EcoAction Alert


Stop SB 738 / HB 789!

Release Date: 2024-01-19
Action Deadline: 2024-01-26

 

Protect your right to challenge bad environmental permitting decisions!

SB 738 and HB 789 seek to end public engagement

Update: The most objectionable parts of  HB 789 were removed by the Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee in a proposed substitute amendment.  The Subcommittee will debate the bill at their meeting on Wednesday.  We were were successful at this stage with the House bill. if you have to time to call and email, please focus on contacting the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, particularly Colleen Burton.

Please take a moment to email or telephone members of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, and the leadership of the House’s Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee.  These committees are the next stop for one of the worst bills submitted for consideration by lawmakers during the 2024 session. 

SB 768 has already been approved by the Senate’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. It’s important for us to act soon if we want to stop these bills before they advance any further towards becoming law!  You might recall that last year, the legislature passed – and the Governor signed - a law that now requires citizens and organizations that challenge local government land use decisions, and then lose their challenge, to pay the “prevailing party’s” legal bills.  SB 768 and HB 789 are the legislature’s next step towards ending citizen engagement by requiring concerned citizens to pay the state’s legal bills if they challenge a permitting decision made by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, or one of the five Water Management Districts. and then lose their challenge.

SB 738 and HB 789 would impose prohibitive financial burdens on Floridians who challenge environmental permitting decisions, and thereby preclude their participation in important decisions that threaten local natural resources and other quality-of-life issues.

There is a real-world example of the impact this legislation could have.  The Florida Springs Council, in order to protect springflow from Ginnie Springs, challenged a Water Use Permit the Suwannee River Water Management District was prepared to issue to allow Nestle to withdraw nearly a million gallons of water per day for bottling.  The FSC, Ginnie Springs, and the downstream Santa Fe River lost in the court’s final decision.  Nestle and the water management district won!  Would an organization like the FSC, or anyone, be able to risk such a legal challenge in the future if these bills become law?

If the intent of the law is to end frivolous lawsuits or improper challenges, then existing rules already provide judges with the discretion to award attorney’s fees in such cases.  SB 738 and HB 789 would simply impose prohibitive financial burdens on Floridians who challenge environmental permitting decisions in good faith, and thereby preclude their participation in important decisions that threaten local natural resources and other quality-of-life issues.

Sometimes government agencies make bad decisions.  These bills would take away your ability to challenge even the most egregious decisions. The vast majority of Floridians, and non-profit organizations like FNPS, simply cannot afford the potential financial risk of having to pay not only their own legal fees, but also those incurred by the government and wealthy developers.

Protect your right to have your day in court!  Please email or phone the legislators listed below and tell them to vote against SB 738 and HB 789.  If you are a constituent of any of the legislators listed, it is especially important for you to contact them and ensure they know you are a constituent.  

Senate Judiciary Committee

Clay Yarborough, Chair:  Yarborough.Clay.web@flsenate.gov  or (850) 487-5004
Colleen Burton, Vice-ChaIr:  Burton.Colleen.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5012
Ben Albritton:  Albritton.Ben.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5027
Lauren Book:  Book.Lauren.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5035
Jim Boyd:  Boyd.Jim.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5020
Doug Broxson:  Broxson.Doug.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5001
Nick DiCeglie: DiCeglie.Nick.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5018
Gayle Harrell:  Harrell.Gayle.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5031
Linda Stewart:  Stewart.Linda.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5017
Geraldine Thompson:  Thompson.Geraldine.web@flsenate.gov or (850) 487-5015

House Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee

Cyndi Stevenson, Chair:  Cyndi.Stevenson@myfloridahouse.gov or (850) 717-5018
Randall Maggard, Vice-Chair:  Randy.Maggard@myfloridahouse.gov or (850) 717-5054
Dianne Hart, Ranking Member:  Dianne.Hart@myfloridahouse.gov or (850) 717-5063