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Impact Zone: Florida 2023 Legislative Session - Week 6

Welcome back to the Impact Zone, Surfrider’s series dedicated to all things legislative session for Florida’s ocean, waves and beaches. And just like that, week six came and went. Here's a snapshot of some of the bills we're watching from this week in Florida's capitol.

Toxic Legislation Moving Quickly

In 2021, 215 million gallons of toxic wastewater was pumped into Tampa Bay due to a leak in the liner of a reservoir wall containing polluted water at Piney Point, a former phosphate-processing facility in Manatee County. Phosphogypsum, the radioactive byproduct of materials used to make fertilizers is stored in piles or stacks, was discharged into local waterways dumping a year's worth of nitrogen in Tampa Bay in less than 10 days and triggering a water quality emergency in the Suncoast. Given the environmental devastation from the Piney Point disaster, a troublesome bill that would allow for the use of phosphogypsum in road construction is tracking quickly through committees. The Senate Bill, SB1258 Use of Phosphogypsum, passed its final committee stop before it heads to the Senate floor, but not without a late filed amendment by Senator Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach). The amendment would have required an environmental impact study concurrently with the feasibility study for the use of the substance in road construction. Sadly, the amendment failed, but Surfrider's network is gearing up for a campaign to veto the bill should it make it to the Governor's desk.

Expanding Sea Level Rise Legislation + Streamlining Nature-Based Solutions

Despite some troubling legislation for clean water, a bill focused on expanding existing sea level rise programs and making it easier to permit and pay for nature-based solutions is heading to the floor for a house vote and its final committee stop as session winds down. HB111 / SB1170 builds upon past sea level rise legislation and expands the geographic area where publicly funded construction projects require a sea level impact projection or SLIP study, and allows DEP to provide funding for permitting and feasibility studies for nature-based solutions. Florida enjoys a diverse array of nature and ocean-based climate solutions, and it is more urgent than ever that we work through policy and program to harness the power of these tremendous resources.

Dollars and Cents

As the weeks of legislative session wind down, budget negotiations heat up in the Florida legislature. As you know, Surfrider's Florida network is advocating for $500,000 for the Florida Healthy Beaches Program to work toward rigorous beach water quality testing and public notification. We will be reaching out to the network to reach out to your elected officials and urge them to fund the Florida Healthy Beaches Program in the fiscal year 2023-24 budget.