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.

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.