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Impact Zone: 2024 Florida Legislative Session Begins

After a busy committee week season and a deluge of bills filed in the final days of 2023 and the first days of 2024, the 2024 Florida Legislative Session officially began on Tuesday, January 9, 2024 at 9:30am. 

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee heard a number of bills, but two on the agenda would impact Florida's ocean, waves, and beaches. First, the bad news. SB738 Environmental Management was reported favorably. This bill has two incredibly problematic sections. The first section would make it financially ruinous to challenge bad environmental permitting decisions. When our laws are not being enforced and our waterways and beaches are not being protected, individuals and nonprofits would risk having to pay attorney and court fees of the prevailing party if they lose. 

In addition to making it more difficult to access the courts as a last resort for our environment, Section Four of the bill would direct DEP to review all coastal permitting programs in an effort to streamline them and permit coastal construction more rapidly after a hurricane or flooding event. At a time when the state should be more carefully scrutinizing coastal construction activities in the wake of increasing sea level rise and climate impacts, the state legislature wants to make it even easier to build and develop along our vulnerable coasts. 

Despite opposition to this bad bill, it passed its first committee stop. Surfrider will continue to monitor and provide updates on this bill and opportunities to act for our coasts as it progresses. 

Also on this agenda was a priority bill to help prevent plastic pollution SB602 Release of Balloons by Senator DiCeglie. This bill would update the state's intentional balloon release bill to remove a provision that allows for the intentional release of up to ten helium-filled balloons a day. There was a minor amendment which added 'personal property' back into the definition of litter, a small change to make the bill consistent with the house version. Now, the bill head will head to Community Affairs in the Senate, with the hopes of the next House hearing next week. 

Other committees focused on the environment heard presentations from the Department of Environmental Protection. While it was a relatively slow weeks for bills, a nasty expansion on the existing preemption on the regulation of most plastics was filed. SB1126 / HB1641 Regulation of Auxiliary Containers by Senator Martin and Representative Yeager would update the definition of auxiliary containers to more than single use plastic to include reusable boxes, bottles, cups, or other packaging sourced from a variety of materials. This bill would gut home rule on the regulation of these items and render Florida's communities unable to address plastic pollution legislatively. As beachgoers, we know where single use plastic items ultimately end up, and preempting all regulation will ensure that our beaches and marine environments will drown with plastic litter. Surfrider will be actively opposing this bill. 

Tune in next week for your Week 2 update for our ocean, waves, and beaches in Tallahassee.