A new Florida law redefines the reach of beachfront property owners’ claims to “the land above the mean high-tide level.” This seemingly innocuous change means that private property owners — and their patrolling rent-a-cops — will have vastly expanded powers to kick members of the public off of public beaches.
The law also bans cities from creating their own rules to ensure public access to public lands.
In this oligarchic moment, every public resource is under assault: Trump’s Park Service wants to exclude 71% of working class Americans from national parks; evil billionaires conspire to fence off public beaches, while evil millionaires resort to committing smaller-scale frauds to steal the public’s beaches.
Governor Rick Scott, who signed the law, insists that everything will be fine, because rich people are unlikely to abuse their new powers.
If you want to distinguish the left from the right, here’s an easy litmus test. Ask, “What is more important, property rights or human rights?” If your subject says “Property rights are human rights,” they are on the political right.(Many thanks to Steven Brust for this important formulation.)
“I think this bill is ridiculous,” says Philip Levine, the former Miami Beach mayor now running for the Democratic bid for governor. “Why would we want to take away one of the most basic rights of our residents and do something that could hurt our tourism economy? People visit Florida to be able to walk the beach freely and without being accosted whether they are on dry sand or wet sand.”
HB 631 deals with “customary use,” the de facto legal doctrine that allows the public to use privately owned parts of the sand if they can show that it’s been used for years by the general public. The new law blocks cities and counties from passing new ordinances guaranteeing that customary-use access. Instead, local governments would have to go straight to a judge to argue whether the public should be blocked from the sand.
Rick Scott Just Signed a Bill That Could Make Many of Florida’s Beaches Private [Travis Cohen/Miami New Times]