A bill to reclassify intentionally released balloons as litter is bouncing to its last Senate committee stop after the lawmaker who sponsored it last year made airs of unoriginality.
Florida law today allows the intentional release of up to nine balloons every day.
“But I will remind you that not all balloons go to heaven. They all come back down to Earth where they are litter (and) generally consumed by cows and aquatic wildlife,” said Lake Mary Sen. Jason Brodeur, who presented the bill (SB 602) on behalf of St. Petersburg Sen. Nick DiCeglie, a fellow Republican and the measure’s sponsor.
As was the case with an identical proposal moving through the House (HB 321) DiCeglie’s bill would disallow the release of any balloons except hot air balloons that are recovered after launch.
Violators would face a per-infraction charge of $150, of which a third would go to the state’s Solid Waste Management Trust Fund for grants to fiscally constrained counties. For balloon releases in excess of 15 pounds, the fine would be far higher.
The bill is similar to legislation Miami Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo filed for the 2023 Legislative Session with St. Pete Beach Republican Rep. Linda Chaney (who is again the House bill’s sponsor this year), neither of which received a hearing.
On Monday, Pizzo asked Brodeur jokingly whether DiCeglie asked him to present the bill for him because he “didn’t want to face the question” of thievery.
He said his mom asked about it.
“She’s like, ‘Isn’t that your balloon bill from last year?’” he said.
Brodeur said he and DiCeglie “didn’t get into the specifics” of the matter.
“I’d like to think it’s just because I’m such a charming individual,” he said.
Representatives from the Humane Society, Surfrider Foundation, Audubon Florida Foundation, Florida Retail Federation, Sierra Club Florida and Oceana all signaled support for SB 602.
Hunter Miller, field campaigns manager for Oceana, told Florida Politics after DiCeglie and Chaney refiled the bills in November that his organization has been working on the issue “for the last few years” and is “optimistic” about its success this year.
According to the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, nearly 300,000 balloons were found along U.S. beaches between 2008 to 2016 — more than 31,000 balloons per year.
SB 602 still has to advance through the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee before reaching the chamber floor. HB 321, meanwhile, has two more committee stops.