SC Staff Report
Florida legislators are halfway through their 60-day legislative session and numerous bills are unlikely to pass. There have been more than 3,400 bills filed for this session, but an average of 250 are typically passed in any session. The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation has been closely following the progress of bills with a focus on water.
The first week of the legislative session saw heated discussion on fracking, waste water and septic bills, as well as plastic straw and sunscreen ban preemptions. Partial fracking ban bills (HB 7029 and SB 7064) were heard last week and, after much opposition for divergent reasons, passed out of committee as “better than nothing.”
“The problem with the bill is that the definition of fracking does not encompass ‘matrix acidizing,’ the most common form of fracking in Florida,” SCCF stated in its legislative update. “It is disappointing that a ban without the matrix acidizing definition has not been considered and leaves South Florida vulnerable…We will continue to support a full fracking ban as it moves through the process this session.”
A proposal to ban single-use plastic straws began as a good concept, but has become victim to unhelpful preemption bills. Following discussions in the first week of session, a five-year state preemption on local government bans was added, including plastic utensil bans and regulation of sunscreens containing chemicals harmful to coral reefs. House Bill 603 and Senate Bill 588 were passed out of their respective committees last week, but have additional committee stops.
There were eight bills addressing wastewater and septic introduced in the first week of session. They highlight the need to focus on this preventable source of water pollution. Two House and Senate bills (HB 85 and SB 1022) seek to improve the current oversight of existing septic tank regulations by the Department of Health and Department of Environmental Protection. Both received unanimous support last week. A third bill, SB 628, seeks to revise the state’s requirements to assess and identify the totality of Florida’s water resource issues.
“With (the proposed) evaluation, the state can develop a badly needed long-term funding plan to prioritize water quality system fixes,” stated SCCF. “We will continue to support the necessary focus on these clean water solutions.”
Senate Bill 7068, the mid-state Heartland Expressway, received a companion bill Thursday, March 28, in the House Appropriations Transportation and Tourism Committee. SCCF calls PCB TTA 19-02 a “horrible bill for Florida that will result in the diversion of more than $300 million from Florida’s general fund and untold billions more in bonding to promote sprawl and corresponding impacts on conservation lands needed for the protection of our water resources, wildlife corridors and habitat.”
Florida’s legislative session continues until May 3. To stay current, SCCF has created a legislative session tracker to help the public engage, watch and actively participate in the bills the organization are following. Sign up for updates at sccf.org.