Legislative Update - November 20, 2017

 

Florida Conservation Coalition Legislative Priorities

 

Funding for Conservation and Recreation Land Acquisition

The Florida Conservation Coalition’s adopted position statement can be found here. Below is an excerpt:

The Legislature should follow the will of the voters and build on Florida’s rich conservation commitment by passing legislation during the 2018 session that:

Annually dedicates the largest share of funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) to the acquisition of natural areas, working farms and ranches, and close-to-home recreation opportunities through the Acquisition and Restoration Council’s scientifically-ranked Florida Forever Priority List, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, and the Florida Communities Trust.

To implement that legislation, the Legislature should appropriate funds form the LATF for these land conservation programs. Funding these scientifically-driven programs, rather than funding individual land acquisition projects, will ensure tax-payer dollars are expended effectively, protecting lands with the greatest conservation value.

 

 

Environmental Legislation of Interest

                                                                               

Land Conservation/ Land Acquisition Trust Fund

Note: Funding from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) comes from the 1/3 of documentary stamp taxes set aside by the Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment One) in 2014.

 

SB 158 (Sen. Brandes), “Florida Communities Trust”: This bill would allow flood mitigation projects to be funded through the Florida Communities Trust program, which is known for helping local governments preserve open space for public recreation. Under the bill, the purpose of flood mitigation projects is to improve a community’s classification under the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System (CRS) and to assist local governments in implementing their flood reduction and mitigation plans.

Senate Referrals (SB 158): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

 

SB 168 (Sen. Steube), “Nonnative Animals”: This bill would allocate $300,000 annually, for two years, from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for the implementation of a pilot program focused on mitigating the impact of tegu lizards, Burmese pythons, lionfish, and other priority invasive species on public lands and waters. The goal of the pilot program is to examine the benefits of using strategically deployed teams to capture or destroy the invasive species and simultaneously collect information for research purposes. FWC would submit a report of findings and recommendations regarding the pilot program to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by January 1, 2021.

Additionally, this bill would require pet dealers to implant a PIT tag in all nonnative animals determined by the FWC to threaten the state’s wildlife habitats before sale.

An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Beshears: HB 145.

Rep. Beshears proposed an amendment to eliminate the portion of the bill which requires pet dealers to tag certain nonnative animals before sale.

Senate Referrals (SB 168): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

House Referrals (HB 145): Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee (October 25, 2017; 9:00 AM; 12 HOB – Temporarily Postponed); Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

 

SB 174 (Sen. Latvala), “Coastal Management”: This bill would require an annual allocation of the lesser of 7.6 percent of funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund after debt service or $50 million for projects that preserve and repair the state’s beaches.

Additionally, this bill would change the way the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) ranks beach and inlet projects requesting funding. One change requires DEP to take into consideration the tourism-related tax revenues for the most recent year of the County where the project is located.

Finally, the bill would require DEP to include a strategic beach management plan, a critically eroded beaches report, and a statewide long-range budget plan in their comprehensive long-term management plan. The budget plan would include three-year work plans for beach and inlet projects and a long-range plan that identifies projects for inclusion in the fourth and fifth ensuing fiscal years.

An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Peters: HB 131.

Senate Referrals (SB 174): Environmental Preservation and Conservation (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources (Passed); Appropriations

House Referrals (HB 131): Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee; Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

 

SB 204 (Sen. Bradley/Sen. Bean/ Sen. Perry/Sen. Stewart), “St. Johns River WMD & Springs”: This bill would require an annual allocation of $50 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the St. Johns River Water Management District to help fund projects dedicated to the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region.

In addition, this bill would increase the allocation of Amendment One funds for springs. Currently, springs receive an annual allocation of either 7.6% of LATF funds after debt service or $50 million, whichever amount is lower. This bill would increase the annual allocation to either 10.7% of LATF funds after debt service or $75 million, whichever is lower.

Senate Referrals (SB 204): Environmental Preservation and Conservation (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

 

HB 339 (Rep. Harrell), “Indian River Lagoon”: This bill would dedicate the lesser of 7.6% or $50 million annually from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for projects in the Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Under this bill, funding preference would be given to projects for ecosystem monitoring and habitat restoration, projects to connect septic systems to central sewer lines, and projects for the management of stormwater, freshwater, and agricultural discharges.

The Department of Environmental Protection would be required to submit a report on the funded projects to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives annually.

A similar bill has been filed in the Senate by Sen. Mayfield: SB 786.

House Referrals (for HB 339): Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee; Appropriations

Senate Referrals (for SB 786): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

 

SB 370 (Sen. Bradley, Sen. Stewart, Sen. Perry, Sen. Bean), “Land Conservation”: This bill would dedicate $100 million annually from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the Florida Forever Trust Fund, regardless of outstanding debt service payments. Florida Forever is the state’s premiere land conservation program.

Senate Referrals (for SB 370): Environmental Preservation and Conservation (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

 

SB 464 (Sen. Bracy), “Little Wekiva River”: This bill would dedicate $5 million annually from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the St. Johns River Water Management District for the restoration, enhancement, and management of the headwaters and associated wetlands of the Little Wekiva River.

Additionally, the bill would provide a one-time appropriation of $15 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the acquisition of lands identified in the Wekiva Study Area and lands in the headwaters of the Little Wekiva River.

WITHDRAWN Senate Referrals (SB 464): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

 

SB 806 (Sen. Baxley), “Water Management District Surplus Lands”: When a water management district determines that land it owns is no longer needed for the purpose it was acquired for, it can sell the land as surplus land. The water management district must publish a notice of intention to sell surplus land in the local newspaper once a week, for three weeks. This bill would require the district’s first published notice of intention to sell surplus land to occur at least 30 days, but not more than 360 days, before any sale is approved by the district.

A similar bill was filed in the House by Rep. Burgess: HB 703.

Senate Referrals (for SB 806): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Rules

 

SB 808 (Sen. Baxley), “Public Records/ Surplus Lands”: In order for SB 808 to become law, SB 806 or similar legislation must also become law.

SB 808 would make valuations, written offers, and other documents related to surplus lands on the market confidential from the public for a period of time. The confidentiality period would end when:

1) The water management district approves a contract for the sale, exchange, or disposal of the surplus land

2) The district concludes negotiations or marketing efforts related to the surplus land, or

3) One year passes since the completion of the valuation.

Water management districts would have discretion, throughout any confidentiality period, to share valuations, written offers, and other documents related to surplus lands on the market during negotiations for the land or during marketing efforts for the sale, disposal, or exchange of the land.

An identical bill was filed in the House by Rep. Burgess: HB 705.

Senate Referrals (for SB 808): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Rules

 

 

Growth Management

 

SB 574 (Sen. Steube), “Tree and Timber Trimming, Removal, and Harvesting”: This bill would prohibit local governments from regulating the trimming, removal, or harvesting of trees and timber on private property. If this bill becomes law, existing tree ordinances would be nullified and the State Legislature would take over responsibility for regulating tree trimming, removal, and harvesting on private property. Furthermore, local governments would be prohibited from requiring mitigation for the removal of trees from private property, including requiring the land owner to plant trees to make up for the ones being cut down.

An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Edwards: HB 521.

Senate Referrals (for SB 574): Community Affairs; Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Rules

House Referrals (for HB 521): Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee; Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

 

SB 362 (Sen. Perry), “Growth Management”: This bill would require local governments to include a property rights element in their comprehensive plans that protects private property rights and encourages economic development. The element must be adopted at the plan’s next evaluation and appraisal or by July 2020, whichever comes first. If this bill passes, local governments would be required to consider the impact on private property rights of all proposed development orders, plan amendments, ordinances, and other government decisions.

A similar bill was filed in the house by Rep. McClain: HB 207.

Senate Referrals (for SB 362): Community Affairs; Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Rules

House Referrals (for HB 207): Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee; Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee; Commerce Committee

 

 

Water

 

SB 244 (Sen. Brandes), “Domestic Wastewater Collection System Assessment and Maintenance”: This bill would establish the blue star collection system assessment and maintenance program in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The purpose of the program would be to provide incentives for public and private utilities to voluntarily take actions which reduce the likelihood of sewer overflows and unauthorized discharges.

If utilities could show they’re taking the appropriate precautionary measures, as determined by the Environmental Regulation Commission, then they could apply to DEP for certification under the program. Certified utilities may benefit from reduced penalties for sewer overflows and may be allowed to apply the amount of penalties incurred toward assessment and maintenance costs for their wastewater system.

Domestic wastewater utilities with a history of compliance with wastewater disinfection requirements in their operating permit who are certified under the blue star program would be presumed in compliance with state water quality standards for pathogens. Blue star certified utilities who renew their operation permits would be issued a 10-year permit.

The Small Community Sewer Construction Act assists financially disadvantaged small communities with their needs for adequate sewer facilities. This bill would allow private, not-for-profit utilities serving financially disadvantaged communities to receive funding under the Act and allow funds from the Act to be used for assessment costs.

Senate Referrals (SB 244): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities; Appropriations; Rules

 

 

 

Energy & Climate

 

HB 237 (Rep. Peters, Rep. Abruzzo, Rep. Berman, Rep. Clemons, Rep. Davis, Rep. Diamond, Rep. Fitzenhagen, Rep. Geller, Rep. Jacobs, Rep. Plascencia, Rep. Smith), “Advanced Well Stimulation Treatment”: This bill would ban “advanced well stimulation” techniques, including “fracking,” in Florida.

An identical bill has been filed by Senator Young: SB 462. It is being co-sponsored by Sen. Mayfield, Sen. Latvala, Sen. Steube, Sen. Book, Sen. Montford, Sen. Stewart, Sen. Perry, and Sen. Taddeo.

A similar bill has been filed by Sen. Farmer: SB 834. Sen. Farmer’s bill also provides a fine of up to $50,000 per day for anyone who violates the new law.

A joint resolution has been filed by Sen. Farmer: SJR 828. This resolution has the same intent as SB 834. Rather than creating new law through the legislative process, however, the resolution proposes a change to the State Constitution. If the resolution passes, Florida voters would have the opportunity to approve a ballot measure to amend the Constitution. 

House Referrals (for HB 237): Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Natural Resource and Public Lands Subcommittee; Appropriations Committee

Senate Referrals (for SB 462): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

 

SB 292 (Sen. Rodriguez), “Private Property Rights”: This bill would exempt property owners who produce renewable energy on their property and distribute it to users on the property from being defined as a public utility. It would allow, for example, apartment complexes who produce solar power to sell power to their tenants.

Senate Referrals (SB 292): Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities; Community Affairs; Rules

 

SB 384 (Sen. Brandes), “Electric Vehicles”: This bill would require the Florida Transportation Commission to prepare a report when electric vehicles make up 2 percent or more of the total number of vehicles registered in Florida. The report would:

- Assess the effects of projected electric vehicle use on revenue from taxes, fees, and surcharges related to nonelectric vehicles

- Assess transportation infrastructure, including electric vehicle charging stations, with respect to electric vehicles and emergency evacuation situations

- Provide recommendations for ensuring funding for necessary maintenance of transportation infrastructure

- Provide recommendations for improvements to transportation infrastructure with respect to projected population growth and emergency evacuation of electric vehicles

Additionally, the bill would require Metropolitan Planning Organizations to consider the increasing use of electric vehicles in their long-range transportation plan.

Senate Referrals (SB 384): Transportation; Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development; Appropriations

 

SB 542 (Sen. Rodriguez), “Public Financing of Construction Projects”: This bill would require construction contractors to conduct a sea level impact projection study before beginning work on coastal projects that are funded in whole or part by the State of Florida.

The study must assess the flooding, inundation, and wave action damage risks to the project over 50 years. It also has to analyze potential public safety and environmental impacts resulting from damage to the structure including leakage of pollutants. Analysis in the study must take into account sea level rise and increased storm risk over the next 50 years when reaching its conclusions. The study must also include ways to mitigate and reduce risk, including siting the project in a different location.

Senate Referrals (SB 542): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Governmental Oversight and Accountability; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

 

SR 550 (Sen. Broxson), “Gulf of Mexico Range Complex”: SR 550 is a resolution in support of indefinitely extending the current moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The resolution is based on the necessity from a military and defense perspective to keep the GOMEX Range Complex, where the moratorium currently exists, free from oil and gas exploration and production.

An identical resolution has been filed in the House by Rep. Ponder: HR 319. HR 219 is being co-introduced by Rep. Fitzenhagen, Rep. Hanfeldt, Rep. Massullo, Rep. Raschein, and Rep. White.

Senate Referrals (SR 550): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security; Rules

House Referrals (HR 319): Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee (November 8, 2017; 8:00 AM; 12 HOB – Temporarily Postponed); Government Accountability Committee

 

SB 656 (Sen. Rodriguez), “Public Utility Environmental Remediation Costs”: If this bill were to become law, a municipality or county would be able to request a hearing with the Public Service Commission when a utility causes environmental damage within the municipality, county, or adjacent bodies of water. The hearing would determine if the utility acted prudently in the events leading up to or causing the environmental damage AND if the utility acted prudently to remedy the damage. If the Public Service Commission decides that the utility did not act prudently, then the utility must remedy the damage without recovering their costs from ratepayers.

Senate Referrals (for SB 656): Communications, Energy and Public Utilities; Community Affairs; Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Rules

 

SB 716 (Sen. Rodriguez), “Nuclear Cost Recovery”: Florida has nuclear cost-recovery laws which allow utilities to charge ratepayers for the costs of building new nuclear plants. The laws are controversial as they allow the public to be speculatively charged for the construction of nuclear plants, even when the nuclear plants are not ultimately built. SB 716 would repeal these laws.

Senate Referrals (for SB 716): Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities; Community Affairs; Rules

 

SB 852 (Sen. Brandes), “Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program”: This bill would create the Florida Smart City Challenge Grant Program with a $15 million appropriation. The goal of the grant program is to provide local governments and universities opportunities to develop smart mobility solutions, including supporting the reduction or elimination of fossil fuel consumption by relying on renewable energy sources and electric vehicles and technologies.

 

An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Fischer: HB 633.

 

 

 

Environmental

 

SB 316 (Sen. Stewart), “Environmental Regulation Commission”: This bill would:

1)    Establish a deadline of 90 days for filling vacancies on the Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC)

2)    Require four affirmative votes from ERC members to approve standards in rules relating to air quality or water quality standards.

An identical bill was filed in the House by Rep. Willhite: HB 203

Senate Referrals (for SB 316): Environmental Preservation and Conservation (Passed); Ethics and Elections; Rules

House Referrals (for HB 203): Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee (Passed); Judiciary Committee; Government Accountability Committee

 

SB 348 (Sen. Rodriguez), “Disposable Plastic Bags”: This bill would allow coastal communities with a population of fewer than 100,000 to implement pilot programs testing regulations or bans of disposable plastic bags. The pilot programs would take effect on or after January 1, 2019 and would end on or before June 30, 2021. The pilot regulations or bans cannot include new taxes or fees on the use or distribution of disposable plastic bags. Municipalities that implement such pilot programs would collect data on the impact of their regulations or ban and submit a report by April 1, 2022 with this information to the governing board of their municipality at a public hearing. They would also provide a copy of this report to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Senate Referrals (for SB 348): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Community Affairs; Commerce and Tourism; Rules

 

 

 

Wildlife

 

SB 156 (Sen. Stewart), “Florida Black Bear Protection Act”: This bill would prohibit the FWC from allowing bears mothering cubs under 100 pounds to be taken during a Florida black bear hunt. It provides that anyone who unlawfully harvests saw palmetto berries on state lands commits petit theft of the second degree. It allows FWC to designate, on state lands, black bear habitats where females are likely to be denning in February and lands where there are critical food sources for bears. Finally, it would prohibit prescribed burning on state lands during the month of February where the FWC has designated the area as a likely location for black bear denning.

An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Olszeski: HB 559.

Senate Referrals (SB 156): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Criminal Justice; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

House Referrals (for HB 559): Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee; Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee