Welcome back to the Impact Zone, Surfrider’s series dedicated to all things legislative session for Florida’s ocean, waves and beaches. The last week of session has come and gone! After 60 days of debate and discussion, decisions were made and the final bills of session trudged across the finish line. Surfrider tracked many bills this session related to clean water, healthy beaches, resilient coasts and preventing plastic pollution. While very few ultimately passed both houses, there are some pieces of policy worth celebrating, and others we wished would have died before session even started.
Budget Heading to Governor
One of Surfrider's priority campaigns in Florida is appropriations for the Florida Healthy Beaches Program. Our network has met with countless members of the legislature to advocate on behalf of clean water and public health at the beach, ultimately asking for $500,000 in this year's budget for the program. Unfortunately, our voices were not heard in this year's budget, but we will continue to advocate for additional funding to support rigorous beach water quality monitoring statewide.
While the budget does include immense funding for Everglades restoration and wastewater infrastructure, it also included two provisions that are of great concern for clean water and coastal management in Florida. The first, a provision of the implementing budget bill that would prevent local governments from enacting fertilizer bans for the next fiscal year. Why is this significant? Fertilizer ordinances are a cost-effective local pollution measure, evidenced by the 117 counties and municipalities that have some type of fertilizer application restriction. Surfrider is working with organizations across the state to urge the Governor to veto the funding that keeps this implementing language alive.
Another provision we are unhappy to see? Language that would extend the Hurricane Restoration Reimbursement Grant Program for the entirety of Fiscal Year 2023-24. The program, established under emergency hurricane recovery legislation in late 2022, provides grants directly to homeowners for projects related to 'sand placement, temporary coastal armoring or permanent coastal armoring.' The enactment of this program, specifically the use of public funds to subsidize coastal armoring, is unconstitutional, and Surfrider urgently opposes the extension of this program. As the state looks to the start of another Atlantic hurricane season on June 1, this program is not the smart coastal (or fiscal) management policy we need to protect Floridians an uncertain climate future.
Radioactive Roads Passed, Now What?
Despite significant outcry from the environmental community, HB1191 Use of Phosphogypsum passed its final vote in the Senate last week, making the move from the floor to the space and time between passage and the Governor's desk. Immediately following passage, a veto letter was sent to the Governor by more than 30 environmental organizations, including Surfrider. Activists across the state have been sending messages to Governor DeSantis asking him to protect human and environmental health and veto this bad bill. Particularly when considered with a complementary budget provision banning local fertilizer ordinances for the next year, the fertilizer industries grip in on the Florida legislature has never been more clear with legislation and subversive budget language supporting toxic business interests that directly undermine Florida's bottom line: clean water and healthy beaches. If you haven't taken action yet, there is still time to make your voice heard! Send a message to Governor DeSantis today and tell him to veto radioactive roads.