In Florida’s U.S. Senate race, it’s open season on almost any topic. The latest political football: beach access.
Democrat Bill Nelson touches upon the issue in “Salty,” a new animated digital ad criticizing Republican opponent Rick Scott for signing a controversial beach access bill.
In the ad, which debuts this week, Nelson mentions HB 631: “Rick Scott wants to make it illegal for you to go to some of your favorite beaches.”
However, the beach access “controversy” is one political football that could use just a bit of deflating. After several attempts to turn the newly signed law into a talking point, the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald PolitiFact tries to bring a little context to the beach access debate. In rating a similar claim “mostly false,” PolitiFact notes: “It’s unclear at this point how the law will change private beach access because that depends on the actions of local governments and private beach owners.”
It’s important for everyone to take a breath, step back and re-examine the intent and real-life impact HB 631 — before turning it into a campaign talking point.
At its core, the law is straightforward — it seeks to implement a process (governed by judicial oversight) to protect the private property rights of all Floridians by preventing local governments from infringing upon such rights.
Yes, many people attended a recent public hearing in the Panhandle’s Walton County on the matter of customary use. However, if the county didn’t want to restrict beach access, it should not have allowed deeds up to the mean high-water line, taxing beachfront property owners for the land.
The group Florida Coastal Property Rights is taking up the crusade for the truth on the subject of beach access, in the interest of scores of beachfront property owners statewide — as well as advocates for property rights as well as due process — to ensure there is judicial oversight for claims of customary use over privately owned land.
“Bill Nelson should be ashamed of himself,” said Sarah Bascom, representing Florida Coastal Property Rights, “for knowingly perpetuating this false narrative.”
Bascom explains: “The new law does not block public beaches, it simply ensures that a third-party, neutral arbiter — a court — must be the one to declare customary use over a piece of privately-owned land. This process ensures that a local government cannot infringe on private property rights by unilaterally declaring customary use without judicial oversight.”