It's official! Members of the Florida legislature convened in Tallahassee for one last week of committee presentations and bill hearings in 2023 before the start of the legislative session on January 9, 2024. As we close out a very busy year of legislative activity at the Capitol, we are celebrating a successful committee hearing for Surfrider's priority plastic pollution bill and looking toward a path to victory in the new year.
First and foremost, we have to talk about the House Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee. There were three bills on the agenda for consideration, including HB321 Release of Balloons sponsored by Representative Linda Chaney, which would repeal a provision of state law that allows individuals to release up to ten helium-filled balloons today and reclassify intentionally released balloons as litter, subject to the same penalties and enforcement under Florida's litter law. The bill hearing also included a needed amendment to match the House language with the Senate bill. The bill was reported favorably and the bill as amended passed unanimously. Surfrider's Florida network supported this bill last session and will continue to support this legislation through its next committee stops during the 2024 legislative session.
The House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency + Recovery met to hear presentations on the impacts of Hurricane Ian on communities most affected by the Category 4 storm two years after it made landfall. Leaders from Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Captiva spoke about the devastating economic and tax losses, and the true cost of this climate fueled emergency. While Surfrider supports the full recovery of the impacted coastal communities, we are concerned with legislative and local measures to prohibit building moratoriums or changes to land development regulations that would make them more restrictive. Ian underscored just how vulnerable Florida's developed coasts are to catastrophic storms, and these communities should be able to decide for themselves for rebuilding resiliently truly means. Instead, the state has taken away their ability to prevent unsafe development and to keep critical infrastructure out of harms way in vulnerable coastal areas for years to come.
Otherwise, much of the week was focused on presentations of the Governor's FY2024-2025 budget recommendations. While many of the recommendations were aligned with expectations, Surfrider is closely following the recommendation for $100 million for resilience projects. This dollar amount is a marked regression from past years. While agency staff have indicated this is the result of the balance of the Resilient Florida Trust Fund and the expected recommendation for this budget, with so much progress for resiliency, the state needs to provide more funding for adaptation, not less.
With the final committee week in the books, Surfrider is busy reviewing and tracking the bills that continued to be filed ahead of the 2024 legislative session. We will keep you informed about how you can take action in the new year.
Don't forget to sign-up to advocate for our ocean, waves and beaches in Tallahassee at Florida Healthy Beaches Day!