Welcome back to the Impact Zone, Surfrider’s series dedicated to all things legislative session in Florida. This week we had our eyes on the House and Senate committees focused on hurricane recovery and resiliency, water quality, supply, treatment and storage, and key plastic pollution legislation filed by the two southernmost state legislators.
Both the House and Senate select committees focused on hurricane recovery met this past week. In the Senate, the focus was squarely on the response of electric utilities during and after the storm and analyzing potential impacts and costs passed onto customers in the aftermath. By and large, utilities that had already made significant investments in hardening utilities were able to maintain or rapidly restore power, demonstrating the importance of protecting vulnerable infrastructure as Florida adapts to a changing climate. Once again, we also heard subtle mention of derelict vessels and how to mitigate for loss of seagrass during vessel removal operations following future storms.
In the House, members heard presentations from Babcock Ranch and the Florida Beach and Shore Preservation Association regarding building resiliency and coastal issues following the storm. We were particularly pleased to hear discussion about the inefficacy of sea walls and coastal construction efforts as the state recovers and adapts to a changing climate, with a nod to an incremental approach to rebuilding and potential relocation of structures in frequently impacted areas.
This week, we are celebrating the filing of HB363/SB336! Filed by Representative Jim Mooney (R-120) and Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-40), this legislation would allow for coastal communities of less than 500,000 to regulate plastics, existing state pre-emption notwithstanding, as a part of a two-year pilot study. Given the significant hurdles posed by existing state pre-emption, industry regulatory opposition, and changes to rules on repeal bills, we believe this bill is will give local governments the long-overdue opportunity to regulate plastic within their respective coastal communities. We look forward to mobilizing our Florida network in support of this important legislation!
Home rule at risk?
Every year, there are legislative threats to Florida's coastal communities and our efforts to self-govern. While we do have issues with state pre-emption on the regulation of most plastics, it is essential that we retain the right to pass policy in our local communities that allows us to regulate the use of things like straws to reduce plastic pollution or to have stringent regulations surrounding the application and types of fertilizers used to protect clean water. That is why Surfrider's Florida network has historically worked to protect home rule, including a successful campaign to fight SB620 in 2022. So far this session, it's virtual copycat, SB170 has been filed and appears to have traction. We will continue to follow this and other bills that seek to diminish the power and authority of local governments as the session progresses.
The next committee week of 2023 is scheduled for February 6-10. We look forward to keeping you informed!