We wounded the beast.
But Senate Bill 2508 is still an ugly monster of a bill.
And now it’s headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.
On Thursday, March 10, the Florida Senate and House resolved a budget impasse triggered in part by the controversial SB 2508, agreeing to slight revisions in the bill language. The changes are a marginal improvement over the previous version, and they do little to redeem this sneak-attack legislation — which Senate leaders rammed through the Legislature with little public input. The bill still poses risks to Florida’s fragile environment.
The original bill — which was proposed in early February and had but one legislative hearing — was a hodgepodge of bad ideas that would have undermined the proposed new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, or LOSOM, being devised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It also contained major revisions to the state’s wetlands permitting process, and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.
But after a huge outcry — including more than 2,200 messages that you, our Friends of the Everglades, sent to lawmakers — the bill was amended and some of the most damaging provisions were removed.
The amended version was still bad, codifying outdated water shortage rules into law and introducing legislative hurdles to change them; and the budget bill itself, SB 2500, contained language requiring Senate Bill 2508 or similar legislation to pass for the budget itself to pass.
Again, you spoke up in opposition to the amended bill. Friends of the Everglades supporters sent almost 5,000 messages to Florida lawmakers opposing it.
Ultimately, SB 2508 became a bargaining chip as the Senate and House hashed out a final budget agreement this week. The impasse was resolved after the Senate proposed slightly more flexible language allowing for the outdated South Florida water supply rules to be updated — but only if the Legislature and governor approve the updates. The language requiring the bill to pass in order for the budget itself to pass also was scuttled.
Count it as a partial though pyrrhic victory.
Thanks to your willingness to speak up, the forces of corruption behind SB 2508 have been uncloaked. Florida’s clean-water advocates are more vigilant than ever.
It’s important to note SB 2508 could still result in Big Sugar’s water supply being prioritized over the needs of the Everglades and the estuaries.
Moreover, provisions that would allow the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program to begin buying land outright — possibly competing with the Florida Forever land preservation program — remain in place, as does wording allowing public utilities such as FPL to pay the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to expedite the wetlands permitting process.
Bottom line, the bill is still bad news. But it could have been far worse had it not been for your opposition.
Lawmakers seemed caught off guard by the thousands of emails and phone calls. They didn’t expect the opposition to be so strong, so persistent.
But you were — we were — and the bill, and indeed Florida’s environment on the whole, is better off for it.