Optional Content Title


Follow me on LinkedIn follow me on facebook tweet me
get in touch

FLERAlert – October 13, 2017

October 13, 2017 by flera

FLERA Board Welcomes New Members

The FLERA Board of Directors met on October 4, 2017 in Alachua County and held elections to fill Board vacancies along with conducting other Association business. Please welcome our newest FLERA Board members to the team:

Lisa Spadafina, Secretary-Treasurer, Miami-Dade County
Neal Thomas, Orange County
Steve Hofstetter, Alachua County
Darry Boudreau, The Nature Conservancy.

Board members invest significant time to the Association so we hope you will join us in welcoming them aboard.

October 9-13 Legislative Committee Week Recap

Most of the legislative committees this week were in some way related to Hurricane Irma, Florida’s recovery efforts, and the effect of the storm on the state’s budget. The Governor has over $140M in emergency funds available. This, coupled with the negative effect on Florida’s economy due to the storm itself, means that Florida has gone from expecting a healthy budget surplus of over $50M to expecting a significant budget shortfall of almost $150M.

Additionally, many bills related to Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) allocations have been filed. Senator Bradley is sponsoring SB 204, which currently allocates $50M for the St. Johns River or Keystone Heights. He is also sponsoring SB 370, which would allocate $100M for Florida Forever. Senator Latvala is sponsoring SB 174, which allocates $50M for the statewide beach program. Representative Harrell has indicated that she will file legislation that allocates $50M to the Indian River Lagoon. We understand that additional LATF proposals from other legislators are on their way. These proposals will likely total more than will actually be available in the LATF.

The Florida Keys were particularly hard hit by Hurricane Irma and Monroe County now faces a serious housing crisis, in addition to other significant recovery-related issues. Hurricane Maria is also affecting the state in that Florida schools are dealing with an influx of hundreds of students, many of whom are not English-speaking and have been out of school for several weeks already. It promises to be a challenging budget year, not just for environmental programs, but for everyone.


National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The temporary extension and reauthorization of NFIP expires on December 8. In the meantime, Congress has considered legislation that would promote development of private flood insurance as part of legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and provide hurricane tax relief. The Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) recently wrote Congressional leaders and urged them not to do this, as it would undermine the critical functioning of the NFIP. ASFPM has urged Congress to ensure continuity of the comprehensive flood risk reduction aspects of NFIP today by doing three things:

First, private policies must also vary the federal policy user fee to support mapping and floodplain management functions.

Second, private policies to satisfy the mandatory purchase requirement for properties in floodplains must only be sold in communities that participate in the NFIP (meaning that they have adopted floodplain management ordinances to guide safer development).

Third, several provisions of the existing definition of private flood insurance must be maintained. Current language in Biggert-Waters provides consumer protections to ensure policies would not have excessive deductibles, exclusions, or eliminate some essential coverages such as Increased Cost of Compliance, which provides assistance to policyholders to rebuild in a manner that reduces flood damage in the future.
We will continue to keep you informed on this issue.


FLERA Committee Volunteers

FLERA is currently soliciting volunteers to serve on various committees to assist the organization in advancing its mission.

Conference Committee – We want our 2018 Annual Conference to be a remarkable event and we need your help! Planning is underway and input from FLERA members is critical to its success. This Conference Committee will guide the planning and administration of the conference and other events in the future.

Legislative Committee – The 2018 Legislative Session is quickly approaching and there are many policy and funding challenges ahead. Join the FLERA Legislative Committee to help educate legislators and keep FLERA members apprised of legislative activity.

Finance Committee – The Board of Directors recently established the Finance Committee whose tasks will include reviewing the Association’s financial records and making budget recommendations to the FLERA Board.

If you are interested in serving on one of these committees please contact Valerie Rogers at (850) 701-4797.

Save the Date! The 2018 FLERA Annual Conference will be held August 1-3, 2018 at the Hutchinson Shores Resort on Hutchinson Island in Martin County. Registration and hotel information will be available in the coming weeks.

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

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

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.


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

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.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund Spending

February 20, 2017 by flera

Legislation Sets Aside $35M from LATF annually

SB 234 by Senator Bradley will be heard in the Senate Environmental & Preservation Conservation Committee next week.  This legislation sets aside $35M from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) annually to pay for restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region.  The companion measure is HB 847 by Representative Payne.

In addition to these bills, there are several other pieces of legislation that dedicate LATF dollars.  HB 551 by Representative Stone and SB 874 by Senator Young set aside $20M in LATF dollars annually to retrofit septic tanks or connect homes to central sewer in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries.  The Governor has proposed a $40M matching grant program for local governments funded with general revenue.

HB 663 by Representative Peters would set aside $100M in LATF dollars for water infrastructure spending for certain projects identified in a recovery or prevention strategy or in a regional water supply plan, and water quality restoration projects identified in a basin management action plan or in a reasonable assurance plan, that conserve, replenish, or enhance surface water or groundwater by raising aquifer levels, reduce saltwater intrusion or otherwise improve the water quality of an aquifer, rehydrate wetlands, supplement ecologically beneficial surface water flows, reduce or eliminate pollutant discharges, or provide similar water resource benefits.

Lastly, SB 984 by Senator Mayfield sets aside $30M annually for Indian River Lagoon restoration.  Additional bills related to LATF spending are expected as well.  Demand for LATF dollars far exceeds their availability, particularly since the LATF must pay the debt service on bonds.  We will continue to keep you posted as spending proposals for environmental programs advance.

back to top