As most of Florida focused on student safety, gun rights and making schools safer, another bill passed through the legislature that will impact the state’s beaches and where people can and cannot sit in the sand.
Governor Rick Scott signed the legislation into law and insists that it is designed to protect property owners and beachgoers.
“The way the bill works is you’re going to continue to have access to the beach, but we’re also going to protect property rights. We should be doing both of those things and that’s what this bill does,” he said.
Beach access has been a hotly-debated issue in the state for years. The bill mandates that property owners control the land above the mean high-tide level.
Some beach advocacy groups say it will be confusing for tourists and changes the way some communities control who has access to their beaches.
The law also spells out that local governments can no longer pass ordinances to change beach access.
It will allow local governments to take the issue to local circuit courts to allow judges to decide the issue based on photos, facts and history.
Jim Jeswald manages a beach home in affluent Belleair Beach and says some tourists simply go too far.
“We have a lot of people come up on the property. They come up and they want to look in the windows, they want to sit in the chairs, like they don’t realize people live here.”
He says he’s also been forced to chase people out of the pool behind the home he manages.
The Surfrider Foundation, a beach advocacy group, says they opposed the bill from the very start and believe it will face legal challenges.
Scott says tourists and locals will not be denied access to the beach, but the new law does set boundaries.
“You’re still going to have beach access. You have beach access all around the state.”