DeSantis signs ‘sprawl bill’; will he let fertilizer ban stand?

One down, one to go — and not in a good way.

On May 24, after weeks of lobbying and email campaigns and public pleas by citizens and conservation groups seeking a veto, Gov. Ron DeSantis ignored it all and signed what many have called the worst bill out of Tallahassee this year, Senate Bill 540.

We first told you about SB 540 back in February: It’s the bill that penalizes citizens who challenge a local comprehensive plan amendment and lose by saddling them with the other side’s legal fees. Given that the “other side” can include deep-pocketed developers, this bill — which becomes law July 1 — could sock concerned citizens with a six-figure bill.

Faced with such a threat, few will challenge an amendment — however pro-developer, anti-sound planning it is.

Score one for sprawl. Well, another one.

We’ve previously pointed out that DeSantis signing this bill goes undermines his own clean-water priorities, as articulated in his Executive Order 23-06. There, he talked about the need to improve long-term comprehensive planning to ensure sustainable growth.

But we believe SB 540 will result in more reckless growth, more haphazard growth. And that’s a big problem, as there’s a correlation between sprawl and poor water quality. As noted by the National Institutes of Health, “Urban sprawl can reduce water quality by increasing the amount of surface runoff, which channels oil and other pollutants into streams and rivers.” Sprawl can also destroys wetlands, which absorb flood waters.

So for those of us who value clean water — and sustainable, well-thought-out growth — this new is bad news.

And we’re not done yet.

Now the focus shifts to the fertilizer ban snuck into the state budget bill a few weeks ago, a measure that prohibits local governments from adopting or amending a fertilizer ordinance with a summer blackout period for a period of one year – while the University of Florida’s IFAS studies the issue.

We told you last week that IFAS has already studied the issue, and warned that this sneaky maneuver — slipping this ban into the appropriations bill with no debate, no chance for public input — could be a precursor to legislation next session weakening the fertilizer restrictions in place in dozens of Florida communities.

Conservation groups and citizens have ALSO asked DeSantis to kill this ban by vetoing line item 146 in the appropriations bill, which would scuttle funding for the IFAS study and kill the ban. Some heavy hitters in the environmental world have come out in favor of the veto, which gives us hope DeSantis might listen this time around.

If not — if he lets the funding for the study, and the ban, stand — the waters he’s rhetorically insisted we must protect will be further at risk.

You can’t call for broad new protections and programs on one hand, then turn around and sign bills destined to result in even dirtier water on the other. But that’s what’s happening here — whatever progress is made via all the funding, all the clean-water projects, it’s one step forward and two steps back. Bills like SB 540 and the proposed fertilizer ban undermine all of it.

Back in March we said a clean-water governor wouldn’t sign these dirty-water bills. DeSantis has signed one of them.

You can add your voice to the chorus of those urging him to veto the other one, the fertilizer ban, by clicking here.

One down, one to go. Tell the Governor our water can’t afford to lose them both.