On March 11th, the 2018 Legislative Session ended. Here’s what you need to know about bills that might impact our ocean, waves, and beaches!

PASSED

Coral Reefs: SB 232 (Sen. Book) & HB 53 (Rep. Jacobs)

This bill establish the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area so that the reef can be studied and protected from coral disease and bleaching. This good bill passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Scott!

Possession of Real Property: SB 804 (Sen. Passidomo) & HB 631 (Rep. Edwards)

This bad bill has the potential to kill local beach access by prohibiting customary use ordinances. There are currently customary use ordinances on the books in Volusia, Walton, and St. Johns counties. This bill passed the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk for final approval. The good news is that it was amended in its final committee stop to provide a path for cities and counties to codify customary use. We continue to oppose this bill, but the current version is better than the original bill.

Gulf of Mexico Range Complex: SR 550 (Sen. Broxon) & HR 319 (Rep. Ponder)

This resolution supports an extension of the current prohibition on drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico up to 125 miles off Florida’s Gulf coast. This good resolution passed both the House and Senate.

Florida Wetland Permitting: HB 7043 (Rep. Raschein) & SB 1402 (Sen. Simmons)

This bad bill would allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to take over federal wetland destruction permits, which are currently issued from the Army Corps of Engineers. The DEP, which is already operating with limited staff capacity, would take over thousands of federal permits without additional staff or funding. This bill has passed the House and Senate and is heading to Governor Scott for final approval.

FAILED

Recyclable Materials: SB 1014 (Sen. Stewart) & HB 6039 (Rep. Richardson):

Current law prohibits cities or counties from regulating, taxing, or banning plastic bags. This bill would remove that preemption and allow local communities to regulate single-use plastic bags. Unfortunately, this bill was never heard in committee.

Regulation of Smoking: SB 562 (Sen. Mayfield) & HB 627 (Rep. Altman)            

Cigarette butts are the number one type of plastic litter we find on beach cleanups, unfortunately it’s currently against the law for cities or counties to regulate or ban smoking in their parks, playgrounds or beaches. This bill would allow municipalities and counties to restrict smoking in public parks. This bill passed the full Senate but was never heard in the House.

Tree Trimming, Removal, and Harvesting: SB 574 (Sen. Steube) & HB 521 (Rep. Edwards)

Protecting mangroves, sea grapes, dune systems and beach vegetation is critical to protecting our beaches and upland communities. This bill would prohibit local governments from regulating trimming, removal, or harvesting of trees on private property. This bill was amended to remove the most problematic preemptions, but ultimately this didn’t matter as it passed the House but died in the Senate.

Plastic Straw & Utensil Preemption: SB 2776 (Sen. Bradley)

SB 1776 has nothing to do with plastics- in fact, it relates to vegetable gardens. As it was being debated on the Senate floor before final passage, Senator Bradley introduced an amendment to stop local cities and counties from regulating plastic straws or utensils. This amendment would mean local governments in Florida would no longer be allowed to pass local plastic straw bans. Thankfully, Surfrider members from across the state contacted their legislators in opposition and the amendment was withdrawn! Great work, all!

BUDGET

Florida Healthy Beaches Program- Restore funding to monitor beaches for dangerous bacteria and water pollution. Appropriate $525,000 to the Florida Department of Health expressly for the Florida Healthy Beaches Program. The Legislature did not include funding for the Florida Healthy Beaches Program

Florida Forever- The Legislature has appropriated $77 million for land acquisition through the Florida Forever program. They also allocated $23 million to the Rural and Family Lands program and Florida Communities Trust program. That means Florida will be allocating $100 million to land conservation for this fiscal year. Thanks to Senator Bradley for leading this fight!

Florida Resilient Coastline Initiative- The Legislature has appropriated $3,600,000 to assist local governments with storm resiliency, sea level rise planning, coastal resilience projects, and coral reef health. Thanks to Representative Jacobs for advocating for this funding!