Regular committee weeks are back in business after last week's special session. The agenda may have been light, but the drafting and appropriations deadlines meant that the House and Senate were abuzz as members and staff worked to submit in time. Bills are being filed in a steady stream, with a great deluge on the way before the session officially begins in January.
The House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency and Recovery convened to hear from a panel of local officials in communities impacted by Hurricane Idalia who shared their experiences and requests in the aftermath of the storm. Many echoed a lack of resources, infrastructure and capacity that come with being a small, fiscally constrained county or community. While each community had its each unique set of challenges and concerns, the overarching theme of long term recovery and preparing for the next big storm emerged.
The committee agenda may not have been exciting, but Surfrider is tracking the following bills filed this week that will have an impact on our ocean, waves and beaches.
HB 455 Comprehensive Waste Reduction and Recycling Plan by Representative Joe Casello (D - Boynton Beach) is the house companion to a bill that has been introduced in the Senate for the past several years by Senator Linda Stewart (D - Orlando). While Surfrider has not historically taken a position on the bill, we are closely watching to ensure that harmful waste-to-energy facilities are not a major component of any effort to reduce or manage waste in Florida.
HB 495 Prohibition of Smoking and Vaping in State Parks by Representative Marie Woodson (D - Pembroke Pines) prohibits smoking and vaping in state parks. Given Surfrider's efforts to support repeal of the state preemption on the regulation of smoking in municipal beaches and parks, and efforts by Florida chapters to pass local beach smoking bans after repeal, we will support this bill as session progresses. The bill does not have a Senate companion at this time.
HB 527 Land and Water Management by Representative Randy Maggard (R - Zephyrhills) has the same title as what was known as one of the most dangerous water quality preemption bills that came out of the 2023 session. While that version of the bill died in its tracks, this iteration of the bill would preempt the regulation of dredge and fill activities to the state. This bill represents yet another attempt to take home rule over local watershed activities away from municipalities and counties. This bill does not have a Senate companion at this time.
SB 484 Flood Disclosure in the Sale of Real Property by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R - Lake City) is a reintroduction to a legislative concept that is long overdue in Florida. Last year, Democrats and Republicans alike filed similar legislation in both chambers related to the disclosure of flooding and associated costs during the sale of private homes to prospective buyers. Given Florida's insurance woes and the increasing impacts of climate change, its imperative that future homeowners have a comprehensive understanding of the real risks involved with owning certain parcels. Surfrider believes that this is urgently needed in Florida, and that a strong flood disclosure law in the Sunshine State should also include disclosure of future sea level rise risks aligned with statewide resiliency planning horizons.
SB 498 Preemption of Recyclable and Polystyrene Materials by Senator Linda Stewart (D - Orlando) marks another attempt to repeal the state preemption on the regulation of most plastic items that has been in effect for over a decade. Surfrider strongly reports the repeal on the state preemption, however, there is no indication that this legislation will pick up steam this session.
Finally, some exciting news for the Safe Waterways Act! Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) has co-introduced the Senate bill demonstrating the bipartisan support for this clean water legislation.
December is just around the corner and so is the next committee week. We'll be back to keep you informed with another installment of Impact Zone.