Audubon Florida
The Advocate
We are past the halfway point in the 2024 Florida Legislative Session! We are happy to see improvements in bills about which we harbored concerns, and we remain vigilant that bad bills don’t make it across the finish line. Of particular concern was the amendment to the bill to ratify the stormwater rule (see below). Read on to learn more about development, Estero Bay, and more.
Snowy Egret in flight against a black background.
Good News for the Everglades
SB 1364, The Everglades Protection Area, sponsored by Sen. Calatayud (R-Miami) passed its next committee stop, the Agriculture Committee (Chair, Sen. Collins (R-Tampa)). Read more about why this bill is important here.

In other Everglades news, advocates flocked to the capital this week for Everglades Action Day. Between all of the teams, Everglades stakeholders had 40 meetings with legislators or their staff and dropped off 25 leave-behind packets – reaching 65 offices in total.
Snowy Egret. Photo: Colleen Dubois/Audubon Photography Awards.
Boat-tailed Grackle standing on a stump.
Updates on Bills We Have Been Following
- This week in the Commerce Committee (Chair, Rep. Rommel (R-Naples)), HB 1221 by Rep. McClain (R-Ocala) passed with 11 yeas and 4 nays. This bill changes land use and development regulations and amends various regulations relating to comprehensive plans, definitions of intensity, density, urban service area, and urban sprawl to promote the construction of additional single-family, two-family, and fee simple townhomes.

We reported on this bill here.- In good news: HB 321, Release of Balloons, by Rep. Chaney (R-St. Pete Beach), passed its last committee stop in the House Infrastructure and Strategies Committee (Chair, Rep. Payne (R-Palatka)). Both House and Senate versions are referenced to their last and final committee. Read details on the bill here.  Balloons contribute to plastic pollution problems and harm marine life when ingested.

- SB 1557, filed by Rep. Chaney (R-St. Petersburg), also passed favorably through this committee this week. This is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s bill that includes provisions that will impact consumptive use permitting, reclaimed water use, and resilience planning. We reported on it here.

Several good amendments were adopted onto the bill this week that addressed Audubon’s concerns. The bill aims to incentivize the use of reclaimed water to offset potable water use. As an incentive, provided a suitable reclaimed water project is proposed as part of a consumptive use application, a water management district is authorized to approve a thirty-year permit.

The Senate companion, SB 1386 by Sen. Calatayud (R-Miami), is in its second committee of reference and was temporarily postponed this week.
Boat-tailed Grackle. Photo: Ellen Mack/Audubon Florida.
Eastern Phoebe sitting on a branch.
Audubon Works with Elected Officials on Bills in the Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government

- SB 7040, sponsored by Sen. Harrell (R-Stuart), passed the committee (Chair, Sen. Brodeur (R-Sanford)) this week. This bill and its House companion, HB 7053, ratify the Department of Environmental Protection’s stormwater rule updates that were required by SB 712, the Clean Waterways Act (2020).

Late-filed amendments included provisions to grandfather development and rezoning projects submitted to the local government. This loosely written amendment has the potential to include thousands of projects across the state that are in their early planning stages. It’s important to remember that the underlying bill already had concessions with respect to grandfathering all of the existing conceptual permits and all completed permits that will be submitted to the state at the time the rule goes into effect. These concessions were included so as not to unduly burden the regulated community.

Audubon opposed this latest amendment and is committed to finding a balance between protecting our waters while recognizing investments made to date by the development community.

- SB 1084, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agency bill by Sen. Collins (R-Tampa), would preempt the state, regulating electric vehicle charging stations. This would include design elements, such as how many parking lot spaces can be taken up with chargers. Under these provisions, local governments would be precluded from deviating from state design rules for the stations. Additionally, developers building these stations would be bound by the cap set by FDACS. Planning decisions such as this one are best left to local governments that know their needs.

- Audubon was glad to see that a late-filed amendment removed the addition of the provisions of SB 1620, also sponsored by Sen. Collins, that would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to surplus state-owned conservation land (within the Florida Wildlife Corridor) without development rights for agricultural use and dedicate the proceeds to FDACS to purchase development rights on other agricultural properties through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. It would also have empowered the state board that oversees the Florida Forever program, the Acquisition and Restoration Council, to review any land within the Florida Wildlife Corridor sold by a local government entity to ensure it does not include development rights. And it would bar water management districts from including development rights on any surplus lands they sell.

Florida Forever funds are used to purchase public lands in the form of parks, trails, aquatic preserves, forests, wildlife management areas, and more, all of which are held in trust for the residents of Florida. Selling these lands without development rights will eliminate public access to once public lands. The Florida Forever program also administers a robust easement program in addition to full fee acquisitions. The provision shifting easement purchases from Florida Forever to the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program appeared arbitrary.

- Disappointingly, SB 1210, Estero Bay, sponsored by Sen. Martin (R-Ft. Myers), was on the agenda and also passed favorably through this committee. This bill revises the boundaries of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve presumably to open it to development. Read more about it here.

The good news is that its House companion, HB 057 by Rep. Botana (R-Bonita Springs), did not get on the agenda for its first committee of reference, which will not meet again this legislative session.
Eastern Phoebe. Photo: Kent Fiala/Audubon Photography Awards.
Royal Tern in flight over water.
Home-Buying Bill Could Help Homeowners in Flood-Prone Areas
SB 1532, sponsored by Sen. Bradley (R-Flemming Island), would require home sellers and landlords to disclose a property’s flood-related issues. The bill features a list of information that sellers will be required to disclose to a buyer, including flood damage history, whether the homeowner maintained flood insurance, and whether they received Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

Currently, there is no requirement in Florida law for a seller to disclose a property’s flood history, and flood disclosure would protect buyers from unsafe and expensive investments in flood-prone areas.

The bill passed with a favorable vote in the Regulatory Reform and Economic Development Subcommittee (Chair, Sen. Tyler (R-Merritt Island)). HB 1049 by Rep. Hunchovsky (R-Parkland) also passed favorably in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee (Chair, Rep. Buchanan (R-Osprey)). We are glad to see these bills progressing.
Royal Tern. Photo: Donald Quintana/Audubon Photography Awards.
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