1000 Friends of Florida legislative wrap up

1000 Friends of Florida
Press Release
July 3, 2020

In a major victory, 1000 Friends led the effort to oppose the damaging SB 410 which would have opened rural lands to inappropriate development. As we reported earlier, more than 13,000 people contacted the Governor opposing this legislation, including more than 4,600 of you who signed our petition. We want to thank our conservation and planning partners for their hard work on this effort as well. As a result, Gov. DeSantis VETOED SB 410, protecting important tools for managing growth in Florida.
Your outpouring of opposition also helped stop HB 519/SB 1766, which would have further curtailed the ability of local governments to manage growth under the Bert Harris Act and limited the ability of public interest groups like 1000 Friends to intervene in the resolution of these cases. This damaging bill was withdrawn during the session.
1000 Friends initially opposed HB 637/SB 1066 which changed the process to calculate impact fees. We helped secure ameliorating changes, withdrew our opposition, and this legislation was signed into law.
1000 Friends also supported the following legislation which has been signed into law with your help:
  • SB 178/HB 579 requires certain state-financed projects to first undergo a sea level impact projection study.
  • SB 580/HB 349, the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, will help protect property heirs from real estate speculators and was spearheaded by Defenders of Wildlife.
  • SB 1042/HB 1061 creates the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve, the first such designation in more than 30 years.  The 800 square mile preserve will protect 400,000 acres of seagrass beds that support a scalloping and fishing economy.
  • HB 1091/SB 1450 makes numerous and often significant increases to the penalties for violating Florida’s environmental laws.   Significant provisions from SB 150, also supported by 1000 Friends and relating to sanitary sewer lateral inspections and disclosures, were amended to HB 1091.
Due to the financial ramifications of COVID 19, Gov. DeSantis vetoed more than $1 billion dollars in the proposed budget. The good news is that Florida Forever funding remained intact, with $100 million for land conservation. Funding for workforce housing was cut by $225 million to $145 million, but the vetoed funds were left in the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund for future years, and the Governor has indicated his willingness to spend up to $250 million in federal CARES funds later this year for housing needs.
With regards to the M-CORES toll roads, the Florida Department of Transportation received full funding, including the $90 million allocation for M-CORES. SB 1166 passed, which allocates $5 million annually for broadband associated with M-CORES. While another M-CORES related bill, SB 7020, did not pass, its provisions were incorporated into SB 7018 which has been signed into law. These provisions relate to planning for staging areas for emergencies as part of the state’s turnpike system, with priority given to certain smaller communities in M-CORES corridors. We will continue to closely monitor M-CORES through our representatives on the three expressway task forces, and maintain our efforts, including our extensive public education campaign, to protect natural and community resources threatened by the project.
As is always the case, some damaging legislation has been signed into law, despite widespread efforts in the conservation community, including by 1000 Friends, to derail them. SB 1794/HB 7037 make it more difficult for constitutional amendments from citizens to reach Florida’s ballot. SB 172/HB 113 nullify local bans on certain sunscreen chemicals to prevent damage to coral reefs, such as the one passed by Key West. In addition to our environmental concerns, 1000 Friends of Florida views this as undermining the authority of local governments to regulate activities within their borders, known as home rule.
Also signed into law, SB 712 takes very modest steps to improve Florida’s water quality, including provisions related to septic tanks, stormwater treatment, and a wastewater grant program. While we wish SB 712 had been much stronger and dealt more effectively with agricultural pollution and biosolid application, we believe it is an improvement over existing law.  Sometimes, as was the case this session, the choice ends up being between incremental change and inaction. We remain committed to advocating for stronger legislation in the 2021 session.

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