Lobby Day was quite the interesting and informative experience! I had never been to the Florida capitol before, let alone been lobbying. Myself, and two other UF students were there representing the Surfrider Quad club at the University of Florida, and we were definitely all newcomers to the political arena! After meeting with the other activists for a quick briefing and breakfast at 9am, Holly split us into groups and gave us each a schedule which detailed the meeting times she had previously scheduled with various representatives and senators, as well as other relevant information about the three bills we would be speaking about.
Our main push was for the Disposable Bags Bill (HB143/SB306), which would allow coastal municipalities with fewer than 100,000 residents, to create pilot programs for regulating or banning disposable plastic bags. We also targeted cigarette litter with the Smoking Regulation Bill (HB4063/SB1554) which gives local communities the ability to ban smoking on their beaches, parks, and sidewalks. Finally, we had the Weather Impacts Bill (HB1223/SB1544), which promotes policies to assist Florida municipalities in preparing for rising sea levels and other extreme weather events. I was super curious to see how receptive these legislators would be to our proposals.
It was definitely a mixed bag! However, many of the people we spoke with, actually were interested in what we, as students, had to say. I spoke a lot of the plastic bag bill, which was initially met with hesitance and sometimes even confusion in regards to the importance of the bill. However, once I was able to explain what the bill specifically called for, that barrier of reluctance often faded. It was really cool when we got a discussion going between us, the activists, and the legislators or their staff aides. I would speak about why these bills are so crucial, but I would also get to hear their perspective and what concerns they had about each bill. These were the kind of productive discussions that I wish I could have had with everyone I spoke with!
In total, I met with seven legislators that day, attempting to convince each one of them, of the value of our oceans. Hopefully, our lobbying efforts were effective in showing our Florida legislators how necessary these bills are to protect our coastlines and oceans, our very own backyards as Floridians.
University of Florida