Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

2024 Legislative Summary

July 1, 2024
florida state capital building

July 1 marks the beginning of Florida’s fiscal year, when many of the new laws passed during the state’s 2024 legislative session begin to take effect.

Your advocacy this session made a substantial difference in supporting positive environmental legislation and opposing bills that threaten our mission to protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems. The action of SCCF supporters resulted in 12,031 contacts to legislators and the Governor’s Office on behalf of the environment and our coastal communities!

Here’s an update on the bills that SCCF followed during the legislative session. For a complete listing of bills we tracked and their final outcomes, check out the SCCF Legislative Tracker.

Bills that Impact Regional Ecosystems

Water Quality 

  • VETOED – HB 165 – Sampling of Beach Waters and Public Bathing Spaces was designed to improve public notification of potential hazards as it relates to swimming at beaches and “public bathing places.” SCCF strongly supported this bill and will work with this year’s bill sponsors to readdress the critical need for the water quality and public health protections included in this bill.
  • FAILED – SCCF strongly opposed SB 738/HB 789 – Environmental Management, which included the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees for actions taken by both the Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s Water Management Districts. This would have discouraged citizen challenges as it has with previous laws to add that same provision to local zoning actions and comprehensive plan changes. This bad provision was removed as a result of push-back from individuals like you. Another bad provision in the bill would have shielded large scale polluters from liability on projects that received state approval. An example of such a project would be the massive leak of polluted wastewater from the Piney Point phosphate gypsum stack near Tampa Bay. This bill died late in the session due to stakeholder outcry, and SCCF will watch for these provisions to reappear in future bills.
  • FAILED – SB 1210/HB 957 – Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve would have removed a large section of the waters and submerged lands around San Carlos Island from the aquatic preserve’s protection. This bill received a lot of attention both locally and statewide as this would have set a terrible precedent for removing protections from an area of important ecological significance. SCCF worked to clarify the need for this bill and anticipates that this bill will return next year, potentially with an amended area of the preserve to be addressed.
  • SIGNED INTO LAW – Release of Balloons  On June 24, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 321, Release of Balloons, into law. The law prohibits the intentional outdoor release of balloons, and any action will now result in a noncriminal littering infraction. In Florida, balloons can easily end up in the ocean or on shores, where they become plastic pollution and can cause severe impacts to wildlife, including sea turtles and shorebirds, that mistakenly ingest them. 

    “Even if they avoid harming wildlife, balloons break apart forming microplastics that will continue to impact our communities for years,” said SCCF Environmental Policy Director Matt DePaolis. “The passage of this law will prevent unnecessary plastic pollution from harming our ecosystems.”
  • SIGNED INTO LAW – Ratification of Stormwater Rules – SB 7040 – was singed into law by the Governor on the last business day before the new fiscal year. Sen. Gayle Harrell introduced this bill by saying the rule-making process was originally required by the sweeping 2020 water quality bill SB 712. Three years later, the updated stormwater rules will only address discharges from new developments, not existing developments. The updated rules will also not require post-construction monitoring as some water quality advocates had supported. Sen. Harrell stated the importance of this rule moving forward as 40% of our state’s waters are currently too polluted for swimming or fishing. The general consensus of the committee was that it is better to stop pollution at the source rather than engaging in expensive clean-up afterwards. Environmental scientists and water quality advocates pushed for stronger rules, but legislators said that with these updated rules, some protection is better than none.


  • SIGNED INTO LAW – SB 1624 – Energy Resources, which removes the clean infrastructure goals in the State’s energy policy, repeals the Florida Energy and Climate Protection Act which administers renewable energy grants, preempts local community plans regarding the placement of natural gas facilities and bans offshore wind facilities. SCCF opposed this bill as a large step backwards in reaching the state’s previously approved renewable and clean energy goals.

Local Government Preemption

  • FAILED – SB 1126/HB 1641 – Regulation of Auxiliary Containers preempted local governments from regulating re-usable or single-use plastics or packaging and required all regulation to be done by the state. SCCF opposed this bill, which would have prevented local governments and other state agencies, including state parks, from implementing strategies to prevent pollutants from getting into the environment before becoming a threat to wildlife and clogging stormwater systems.

State Budget 

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the 2024-25, $116.5 billion Florida State Budget on June 12 after vetoing $950 million from the original $117.4 billion budget passed by the legislature in March. The State budget authorized funding from the Seminole gaming compact through SB 1638 – Funding for Environmental Resource Management to contribute to the state’s over $1.5 billion environmental budget this year. 

Environmental Funding Highlights 

  • $740 million for Everglades restoration (and related water projects)
  • $346 million to implement Home Energy Rebate Programs
  • $135 million for wastewater grants
  • $10.8 million for the Blue/Green Algae Task Force
  • $25 million to Florida Gulf Coast University’s Water School to identify, analyze, and determine root causes of impairment to water bodies
  • $100 million each in recurring funds for Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands-land acquisition programs

“Thank you for your work and your input during this and previous legislative sessions. Your advocacy has made SCCF a trusted voice in Tallahassee, and we hope that you will continue to make our collective voice even stronger in the next legislative session,” said SCCF Policy Associate Holly Schwartz.


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