Senate Bill 2508: Citizen opposition made a difference

They blinked.

The night before a profoundly damaging bill for the Everglades and Florida’s environment in general was slated to go before the state Senate, word came: There was an amendment.

And many of the worst provisions in Senate Bill 2508 looked to be going into the trash can – where they belonged.

The amendment, from bill sponsor Sen. Ben Albritton, stripped out language that would have required the South Florida Water Management District to advocate for more water in the lake for agricultural users – like Big Sugar – or risk funding for key Everglades restoration projects.

The bill – and the attempt to ram it through as a “conforming bill,” meaning it got just one committee hearing, on Feb. 9 – drew the ire of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who vowed to fight it. And it angered environmentalists, who mobilized: Legislators were peppered with tens of thousands of emails and thousands of phone calls, and Captains for Clean Water and the Everglades Foundation planned a major rally in Tallahassee on Feb. 17, the day the bill was to be considered by the Senate.

The night before, Albritton filed his amendment. The protesters still showed up; on the Senate floor Albritton and other Senators complained about the “misinformation” environmental groups allegedly spread about the bill, claimed they only had the purest of motives and rejected any suggestion the original bill would have unfairly favored Big Sugar over everyone else.

But the most damaging parts of the original bill had been sanded down or removed entirely.

The amended bill, to be sure, still has a lot of problems, especially the provisions that might undermine the state’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, and another which would allow those seeking wetlands permits to expedite the application process by paying a fee. 

VoteWater does not support the legislation, which passed the full Senate with only two senators – Republican Jeff Brandes and Democrat Gary Farmer – voting against.

But it’s nowhere as bad as it had been – and for that, the citizens of Florida deserve all the credit.

If you went to Tallahassee, if you called, if you sent an email or in some other way communicated with legislators – your voice made a difference.

It’s ironic in that this proposed legislation would have (and indeed still does) favored corporate interests over the people’s interests – but the people themselves turned this tide.