May 1, 2017
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.
February 24, 2017
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.
February 24, 2017
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.
February 24, 2017
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.
February 24, 2017
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 email@example.com.
February 24, 2017
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.
February 20, 2017
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.
February 20, 2017
Tegu Lizards & Lionfish
Next week, the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will also hear SB 230 by Senator Artiles relating to Nonnative Animals. This bill creates a pilot program to support the eradication of tegu lizards, one of Florida’s most aggressive invasive species. Local populations of tegus are known to exist in Tampa and Miami. These lizards compete with and prey upon native wildlife, including some threatened species. The bill may be amended to add lionfish, since the House companion, HB 587 by Representative Beshears, includes both species.