As we approach the 2023 legislative session, your regional staff are working to keep you informed.

Following a supercharged Atlantic hurricane season, the Florida legislature convened a special session to address hurricane recovery, property insurance, and tax relief for affected communities. The resulting legislation presents a mixed-bag of policy solutions to the existential threats posed by the recent storms.

Hurricane Recovery. A 20-page hurricane recovery bill, SB4-A was passed and signed into law on Friday, providing $750 million in additional disaster relief to Floridians and providing property tax relief for impacted residents. The programs funded by this bill present some opportunities and challenges for Florida’s coastlines and coastal communities, triggering emergency rulemakings for two temporary assistance programs administered through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. One the one hand, the Hurricane Stormwater and Wastewater Assistance Grant Program will provide $100 million to remediate damage to storm and wastewater systems impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. It is our hope that these funds will be used to facilitate much-needed water infrastructure improvements and make septic systems a relic of Florida’s past.

On the other hand, the bill also includes $50 million for the Hurricane Restoration Reinforcement Reimbursement Grant Program and another $100 million for beach erosion projects. We have significant concerns that these programs will primarily fund the construction and rehabilitation of hard structural barriers like seawalls, rather than prioritizing rebuilding dune infrastructure, living shorelines, and nature-based features to protect Florida’s coasts and build a natural defenses in impacted communities. Surfrider will weigh-in on this program during the emergency rulemaking to ensure these concerns are accounted for in the final rule.

Insurance. Following a year of historic insolvency by property insurers in Florida and a busy hurricane season, the legislature passed SB2-A as an attempt to reform and stabilize the state property insurance market. The bill will make it more difficult for consumers to litigate insurance claims and raises serious equity concerns regarding the financial burden of additional flood insurance requirements under the state insurance program of supposed last resort. With no rate cuts in sight, Florida consumers should have grave concerns about rising costs of property insurance under Citizen’s in the months and even years to come.

What’s next for the legislature? Like many, state lawmakers will take a break for the holidays before the first real committee week begins the first week of January. Surfrider will continue to keep you educated and informed about all of the bills (good and bad) moving through the halls of the capitol.