Welcome back to the Impact Zone, Surfrider’s series dedicated to all things legislative session for Florida’s ocean, waves and beaches. This week marked the second to last week of the 2023 legislative session. Budget conference started, and members are negotiating through every nickel and dime for a balanced fiscal year 2023-2024 budget The Florida network continues to advocate for the restoration of funding for the Florida Healthy Beaches program in the state health care budget and fight radioactive roads.
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. While funding for the program has not yet been included in offers through negotiations so far, we expect proviso language will be introduced as the final days of session wane. If you are interested in reaching out to your elected officials to support this critical water quality program for our state's beaches, you still have time to take action.
In good news for our coasts, managed retreat is proposed in this year's state budget! St. John's County is requesting $5 million to fund property acquisition for managed retreat in an area near both A1A and critically eroded beaches. If successful, this funding could signify a new model and mechanism for funding managed retreat led by local governments and communities in Florida. We support and will continue to track this funding throughout the budget conference.
Radioactive Roads Advance
Despite significant outcry from the environmental community, HB1191 Use of Phosphogypsum passed the House this week. Representative Lindsay Cross (D - St. Petersburg) filed two common-sense amendments in an effort to minimize some of the harm this bill will cause. The first would have required a study by the Department of Environmental Protection of impacts to water quality and environment, the original bill only includes the Department of Transportation. The second would have delegated authority to county governments to have the ultimate say in whether or not the demonstration studies occur within their communities. Unfortunately, these amendments failed and the bill passed along party lines. Now, the bill heads to the Senate next week for the final week of session. We are sure this legislation will pass, and we will be leaning on our network of ocean advocates in the coming weeks to speak up and ask Governor DeSantis to veto this bad bill for Florida water quality and public and environmental health.