How ‘The People’ Helped Kill SB 2508

Ding dong, the bill is dead.

On June 8 Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he’d vetoed notorious Senate Bill 2508, the worst environmental bill out of Tallahassee this year. SB 2508 was a toxic mixture of dirty politics and terrible policy, stuffed with giveaways to Big Sugar, Florida’s utility industry and the next state Agriculture Commissioner — possibly Sen. Wilton Simpson, a big supporter of the bill.

In April, we warned DeSantis risked undermining his environmental legacy if he signed it.

“What’s it going to be?” we asked.

DeSantis answered Wednesday, saying the bill contained “unnecessary and redundant regulatory hurdles” that could compromise progress on Everglades restoration projects.

This was massive.

SB 2508 was Florida politics at its worst — sneaky and dishonest. Filed as a “budget conforming bill” by Sen. Ben Albritton late on a Friday, it had but one hearing just days later. Simpson, then Senate President, lauded provisions that would have taken water management decisions out of the hands of “Joe Biden’s federal government” and handed them over to state officials, who presumably would be more compliant with the demands of water users like Big Sugar.

But those who tried to ram this bad bill through didn’t count on what happened next.

Everyday Floridians, perhaps alerted to the bill by environmental groups like VoteWater or our sister organization Friends of the Everglades, ignited a firestorm of criticism.

Dozens of charter fishing guides dropped everything to attend that sole hearing in Tallahassee. Tens of thousands signed online petitions, including 3,500 who implored DeSantis to veto the bill via a Friends of the Everglades petition, atop another 5,000 who sent messages after the bill first emerged in February.

Others called, wrote letters, emailed and posted on social media, creating a continuous drumbeat of opposition as VoteWater and other groups amplified the grassroots anger.

And it worked. The noise you created caught the ear of the governor — and now SB 2508 has been tossed on the trash heap, where it belongs.

It proves that if the people of Florida stand together in defense of our natural resources, we can win.

And we don’t have to settle for half-measures, either. After the worst provisions in the original bill were removed, it might have been tempting to settle for the amended SB 2508 — slightly better, though still bad. Once upon a time, that might have been the best we could hope for.

Times are changing.

So celebrate the win. And if we keep the pressure on our elected officials — there’ll be even more wins to celebrate.