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A look at some of the environmental laws passed during this year's legislative session

Paddling along the Hillsborough River, northeast of Tampa.
Steve Newborn
Paddling along the Hillsborough River, northeast of Tampa.

Lawmakers allocated $100 million each for the Florida Forever program — which purchases environmentally-sensitive lands — and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which pays farmers and ranchers not to develop their land.

But advocates in particular lauded the shelving of a provision that would have forced anyone who challenged a state environmental regulation to pay their opponent's legal fees — if they lost.

Kim Dinkins is with the smart-growth advocacy group 1000 Friends of Florida.

"This was extremely concerning for us, because often these types of legal challenges are the last tools that citizens have to bring parties to the table in permitting actions," Dinkins said. "Citizens' challenges have been used to hold agencies accountable to implement policies that the legislature has enacted — or at a minimum, shed light on their failure to do so."

Bills were also passed that would limit the rights of local cities and counties to regulate natural gas pipelines and infrastructure.

Another bill deleted most of the references to the words "climate change" in state law. It also preempted any rules enacted by state agencies and local governments, so they no longer have to consider fuel efficiency when buying government vehicles.

And a bill was passed that will allocate a portion of the state's proceeds from the gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for the environment.

It states that $100 million a year will go toward the preservation of land in the Florida Wildlife Corridor. It also would put $100 million a year toward the management of lands already controlled by the state and remove invasive species. Another $100 million would go to the state Department of Environmental Protection to help pay for grants to increase resiliency against threats posed by climate change.

Also during a webinar Wednesday, Paul Owens, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, noted that last year, just about all of Gov. Ron DeSantis' so-called "culture war" bills were passed into law.

But not so much this year.

Bills that were killed included banning rainbow flags at government buildings, prohibiting the removal of Confederate monuments and lowering the age limit to buy rifles.

Owens said the role of state Senate President Kathleen Passidomo was crucial as a "gatekeeper" of what bills would advance — and what would not.

"A number of controversial bills that passed - or at least advanced — in the House hit dead-ends in the Senate," he said. "Blocking these bills arguably made Senator Passidomo the most consequential leader in this year's legislative session."

But Owens noted that many bills that die are eventually resurrected, so they may come back again next session.

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Steve Newborn