Bubble burst: Gov. DeSantis signs measure banning intentionally releasing balloons
Image via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Balloons NOAA
According to the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, nearly 300,000 balloons were found along U.S. beaches between 2008 to 2016. That’s more than 31,000 balloons per year.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has approved legislation cracking down on intentionally releasing balloons, labeling the act as littering.

The measure (HB 321) reclassifies the intentional release of balloons as noncriminal littering, an offense that carries a $150-per-violation fine.

The legislation deletes a section of Florida Statutes allowing the intentional release of nine helium-filled balloons per day. It also nixes allowances for so-called “biodegradable” and “photodegradable” balloons that still present environmental dangers.

Children 6 and younger are exempt. Hot air balloons recovered after launch are also excused.

The measure’s lack of an educational component, however, drew criticism during discussion in the House from Tampa Democratic Rep. Dianne Hart, who reiterated concerns about how it could disproportionately affect the Black community.

Hart said releasing balloons to honor deceased loved ones is a common tradition among Black people, who she worried could feel the brunt of the bill’s penalties unless they’re properly informed of the change.

“That’s my greatest fear,” she said. “I love the environment. Please don’t get me wrong. I do. But I also love my people more than having them fined.”

St. Pete Beach Republican Rep. Linda Chaney, the legislation’s sponsor, said she’d given a Florida funeral home association — there are several — informational “language” to pass onto its members, which in turn will inform their clientele.

“I’ve asked that you help me notify the NAACP about that to address that other piece of your concern,” Chaney told Hart. “That’s the education that I’m pursuing, and I hope other members will do the same.”

Numerous environmental groups, as well as the Florida Retail Association and Florida Cattlemen’s Association, backed the legislation this year. Hunter Miller, field campaigns manager for Oceana, told Florida Politics his organization has worked 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. That’s more than 31,000 balloons per year.

The legislation will take effect on July 1.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • Paul Passarelli

    June 25, 2024 at 9:02 am

    It’s the waste of Helium that it the real crime!

    While I feel the “law” is somewhat punitive & intrusive, the merits behind it outweigh that negative. Because the release of balloons swerved no real useful purpose, I have almost zero reason to oppose it, other then it’s yet another government intrusion on personal freedoms.

    I doubt the State will send officers if a handful of gasbags goes ‘missing’ at a private event or ceremony. But it will stop the negligent discharge of an irreplaceable resource, i.e. Helium gas, at public events like mall openings, or stadium dedications.

    So frankly, I think the hub-bub e.g. mentioning the Black Community’s use at funerals, is just a pretense for Democrats to whine & complain about their desire & ability to yell “Fascists!” at the GOP. Why? The practice of releasing Helium balloons was only made possible in the late 1920s, would not have been ‘commercially available’ until the late 30s, rationed in the 1940s, and only broadly available in the 1950s. So it’s not really a ‘long history or tradition. Often a child’s floating balloon was not Helium filled but mimicked it by tying an air filled balloon to a light rigid stick or straw!

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