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Impact Zone: Surfrider in Tallahassee - 2023 Session Week 2

Welcome back to the Impact Zone, Surfrider’s series dedicated to all things legislative session for Florida’s ocean, beaches and waves. It's hard to believe we are already in week two of the Florida legislative session. Surfrider’s network and staff in Florida have been closely watching resiliency and clean water legislation and working to generate support for key campaigns and issues for our ocean, beaches and waves.

House Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee

The agenda was seemingly light this week with only three bills on the agenda for debate and consideration by members of this House committee. Bills focused on strengthening penalties for the sale of venomous reptiles and clean-up of Osborne reef sailed through favorably. The final bill considered is one that Surfrider supports and hopes to see cross the finish line this year that would enhance existing resiliency legislation. HB111 Flooding and Sea Level Rise Vulnerability would expand the Resilient Florida Grant Program to fund feasibility studies and permitting costs for nature-based solutions and water management districts to support local government adaptation planning, and expand the geographic region for publicly-funded construction projects that require a sea level impact projection (SLIP) study. A committee substitute was filed to make the bill identical with a comparable Senate bill during the meeting and it was reported favorably. With bipartisan leadership on the bill in both Chambers, we hope that this bill will continue to track favorably in the weeks to come for the sake of Florida's coasts.

Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee

In stark contrast to the House, the primary environmental committee for the Senate had a fairly stacked agenda with an interesting mix of bills for consideration. Two bills in particular on our Surfrider radar passed through that will mark improvements in resiliency and planning for climate change. The first is the Senate companion to HB111, SB1170 by Senator Calatayud of Miami. As noted previously, this legislation will help fund, and thereby incentivize, the employment of nature-based solutions and natural infrastructure for coastal adaptation. With mangroves, dune habitat, seagrasses and more found in Florida, it is imperative that the State harness the power our natural environment to prepare for future sea level rise and flooding events.

Also on the docket this week was SB734 Saltwater Intrusion Vulnerability Assessments. Again, building on existing resiliency legislation to provide grant funds to local governments to study potential impacts of saltwater intrusion to, for example, drinking water supply. Surfrider supports holistic sea level rise and resiliency planning and believes this legislation reflects that ethos.

Senate Government Oversight and Accountability

While we typically do not watch this committee agenda with a fine-toothed comb, SB742 Administrative Procedures, the Senate companion to HB713. We have voiced our concerns over the coastal infrastructure permitting provisions included in this bill with committee members in both chambers. While we are hopeful that this bill, or at least this specific provision, will be struck or significantly amended, Surfrider continues to follow and engage on this troubling bill for coastal management in Florida.