Bills to watch during the 2021 Florida Legislative Session

March 19, 2021

The 2021 Florida Legislative Session is now in full swing, initiating 60 days of policy development within the state Senate and House of Representatives. The session, which runs from March 2nd to April 30th, is the forum where state Senators and Representatives propose, negotiate and consider potential legislation.

It’s the process by which bills—including those that affect our water quality—are signed into law and executed into our daily lives. These bills under consideration, which number in the thousands and range in issue from education to environment, can have a direct impact on our ability to see progress in the fight for clean water, so it’s important to monitor their development during session.

On the table this year, there are more bills related to clean water in south Florida than we’ve seen in a while—here’s a list of the major ones that we’re going to keep under careful watch throughout Session:

Bill Contents
Potential Impacts
SB 88/HB 1601

Farming Operations

  • Prohibits farms from being held liable for nuisance except under certain circumstances
  • Prohibits nuisance actions from being filed against farm operations if damages are over ½ mile away from the farm
  • Would make it very difficult to hold operations accountable for downstream and downwind effects:
    • pollution in waterways
    • air pollution from burning operations
  • If a nuisance action is filed against a farm and it is unsuccessful, plaintiff would be responsible for all attorney fees, court fees and expenses to the farm
SB 1482/HB 1177

Biscayne Bay Bill

  • Establishes the Biscayne Bay commission
  • Provides a purpose, duties and authorities for the commission
  • Prohibits sewage facilities from disposing sewage into Biscayne Bay
  • A good first step for issues facing Biscayne Bay
SB 406/HB 209

Big Cypress Basin Bill

  • Requires SFWMD to revise the boundaries of the Big Cypress Basin
  • Requires SFWMD to ensure that the distribution of basin ad valorem taxes collected within the Big Cypress Basin be used for projects and flood control operations and maintenance within the counties in which they were collected
  • Potential shift in the ad valorem taxes, which would mean less money for SFWMD and consequently, less money for Everglades restoration projects
SB 1522/HB 1225

Implementation of Recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force

  • Continue to implement recommendations from the consensus document produced by the Blue-Green Algae Task Force regarding methods to mitigate blue-green algae blooms
  • Some recommendations from the Blue-Green Algae Task Force were implemented into last year’s SB 712, but this could be a good next step to continue implementing those recommendations
SB 94

Water Storage North of Lake Okeechobee Bill

  • Requires SFWMD to request that the USACE seek congressional approval of a project implementation report for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project
  • Also requires SFWMD, in partnership with the USACE, to expedite the development and implementation of aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells
  • This is primarily a water supply project that provides very little—if any—reduction in discharges, and there are still many uncertainties with large scale implementation of ASR technology
  • The science plan for the ASR project has not yet been completed by SFWMD
  • The major concerns are:
    • Ensuring that this project does not redirect funding from restoration projects like the EAA Reservoir
    • The potential unintended consequences of injecting stormwater into aquifers:
      • The Aquifer Storage and Recovery system creates an ecological risk for the Everglades. The chemicals in the recovered water could cause further pollution when this water is used in the Everglades.
      • Scientific studies on the use of ASR systems show that the water chemistry between the injected water and the water already in the aquifer causes metals such as arsenic to dissolve into the injected water.

To hear more of our thoughts on this year’s session, check out our full Facebook Live below: