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Impact Zone: 2024 Committee Week Three

This committee week marked the first meeting of House and Senate members at the Capitol at the same time since the end of the 2023 session. The agenda was still fairly lean, but several committees focused on Surfrider issues convened to discuss budgets and resiliency issues ahead of the 2024 legislative session. 

The House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency and Recovery heard an update from the Division of Emergency Management about Hurricane Idalia, and long term recovery for Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, as well as a panel of local governments impacted by the 2022 hurricane season. They presented updates on recovery efforts, lessons learned, and legislative requests for the upcoming session.

Unfortunately, one of those requests was to expand the Hurricane Restoration Reimbursement Grant Program so that not only private homeowners could be reimbursed for armoring their beachfront properties, but non-homesteaded and commercial properties as well. This dangerous request cannot become the status quo for "hurricane recovery" or coastal management as Florida experiences the growing impacts of climate change and sea level rise. Surfrider continues to monitor this program and its implementation and opposes any efforts to further expand or permanently codify this program into the Department of Environmental Protection. 

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee convened to hear agency budget requests and priorities. The Department of Environmental Protection's budget requests included $725 million for Everglades restoration, $305 million for water quality improvements, over $50 million for harmful algal blooms, $50 million for beach management and $156 million for resiliency. $156 million a substantial decrease in funding for resiliency following more than $300 million the last number of years since the statewide resiliency legislation passed.

Bills for the 2024 legislative session continue to trickle in. Since the last Senate committee week, two bills of interest to Surfrider's priorities and network were filed by State Representative Peggy Gossett-Seidman (R - Boca Raton). 

HB163 Dredging and Beach Restoration Projects would require third party analysis of the environmental impacts of dredging and beach nourishment projects. Given Surfrider's history and successful litigation over the Reach 8 nourishment, we support efforts to rigorously scrutinize potential ecological impacts of these projects. 

HB165 Safe Waterways Act looks a lot like the bill filed last year, but the 2024 version begins the process of transferring bacteriological sampling of beach waters and public bathing places from the Florida Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection. Surfrider supports this bill and effort to move this program to where it will be funded and executed appropriately. 

The next committee week is scheduled for the week of November 6, with a concurrent Special Session being called to address a smattering of legislative issues, including to: 

  • Provide tax relief and other financial assistance related to damages resulting from Hurricane Idalia.
  • Expand and fund recovery and resiliency efforts related to natural disasters, including, but not limited to, assisting agriculture and aquaculture producers and extending local government assistance.

It is still too early to tell how this legislative session will shape up for Florida's ocean, waves and beaches, but you can be sure that Surfrider will be following the biggest issues for our coasts. We'll be back to keep you informed with another installment of Impact Zone after the next committee weeks in November.