‘Big win’: Florida beaches score $50 million in state budget
TALLAHASSEE – Florida's beaches would receive $50 million next year for renourishment projects in the state budget being negotiated by legislative leaders, but a bill to overhaul the way the state manages its coasts faces an uncertain future.
"It's a big win to get $50 million in the budget for beaches, big win," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who made beach funding a top priority this legislative session. Lawmakers often have provided less than the $30 million required in state law each year.
Latvala’s bill to reform the state’s beach management system overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Thursday but has stalled in the House.
The beach funding boost and Senate action on Latvala’s bill come on the heels of the Naples Daily News' four-day "Shrinking Shores" series that showed how state leaders have not delivered for Florida’s beaches, even though they bring in billions of dollars of tourist-related state sales tax revenues.
The House still could take up the beach policy bill sent over from the Senate in these final days of the legislative session, and parts of it could be written into the state’s budget, beach advocates said.
Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association President Debbie Flack celebrated the $50 million included in the budget Thursday.
“If nothing else happens, that’s a major hurdle,” Flack said.