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.