Marking a major step forward, Governor DeSantis signed bipartisan water legislation, SB 712, the Clean Waterways Act. SB 712 will tackle sources of excess nutrients in Florida's waterways, including wastewater, stormwater, and agriculture. The Governor also signed HB 1091, the Environmental Accountability Act, which requires levying higher fines on those who violate environmental laws.
The Governor signed into law a bill that requires state-financed coastal construction to account for sea level rise and storm surge in development plans. This is the first piece of state legislation that acknowledges the effects of sea level rise on coastal infrastructure. By factoring in risk from climate change into building plans, communities can save money over the long term.
Additionally, the Governor vetoed SB 410, which would have crippled counties’ abilities to stand up to developers seeking approval for unwise proposals to sprawl. County-wide growth management plans are vital to address the various needs of a community, allowing a county to plan for areas of high-density housing, affordable housing, and rural conservation.
Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
The Governor signed SB 7018, Essential Infrastructure, into law, which includes provisions for developing a master plan for electric vehicle charging station infrastructure along the State Highway System. The bill required the Department of Transportation and the Public Service Commission, together with the Office of Energy within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to develop this plan. Electric vehicles can help reduce carbon emissions, thereby helping to reduce the impact of climate change.
Environment Funding Survives Florida Budget Cuts
Governor DeSantis signed the final budget, which included nearly $1 billion in cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
In such a tough budget year, we are grateful to see Governor DeSantis protect environmental funding in the state’s budget. Funding for Everglades restoration, watershed protection, Florida Forever, and more are investments in our state's prosperity. Record investment of $625 million for a second year in a row will speed up Everglades restoration projects and contribute to significant progress in water quality improvements in our springs and estuaries. Conserving land is part of the plan to keep Florida's waters clean statewide, the $100 million for Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection Program will protect the places that make our state special in perpetuity, for generations of people and wildlife alike.
The 2019 Legislature produced a bill that set in motion a process within the Florida Department of Transportation to study three new possible turnpikes spanning 330 miles. The proposed new turnpikes, known as “Multi-Use Corridors of Economic Significance,” or “M-CORES,” could be located within some of Florida’s most natural and rural landscapes, that thus far remain undeveloped. Audubon Florida worked with elected officials to successfully insert language into the bill requiring that special task forces be convened to provide an opportunity for more careful consideration of these new roads. We also worked hard to put safeguards in the bill requiring avoidance of conservation lands previously purchased for preservation. Other road building agencies, such as the Central Florida Expressway Authority, have prudently delayed considering some new roads until as late as 2034 due to the economic downturn. We think state leaders and the task forces would be wise to consider similar deferrals of M-CORES turnpikes.