas storage tanks and infrastructure from being built in their communities; and prohibits the construction or operation of wind energy facilities and wind turbines.


SB 1322/HB 1195 

Millage Rates by Sen. Ingoglia & Rep. Garrison


Requires a two-thirds vote of the governing body to increase millage rates, like those used to fund water management district operations, above the previous year’s rates.


 

This session has been proof that advocacy works and that the Florida Springs Council is highly effective in the Capitol. Springs advocates are being heard and it’s made a difference. Thank you for being so engaged during this legislative session.




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