We feared the worst, but it hasn’t (yet?) come to pass.

And some of the credit goes to you.

Several of the worst bills we identified in our pre-session report haven’t moved; others have seen their momentum begin to wane. And one of the worst proposals out of Tallahassee this session was effectively neutered after Friends of the Everglades and other conservation groups helped generate thousands of phone calls and emails to legislators.

Senate Bill 738 and its House twin, HB 789, initially stipulated that anyone challenging a permit or other “authorization” by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or a water management district would have to pay the legal fees of the agencies and any other “intervenors” (like big developers) if they lost the suit. But following concerns that this “fee shifting” would disempower citizens and wouldn’t pass muster with the federal Environmental Protection Agency the provision was dropped from both bills. Another problematic provision, requiring a “holistic” review of the coastal permitting process that could lead to less oversight, was also axed from the House version of the bill. We owe a debt of gratitude to nearly 600 Friends of the Everglades supporters who contacted key lawmakers to express concerns, leading to the revisions.

It was proof that engaged citizens can have a big impact on the legislative process.

But we can’t let down our guard. Unfortunately, some “sprawl” bills seem likely to pass, including House Bill 665/Senate Bill 812, which seek to expedite the residential building permit process, burdening local governments and ultimately reducing oversight.

Even worse is HB 1221, which would redefine “urban sprawl” to mean merely “unplanned” development, and which would require counties and municipalities to administratively approve “infill” development without giving the public an opportunity to weigh in.

We remain on the lookout for any legislative attempts to shoehorn a new study of urban fertilizer ordinances with summer “blackout” periods into the House and Senate budget bills, which could entail an extension of a ban on any new such ordinances. That ban was first enacted last year after a provision authorizing a limited study of urban fertilizer ordinances was shoehorned into a budget-related bill at the last moment

In line with our 2024 Legislative Priorities, we offer the following update and analysis on key bills: