Your guide to this year's proposed Springs Legislation

Updated February 4th 2020

Your Springs Policy Experts here at the Florida Springs Council are, as always, keeping a close eye on all that's happening in Tallahassee that could affect Florida's Springs.


The Florida Springs Council not only tracks legislation, we work with legislators and member organizations to draft, improve, support, or oppose legislation that will affect Florida’s springs and rivers.

For the 2022 Legislative Session, the Florida Springs Council’s priorities are to:

  • Restore the Ocklawaha River

  • Implement the recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force

  • Enforce and improve upon existing laws, like the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act

  • Enact enhanced rules and increased funding for programs and projects that reduce agricultural nutrient pollution

 

THE GOOD:


Priority-

Implementation of the Recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force

(Senate Bill (SB) 832/ House Bill (HB) 561) Shortly after Governor Ron DeSantis took office, he appointed five accomplished scientists to study the algae bloom crisis, forming the Blue-Green Algae task force. That task force produced a list of recommendations in 2019 on how to address Florida's water quality crisis. Those recommendations have gone largely ignored by the Legislature.


This bill implements several of the recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force. While it leaves out several of the most important recommendations, related to reducing agricultural pollution and improving Basin Management Action Plans, it does include other provisions: mandatory five-year septic tank inspections, prioritizing the most beneficial water restoration projects, and assessing the effectiveness of past projects.


Similar legislation passed two Senate Committees in 2021 but went no further.

Thus far in 2022 it has passed two Senate committees, we'd like to see this one make it over the finish line.


Other bills include -

Agricultural Practices (SB 904) Requires the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop, adopt, and update rules for providing financial assistance to agricultural producers for the implementation of best management practices and other measures. The adopted rules must include a provision for administrative fines for noncompliance or noncooperation by the producer. Bottled Water Excise Tax (SB 798/HB 473) Places an excise tax of 12.5 cents on each gallon of water extracted by a bottled water operator in Florida.. Funds are used as grants to local governments for septic to sewer conversions.

  • FSC supports universal water use fees to incentivize water conservation and provide an equitable funding source for water restoration and protection projects.

Legal Rights of the Natural Environment (HB 6003) Repeals the 2020 preemption on local rights of nature ordinances in Florida.

  • FSC supports this bill and opposes state preemption of local efforts to protect natural resources that exceed state minimum standards.

Ethical Tourism License Plate (SB 424/HB 163) Creates a new specialty license plate celebrating ecotourism in Florida with proceeds split between the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism and Paddle Florida, Inc.


THE BAD:

Nutrient Application Rates (SB 1000) Authorizes agricultural producers to apply more fertilizer than the rates recommended by the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. Allows a “certified crop adviser” to approve higher fertilizer application rates based on site-specific conditions.

  • FSC opposes this legislation. Agriculture is the largest source of nitrogen pollution to Outstanding Florida Springs. This legislation will only exacerbate water quality problems and undercuts efforts to reduce agricultural pollution and achieve water quality goals.

Seagrass Mitigation Banks (Senate Bill (SB) 198/House Bill (HB) 349) Authorizes the creation of seagrass mitigation banks to offset impacts from development projects that destroy seagrasses.

  • Environmental groups are concerned that the creation of seagrass mitigation banks will lead to an increase in permits for projects that harm sensitive seagrasses. A similar program to mitigate the destruction of wetlands in Florida has been unsuccessful.

THE NOT SO GREAT:

Long-term Cleanup of Harmful Algal Blooms (SB 834/HB 421)

Authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to procure innovative technologies that will physically remove harmful algal blooms, toxins, algae, and nutrients from water bodies; reduce harmful algal blooms; and develop a plan for emergency response action.

  • Innovative technologies to “treat” already impaired waterways can be beneficial in some situations, however, the focus of Florida's water policy should be to prevent algal blooms by stopping pollution at the source.

 

FSC will continue to track these bills and others as they are filed and move through the Legislative process. We are still waiting for the official budget proposals from Governor DeSantis and the Legislative Committees. Sign up for updates from FSC to get the latest news and action alerts delivered by email and be a part of the movement to advocate for better springs protections.


Published Friday Dec 3, 2021

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