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.