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  • Writer's pictureAnnamarie Simoldoni

Eyes on the Florida Senate: the WatchPups’ Legislative Watchlist

The Florida legislative session is well underway and News Watch students are keeping a close eye on a handful of environmental bills.

The Florida Student News Watch is launching a new program: the Legislative Reporting Unit, overseen by Annamarie Simoldoni. The pilot program will help students experience first-hand reporting on the state’s legislative process.

The reporting unit, affectionately termed the “watchpups” as a play on the word “watchdog,” will focus on tracking bills that pertain to Florida’s ecosystems and wildlife. Students will research and track bills that particularly interest them during session.

From cultivating meat to a fight over Florida’s state bird, protecting the Indian River Lagoon to digging into the reasons behind black bear encounters, the aspiring watchdogs are hard at work keeping an eye on the state Legislature’s environmental priorities.

The Legislative Reporting Unit will post updates to break down what the failure or success of certain legislation could mean for the future of Florida’s ecosystems.

Listed below are 10 Senate bills News Watch students have chosen to keep track of over the 60-day session:

Climate Change Mitigation:

SB 1258 Carbon Sequestration

  • SB 1258 calls for the creation of a Carbon Sequestration task force. The Carbon Sequestration task force will be responsible for recommending ways to develop a statewide program to store carbon “through land and aquatic habitat management.”

SB 144 State Renewable Energy Goals

  • SB 144 revises current law by better defining the terms “biomass” and “renewable energy” and forbidding the procuring of petroleum products in certain locations. The bill intends for all electricity used in Florida to be generated by renewable energy. SB 144 also calls for the creation of the Renewable Energy Workforce Development Advisory Committee in the Office of Energy.


SB 586 Cultivated Meat

  • SB 586 would make the sale of lab-grown meat - “any meat or food product produced from cultured animal cells”- illegal in the state of Florida.

Water quality:

SB 1532 Mitigation

  • SB 1532 seeks to amend current law relating to the management and storage of surface waters. This bill defines the term “private sector sponsor” among other terms. The bill would also revise the selling of water enhancement credits.

SB 1354 Indian River Lagoon Protection Program  

  • SB 1354 amends current law regarding the distribution of collected taxes and state water resources. This bill would require “a specified amount of funds” from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to be allocated toward the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program. It also calls upon the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct tests on sewage treatment systems within the Indian River Lagoon Protection Program and decide which should be given state funding.

SB 1772 Soil and Water Conservation Districts

  • SB 1772 would get rid of the current soil and water conservation districts and transfer district “assets and liabilities” to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Habitat Restoration:

SB 32 Mangrove Replanting and Restoration

  • SB 32 urges the Department of Environmental Protection to establish date-specific rules and requirements for mangrove habitat restoration. The bill also calls for the Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services to conduct studies across the state that evaluate “nature-based solutions” to prevent flooding.

Animals and Wildlife:

SB 632 Taking of Bears 

  • SB 632 cites the taking of bears under certain circumstances as the “Self Defense Act." This bill would establish rules regarding the “possession, sale, and disposal of such bears.”

SB 162 Designation of the State Bird 

  • SB 162 would designate the Florida scrub jay as the official state bird instead of the mockingbird.

SB 918 American Flamingo 

  • SB 918 proposes the American flamingo as the official state bird instead of the mockingbird.

Stay up to date with the News Watch and follow along with the WatchPups as we continue to track the progress of these bills and more by checking out the News Watch website, signing up for our monthly newsletter, and following our Instagram and podcast on Spotify.

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