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FLERAlert – Volume 1 Issue 14

May 11, 2017 by FLERA

Session Wrap Up
The Legislature was scheduled to conclude its work on Friday, May 5, but finally adjourned sine die on Monday, May 8 at 8:52 pm, after extending through the weekend and into Monday because the budget was not completed on time.  There was much speculation that the chambers might end session with no budget and come back for a special session in June.  Although the budget was ultimately completed, it was a bumpy ride.  Hundreds of pages of policy were amended into conforming bills and debated on the floor of both chambers Friday and Monday.  Many significant legislative items, such as gaming, medical marijuana, workers compensation, and assignment of benefits legislation did not make it past the finish line.  We have highlighted some of the major environmental items of interest here.  For a detailed bill report that contains the final status of all the legislation FLERA tracked, please click here.

 


Your Conference Committee is finalizing preparations for the 2017 FLERA Annual Conference at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota from August 2-4, 2017. Registration information and hotel options can be found on the FLERA website.

 


Bills That Passed

Lake Okeechobee
SB 10 by Senator Bradley authorizes a significant increase in southern water storage to further the goal of reducing and eventually eliminating harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee, a priority of Senate President Joe Negron. The bill authorizes up to $800 million in Florida Forever bonds and appropriates $30 million for this fiscal year and $64 million annually beginning next fiscal year for the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project.  It also appropriates funding for the C-51 Reservoir Project.

Natural Hazards
HB 181 by Representative Jacobs creates a natural hazards interagency working group for the purpose of sharing information on current and potential impacts of natural hazards through the state, coordinating ongoing efforts of state agencies in addressing impacts of natural hazards, and collaborating on statewide initiatives to address natural hazards.  The bill defines “natural hazards” to include extreme heat, drought, wildfire, sea-level change, high tides, storm surge, saltwater intrusion, stormwater runoff, flash floods, inland flooding, and coastal flooding.  The bill requires the Division of Emergency Management, on behalf of the workgroup, to prepare and submit an annual progress report to the Governor and Legislature beginning January 1, 2019, and requires agency liaisons to ensure the report is posted on their agency websites.

Resource Recovery and Management
HB 335 by Representative C. Clemons expands the exemption from solid waste regulations to facilities that convert recovered materials by gasification, pyrolysis, or other thermal conversion process.  The bill also defines terms used in the exemption and makes conforming changes to other statutes.

Pollution
SB 1018 by Senator Grimsley contains provisions related to contaminated site cleanup as well as pollution notification.  The bill provides for the advancement ahead of priority ranking for the rehabilitation of individual petroleum contaminated sites proposed for redevelopment.  It also provides that any reportable pollution release must be reported to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) within 24 hours.

 


Bills That Failed

Preemption
HB 17 by Representative Fine and SB 1158 by Senator Passidomo, while different in substance, both would have significantly eroded local government home rule authority.  HB 17 received on hearing that was lengthy and contentious.  The bill passed this committee but was not heard again.  SB 1158 did not receive a hearing.  These bills would have significantly impacted local environmental programs.

Florida Forever
HB 7119 by the House Governmental Accountability Committee would have realigned the components and priorities of the Florida Forever program.  The bill would have removed funding allocations for acquisitions identified on water management districts’ priority lists, acquisition of inholdings and additions to state parks, state forests, lands managed by FWC, greenways and trails, and land acquisition grants under FRDAP.  These projects would remain eligible to receive funding through the priority list developed by the ARC.

The bill would have increased the funding allocation to Florida Communities Trust from 21 percent to 25 percent and would have consolidated the Stan Mayfield Working Waterfronts Program into this allocation.  It also would have increased funding allocations for the Rural and Family Lands Program from 3 percent to 40 percent.  Lastly, it would have removed the use of Florida Forever funding for capital project expenditures and land management.  The Legislature would still be able to directly appropriate funding for these items under the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.  This bill surfaced late in the session and the Senate did not agree to include this proposal in the budget package.

Stormwater
HB 751 by Representative C. Clemons and SB 1378 by Senator Perry would have required all local governments to adopt DEP best management practices (BMPs) and other local stormwater management measures and would have prohibited local governments from adopting more stringent water quality standards for stormwater discharges.  Although it would have given local governments a presumption of compliance with water quality standards, the bills had numerous technical problems.  Neither bill received a hearing.

Agency Rulemaking
HB 1163 by Representative Spano and SB 1640 by Senator Broxson would have required state agencies to prepare a statement of estimated regulatory cost before adoption, amendment, or repeal of any rule except an emergency rule.  HB 1163 passed the House but died in Senate messages.  SB 1640 died in its second of three committees.

HB 1225 by Representative Fitzenhagen and SB 1352 by Senator Young would have required the Governor to appoint Administrative Law Judges to four year terms from nominees selected by a statewide nominating commission.  HB 1225 passed the House but died in Senate messages.  SB 1352 died in its last committee.

Budget Update

May 1, 2017 by FLERA

Budget Conferees and allocations were announced yesterday and conference committees began meeting yesterday evening.  Unresolved budget items will bump to the full chairs on Saturday at noon and to the presiding officers at noon on Sunday.  Budgets will need to be finalized, printed and on the desks next Tuesday in order for the Legislature to Sine Die next Friday.

Land conservation programs continue to suffer in budget negotiations.  The Rural and Family Lands Program has not even been a part of budget negotiations to date.  Last year, the program received $35M.  After House and Senate Offer No. 1, Florida Forever has been zeroed out and the item is closed, although Representative Caldwell has indicated that negotiations are ongoing and there may be funding for Florida Forever as budget negotiations continue.  House Offer No. 1 includes $15M for Florida Communities Trust, but the Senate currently has zero funding for this program.

HB 7119 may also appear in budget negotiations.  This bill would streamline and reprioritize Florida Forever.  An amendment in the House would provide funding in out years, scaling up from $57M next year to $200M going forward.  However, HB 7119 does not contain any funding for this budget year.

The Senate met the House position on the Local Government Cleanup Contracting Program and this item has closed out at $13M, a $1M reduction over last year.  The Distribution to Counties from Motor Vehicle Registration Proceeds for air pollution programs was fully funded on both sides at $8.7M and is not part of the current ongoing budget negotiations.

Funding for Beaches is at $30M in the House, with no Hurricane Matthew recovery funding and $100M in the Senate, including $18M for Hurricane Matthew recovery and $50M for the traditional program. Water Projects are currently at $20M in the House and $58M in the Senate.  Although both the House and Senate offer continue to have significant levels of funding for Everglades Restoration, this item will likely be one of the last programs negotiated, as the House and Senate negotiate over SB 10.  This bill addresses water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

FLERAlert Volume 1 Issue 9

March 31, 2017 by flera

Budget
This week, the House and Senate unveiled their initial budgets.  The Appropriations Committees will meet next week to pass the respective budgets, which will then go to the floor of both chambers.  Once the House and Senate have passed their budgets, the conference process can begin.

Land conservation is not faring well in either budget this year.  The Rural and Family Lands program received no funding on either side.  Last year, the program received $35M.  Florida Forever also received no funding in the House, but did receive $15.2M in funding in the Senate.  This represents a carryover of the recurring funds received last year.  Florida Communities Trust received $10M in the House and $5M in the Senate.

The Local Government Cleanup Contracting program received full funding of $14M in the Senate but received $13M in the House.  The Distribution to Counties from Motor Vehicle Registration Proceeds for air pollution programs was fully funded on both sides at $8.7M.

Notably, the Senate also transferred $111M in agency employee salaries and benefits from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to General Revenue (GR), thus freeing these funds up for environmental programs.

Funding for other major environmental programs on both sides includes: Beaches, $30M in the House (no Hurricane Matthew recovery funding) and $100M in the Senate (including $50M for Hurricane Matthew recovery and $50M for the traditional program); Everglades, $165M in the House and $275M in the Senate; Springs, $40M in the House and $50M in the Senate; Water Projects, $20M in the House and $64M in the Senate.

 


Building Code
HB 901 by Representative McClain received its first hearing in the House this week.  This is the companion to SB 7000, which has been the subject of much controversy because it requires Florida to use the most recent Florida Building Code as the base code in each triennial cycle, as opposed to the International Code Council’s I-Code.  HB 901 was amended in committee to go back to the I-Code and extend the current 3 year code cycle to 5 years.  Additionally, Florida-specific amendments would no longer have to be resubmitted for each new code cycle.  HB 901 was also amended to reduce the size of the Florida Building Commission from 27 to 11.  This was a controversial proposal and generated lengthy testimony from opponents.

SB 7000 has also been amended onto SB 860, which also contains an internship path for building code inspector certification and would create a provisional certification for code inspectors and plans examiners who meet certain requirements.  Both SB 7000 and SB 860 are in their last committee, Appropriations.  HB 901 has two committees remaining.

 


Recovered Materials
HB 1133 by Representative Toledo and SB 1288 by Senator Baxley add wood, asphalt, and concrete to the list of recovered materials defined in statute.  Recovered materials must have known recycling potential and be removed from the waste stream.  By adding these materials to the definition of recovered materials, these bills exempt wood, asphalt, and concrete and facilities that store, process, resale or reuse them from solid waste regulations if they meet certain criteria in statute.  Facilities storing, processing, reselling, or reusing these materials would not have to meet the criteria for construction and demolition debris facilities or organic processing and recycling facilities.  Further, this change would prohibit certain local government regulation of these materials and facilities.  HB 1133 has one committee remaining and SB 1288 has two more committees.

 


Septic Tanks
HB 285 by Representative Fine passed its second of three committees in the House this week.  Previously, the bill required inspections of septic tanks within one year of the sale of a property and removed a local government preemption related to septic tank inspections.  However, it was amended in committee to require a study of the locations of septic tanks in Florida and to require a disclosure upon the sale of a property, rather than an inspection.  The companion, SB 1748 by Senator Stewart, has not been heard.

 


Specialty License Plates
HB 1375 by Representative Grant (J) was heard in its second of three committees this week in the House.  The bill currently contains provisions that require the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to stake steps towards standardizing license plates in Florida, so that drivers would no longer to be able to purchase optional plates, and would instead purchase a small decal for the standard license plate to support their favorite causes.  Many of the plate stakeholders testified in strong opposition to that proposal this week.  The plate designs help to market and message on the causes they support.  Research has shown that drivers are much less likely to purchase the decals, so the change would likely result in a sharp drop in revenue for the programs that have optional plates.

Several of these plates support environmental causes such as oceans, springs, the Everglades, and the Indian River Lagoon, as well as wildlife conservation for species such as marine turtles, manatees, bears, panthers, dolphins and whales.  Representative Grant stated in committee that he has heard the concerns loud and clear and will address them at the next hearing.  The bill does not have a clear companion but could be paired with SB 1374 by Senator Perry, a bill related to Transportation.

 


2017 FLERA Annual Conference
Your Conference Committee is finalizing preparations for the 2017 FLERA Annual Conference at the  Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota from August 2-4, 2017. A draft agenda and hotel options will be available by April 15th. Registration is now open and the early bird pricing is valid through July 2nd.

 


FLERA Capitol Days are April 5-6, 2017
For additional information email executivedirector@flera.org

 

FLERAlert Volume 1 Issue 8

March 24, 2017 by flera

Fracking
This week, several environmental groups held a press conference to urge the House to take up legislation banning fracking.  Senators Latvala, Young and Farmer and Representative Fitzenhagen spoke at the event about the need to ban fracking in Florida.  The House has historically taken a different approach, proposing to put a moratorium in place while the issue is studied further and a regulatory program put into place.  SB 442 by Senator Young, which would ban fracking, is in its second of three committees.  The companion measure, HB 451 by Representative A. Miller, has not been heard.

 


Administrative Law Judges
HB 1225 by Representative Fitzenhagen passed its first of three committees this week.  The bill requires administrative law judges (ALJs) to be appointed by the Governor from a list of three candidates selected by a statewide nominating commission.  Judges would be appointed to four year terms but could be removed by the Governor for cause.  Before a judge’s term expires, the nominating commission would evaluate whether the judge’s performance was satisfactory.  Judges would be limited to serving two terms.  Proponents of the bill have stated that ALJs essentially serve a life term regardless of performance and are not accountable.  Opponents of the bill have expressed concern that this proposal would remove ALJs’ independence and willingness to say no to agencies.  The companion is SB 1352 by Senator Young.  It has three committees and has not received a hearing.

 


Resource Recovery and Management
HB 335 by Representative Clemons has flown through its House committees and is on the House calendar on third reading next week.  The bill is intended to clarify the regulatory framework for emerging waste processing technologies.  It ensures that pyrolysis and waste gasification plants are classified as materials recovery processing facilities rather than waste disposal facilities.  Sierra Club has questioned the pyrolysis process and expressed concern that the materials at issue should be used to create new products as opposed to burning them.   The National Waste & Recycling Association has said it supports the concepts behind the bill but has concerns there may be unintended consequences.  The companion, SB 1104 by Senator Perry, has not been heard in the Senate.

 


Beaches
HB 1213 by Rep. Peters and SB 1590 by Senator Latvala both passed their first of three committees this week.  These bills redefine the criteria for ranking beach projects to better capture the economic and storm damage protection benefits of the projects.  They also contain criteria to recognize the availability of federal and local matching funds, recreational benefits, habitat protection, and strategies to conserve sand sources, among others.  Additionally, the bills require enhanced funding for inlets, which will foster cost-effective use of limited sand sources and reduce nourishment costs for beach projects on adjacent critically-eroded beaches.  The bills also include a three year work plan in order to maximize matching dollars.  They were supported in both committee hearings by the Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities and a number of coastal cities and counties.

 


2017 FLERA Annual Conference
Your Conference Committee is hard at work preparing for the 2017 FLERA Annual Conference. The conference will be held at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota from August 2-4, 2017. A draft agenda, registration and sponsorship information as well as hotel options will be available April 7th so mark your calendars now. You won’t want to miss it!

 


FLERA Capitol Days are April 5-6, 2017
For additional information email executivedirector@flera.org

Triumph Gulf Coast

February 24, 2017 by flera

Bills from 2011 and 2013 created Triumph Gulf Coast to manage money received as a result of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.  The House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast, which is made up entirely of Northwest Florida Legislators, met this week to consider two committee bills that would change the oversight and control of this money.  The initial House proposal would have required all projects to be approved by the Governor and the Legislative Budget Commission, a joint committee made up of Representatives and Senators.  Former Speaker Allen Bense, who will chair Triumph Gulf Coast once it is funded, expressed concern that the bills remove any reference to economic development projects.  A strike-all amendment was released that removed the LBC requirement.  However, the bills were temporarily postponed.

Everglades Restoration

February 24, 2017 by flera

The House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee heard presentations this week regarding the history of the Everglades and Everglades Restoration from Representative Matt Caldwell and the federal role in Everglades Restoration from Congressman Francis Rooney.  The presentations did not cover SB 10 by Senator Bradley related to Water Resources or any specific House proposal, but represented the beginning of a dialogue on the issue.  Although the Legislature recently passed the Legacy Florida Act dedicating Land Acquisition Trust Fund dollars to Everglades Restoration, recent discharges from Lake Okeechobee have caused significant environmental and economic harm, which has kept the issue in the forefront of environmental policy and funding discussions.

Florida Building Code Bill

February 24, 2017 by flera

SB 7000 is a committee bill filed by the Senate Community Affairs Committee.  The bill requires the Florida Building Commission (FBC) to use the most recent version of the Florida Building Code as the foundation code, as opposed to the International Code Council’s International Building Code.  It also makes the three year code cycle optional as opposed to mandatory.  Under the bill, the FBC would meet every three years to determine whether the Code needs to be updated.  HB 901 by Representative McClain was filed this week but has not received committee references.

Flood Hazard Mitigation and Flood Insurance

February 24, 2017 by flera

SB 112 by Senator Brandes and HB 613 by Representative Ahern authorize the Division of Emergency Management to administer a matching grant program for local governments to implement flood hazard risk reduction policies and projects and allow land acquisition for flood mitigation projects.  Both bills have received committee references but neither bill has received a hearing.

SB 420 by Senator Brandes extends to October 1, 2025 existing law that allows insurers offering private market flood insurance to make rate filings that are not required to be reviewed by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR).  The bill generally applies to excess flood insurance.  Excess coverage is exempted from the requirement to offer flood insurance on a standard, preferred, customized, flexible or supplemental basis.  The bill allows flood insurance policies to be placed with a surplus lines insurer with a superior financial strength rating without the agent first receiving three declinations from admitted insurers.  It increases the interval for the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology to revise the criteria used in calculating flood loss projection models to 4 years.  Lastly, the bill requires an insured currently covered under the National Flood Insurance Program to sign an acknowledgement regarding the risk of being charged a higher rate should they choose to return at a later date.  SB 420 passed its first of three committees this week.  Rep. L. Lee filed similar legislation, HB 813, but it has not received committee references to date.

Stormwater Legislative Update

February 24, 2017 by flera

HB 751 by Representative C. Clemons requires all local government stormwater management plans and programs to adopt certain Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) best management practices and provides a presumption of compliance related to water quality standards.  Additionally, it prohibits local water quality standards that are more stringent than state standards.  Please submit any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this legislation to executivedirector@flera.org.

Local Regulation Preemption

February 24, 2017 by flera

HB 17 by Representative Fine received its first hearing in the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee this week.  There was lengthy testimony and debate both in support and in opposition.  Many local elected officials spoke in opposition to the bill.  Several business groups and conservative think tanks supported the bill.  As amended, it prohibits any new local regulation after July 1, 2017.  Existing regulations that are not expressly authorized by general law will be void as of July 1, 2020.  Much of the discussion on the bill focused on questions regarding exactly what would be preempted.  There were many concerns expressed about land use and zoning.  You can view the Florida Association of Counties webpage on HB 17 here.

SB 1158 by Senator Passidomo was filed this week.  This bill is a companion measure but takes a different approach.  This legislation preempts local regulations related to commerce, trade and labor.  It creates a process for nullifying local ordinances and for legislative ratification.  While different, the bills are both very broad and would likely impact local environmental regulations.

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