2016 Legislative Session Bill Summaries

Note:  This is a summary of pending legislation, and is provided as a service of the Florida Conservation Coalition to our members.  To date, the FCC has identified the top pieces of legislation as priorities.

 
 

Priority Legislation

 
SB 552 (Sen. Dean) / HB 7005 (Rep. Caldwell): FCC sent an action alert on this bill requesting amendments be made to strengthen the bill. SB 552 was passed by the Senate and the House without amendments. An FCC letter requesting a veto of the bill, signed by Senator Graham and several environmental organizations, stated that this legislation leaves the people, businesses, and environment of Florida unprepared to meet the water challenges of the 21st century. It urged Governor Scott to veto this bill, send it back to the Legislature, and ask them to send him a bill that focuses more on water conservation and providing stronger mechanisms for controlling pollution at its sources now.

Current Status: Governor Scott signed SB 552 into law on January 21, 2016.

 
SB 1290 (Sen. W. Simpson)/ HB 1075 (Rep. Caldwell): These bills threaten Florida’s ability to acquire, preserve and manage state conservation lands.

The following provisions in these bills are of greatest concern:

- Section 5 and Section 6 allow the State to surplus and sell state lands when it determines that the land's short-term management goals are not being met, if it is not actively manageed by any state agency, or if a management plan has not been completed. Failure to meet short-term management goals, an incomplete management plan, or lack of active management may be a direct result of inadequate land management funding by the Legislature, or other temporary or avoidable situations, and should not be used as an excuse to dispose of conservation lands. Instead, the Legislature should ensure adequate funding for the management of Florida's conservation lands.

- Section 6 also directs the Division of State Lands to review all state-owned conservation lands every ten years to determine whether any can be surplused. This is a duplicative and unnecessary provision since each land management plan requires a review for surplus on a roating basis when the management plan is updated.

- Section 8 allows private land owners who own land contiguous to state-owned lands to exchange it for the state-owned land, including state park land, if the state is given a permanent conservation easement over both parcels in the exchange. Conservation easements are often less protective of the environment than the management plans for state-owned land, resulting in practices that diminish the conservation values of the lands. Placing state lands in private ownership also reduces the ability of the state to comprehensively manage conservation lands. Finally, this type of exchange will often result in the loss of public access to lands that are currently owned by the state, diminishing the recreational value of the land. This daunting prospect would have a significantly negative impact on such beloved places as Paynes Prairie State Park and Myakka River State Park were they to be placed into private ownership under this provision.

- Section 14 allows money from Florida Forever, the state's premiere land acquisition program, to be used to fund all water resource development hardward, including the construction of treatment, transmission, and distribution facilities. Utilizing Florida Forever funds for the construction of water supply infrastructure is currently prohibited under state law. This change comes on the heels of Floridians overwhelmingly approving Amendment 1 in an effort to restore funding for land acquisition. With billions of dollars needed for local water infrastructure projects around the state, this provision could readily exhaust the funds set aside in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, leaving inadequate funding available for acquiring conservation land, and negating the benefits of Amendment 1.

- Section 15, 17, 21, and 22 allow state lands to be managed for conservation OR recreational purposes, deleting the requirement that state lands be managed in accordance with the purpose for which they were acquired. This could result in conservation lands being managed solely for recreational purposes, which might include converting natural lands into golf courses and other such inappropriate uses, harming the conservation value of the lands and betraying the original intent of acquiring the lands.

Current Status: HB 1075 has one committee stop left in the House. SB 1290 has not been placed on the agenda for its first Senate committee.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government; Appropriations

House Referrals: Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee (Passed); Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee (Passed); State Affairs Committee

 
Environmental Appropriations

In 2014, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 1 to ensure dedicated funding for managing and acquiring conservation lands. Following the disappointing funding allocations for environmental priorities such as land acquisition and springs protection in the 2015 Legislative Session, the FCC will be closely monitoring the appropriations process and funding proposals in 2016. This year, the FCC is asking the Florida Legislature to allocate $300 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (Amendment 1 dollars) to the Florida Forever program for land acquisition. The FCC is actively working with counties across Florida, asking them to pass resolutions that support this request.

Appropriations could be shaped by several bills discussed below. SB 1168/HB989 would dedicate $200 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF), or 25% of the total amount in the LATF, to Everglades restoration. SB1290/ HB1075 would allow Florida Forever funds to be used for construction of water treatment, transmission, and distribution facilities. To date, no bills have been filed guaranteeing funding for the Florida Forever program or land conservation and acquisition outside of the Everglades.

 
 

Other Environmental Legislation of Interest

 
Water

 
SB 1400 (Sen. Gibson)/ HB 1159 (Rep. Antone): These bills create the Water Oversight and Planning Board. The Board is authorized to oversee regional water supply and water quality planning, flood protection planning, and environmental restoration. The board includes two members appointed by the Governor, several industry-minded members, and only one representative from an environmental organization. The stated purposes of this bill are basic functions of the water management districts. This board would appear to replace or override the authority of the Districts and further weaken the autonomy and independence of the water management districts.

Current Status: Not on agenda for any committees.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government; Appropriations

House Referrals: Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee; Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; State Affairs Committee

 
SB 658 (Sen. Evers)/ HB 851 (Rep. Drake): Legislation banning the land-spreading of waste material from septic tanks was passed in 2010. These bills repeal that ban on the land application of septage, allowing nutrient pollution from septic tanks to continue to spread into our waterways.

Current Status: HB 851 has passed all House committees and has been added to the Second Reading calendar on the House floor. SB 658 has not been placed on a Senate committee agenda.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Health Policy; Fiscal Policy

House Referrals: Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee (Passed); State Affairs Committee (Passed)

 
SB 318 (Sen. Richter)/ HB 191 (Rep. Rodrigues): Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a type of “high pressure well stimulation” (HPWS) that utilizes high pressure, significant amounts of fresh water, and potentially hazardous chemicals to fracture the underground strata and increase production and recovery of oil and gas. Due to Florida’s geology, several other types of well stimulation techniques will also be used in this state. According to these bills, the definition of HPWS does not apply when rock is incidentally fractured by a well stimulation treatment, yet, by definition, HPWS is a well stimulation treatment that fractures rock.

These bills provide funding and require a study regarding HPWS in Florida, require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop rules for regulating HPWS, and impose a moratorium on HPWS permits until the study is complete and the rules have been ratified.  The bills also allow well operators to withhold information on the chemicals they’ve used in their operations for 60 days after the operation and then explicitly prevent public disclosure of many of these chemicals. Additionally, these bills pre-empt local governments from banning any well stimulation treatments, even if they have existing bans in place.

These bills are very controversial; they are opposed by several conservation organizations, local governments, and media, and supported by the petroleum industry.

Current Status: The House passed HB 191, with amendments, on 1/27/2016 by a 73-45 vote.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government (Passed); Appropriations

House Referrals: Agriculture & Natural Resource Subcommittee (Passed); Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee (Passed); State Affairs Committee (Passed)

 
Conservation

 
SB 570 (Sen. Dean): This bill eliminates state park entrance fees for one year. $27.3 million would be allocated to the State Park Trust Fund within the DEP to fund state parks for one year.

Current Status: There is no companion bill for SB 570 in the House.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government (Passed); Appropriations.

 
Growth Management

 
SB 7000 (Sen. Simpson): Development projects that impact communities outside the jurisdiction of the local government which approves the project must currently go through the “state coordinated review process.” This bill would eliminate this requirement for new projects if the land use proposed by the developer is consistent with the existing comprehensive plan and zoning requirements of the approving municipality.

Current Status: This bill has passed through all of its committee stops in the Senate. It does not have a companion bill in the House.

Senate Referrals: Community Affairs (Passed); Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development (Passed); Fiscal Policy (Passed)

 
SB 1190 (Sen. Diaz de la Portilla)/ HB 1361(Rep. Mike La Rosa): These bills originally allowed existing Developments of Regional Impact (DRI) to change their plans without approval by the Department of Economic Opportunity or the applicable local government. Additionally, these bills reduce the acreage required for a development to qualify as a Sector Plan.

Two positive changes these bills were approved by the House and Senate. The first protects the ability of local governments to decide whether to approve or deny changes to existing DRIs that seek to reduce density, height or intensity. The second requires that land use changes to an essentially built out DRI must be approved by the local government and that the developer must demonstrate that the exchange will not result in a net increase in impacts to public facilities.

Current Status: SB 1190 has two remaining committee stops and HB 1361 has one final committee stop.

Senate Referrals: Community Affairs (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development; Fiscal Policy

House Referrals: Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee (Passed); Local Government Affairs Subcommittee (Passed); Economic Affairs Committee

 
SB 584 (Sen. Brandes)/ HB 929 (Rep. Ahern): These bills provide matching grants to local governments for projects that would reduce flood hazard risks. It also authorizes the Florida Communities Trust to take a leadership role over flood mitigation projects and allows the Trust to acquire and dispose of real and personal property or specified interest to reduce flood risk when necessary.

A concern with this bill, as originally filed, was that it could allow for increased funding of coastal armoring projects that would harm coastal habitats and threaten endangered sea turtle nesting sites. The bill has been amended to only allow the development of natural or green infrastructure which eliminates this concern.

The House essentially stripped all policy and funding from HB 929 before passing it in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

Current Status: Neither bill is on a committee agenda.

Senate Referrals: Community Affairs (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development (Passed); Appropriations

House Referrals: Insurance & Banking Subcommittee (Passed); Economic Affairs Committee

 
Regional Environmental Financing

 
SB 770 (Sen. Simpson)/ HB 447 (Rep. Raschein): These bills, known as the “Florida Keys Stewardship Act,” provide funding mechanisms for projects to protect the Florida Keys including land acquisition, water quality improvement projects, alternative water supply projects, and projects which mitigate the negative impacts of new development on hurricane evacuation times.

Current Status: Neither bill is on a committee agenda.

Senate Referrals: Community Affairs (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government; Appropriations

House Referrals: Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee (Passed); Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; State Affairs Committee

 
SB 1168 (Sen. Negron)/ HB 989 (Rep. Harrell): These bills state that either 25% or $200 million of funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, whichever quantity is smaller, will be provided for projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Projects that reduce harmful water discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries are given priority.

None of the bills currently filed this session provide funding from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for acquisition of conservation lands and needs in other parts of the state.

Current Status: Neither bill is on a committee agenda.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government; Appropriations

House Referrals: Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee (Passed); Appropriations Committee

 
Wildlife

 
SB 1674 (Sen. Sachs): This bill makes the disposal of “bear-attracting garbage” outside of bear-resistant containers in “high human-bear conflict areas” punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Current Status: This bill does not have a companion in the House and is not on any committee agendas.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government; Appropriations

 
SB 1096 (Sen. Soto)/ HB 1055 (Rep. Pafford): These bills set up a revolving fund for local governments to provide bear-resistant garbage receptacles to their constituents. They protect natural black bear food sources on state lands by prohibiting the harvesting of saw palmetto berries and the timbering of acorn-producing trees. They call for controlled burns to encourage the growth of trees and plants that provide natural sources of food for black bears in an effort to prevent black bears from entering residential areas in search of food.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has continually stated that trash management is the most effective way of reducing bear-human conflict. As long as bears have access to human attractants like trash, bird feed, and pet food, they will continue to enter residential areas placing both humans and bears at risk.

Current Status: Neither bill is on a committee agenda.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government; Appropriations

House Referrals: Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee; Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; State Affairs Committee

 
Climate Change/ Renewable Energy

 
SB 838 (Sen. Evers)/HB 639 (Rep. Diaz, M.) : These bills prevent the state from implementing or planning to implement regulations that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from stationary sources in Florida in order to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan. The state would not be allowed to take these actions until the U.S. Congress passes legislation limiting carbon dioxide from existing stationary sources or a federal court upholds the Clean Power Plan. If the current litigation of the proposed EPA regulation results in the rules being upheld, and Congress fails to pass legislation to the contrary, sources in Florida would be required to comply with the federal law.

Current Status: Neither bill is on a committee agenda.

House Referrals: Energy & Utilities Subcommittee (Passed); Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee; Regulatory Affairs Committee

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities; Fiscal Policy

 
SB 170 (Sen. Brandes)/ HB 195 (Rep. Rodrigues and Rep. Berman): These bills propose an amendment to Florida’s Constitution to provide limited ad valorem tax breaks for properties with renewable energy devices. The amendment is set to expire in 2036.

Current Status: SB 170 is not on a committee agenda. HB 195 has been added to the Second Reading Calendar on the House floor.

Senate Referrals: Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities (Passed); Community Affairs (Passed); Finance and Tax (Passed); Appropriations

House Referrals: Energy & Utilities Subcommittee (Passed); Finance & Tax Committee (Passed); Regulatory Affairs Committee (Passed)

 
Miscellaneous

 
SB 306 (Sen. Bullard) / HB 143 (Rep. Richardson): These bills give coastal municipalities with fewer than 100,000 residents the authority to begin pilot projects to regulate or ban plastic bags within their jurisdiction. Pilot projects are temporary and reports from the project are to be submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Current Status: Neither bill is on a committee agenda.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation (Passed); Community Affairs; Fiscal Policy

House Referrals: Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee; Business & Professions Subcommittee; Local Government Affairs Subcommittee; State Affairs Committee

 
 SB 400 (Sen. Hays) / HB 561 (Rep. Combee): These bills authorize the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection to establish and delete divisions and offices within the Department as the Secretary deems fit.

Current Status: Neither bill is on a committee agenda.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation (Passed); Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government (Passed); Appropriations

House Referrals: Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee (Passed); Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; State Affairs Committee