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!

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.