State lawmaker files legislation to rescind the weird law that tries to kick the public off beaches

Cartoon by Andy Marlette, Pensacola News Journal

A state senator from Tampa Bay has filed a bill to repeal the controversial state law that is causing headaches over the public’s access to the state’s beaches.

A law that went into effect July 1 has emboldened some private property owners, who have put up “No trespassing” signs on beach front and called law enforcement to have people removed from sand in front of their condominiums and homes.

St. Petersburg Democrat Sen. Darryl Rauson filed his bill to rescind the law this week. The Legislature doesn’t formally meet to act on bills until March, but legislative committees meet all throughout the winter to review new legislation and issues.

Counties throughout the state have long abided by the concept of “customary use” of beachfront, meaning people have been using the beaches for decades and should continue that public use. A video of an attorney in the Panhandle’s Walton County (ground zero for the battle) being asked by law enforcement officers to leave the beach or move onto the wet sand went viral on the Internet, garnering worldwide attention.

Waterfront property owners in Walton County hired an army of lobbyists and got the law passed by the state Legislature this year. Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee (formerly governor of Arkansas and formerly a candidate for U.S. President and father of Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders) has a Gulf-front home there and was a proponent of the new law.

After the problems surfaced with families getting kicked off the beaches, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order which “urges counties to protect public beach access.”

But Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson said the executive order doesn’t nullify the state law, and he urged the Legislature to go back to the drawing board and fix it.

Meanwhile, citizens have been organizing against the law with a group, Florida Beaches for All that wants to preserve the public’s right to the beach.

 

Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

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