Legislative Update - February 15, 2017

Dear Friend,

I hope you had a happy Valentine’s Day!

I wanted to update you on what’s been going on in Tallahassee as the start of the Legislative Session draws closer.

Below you will find updated bill summaries. You can check here to read about new bills that have been filed, see if bills you’re interested in have been assigned committee stops, see which bills have passed through their first committee, and note which bills are scheduled for discussion at a future committee meeting. Here are the highlights:

Some bills that were only filed in one chamber (the Senate or the House of Representatives), now have partners in the other chamber. Representative Thad Altman, for example, filed a bill identical to SB 10 (the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir bill) in the House.

The agenda for the next Senate Environmental, Preservation, and Conservation committee was posted. The next meeting will take place on February 21st at 3:30 PM, and will feature discussions on 3 environmental bills we’re tracking: SB 230, “Nonnative Animals”; SB 234, “Land Acquisition Trust Fund”; and SB 90, “Renewable Energy Source Devices.”

I’ve included summaries for a few new environmental bills that have been filed since my last update. Representative Peters filed HB 663 which would allocate $100 million annually from the LATF (2014’s Amendment One dollars) to water supply and quality infrastructure projects. Senator Simmons filed a bill to strengthen the dike around Lake Okeechobee so that the lake can hold more water in an effort to prevent harmful lake discharges. Two wildlife-related bills have been filed, one that relates to black bears and one that relates to sharks. Finally, Representative Caldwell filed a budget request for a water use fee study. This idea has long been championed by our Member and Affiliate Groups as a way to encourage water conservation.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Best,

Gladys

 

2017 Legislative Session Bill Summaries

Note: This is a summary of filed environmental legislation, and is provided as a service of the Florida Conservation Coalition to our members. To date, the FCC has identified the top piece(s) of legislation as priorities.

 

Florida Conservation Coalition Legislative Priorities

 

Funding for Conservation Land Acquisition

The FCC will continue to advocate for increased funding for conservation land acquisition in step with the will of the voters who overwhelmingly passed 2014’s Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment.

Appropriations will be shaped by last year’s Legacy Florida Act and several other bills discussed below.

 

 

Other Environmental Legislation of Interest

 

 

Land Acquisition Trust Fund

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

SB 10 (Sen. Bradley), “Reservoir Project in the Everglades Agricultural Area”: This bill is related to Senator Negron’s proposal to buy land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, south of Lake Okeechobee, for construction of a reservoir to help reduce discharges to coastal estuaries and send water south into Everglades National Park. SB 10 permits all costs associated with the reservoir, including the costs for land acquisition, construction, and operation and maintenance, to be funded out of the Florida Forever program – historically the primary source for statewide conservation land acquisition. The bill authorizes bonding of $1.2 billion to purchase land either through a willing seller, by executing the existing contract with U.S. Sugar, or through other means.

An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Altman: HB 761.

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

SB 112 (Sen. Brandes/Sen. Rodriguez), “Flood Hazard Mitigation”: This bill would:

1)    Subject to appropriation, allocate up to $50 million annually from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for flood hazard risk reduction policies and projects, including the acquisition of flood-prone property and development of green infrastructure to reduce the risk of flooding. Funds would be used for a matching grant program through the Division of Emergency Management.

2)    Require an annual appropriation of a sum not to exceed $820,000 from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the Emergency Management, Preparedness, and Assistance Trust Fund for nonrecurring administrative costs of implementing the grant program.

3)    Add Flood Mitigation Projects to the list of projects that the Florida Communities Trust program can fund, undertake, and coordinate.

An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Ahern: HB 613

Senate Referrals: Banking and Insurance; Community Affairs; Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development; Appropriations

House Referrals: Oversight, Transparency and Administration Subcommittee; Appropriations Committee; Government Accountability Committee

SB 230 (Sen. Artiles), “Nonnative Animals”: This bill would allocate $300,000 annually, for two years, from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to implement a pilot program focused on mitigating the impact of tegu lizards and other invasive species on public lands. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection, would establish this pilot program with the goal of examining the benefits of using strategically deployed hunting teams to target 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, 2020.

A similar bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Beshears: HB 587. The House bill extends the focus of the bill to include lionfish and invasive species in public waters, in addition to invasive species on public lands.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation (February 21, 2017; 3:30 PM; 37 Senate Office Building); Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

House Referrals: Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee; Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

SB 234 (Sen. Bradley), “Land Acquisition Trust Fund”: This bill would require an annual allocation of $35 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the St. Johns River Water Management District to help fund projects dedicated to the restoration and enhancement of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation (February 21, 2017; 3:30 PM; 37 Senate Office Building); Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

HB 551 (Rep. Stone), “Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems”: This bill would require an annual appropriation of $20 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. These funds would be used to help property owners retrofit their septic systems or switch to central sewer when DEP finds that their septic systems are contributing excess nutrient pollution to the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. The funds would also be used for muck dredging and storm-water improvements in the northern Indian River Lagoon.

Additionally, this bill would require the adoption of septic tank remediation plans where DEP determines they’re necessary for meeting pollution reduction goals set by Total Maximum Daily (Pollution) Loads for water bodies. Plans would include options for septic system repair, upgrade, or replacement; drain field modification; the addition of effective nutrient-reducing features; and connection to central sewer.

A similar bill has been filed in the Senate by Senator Young: SB 874.

House Referrals: Natural Resources & Public Lands Subcommittee; Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

HB 663 (Rep. Peters), “Implementation of the Water and Land Conservation Constitutional Amendment: This bill would amend the Land Acquisition Trust Fund Statute to appropriate a minimum of the lesser of 12.5 percent or $100 million, annually, through the 2026-2027 fiscal year, to the Department of Environmental Protection for water supply and water resource development projects identified in a recovery or prevention strategy or in a regional water supply plan. The money could also be used for water quality restoration projects identified in a basin management action plan or a reasonable assurance plan.

SB 816 (Sen. Simmons), “Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes”: This bill would require the South Florida Water Management District to request the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite repair, improvement, and strengthening of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee so as to reach substantial completion before July of 2020. It aims to ensure that Lake Okeechobee discharges are executed only as part of a schedule approved by the District. The bill would set a goal of holding an additional 2 feet of water in Lake Okeechobee so that maximum discharges wouldn’t be required until the water level of the lake reached 19 feet. The bill also directs the District to request the Corps work with them to reevaluate the CERP with the intention of increasing storage in the authorized Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir on A-1 and A-2 lands AND to provide water quality treatment.

SB 816 permits all costs associated with maintaining the dike, including the costs for land acquisition, construction, and operation and maintenance, to be funded out of the Florida Forever program – historically the primary source for statewide conservation land acquisition. It further states that up to $1 billion in Florida Forever bond proceeds in the 2017-2018 fiscal year shall be deposited to the Everglades Trust Fund for dike repair, improvement, and strengthening. This money would be additional to funds allocated to Everglades restoration in last year’s Legacy Act. The funding to accomplish this, in excess of state obligation under the C&SF agreement, would be considered an interest-free loan to the United States.

 

Water

HB 285 (Rep. Fischer/ Rep. Leek/ Rep. Massullo), “Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Inspections”: This bill would require septic system inspections at the time of sale for real estate transactions.

House Referrals: Agriculture & Property Rights Subcommittee; Natural Resources & Public Lands Subcommittee; Commerce Committee

HB 413 (Rep. Antone), “Water Oversight and Planning”: This bill would establish a Water Oversight & Planning Board to oversee regional water supply and water quality planning, flood protection planning, and environmental restoration. The board would include two members appointed by the Governor, several industry-minded members, and one representative from an environmental organization. The stated purposes of this Board are basic functions of the water management districts.

House Referrals: Natural Resources & Public Lands Subcommittee; Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

SB 532 (Sen. Galvano/Sen. Stewart), “Public Notification of Pollution”: This bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to publish a list of substances that would present an immediate and substantial risk to public health, safety, or welfare if released at specified quantities. If these substances are released into the environment, the owner or operator must report the release to DEP within 24 hours. If an owner or operator of an installation fails to comply with this law, they would be subject to up to $10,000 per day of civil penalties for each violation.

The bill would also require to DEP to share each report under this law with the public within 24 hours.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

HB 573 (Rep. Burton), “Heartland Headwaters Protection & Sustainability Act”: This bill declares that the Polk Regional Water Cooperative is in the public interest, thereby eliminating the requirement for the Secretary of DEP to approve the interlocal agreement. It would require a comprehensive annual report, including estimated project costs and completion dates, for water resource projects identified for priority state funding within the Polk Regional Water Cooperative’s jurisdiction. Additionally, the bill would allow counties to use local government infrastructure surtaxes to fund the work of Regional Water Supply Authorities. Beginning in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, and ending in the 2036-2037 fiscal year, the bill would require an annual appropriation for projects identified for priority state funding in the aforementioned annual report.

House Referrals: Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee; Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

 

“Fracking”

SB 442, (Sen. Young/Sen. Perry/Sen. Farmer/ Sen. Latvala/ Sen. Stewart), “Advanced Well Stimulation Treatment”: This bill would ban “advanced well stimulation” techniques, including “fracking,” in Florida. It makes it clear that a permit for drilling or operating a well doesn’t authorize the performance of “advanced well stimulation treatments.”

An identical bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Miller: HB 451.

A similar bill had been filed in the House by Rep. Jenne (HB 35). It had been referred to committees. Senator Farmer had previously filed a similar bill, SB 98, which had been referred to committees as well. Senator Farmer is currently co-sponsoring SB 442.

Senate Referrals (for SB 442): Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

House Referrals (for HB 451): Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee; Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

SJR 108 (Sen. Farmer), “Extreme Well Stimulation Ban Resolution”: This resolution proposes an amendment to the Constitution that would ban extreme well stimulation techniques, including “fracking,” in Florida.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Community Affairs; Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources; Appropriations

 

 

Environmental Regulation Commission

SB 198 (Sen. Stewart/Sen. Rodriguez), “Environmental Regulation Commission”: This bill would:

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

2)    Require a supermajority of the ERC to approve standards in rules relating to air pollution; water quality standards; regulation of consumptive usage of water; hazardous substance release notification; ambient air quality standards; emission standards for stationary sources; surface water quality standards; ground water classes, standards, and exemptions; and drinking water classes, standards, and exemptions.

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Ethics and Elections; Rules

 

Renewable Energy

SB 90 (Sen. Brandes), “Renewable Energy Source Devices”: This bill would implement 2016’s Amendment 4.

Previously renewable energy source devices were exempt from consideration when assessing the value of residential property. This bill extends this exemption to commercial properties as well.

This bill would also exempt renewable energy source devices from ad valorem taxation until December 31, 2037.

Senate Referrals: Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities (Passed); Community Affairs (February 21, 2017; 12:30 PM; 301 Senate Office Building); Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax; Appropriations

SB 456 (Sen. Rodriguez), “Public Utilities”: This bill would exempt certain producers of renewable solar-based energy from being defined as a public utility. It would allow, for example, apartment complexes who produce solar power to sell power to their tenants without having to go through a utility.

 

Plastic Bags

SB 162 (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, 2018 and would end on or before June 30, 2020. 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, 2020 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.

A similar bill has been filed in the House by Rep. Richardson, Rep. Geller, and Rep. Slosberg: HB 93

Senate Referrals: Environmental Preservation and Conservation; Community Affairs; Commerce and Tourism; Rules

House Referrals: Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee; Careers and Competition Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

 

Wildlife

HB 491 (Rep. Mercado/ Rep. Baez), “FloridaBlack Bear Habitat Restoration Act”: The bill declares that it is the intent of the Legislature to enact measures to restore black bear habitat and thereby reduce human-bear conflicts.

It would:

1)    Establish a Bear-Resistant Garbage Container Account, with a minimum appropriation of $1 million, within the Nongame Wildlife Trust Fund. Counties with bear-human conflicts would be able to apply for funding assistance for bear-resistant garbage containers from this Account.

2)    Require burn schedules for state forests and parks to be adjusted to allow for the regrowth of oak trees, saw palmettos, and other berry-producing plants that black bears eat to the extent that, after such regrowth, bears are not compelled to enter residential areas in search of food.

3)    Prohibit roller-chopping of saw palmettos in black bear habitat.

4)    Prohibit the sale of timbering rights to acorn-producing trees in state forests and state parks with black bear habitat.

5)    Prohibit hunting black bears until July 1, 2027.

6)    Require FWC to conduct a 5-year population trend study of the Florida black bear which includes an analysis of the potential impact of hunting.

7)    Prohibit saw palmetto berry harvesting on state lands with black bear habitat.

8)    Establish a sales certificate system for saw palmetto berry transactions.

9)    Prohibits prescribed burns in black bear habitat, during denning season, until a certificate from FWC is obtained that says that no adult female bears with juvenile offspring are denning within the burn site.

House Referrals: Natural Resources & Public Lands Subcommittee; Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; Government Accountability Committee

SB 884 (Sen. Hutson), “Sharks”: This bill would prohibit the possession, sale, trade, or distribution of shark fins or shark tails without a special permit. It would require any shark fins or tails seized by the FWC to be destroyed.



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