September 14, 2018

Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was established by Congress in 1964 in an effort to protect our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, as well as to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. Since its inception, the LWCF has created 2.37 million acres of protected land and is arguably one of the most powerful and effective tools we have for protecting recreational areas, wildlife habitat, and national historical sites. On September 30, 2018, the LWCF will expire unless it is renewed by Congress. A bill has also been introduced by Senator Richard Burr (R-CO) to permanently authorize the LWCF, which can be viewed here.  This legislation has received bipartisan support.  For more information, please visit the Department of the Interior or National Park Service.

 

Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries have proposed several changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that alter standards under which species and critical habitat designations are made, including removing language from the ESA that prohibits referencing potential economic impacts. Other changes include revising protections for threatened species and provisions related to interagency cooperation. These revisions would reduce the effectiveness of the ESA in protecting endangered and threatened species as well as the habitat upon which those species depend. The proposed rule changes are open to public comment until September 24th, 2018. Comments can be submitted electronically or via mail. Instructions for both methods are found on the websites for the proposed rule changes, as follows:

Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat

Revision of Regulations for Prohibitions to Threatened Wildlife and Plants

Interagency Cooperation

 

Red Tide Emergency Continues

A severe red tide bloom continues to affect a significant portion of the Southwest Florida coast from Pinellas to Collier Counties.  This is the longest bloom in Southwest Florida in over a decade, and it is killing marine life and hurting businesses and tourism.  This bloom has killed larger marine life than is typical for a red tide bloom.  NOAA is also reporting a dead zone off the coast of Southwest Florida.  Over 2,000 tons of dead marine animals have been removed from the beach.

June 22, 2018

FLERA President-Elect Lisa Foster Wins National Award of Excellence in Floodplain Management
FLERA President-Elect Lisa Foster has won a National Award of Excellence from the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Association, a Division of FEMA, for her work in floodplain management.  Lisa’s work has reduced floodplain insurance premiums for unincorporated Pinellas County by 25% and is saving flood-insured residents and businesses in Pinellas County more than $5 million annually.  Congratulations to Lisa for this impressive accomplishment!

Circuit Court Rules for Environmental Groups on Land Acquisition Trust Fund Spending
Second Judicial Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson ruled in favor of environmental groups last week in litigation challenging the Legislature’s appropriation of Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) dollars following implementation of Amendment 1, Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment, which passed in 2014.  Judge Dodson ruled that LATF monies can only be appropriated for acquisition of conservation lands.  This has resulted in confusion and speculation regarding land management and other environmental programs, such as springs and Everglades restoration, as well as beach nourishment, although Judge Dodson’s written order has not yet been released.  While the ruling may be a short term victory for land conservation, it will likely be appealed.

Public Service Commission
The Public Service Commission recently released a draft report on power outages caused by recent hurricanes.  The Commission came under political fire following its release because the draft contained barely any mention of undergrounding utility lines.  Additionally, Commissioner Gary Clark has been a vocal proponent of the tree preemption bill that died last session.  The report has now been revised to contain a section on storm hardening that discusses undergrounding utility lines.  Commissioner Julie Brown recommended a softer approach than preemption that would include a “right tree, right place” policy as well as an educational effort.  The revised draft report will be considered at the next PSC internal affairs meeting, scheduled for July 10.  You can view a copy of the initial report here and a copy of the revised report here.

Section 404 Dredge and Fill Permitting Delegation
Environmental groups have submitted a letter to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requesting a more robust public process related to delegation of certain wetlands permits under the 404 program.  The group expressed concern that most of the application materials were developed and submitted with little to no public input.  Groups signing the letter included Audubon Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, and the League of Women Voters.  DEP responded that, prior to receiving delegation, the Department must show that its program will be as stringent or more stringent than the federal program.  The public comment period for the state rulemaking has been extended to June 29.  You can view a copy of the letter from environmental groups here.  

Lake Okeechobee Discharges Generate Renewed Environmental Concerns
Lake Okeechobee discharges are again generating environmental concerns along the Treasure Coast and in Southwest Florida.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began discharges on June 1 after May rains and in advance of the rainy season.  The discharges have created a brown plume visible in aerial photographs posted here.  In response, Governor Scott has directed DEP to take emergency action to redirect the flow of water from coastal estuaries to the South. Secretary Noah Valenstein’s emergency order can be viewed here.  Additionally, Congressman Brian Mast sent Army Corps Colonel Jason Kirk a letter that can be viewed here.  

March 12, 2018

March 12, 2018

The Legislature completed week 9 of the 2018 Legislative Session yesterday.  The unusual Sunday session was needed to allow the budget the required 72 hour cooling off period.  The Legislature adjourned sine die at 4:16 pm yesterday, after passing the budget, implementing bill, and tax package.

You can review all of the legislation FLERA monitored during the 2018 Legislative Session here.

Budget Summary

Final funding amounts for major environmental programs includes the following:
Florida Forever and related land acquisition programs - $101M
     Florida Forever - $77M
     Florida Communities Trust - $10M
     FRDAP - $6M
     Rural and Family Lands - $6M
     Working Waterfronts - $2M

Land Management - $22.5M
     State Lands - $3.6M
     Water Management Districts - $10M
     State Parks - $1.8M
     Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - $300,000
     Florida Forest Service - $6.8M

Petroleum Storage Tanks Cleanup - $123M
     Petroleum Tanks Cleanup - $110M
     Local Government Cleanup Contracting - $13M

Air Program Distribution to Counties - $8.7M

Beaches $61M
     Statewide Beach Program - $50M
     Storm Damaged Beaches - $11M

Florida Resilient Coastline Initiative - $3.6M

Springs - $50M

Everglades Restoration - $248M
     CERP - $111M
     EAA Reservoir - $64M
     Restoration Strategies - $32M
     Northern Everglades - $31M
     Agricultural Nutrient Reduction - $5M
     Dispersed Water Storage - $5M

Bills that Passed

Coral Reefs
HB 53 by Representative Jacobs was signed by the Officers and presented to the Governor on March 9.  The Governor has until March 24 to act on this bill.  The bill establishes the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area. 

Environmental Regulation/Springs
HB 1149 by Representative Payne has passed both chambers and goes next to the Governor for final action.  This bill contains provisions related to reclaimed water, solid waste recycling, dock and pier permitting, mitigation banking, environmental resource permits, and the C-51.  An amendment was proposed by Representative Ingoglia on the House floor that would have indefinitely postponed advanced wastewater treatment requirements in Priority Focus Areas surrounding springs.  This amendment was withdrawn.  Additional amendments surfaced late in session that would have authorized a six month delay of the septic requirements; however, this language was not amended to any bill.  As such, the septic requirements will go into effect on July 1, 2018.  Additionally, there was an amendment by Senator Farmer to add a fracking ban to the bill, but it was withdrawn.

State Assumption of Federal 404 Permitting Authority
HB 7043 by the House Natural Resources and Conservation Lands Subcommittee and Representative Raschein has passed both chambers and goes next to the Governor for final action.  The bill authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to pursue assumption of federal 404 permitting.  There will need to be rulemaking and memoranda of agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency in order for DEP to assume federal permitting responsibilities.

Bills that Failed

Florida Forever Legislation
SB 370 by Senator Bradley and HB 7063 by the House Governmental Accountability Committee and Representative Caldwell both would have provided future funding for the Florida Forever program.  SB 370 would have provided $100M annually; it passed the full Senate and died in House messages. 

HB 7063 would have provided zero dollars in the current budget year, and would have scaled up from $57M beginning next year to $200M over the course of several years.  HB 7063 also contained numerous policy changes.  It would have split the Florida Forever distributions into thirds, with 1/3 going to Rural and Family Lands, 1/3 for the traditional Florida Forever program and water management districts combined, and 1/3 for Florida Communities Trust.  It also contained numerous other policy related provisions, and at one point contained language that would have required intervenors in environmental administrative cases to pay attorney fees simply for losing, without consideration of whether the intervenor exhibited an improper purpose in joining the case.  This language would have had a significant chilling effect on potential intervenors in environmental cases.  While this language was removed, the bill ultimately failed to pass the full House.

Trees
As filed, HB 521 by Representative Edwards-Walpole and SB 574 by Senator Steube, were significantly different bills, but both had dire consequences for local tree protection ordinances.  We worked with Representative Edwards-Walpole to significantly improve and narrow the scope of the House bill.  The Senate bill improved to some extent and then was amended to bring in new language of concern.  Ultimately, HB 521 passed the House and died in Senate messages, while SB 574 died in committee.

Fracking
HB 237 by Representative Peters and SB 462 by Senator Young would have banned fracking in Florida.  SB 462 died in its last committee.  HB 237 did not receive a hearing.  An amendment by Senator Farmer to HB 1149 would have added the fracking ban to the environmental regulation package, but it was withdrawn.

Local Government Land Use Legislation
HB 883 by Representative Ingoglia was initially a bill relating to construction development districts (CDDs). However, an amendment by Representative Caldwell would have required re-ratification of certain rural or urban development boundaries adopted by referendum.  A substitute amendment by Representative Caldwell would have arbitrarily re-drawn certain urban service area (USA) and urban development boundary (UDB) lines.  The sponsor of SB 1348, Senator Perry, filed an amendment to remove the problematic language. Senator Brandes filed another series of amendments that would have essentially required losing parties in challenges to development orders and comprehensive plan amendments to pay attorney fees. These bills died on the Senate calendar.

March 2, 2018

March 2, 2018

The Legislature is nearing completion of Week 8 of the 2018 Legislative Session.  The Senate will be meeting on Saturday to consider the “gun package”.  Controversial bills on education as well as school safety and guns are taking up the bulk of the Legislature’s bandwidth.  Budget negotiations continue to progress toward what looks to be a timely completion. 

You can review all of the legislation FLERA is monitoring here.

Budget Update
This morning, the budget conference committee for the environmental and agricultural portion of the budget concluded its work and “bumped” its remaining open items to the Budget Chairs.  The House and Senate have reached an agreement to fund Springs at $50M and have fully funded Everglades Restoration as contemplated in the Legacy Florida law.  Additionally, the Petroleum Storage Cleanup Program will be funded at $110M.  Florida Forever remains an outstanding item.  The Senate has proposed $210M for Florida Forever while the Senate has $3M, including $35M for Rural and Family Lands and $8M for Florida Forever.

Trees
HB 521 by Representative Edwards-Walpole was heard on special order in the House today.  The bill has been substantially narrowed so that it is no longer of concern.  We thank Representative Edwards-Walpole for her open door and thoughtful consideration of the issues that were raised.  HB 521 will likely be taken up on third reading in the House on Monday.  However, SB 574 by Senator Steube is still in its second of three committees and is likely dead.  This version of the bill still has significant problems, but is unlikely to advance.

Environmental Regulation/Springs
SB 1308 by Senator Perry and HB 1149 by Representative Payne contain provisions related to reclaimed water, solid waste recycling, and dock and pier permitting.  HB 1149 was heard on special order in the House today.  A controversial amendment by Representative Ingoglia proposed to indefinitely postpone the requirement for advanced wastewater treatment in priority focus areas for springs.  Due to the controversial nature of the amendment, it was withdrawn.  However, today’s discussion is is an indication that there will likely be legislation on springs next session.  Additional language was amended onto HB 1149 today that included provisions on mitigation banks and wastewater treatment.  The language does not appear to be controversial but can be reviewed from the legislative monitoring report above.

Preemption on Local Retail Bans
The House tax package (HB 7087) was amended today to remove the retail sales ban preemption that was so controversial.  While directed at retail sales bans related to dogs, the language could have had a broader impact and may have potentially impacted some environmental issues.  The Senate tax package (SB 620) does not contain this language.

February 23, 2018

The Legislature has completed Week 7 of the 2018 Legislative Session.  It was a solemn week in the Capitol as lawmakers met with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and took time in their floor sessions to acknowledge the horrific school shooting in Parkland.   Three bills were released this afternoon to address school safety, mental health, and firearms issues.  Consideration of this legislation has become a top priority and has delayed budget negotiations.  Today, the Governor announced that he is no longer asking for a tax package, so that money can instead be used to help cover the fiscal impact of the gun-related legislation.

You can review all of the legislation FLERA is monitoring here.

Florida Forever
HB 7063 passed its last committee this week.  While the bill contains provisions that restructure the Florida Forever program and fund it over time, the bill was amended in its previous committee with controversial language that would saddle losing parties in environmental administrative cases with attorney fees simply for losing, regardless of whether there is an improper purpose.  This would have a significant chilling effect on intervenors such as environmental groups that challenge permits, but would also apply to permit applicants that intervene on behalf of an agency.  After significant opposition from many interested stakeholders, the language was removed this week.  

HB 7063 contains no funding for this year.  It provides $57M annually beginning next year and scales up to $200M over time.  It also restructures the entire Florida Forever program.  Funding would be split three ways, with one-third each going to Florida Forever (including the water management districts), Rural and Family Lands, and Florida Communities Trust.  The bill also limits funding to land acquisition only, deletes definitions for “capital improvement” and “water resource development project”, and eliminates land management as an approved used of funds.  It contains some portions of the beach bill, SB 174 by Senator Hukill, but is scaled back substantially.

The Senate approach in SB 370 by Senator Bradley has been to simply fund the existing Florida Forever program at $100M annually.  

State Assumption of Federal Section 404 Dredge and Fill Authority
HB 7043 by the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee and Representative Raschein and SB 1402 by Senator Simmons give the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the authority to assume Section 404 permitting from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.  HB 7043 passed the House this week.  SB 1402 passed its last committee this week following lengthy testimony in opposition from environmental groups.

Environmental Regulation
SB 1308 by Senator Perry and HB 1149 by Representative Payne contain provisions related to reclaimed water, solid waste recycling, and dock and pier permitting.  Both bills passed their last committee this week.

Preemption on Local Retail Bans
HB 7087 by the House Ways and Means Committee and Representative Renner were amended this week to preempt local governments from banning the sale or offering for sale of tangible personal property taxed under Chapter 212, unless otherwise authorized by law.  This appears to be a scaled back version of the preemptions relating to commerce and trade that we have seen in HB 17 in the 2017 Legislative Session and Proposal 95 in the Constitutional Revision Commission.  Based on stakeholder testimony in committee, it appears that the preemption is intended to overturn local bans on puppy mills that prohibit the sale of dogs at retail.  There are over 60 of these local ordinances.  A disease called campylobachter that has spread from puppy mill puppies has made people sick in many states, including Florida.  While this is not an environmental issue, it is not clear what other issues may be impacted by this preemption.  If you have questions, concerns, or feedback on this legislation, please email us at executivedirector@flera.org.    

February 15, 2018

The Legislature has completed Week 6 of the 2018 Legislative Session.  You can review all of the legislation FLERA is monitoring here.

Tree Preemption
HB 574 by Senator Steube passed the Senate Community Affairs Committee this week with a controversial amendment preempting local government regulations that protect historic and specimen trees in electric utility rights of way.  The bill goes next to the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, which currently has only one more meeting on the calendar.  If the bill is not placed on next week’s agenda, it may be dead for the session.  HB 521 by Representative Edwards-Walpole is expected to have a strike-all amendment in its last committee that is more narrowly tailored to include only rights of way for water management and flood control.  However, the bill may not be heard again if the Senate bill does not continue to advance.  

Florida Forever
HB 7063 is expected to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee next week.  While the bill contains provisions that restructure the Florida Forever program and fund it over time, the bill was amended in its previous committee with controversial language that would saddle losing parties in environmental administrative cases with attorney fees simply for losing, regardless of whether there is an improper purpose.  This would have a significant chilling effect on intervenors such as environmental groups that challenge permits, but would also apply to permit applicants that intervene on behalf of an agency.  After significant opposition from many interested stakeholders, Chair Caldwell has indicated that this language will be removed in the next committee.  However, new issues may continue to emerge.  The Senate approach has been to simply fund the existing Florida Forever program at $100M annually.  The differences in approach will be resolved during budget negotiations.

State Assumption of Federal Section 404 Dredge and Fill Authority
SB 1402 by Senator Simmons and HB 7043 by the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee and Representative Raschein authorize the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to seek assumption of the federal section 404 dredge and fill program from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers.  SB 1402 passed its second of three committees this week amid opposition from environmental groups concerned about potential resource constraints on DEP, lack of transparency in the administrative process of assumption, and concerns regarding uncertainty over the new state process for coordinating with other agencies that must be created since the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) would not apply to a delegated program.  In order to address these concerns, Audubon Florida has suggested legislative ratification of the state’s application prior to submittal to EPA.  However, there have been no amendments to date that would provide for ratification.  

Basin Action Management Plans (BMAPs)
SB 1664 by Senator Simmons passed its second of three committees this week.  This bill requires the DEP to develop remediation plans for onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems under certain conditions and specifies requirements for the installation, repair, modification, or upgrade of certain systems.  The bill does not have a companion.

Fracking
SB 462 by Senator Young, which contains a ban on fracking, passed its second of three committees this week.  The House companion measure, HB 237 by Representative Peters, has not received a hearing.

C-51 Reservoir Project
SB 992 by Senator Book revises requirements related to the phase I and II of the C-51 reservoir project, authorizes the South Florida Water Management District to enter into certain capacity allocation agreements, and authorizes the DEP to waive loan repayments under certain circumstances.  SB 992 passed its second of three committees.  There is no stand-alone companion bill in the House, but similar provisions are contained within HB 7063, the House Florida Forever package.

TNC Procurement Guide for Nature Based Solutions
The Nature Conservancy has released a procurement guide for nature based solutions.  You can view the guide here.  The purpose of the guide is to provide communities with an overview of nature based solutions, tools, and best practices for drafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) in favor of nature based approaches to flood and stormwater management.

February 9, 2018 FLERAlert

The Legislature has completed Week 5 of the 2018 Legislative Session.  This week, the House and Senate passed their initial budgets (HB 5001 and SB 2500).  We expect allocations and the commencement of budget negotiations in the coming days.  

House policy subcommittees have generally concluded their work for the 2018 Legislative Session, however additional meetings could be convened by the Speaker prior to the end of the regular session. You can review all of the legislation FLERA is monitoring here.

Tree Preemption
As filed, HB 521 by Representative Edwards-Walpole and SB 574 by Senator Steube would preempt local tree protection ordinances.  Representative Edwards-Walpole has been soliciting stakeholder comment for a number of weeks.  A strike-all amendment for HB 521 is expected in the next committee that will preserve local mangrove regulations and otherwise clarify and narrow the scope of the bill.  SB 574 was temporarily postponed in Community Affairs next week but is on the agenda again for next week.  SB 574 has an amendment related to electric utility rights of way that is more controversial.

Fracking
SB 462 by Senator Young, which prohibits fracking, will be heard in the Senate Subcommittee on Environmental Appropriations next week.  This will be its second of three committees and its second hearing in two weeks.  The House companion measure, HB 237 by Representative Peters, has not received a hearing.  It has three committee references and its second committee is not scheduled to meet again this session.

State Assumption of Federal Section 404 Dredge and Fill Authority
SB 1402 by Senator Simmons and HB 7043 by the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee and Representative Raschein authority the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to seek assumption of the federal section 404 dredge and fill program from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.  HB 7043 passed its last committee this week with opposition from many environmental groups.  Many groups are concerned about potential resource constraints on DEP, lack of transparency in the administrative process of assumption, and some expressed concern about the fact that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process will not be carried down from the federal level, and questioned whether the state can create a similar and equally robust process for inter-agency comment and coordination.

Florida Forever
SB 370 by Senator Bradley contains $100M annually in funding for the Florida Forever program.  HB 7063 by the Government Accountability Committee and Representative Caldwell contains no funding for this year.  It contains $57M annually beginning next year and scales up to $200M over time.  However, it counts any bonds issued to implement SB 10 against the Florida Forever allocation.  It also restructures the entire Florida Forever program.  Funding would be split three ways, with one-third each going to Florida Forever, Rural and Family Lands, and Florida Communities Trust.  

The bill also limits funding to land acquisition only, deletes definitions for “capital improvement” and “water resource development project”, and eliminates land management as an approved used of funds.  It contains some portions of the beach bill, SB 174 by Senator Hukill, but is substantially different.  It also contains language related to coordination between the Department of Transportation and local governments related to stormwater, and clarifies the 10/2 general permit for stormwater.  It moves water management district funding for land acquisition under the state Florida Forever process, so all district lands purchased would go through the Board of Trustees rather than the water management district governing boards.  It also allows water management districts to retain revenues from economic uses of their properties and contains policy changes for Rural and Family Lands, including priority for projects that are cost shared.

Basin Action Management Plans (BMAPs)
SB 1664 by Senator Simmons will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources next week.  This bill requires the DEP to develop remediation plans for onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems under certain conditions and specifies requirements for the installation, repair, modification, or upgrade of certain systems.  This is its second of three committees.  The bill does not have a companion.

February 2, 2018 FLERAlert

The Legislature has completed Week 4 of the 2018 Legislative Session.  This week, appropriations subcommittees in both chambers voted their initial budgets (HB 5001 and SB 2500) out of the Appropriations Committees.  Next week, the chambers will be taking up their budgets and passing them out to the floor.  This will put the bills in posture to begin budget conferences.  You can review all of the legislation FLERA is monitoring here.

Constitutional Revision Commission
Proposal 95 by former Senate President Tom Lee, commonly referred to as the “super-preemption,” was voted down unanimously in the Local Government Committee of the Constitutional Revision Commission today at President Lee’s request.  The proposal is similar to last year’s HB 17, which preempted local regulations pertaining to commerce and trade.  Due to its broad, vague language, it could apply to almost anything local governments do, but would certainly have a very negative impact on environmental protections at the local level.  Commissioner Solari again gave thoughtful and well-reasoned arguments in support of home rule and continues to be a champion for local governments on the Constitutional Revision Commission.  

President Lee indicated that he would be working on an amendment for the CRC floor.  Even though the bill was voted down today, under CRC rules it can still be brought up on the floor with a simple majority vote.  President Lee also stated that he does not support the proposal in its current form and will work to address the concerns raised by stakeholders, which have included local governments and their associations, as well as environmental, animal welfare, human rights, and labor groups, among others.

Proposal 61 by Senator Smith, a pro-local government amendment, failed in the Legislative Committee today on a tie vote.  This proposal would treat preemptions similar to public records exemptions.  They would be required to be in a stand-alone bill.  This is intended to alleviate the problem of “trains” at the end of session that pass with several preemptions hidden in the same bill with no vetting or transparency.  This proposal could also potentially be brought up on the full floor of the CRC.  

Budget Highlights
The Senate budget funds Florida Forever at $154M.  The House budget funds Florida Forever at $8M and Rural and Family Lands at $35M.  SB 370 by Senator Bradley would fund the Florida Forever Trust Fund at $100M annually.  It does not change the current Florida Forever funding formula.  It passed the full Senate this week.  HB 7063 by the House Governmental Accountability Committee would change the Florida Forever Trust Fund formula so that Florida Forever would receive one-third, Rural and Family Lands would receive one-third, and Florida Communities Trust would receive one-third.  It also removes the water management districts from Florida Forever.  The House bill would not fund Florida Forever this year, but would begin providing $57M annually next year, scaling up to $200M annually over several years.  

The Senate has $187.5M for Everglades Restoration, while the House has $239.1M.   The Senate has $100M for springs funding while the House has $25M.  Importantly, the local government cleanup contracting program is fully funded at $13M on both sides.  Additionally, the Senate has transferred $135.7M in agency administrative overhead expenses from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to General Revenue (GR).  This move would free up more money for environmental programs under the “Legacy Florida” spending program that was created following the passage of Amendment 1.  

Tree Preemption
As filed, HB 521 by Representative Edwards and SB 574 by Senator Steube would preempt local tree protection ordinances.  HB 521 passed its first committee with an amendment that limits the bill to water management districts and special district rights of way.  SB 574 will be heard in its first committee next week with a similar amendment.  However, the Senate has a greater effect on electric transmission rights of way.  We will continue to monitor this legislation and work to ensure that it is clarified and the preemption further narrowed. 

Coral Reefs
HB 53 by Representative Jacobs and SB 232 by Senator Book establish the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area.  HB 53 has passed both chambers and goes next to the Governor for final action.  Congratulations to Representative Jacobs and Senator Book!

Fracking
SB 462 by Senator Young, which prohibits fracking, will be heard in the Senate Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee next week.  This will be its first of three committees.  The House companion measure, HB 237 by Representative Peters, has not received a hearing.  It has three committee references and its second committee is not scheduled to meet again this session.

January 26, 2018 FLERAlert

The Legislature has completed Week 3 of the 2018 Legislative Session.  This week, appropriations subcommittees in both chambers rolled out their initial budgets.  Today, the House and Senate released their first budget drafts, APC1 and SB 2500, respectively.  You can review all of the legislation FLERA is monitoring here.

Constitutional Revision Commission
Proposal 95 by Senator Lee, commonly referred to as the “super-preemption,” was temporarily postponed in the Local Government Committee of the Constitutional Revision Commission today after an amendment was voted down.  The proposal is similar to last year’s HB 17, which preempted local regulations pertaining to commerce and trade.  Due to its broad, vague language, it could apply to almost anything local governments do, but would certainly have a very negative impact on environmental protections at the local level.  Commissioner Solari gave thoughtful and well-reasoned arguments in support of home rule today and has been a champion for local governments on the Constitutional Revision Commission.  

Proposal 61 by Senator Smith, a pro-local government amendment, passed the same committee today.  This proposal would treat preemptions similar to public records exemptions.  They would be required to be in a stand-alone bill.  This is intended to alleviate the problem of “trains” at the end of session that pass with several preemptions hidden in the same bill with no vetting or transparency.

Budget Highlights
The Senate budget funds Florida Forever at $154M.  The House budget funds Florida Forever at $8M and Rural and Family Lands at $10M.  SB 370 by Senator Bradley would fund the Florida Forever Trust Fund at $100M annually.  It does not change the current Florida Forever funding formula.  GAC2 by the House Governmental Accountability Committee would change the Florida Forever Trust Fund formula so that Florida Forever would receive one-third, Rural and Family Lands would receive one-third, and Florida Communities Trust would receive one-third.  It also removes the water management districts from Florida Forever.  The House bill would not fund Florida Forever this year, but would begin providing $57M annually next year, scaling up to $200M annually over several years.  GAC2 was approved as a committee bill this week and will receive a “real” 7000 series bill number soon.  

The Senate proposes to fund Springs Restoration at $100M, while the House has $50M.  The Senate has $187.5M for Everglades Restoration, while the House has $239.1M.  Importantly, the local government cleanup contracting program is fully funded at $13M on both sides.  Additionally, the Senate has transferred $135.7M in agency administrative overhead expenses from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to General Revenue (GR).  This move would free up more money for environmental programs under the “Legacy Florida” spending program that was created following the passage of Amendment 1.  

Tree Preemption
As filed, HB 521 by Representative Edwards and SB 574 by Senator Steube would preempt local tree protection ordinances.  HB 521 will receive a hearing in the House next week.  However, it is being amended so that it will be limited to water management district and 298 district rights of way.  That is essentially current law.  As such, it resolves FLERA’s concerns.  SB 574 has not been heard to date.  

Coral Reefs
HB 53 by Representative Jacobs and SB 232 by Senator Book establish the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area.  HB 53 passed the full Senate this week.  SB 232 is on the Senate calendar on second reading.  The bills are well poised to pass.

Environmental Regulation
SB 1308 by Senator Perry and HB 1149 by Representative Payne contain provisions related to reclaimed water, solid waste recycling, and dock and pier permitting.  Both bills passed their first committee this week with an amendment related to recycling that was the result of work by the Florida Association of Counties and Florida League of Cities.  Both bills have two committees remaining.

State Assumption of Federal Section 404 Dredge and Fill Permitting Authority
Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act provides the principle federal protection for wetlands.  HB 7043 by the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee and Representative Raschein received one committee reference after being approved as a committee bill last week.  SB 1402 by Senator Simmons passed its first committee this week and has two committees remaining.

These bills give the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the authority to assume Section 404 permitting from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers.  State assumption would streamline, but not merge, the current state and federal permitting processes.  The bills clarify that when state law conflicts with federal requirements, the federal requirements would apply to state administered section 404 permits.  They also exempt state administered section 404 permits from state permitting decision deadlines.  The bills limit state administered section 404 permits to no more than five years, as required by federal law.  The bills also authorize DEP to delegate the state administered program to water management districts or other governmental entities seeking such authority.   

Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems
SB 1664 by Senator Simmons requires the DEP to develop remediation plans and requires the installation, repair, modification, and upgrade of onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems to conform to those remediation plans.  It passed its first committee this week and has two committees remaining, but does not have a House companion to date.