Lawmakers gathered early this year in Tallahassee for their annual 60-day lawmaking session, and Audubon focused on conservation funding as our top priority. With 2018 being an important election year for many lawmakers, Florida’s environment faced eager lawmakers ready to make an impact on the state. We cheered on good ideas and fought back against ideas that threatened Florida’s birds and the places they need. This special end-of-session report highlights this year’s successes as well as some of the challenges we face due to legislation that passed—and where we go from here.
The 2018 Legislative Session ran into overtime, with both chambers finally passing the budget a few days after the scheduled session end date. During the final hours before passing the budget, amendments to other substantive bills started flying. Audubon action alerts right up until the end raised the alarm on several bad amendments that would be harmful to natural resources and good governance. Thanks to Audubon advocates, many of those were withdrawn or their underlying bills failed to pass.
Also because of the hard work of Audubon staff, advocates, and partners, robust conservation funding remained in the budget and it was signed into law. Together, we secured:
• $100.8 million in Florida Forever funding (including $5.8 million for Rural and Family Lands Protection Program),
• $248 million for Everglades restoration and protection,
• $50 million for springs protection, and more.
While a lot of legislators helped move this funding along, much of this success is a direct result of Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley's dedication. Some bills progressed this year but ultimately failed to pass both chambers. Lawmakers proposed to gut tree protections passed by local governments. After input from Audubon, the House proposal was improved but did not pass. The much worse Senate version failed in the Senate. A ban on fracking made progress once again this year in the Senate, but it failed to pick up traction in the House.
We celebrate the investments in land conservation, America’s Everglades, and Florida springs, but we still have work to do. To join our action network and stay informed of Florida’s top environmental issues, go to FL.Audubon.org/SignUp.