The Florida Legislature has ended its 2022 session.

But we’re not done yet.

One of the worst bills to emerge from Tallahassee this year was approved by the Legislature but has not yet been signed into law by Gov. DeSantis. Senate Bill 2508 was a toxic stew of bad ideas that sought to undermine responsible water management on Lake Okeechobee, fast-track wetlands destruction and expand the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program to rival, and perhaps compete with, Florida’s signature environmental land-acquisition program, Florida Forever.

Introduced surreptitiously as a “budget conforming bill,” SB 2508 had only one legislative hearing — but generated such a massive wave of opposition that legislators amended it, then further altered it during budget negotiations, stripping out some of the worst provisions. Nonetheless, SB 2508 still favors Florida’s powerful sugar industry over the Everglades and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, and poses a hazard to fragile wetlands throughout the state.

So we’re asking Gov. DeSantis to veto it. And you can do the same.

Such a move would send a strong message and mark a clear victory for clean water in Florida.

Unfortunately there weren’t many big wins this session, though one of the most potentially damaging bills, a proposal to establish “seagrass mitigation banks,” died in committee.

Other worrisome bills passed and await the Governor’s signature, while many good bills died on the vine.

Below, a rundown of the issues/legislation Friends of the Everglades identified as our priorities this session and how they fared.

Senate Bill 2508
Nutrient Application Rates
Business Damages Caused by Local Government
Development of Current of Former Agricultural Land
Seagrass Mitigation
Local Ordinances
Farming Operations
Safe Waterways Act
Blue-Green Algae Task Force Recommendations
High-tech Algae Cleanup
Agricultural Practices
The Stop Fracking Act
Supermajority Vote for Legislative Preemption
State Renewable Energy Goals
Full Fund Florida Forever
Florida’s Budget

Bad bills that passed

Senate Bill 2508

Introduced by Sen. Ben Albritton and backed by Senate President Wilton Simpson, SB 2508 would have undermined the proposed new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, or LOSOM, being developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The initial proposal would have enshrined outdated water shortage rules into law and required the South Florida Water Management District to certify to key state officials that Big Sugar and other “water supply” interests would continue to get all the water they want from the lake, even as other stakeholders see their flows reduced or shut off completely. Without these certifications, restoration funding — including for projects already approved, like the EAA Reservoir — could have been curtailed.

It also stipulated that SB 2508 or another bill like it had to pass for the budget bill itself (SB 2500) to pass; this provision would have prevented Gov. DeSantis from utilizing a line-item veto to scuttle the measure.

The bill also contained major revisions to the state’s wetlands permitting process, allowing applicants — including public utilities — to pay a fee to expedite the permitting process, and proposed a massive expansion of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, providing $300 million for the program to buy farmland outright, rather than purchasing conservation easements.

The “sneak attack” nature of the bill and its noxious content generated a huge outcry, with thousands of Floridians emailing or calling legislators to complain — including some 4,000 Friends of the Everglades supporters.

Subsequent amendments softened language in the bill and killed the proviso welding it to the budget. The final version still requires water managers to adhere to outdated water shortage rules, but did create a pathway for the Legislature and Governor to approve updated regulations. It will still expand the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, and the changes to FDEP’s wetland “dredge and fill” permitting process, which allow utilities to pay to expedite review, also remain in the final bill.

Gov. DeSantis, who previously opposed the bill and the manner in which it was being “rammed through,” expressed tepid support for the changes. In late March Friends of the Everglades joined several other environmental groups in sending a formal letter to DeSantis requesting a veto, citing the lack of transparency and the widespread impacts SB 2508 is likely to have on Floridians.

Key Players:

Sen. Wilton Simpson — Senate President and candidate for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Simpson was a driving force behind Sb 2508 and made it one of his legislative priorities.


Sen. Ben AlbrittonSponsor of SB 2508; when asked why the South Florida Water Management District hadn’t been apprised of the many provisions affecting district operations, he responded: “Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.” However, this sneak attack was the wrong thing for Florida’s water resources.


Nutrient Application Rates

SB 1000/HB 1291 will allow citrus farmers to use custom “tailored” fertilizer application rates. The measure requires producers to utilize best management practices, provides them with the “presumption of compliance” if they do, and makes no provisions for increased water quality monitoring.

Friends of the Everglades and other environmental groups opposed the bills, worrying they will add to the nutrient pollution in already impaired water bodies, and that the measure could be expanded to include other farming operations beyond citrus in the future.

Key Players:

Sen. Ben Albritton — Sponsor of SB 1000, insisted the bill won’t result in additional nutrient runoff because farmers are good stewards of the land.


Rep. Lawrence McClure — Sponsor of HB 1291.



Business Damages Caused by Local Governments

Dubbed the “Local Business Protection Act,” SB 620/HB 569 undermines home rule by allowing businesses to sue local cities and counties where a local ordinance cuts profits by 15% or more. The initial bill was amended to specify that businesses must have been within the local jurisdiction for at least three years, and exempts local communities that implement mandates authorized by the Legislature.

Business owners who do sue can recoup up to seven years worth of lost profits.

Key Players:

Sen. Travis Hutson — Sponsor of SB 260



Rep. Lawrence McClure — Sponsor of HB 569.



Development of Current of Former Agricultural Land

SB 1210/HB 909 could have significant ramifications in a state where former farmland is regularly sold for development.

The measure would give the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection exclusive jurisdiction in setting standards or procedures for evaluating environmental conditions and assessing potential liability for the presence of contaminants on land classified as agricultural, which is being converted to non-agricultural use.

This would curtail home rule by negating the authority of county or municipal governments that may have more stringent pollution control regulations in place.

Key Players:

Sen. Ben Albritton — Sponsor of SB 1210



Rep. Bobby Payne — Sponsor of HB 909



Bad bills that failed

Seagrass Mitigation Banking

A pair of bills that would have authorized the creation of “seagrass mitigation banks” to sell credits to offset the “unavoidable loss” of seagrass on publicly owned submerged lands drowned in a sea of objections.

SB 198/HB 349 were lauded as “another tool in the toolbox” for restoring Florida’s depleted seagrass beds, but Friends of the Everglades and others worried it could lead to a net loss of seagrass and exacerbate the impact Florida’s dwindling seagrasses has already had on manatees and other marine life.

The bills passed some early committee stops but their progress was slowed by increasingly vocal opposition — including thousands of emails from Friends of the Everglades supporters.

The bills are likely to be revised and filed again next session.

Key Players:

Rep. Toby OverdorfCo-sponsor of HB 349, lobbied hard for the measure saying it was part of a broader strategy to mitigate the impact of development on seagrasses.



Rep. Tyler Sirois — Co-sponsor of HB 349



Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez — Sponsor of SB 198.




Local Ordinances

SB 280/HB 403 would have required local governments to prepare a business impact statement before passing any measure that could have a detrimental economic effect on local businesses, and would have authorized the courts to assess and award attorney fees, costs and damages in certain civil actions filed against local governments and would require local governments to suspend enforcement of some ordinances.

Both bills died late in session.

Key Players:

Sen. Travis Hutson — Sponsor of SB 280



Rep. Mike Giallombardo — Sponsor of HB 403



Good bills that failed

Farming Operations

SB 1102/HB 6085 would have revised the definition of “farm operation” and “nuisance” for the purposes of the Florida Right to Farm Act, removing “particle emissions” from the list of protected activities.
The bills were a response to the expanded “Right to Farm” Act passed in 2021, which protects Florida’s powerful sugar industry from lawsuits related to the burning of sugarcane fields prior to harvest. Those “burns” generate particle emissions that can trigger health problems in the nearby Glades communities.

Neither bill got a hearing.

Key Players:

Sen. Gary Farmer — Sponsor of SB 1102



Rep. Anna Eskamani — Sponsor of HB 6085



Safe Waterways Act

SB 604/HB 393 would have required, rather than merely authorizing, county health departments to monitor public bathing places — swimming spots and other recreational locations — and post notices any time bacteria from fecal matter is found to be elevated.
Despite significant media attention and broad support, both bills died in committee.

Key Players:

Sen. Lori Berman — Sponsor of SB 604



Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson — Sponsor of HB 393



Blue-Green Algae Task Force Recommendations

SB 832/HB 561 would have enacted additional measures originally recommended by the Governor’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force, including a mandated assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the state’s Basin Management Action Plans, or BMAPs; and mandatory septic tank inspections at least once every five years.
Both measures died in committee.

Key Players:

Sen. Linda Stewart — Sponsor of SB 832



Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil — Sponsor of HB 561



Agricultural Practices

SB 904/HB 807 would have revised the definition of “best management practice” and required the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to devise and adopt rules to reduce water pollution statewide and penalize those who don’t follow them.
Both bills were withdrawn before they got a hearing.

Key Players:

Sen. Gary Farmer — Sponsor of SB 904



Rep. Michelle Raynor — Sponsor of HB 807



Stop Fracking Act

SB 208 would have prohibited the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from authorizing “extreme well stimulation,” or “fracking.”
The House companion bill was never filed and the bill died before getting a hearing.

Key Players:

Sen. Gary Farmer — Sponsor of SB 208



Supermajority Vote for Legislative Preemption

Senate Joint Resolution 152 (Farmer) proposed amendments to the State Constitution to require a supermajority vote of each house to approve a general law preempting a subject of legislation to the state.
It went nowhere, dying in committee.

Key Players:

Sen. Gary Farmer — Sponsor of SB 152



State Renewable Energy Goals

SB 366/HB 81 sought to revise the definitions of the terms “biomass” and “renewable energy,” prohibit the drilling or exploration for, or production of, oil, gas, or other petroleum products on the lands and waters of the state; and require that all electricity used in this state be generated by renewable energy by a specified date, among other provisions.
Neither bill got a hearing.

Key Players:

Sen. Lori Berman — Sponsor of SB 366



Rep. Anna Eskamani — Sponsor of HB 81



Full Funding for Florida Forever

SB 1816 (Stewart) sought to guarantee at least $100 million annually for Florida Forever, the state’s signature land preservation program, and would have also extended the retirement date of bonds issued to fund land acquisition. HB 1377 (Roth) would have set a minimum funding level of $350 million, or 40 percent of Land Acquisition Trust Fund revenue, for Florida Forever; it also would have revised the funding formula and extended the bond deadline.
While the bills did not pass, the Legislature did include $100 million in Florida Forever Funding in the budget.
Friends of the Everglades believes the baseline for land acquisition should be $300 million.

Key Players:

Sen. Linda Stewart — Sponsor of SB 1816



Rep. Rick Roth — Sponsor of HB 1377



Other Notable Bills

High-Tech Algae Cleanup

SB 834/HB 421 would have authorized the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to procure “innovative” technology to physically remove blue-green algae blooms from impacted waterways and reduce the probability and severity of future blooms.
Friends of the Everglades could have supported the bill if it included peer-reviewed studies showing the “innovations” were safe for our waterways. But the point was moot as both measures died in committee.

Key Players:

Sen. Jason Brodeur — Sponsor of SB 834



Rep. Keith Truenow — Sponsor of HB 421



Florida’s Budget

This year’s budget allocated some $1.6 billion in Everglades restoration and water quality funds. The figure includes $450 million for northern Everglades water storage, which includes 55 deep underground Aquifer Storage and Recovery wells; and another $64 million for the EAA reservoir – funding that might have been held hostage had SB 2508 passed in its initial form.
Another $288 million is earmarked for CERP, along with $782 million for water quality improvements throughout the state.
The final land conservation budget was $488 billion, but this figure was misleading – only $100 million goes to Florida Forever, with $300 million going to the expanded Rural and Family Land Protection Program, which can now buy land outright instead of merely acquiring easements, as was previously the case.