DeSantis signs bill banning balloon releases

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

The bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis makes releasing balloons a littering offense punishable with fines because balloons threaten wildlife.

TAMPA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will make intentionally releasing balloons illegal starting on July 1. 

House Bill 321 considers the release of balloons outdoors a noncriminal littering offense punishable with fines up to $150 with $50 going toward the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund’s grant program. 

Rep. Linda Chaney, R-St. Pete Beach, who sponsored the bill, pointed out the effects these releases have on wildlife. She said it’s mainly educational because most people don’t get ticketed for littering

“Livestock has died, turtles have died and there’s just really not a good reason to release a balloon,” Chaney said at a House meeting.

Balloons can be mistaken for food by marine wildlife, and the string or ribbon attached can cause suffocation and injury if an animal gets entangled, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The advocacy organization Oceana called the signing a bipartisan win. 

“Studies show balloons rank among the deadliest ocean plastic for key wildlife and are the deadliest form of plastic debris for seabirds,” their statement said. 

Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa, voted against the bill because of the cultural significance of releasing balloons in the Black community. She said balloon releases are used as a celebration of life at funerals, and she’s concerned about it turning into a criminal offense if someone doesn’t pay the fine.

”I love the environment. Please don’t get it wrong. But I also love my people more,” Hart said.

Oceana staff said Floridians can use greener choices such as bubbles, kites, planting trees or making memorial gardens. 

Supporters of the bill had a wide majority in Congress as the House voted 102-9 to pass the bill, and the Senate voted 38-2. 

Current Florida law allows people to release less than 10 balloons within 24 hours with a $250 fine for violating it. There are more than 30 laws regulating the release of balloons in states such as California, Connecticut and Tennessee. 

The bill exempts children 6 years and younger from facing penalties. Other exceptions to this bill would be hot air balloons recovered after launching and balloons released indoors. There is no exemption for certain biodegradable or photodegradable balloons. 

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.