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 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 all nonnative animals determined by the FWC to threaten the state’s wildlife habitats to be implanted with a PIT tag before sale.
An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Beshears: HB 145.
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; 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; 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), “Land Acquisition Trust Fund”: 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
SB 370 (Sen. Bradley), “Land Acquisition Trust Fund”: 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.
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.
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.
House Referrals (for HB 207): Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee; Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee; Commerce Committee
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), “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.
House Referrals (for HB 237): Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Natural Resource and Public Lands Subcommittee; Appropriations Committee
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.
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; Ethics and Elections; Rules
House Referrals (for HB 203): Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee; 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.
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.
Senate Referrals (SB 156): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Criminal Justice; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations