2024 Legislative Update - Week 5
Feb. 9, 2024
Environmental bill updates from the fifth week of the Legislative Session include:

  • Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve Boundary bill passes its second Senate Committee
  • Safe Waterways Act advances in the Senate
  • Senate Auxiliary Container (single-use plastics) bill is temporarily postponed due to lack of committee time
We’ve reached the halfway point of this legislative session with only four weeks remaining. Many of the subcommittees will no longer meet, effectively ending the potential for a bill to advance if it has not yet been heard in its first committee. However, a bill can be still added as an amendment to a similar bill, so any issue could return up until the very last day of session.
Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve Boundary — SB 1210 by Sen. Jonathan Martin passed its second of three assigned committees this week. Several environmental advocacy groups, including SCCF, have asked for additional clarification on this bill which aims to reduce the boundary of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.

One concern is that any reduction to the preserve increases the potential for development within the current boundary and reduces the ecological function of this sensitive area.

Another concern is that any change in the preserve boundary should be rigorously vetted with ample evidence provided for the boundary change. As it stands, that evidence is not provided in the bill or in the bill analysis. SCCF and partners are continuing to pursue additional information and are advocating for transparency on this potentially statewide, precedent setting bill. The House version, HB 957, by Rep. Botana, has not yet been heard in its first committee but could be amended on to a similar bill.
Safe Water Ways Act SB 338 by Sen. Lori Berman passed unanimously this week through its first committee stop in the Senate Health Policy Committee. Similar bills were introduced and strongly supported two years ago by Southwest Florida water quality advocacy groups working closely with Sen. Berman at the time.

This bill is designed to dramatically improve public notification of imminent danger as it relates to swimming at beaches and "public bathing places" — the legal term used for designated public swimming areas. It requires timely and visible notice of bacteriological water quality impairments from sources such as malfunctioning sewage treatment plants, septic tank leaks, and animal waste. 

This bill also requires the Department of Health to specify a timeframe to notify the local municipality or county, the local office of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the local affiliates of national television networks of areas affected. This bill heads next to its second stop at the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and General Government. The House version, HB 165, by Rep. Lindsay Cross and Rep. Peggy Gossett-Siedman, has also passed its first committee and heads to the House Appropriations Committee next. 

Regulation of Auxiliary Containers  SB 1126 by Sen. Jonathan Martin was scheduled to be heard this week in the Senate Community Affairs Committee — its second committee. The committee agenda was packed and included a few controversial bills relating to immigration, confederate monuments, and production and sale of cultivated meat. Discussion of those bills resulted in a 5 1/2-hour meeting, which went significantly longer than its scheduled meeting time.

Unfortunately, many people who traveled to Tallahassee to testify against this bill were disappointed when this was one of two bills that were temporarily postponed to be heard the next time the Senate Community Affairs Committee meets.

This bill preempts local governments from regulating re-usable or single use plastics or packaging and requires any regulation to be done by the state. The state, however, must adopt DEP recommendations before regulating any “auxiliary containers,” which is woefully overdue as DEP recommendations were submitted as far back as 2010. The House version, HB 1641 by Rep. Brad Yeager has passed its first committee and heads to the House State Affairs Committee next. Expect an SCCF Action Alert on this preemption bill. 
Thank you for your continued interest and participation in the legislative process!
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