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Governor signs bill putting all soil and water board seats on the ballot days before qualifying

The new law creates last-minute pressure on all board members, even those in the middle of their terms, to qualify.

Florida now has stricter membership qualifications to serve on the boards of the state’s Soil and Water Conservation districts, and only days to qualify thanks to a measure Gov. Ron DeSantis signed this week.

The law (SB 1078) requires candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District boards, a volunteer public office, to either be agriculture producers working or retired after at least 15 years of work or be employed by an agriculture producer. The legislation underwent several iterations during this year’s Regular Session as St. Augustine Republican Sen. Travis Hutson continuously tweaked the bill after receiving significant pushback from interested parties.

The measure took effect immediately when the Republican Governor signed it late Wednesday night as part of a trio of bill signings. Friday marks Florida’s qualifying deadline for the 2022 election, creating last-minute pressure on all board members, even those in the middle of their terms, to qualify.

Hutson’s original draft would have abolished the districts altogether. He said he heard pushback in his district that they were ineffective. But after hearing support for the districts, he amended the measure to limit membership so there would be more involvement from the agricultural community.

The law also explicitly states all board member seats shall be up for election this year before returning to staggered four-year terms.