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2018 Florida Legislative Session

Agriculture Issues for 2018

The second week of the 2018 Regular Legislative Session wrapped up last Friday.

The full text of each bill and any amendments can be found on the legislative web sites. (http://www.flsenate.gov; http://www.myfloridahouse.com; and http://www.leg.state.fl.us.) Updates from the previous report appear in bold text.

Water and Natural Resources

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: CS/SB 204 by Senator Bradley increases the annual appropriation from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) for spring restoration, protection, and management projects from $50 million to $75 million. Additionally, the bill requires $50 million to be appropriated from the LATF to the St. Johns River Water Management District for projects dedicated to the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region. It has passed all of its committees. There is currently no House companion.

“Fracking” Regulation: HB 237 by Representative Peters creates an outright ban to any well stimulation treatment for the exploration or production of oil or natural gas, basically banning “fracking” in any form. It has three committee references. The Senate companion, SB 462 by Senator Young received three committee references and has passed the first committee. 

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: HB 339 by Representative Harrell requires that minimum of the lesser of either 7.6 percent or $50 million must be appropriated annually each fiscal year for projects dedicated to the conservation and management of the Indian River Lagoon. The Department of Environmental Protection is required to use the funds to make grants for projects that implement the updated Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, including multiyear grants for the planning and construction of such projects. The bill has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 786 by Senator Mayfield also has three committees.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: SB 370 by Senator Bradley requires an annual appropriation to the Florida Forever Trust Fund of $100,000,000. It has passed all committees. The House companion, HB 1353 by Representatives Beshears and Ausley has three committee references.

Reclaimed Water Use: HB 1149 by Representative Payne expands the mandates for the rule to be developed by DEP for the use of reclaimed water; and the legislation will require DEP to enter memorandums of understanding with Water Management Districts by December 1, 2018 to provide for the coordinated review of reclaimed water permits. HB 1149 received three committee references. The Senate companion, SB 1308 by Senator Perry received three references and will be heard in its first committee on January 23.

Section 404 Delegation: SB 1402 by Senator Simmons seeks legislative approval for the Department of Environmental Protection to assume administration of section 404 of the Clean Water Act. There will continue to be a separate permit issued, and the assumed permitting will follow all current federal rules, including wetlands jurisdiction, exemptions, etc. It will not follow state time lines, there will be no default permits and applicants will continue to receive consultation from the USFWS for endangered species. The bill is scheduled for its first of three committee hearings on January 22. The House companion, HB 7043 is a committee bill by the Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee. It is recently introduced and has not yet received committee references. 

Water Supply Planning: SB 1506 by Senator Farmer will require each water management district to develop estimated maximum sustainable groundwater withdrawal calculations; it will require other water management districts to implement the consumptive use permitting procedures used by SWFWMD; it will increase procedures to eliminate pollutants; and will require full implementation of BMPs in agricultural areas. The bill has three committee references, but there is currently no House companion bill.

Constitution Review Commission

The CRC has continues to meet. Any proposal must receive a vote of support by at least 22 of the 37 Commissioners to make it onto the ballot. Final decisions of the Commission will be made by May 10, 2018. Proposals and schedules of the CRC can be viewed here: https://www.flcrc.gov/

Proposal 23 establishes a broad constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment for every person. It also creates a private right of action to allow a citizen to enforce the constitutional rights created. It has been introduced by Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, an appointee of Senate President Negron, and has been referred to two committees. It was voted unfavorably in committee.

Proposal 29 mandates the use of the federal E-Verify system by employers. The proposition is in response to the agriculture industry’s prior successful efforts to prevent legislative adoption of the same requirement. It has passed all committees and is pending a vote by the full Commission.

Proposal 48 would expand the authority of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to regulate wildlife habitats and wildlife corridors. It was voted unfavorably in committee.

Agricultural Operations

Nonnative Animals: HB 145 by Representative Beshears requires the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to establish a pilot program to mitigate the impacts of priority invasive species by authorizing FWC to enter into competitively bid contracts with individuals and entities to capture and destroy the priority invasive species found on public lands and public waters. The bill has passed its first of three committees. The Senate companion, SB 168 by Senator Steube has passed its first of three committees.

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS): CS/HB 553 by Representative Raburn is the annual DACS package, which contains various changes within the Department’s jurisdiction. The bill’s highlights include the removal of a requirement that payment for pesticide registration fees be submitted electronically and a specified methodology for the value assessment of screen enclosed structures used in citrus production for pest exclusion. The bill has passed one of three committees. The Senate companion, CS/SB 740 by Senator Stargel is in the same posture. 

Young Farmers and Ranchers: HB 645 by Representative Raburn creates the Florida Young Farmer and Rancher Matching Grant Program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Young Farmer and Rancher Advisory Council within the department; requiring the department to establish a clearinghouse on its website for resources to assist young and beginning farmers and ranchers. It has three committee references. The Senate companion, SB 872 by Senator Grimsley, has passed its first of three committees.

Medical Marijuana: SB 1134 by Senator Rouson eliminates the requirement that one of the next round of Medical Marijuana Treatment Center licenses be issued to a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter. The bill retains the existing requirement that one of the licenses be issued to a recognized class member of Pigford v. Glickman or In Re Black Farmers Litigation. It also creates an easier mechanism than what is available under current law for a medical marijuana patient to change doctors. It has passed its first of three committees. The House companion, HB 6049 by Representatives Jones and Newton has passed all committees and has been placed on the Calendar. 

Medical Marijuana: Christian Bax, Director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use at the Department of Health, has appeared in several legislative committees to speak about the current status of implementing last year’s medical marijuana legislation. He has been questioned about the Department’s failure to issue additional licenses by the statutorily-mandated October 3 deadline, and has cited pending litigation as the problem. Several members have expressed frustration with the delay, but there is still no confirmed date for when applications will be accepted or when new licenses will be awarded. Although submissions are not yet being accepted, the Department has adopted rules and noticed proposed regulations that establish the procedure by which applicants can apply for the next round of Medical Marijuana Treatment Center licenses.

Property Rights, Budget, and Taxes

Tax on Sales, Use, and Other Transactions: SB 60 by Senator Hukill reduces taxes on rental or license fees charged for the use of real property. It has been referred to three committees. The House companion, HB 939 by Representative Toledo has two committees. 

Public Records Exemption for Trade Secrets: HB 461 and HB 459 are related bills by Representative Massullo that repeal all of the various trade secret exemptions that apply to specific agencies and replace them with one uniform exemption. The bills provide that agency contracts and agreements and related information cannot be trade secrets. The bills also detail a process for the owner of trade secret information to claim an exemption from disclosure as a public record and remove liability provisions for agency employees who release such records in good faith. The bills have the effect of significantly limiting protections for trade secrets related to agency contracts from disclosure as public records. The bills have passed the first of two committees. The Senate companion, SB 956 by Representative Mayfield has three committee references.

Tree and Timber Trimming, Removal, and Harvesting: HB 521 by Representative Edwards preempts to state the regulation of trimming, removal, or harvesting of trees and timber on private property. The bill also prohibits certain local governmental actions relating to trimming or removal of trees or timber and burial of vegetative debris on private property. It has three committee references. The Senate companion, SB 574 by Senator Steube also has three committee references.

Tree and Timber Trimming, Removal, and Harvesting: HB 521 by Representative Edwards-Walpole preempts to the state the regulation of trimming, removal, or harvesting of trees and timber on private property. It has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 574 by Senator Steube also has three committees.

Truck License Taxes: SB 672 by Senator Stargel revises which truck tractors and heavy trucks transporting certain agricultural or horticultural products are eligible for reduced license taxes. It has passed two of three committees. The House companion, HB 819 by Representative Williamson has also passed its first of three committees.

Water Management District Surplus Lands: SB 806 by Senator Baxley revises the circumstances when a water management district must publish its intention to sell surplus lands and revises the process for selling certain lower valued surplus lands. The bill has passed its first of three committees and is scheduled to be heard again on January 23. The House companion, HB 703 by Representative Burgess has passed its first committee.

Citrus Tax Deduction: At the federal level, Congressman Buchanan amended the provisions of his Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act onto the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that passed in December. It offers farmers who are replacing diseased or damaged trees a full deduction in the first year, giving incentives for growers to plant more trees. If the farmer owns at least 50 percent of the grove, they are allowed to use the deduction even if investors are involved.

Ad Valorem Taxation: SB 916 by Senator Grimsley defines the terms “heavy equipment rental property,” “dealer of heavy equipment rental property,” and “short-term rental,” and redefines the term “inventory,” for purposes of provisions relating to the imposition of ad valorem taxes. The bill has been referred to three committees. The House companion, HB 1271 by Representative Ahern has two committee references.

Citrus Emergency Loan Program: After Hurricane Irma, Governor Scott activated a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program to support citrus growers impacted by the storm. The program provided interest-free loans to citrus growers that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm. The loans were intended to bridge the gap pending longer term recovery resources, which Florida officials are currently working to secure at the federal level. The application period closed on November 30, 2017. Citrus growers who maintain a citrus grove in production in any of Florida’s 67 counties affected by Hurricane Irma could apply for loans up to $150,000. These interest-free loans were granted in terms of up to one year. To be eligible, a grower must have been established prior to September 4, 2017, and demonstrate economic injury or physical damage as a result of Hurricane Irma.

Citrus Funding: The Governor’s proposed 2018-19 state budget includes $22 million for the citrus industry, including $10 million for the Citrus Research and Development Foundation based in Lake Alfred, which is leading the search for a greening solution. Scott’s budget proposal also includes $5 million to support marketing programs at the Florida Department of Citrus aimed at increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of fresh Florida citrus fruit and orange juice.

Other Legislation of Interest

Federal Immigration Enforcement: HB 9 by Representative Metz creates the “Rule of Law Adherence Act” to require state and local governments and law enforcement agencies (covered bodies), including their officials, agents, and employees, to support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The bill passed the full House. The Senate companion, SB 308 by Senator Bean, has two committee references but has not been heard.

Agency Rulemaking: CS/CS/HB 83 establishes that in a challenge to repeal an agency rule, the repeal must be considered presumptively correct by the adjudicating body. The bill has passed all committees and has been placed on the Calendar. The Senate companion, SB 912 Senator Broxson has passed one of three committees.

Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC): HB 203 by Representative Willhite changes how the Governor may fill vacancies on the ERC and changes the voting requirements for certain standards approved, modified, or disapproved by the ERC. The bill has passed its first of three committees. The Senate companion, SB 316 by Senator Stewart has also passed its first of three committees.

 

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The first week of the 2018 Regular Legislative Session is complete.

The full text of each bill and any amendments can be found on the legislative web sites.  (http://www.flsenate.gov; http://www.myfloridahouse.com; and http://www.leg.state.fl.us.) Updates from the previous report appear in bold text.

Water and Natural Resources

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: CS/SB 204 by Senator Bradley increases the annual appropriation from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) for spring restoration, protection, and management projects from $50 million to $75 million. Additionally, the bill requires $50 million to be appropriated from the LATF to the St. Johns River Water Management District for projects dedicated to the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region. It has passed two of three committees. There is currently no House companion.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: HB 339 by Representative Harrell requires that minimum of the lesser of either 7.6 percent or $50 million must be appropriated annually each fiscal year for projects dedicated to the conservation and management of the Indian River Lagoon. The Department of Environmental Protection is required to use the funds to make grants for projects that implement the updated Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, including multiyear grants for the planning and construction of such projects. The bill has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 786 by Senator Mayfield also has three committees.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: SB 370 by Senator Bradley requires an annual appropriation to the Florida Forever Trust Fund of $100,000,000. It has passed two of all committees. The House companion, HB 1353 by Representatives Beshears and Ausley is recently filed and has not received committee references.

Section 404 Delegation:  DEP’s top priority this session is seeking legislative approval for the Department to assume administration of section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  There will continue to be a separate permit issued, and the assumed permitting will follow all current federal rules, including wetlands jurisdiction, exemptions, etc.  It will not follow state time lines, there will be no default permits and applicants will continue to receive consultation from the USFWS for endangered species.  Draft legislation is available if anyone wishes to review it, as are draft MOAs with EPA and the Corps. The legislation will likely surface as a committee bill later in Session.

Constitution Review Commission

The CRC has continues to meet.  Any proposal must receive a vote of support by at least 22 of the 37 Commissioners to make it onto the ballot.  Final decisions of the Commission will be made by May 10, 2018.  Proposals and schedules of the CRC can be viewed here: https://www.flcrc.gov/

Proposal 23 establishes a broad constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment for every person. It also creates a private right of action to allow a citizen to enforce the constitutional rights created.  It has been introduced by Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, an appointee of Senate President Negron, and has been referred to two committees. It was voted unfavorably in committee.

Proposal 29 mandates the use of the federal E-Verify system by employers. The proposition is in response to the agriculture industry’s prior successful efforts to prevent legislative adoption of the same requirement.  It has passed its first of two committees.

Proposal 48 would expand the authority of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to regulate wildlife habitats and wildlife corridors. It was voted unfavorably in committee.

Agricultural Operations

Nonnative Animals: HB 145 by Representative Beshears requires the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to establish a pilot program to mitigate the impacts of priority invasive species by authorizing FWC to enter into competitively bid contracts with individuals and entities to capture and destroy the priority invasive species found on public lands and public waters. The bill has passed its first of three committees.  The Senate companion, SB 168 by Senator Steube has passed its first of three committees.

Young Farmers and Ranchers: HB 645 by Representative Raburn creates the Florida Young Farmer and Rancher Matching Grant Program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Young Farmer and Rancher Advisory Council within the department; requiring the department to establish a clearinghouse on its website for resources to assist young and beginning farmers and ranchers. It has three committee references.  The Senate companion, SB 872 by Senator Grimsley, has passed its first of three committees.

Medical Marijuana: Christian Bax, Director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use at the Department of Health, has appeared in several legislative committees to speak about the current status of implementing last year’s medical marijuana legislation.  He has been questioned about the Department’s failure to issue additional licenses by the statutorily-mandated October 3 deadline, and has cited pending litigation as the problem. Several members have expressed frustration with the delay, but there is still no confirmed date for when applications will be accepted or when new licenses will be awarded. Although submissions are not yet being accepted, the Department has adopted rules and noticed proposed regulations that establish the procedure by which applicants can apply for the next round of Medical Marijuana Treatment Center licenses.

Property Rights, Budget, and Taxes

Public Records Exemption for Trade Secrets: HB 459 by Representative Massullo significantly limits protections for trade secrets related to agency contracts from disclosure as public records. The bill has two committee references. The Senate companion, SB 956 by Representative Mayfield has three committee references.

Tree and Timber Trimming, Removal, and Harvesting: HB 521 by Representative Edwards preempts to state the regulation of trimming, removal, or harvesting of trees and timber on private property. The bill also prohibits certain local governmental actions relating to trimming or removal of trees or timber and burial of vegetative debris on private property. It has three committee references. The Senate companion, SB 574 by Senator Steube also has three committee references.

Truck License Taxes: SB 672 by Senator Stargel revises which truck tractors and heavy trucks transporting certain agricultural or horticultural products are eligible for reduced license taxes. It has passed its first of three committees. The House companion, HB 819 by Representative Williamson has also passed its first of three committees.

Water Management District Surplus Lands: SB 806 by Senator Baxley revises the circumstances when a water management district must publish its intention to sell surplus lands and revises the process for selling certain lower valued surplus lands. The bill is scheduled to be heard in its first of three committees on January 16.  The House companion, HB 703 by Representative Burgess has passed its first committee.

Citrus Tax Deduction: At the federal level, Congressman Buchanan amended the provisions of his Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act onto the Tax Cut and Jobs Act that passed in December. It offers farmers who are replacing diseased or damaged trees a full deduction in the first year, giving incentives for growers to plant more trees. If the farmer owns at least 50 percent of the grove, they are allowed to use the deduction even if investors are involved

Citrus Emergency Loan Program: After Hurricane Irma, Governor Scott activated a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program to support citrus growers impacted by the storm. The program provided interest-free loans to citrus growers that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm.  The loans were intended to bridge the gap pending longer term recovery resources, which Florida officials are currently working to secure at the federal level. The application period closed on November 30, 2017. Citrus growers who maintain a citrus grove in production in any of Florida’s 67 counties affected by Hurricane Irma could apply for loans up to $150,000. These interest-free loans were granted in terms of up to one year. To be eligible, a grower must have been established prior to September 4, 2017, and demonstrate economic injury or physical damage as a result of Hurricane Irma.

Citrus Funding: The Governor’s proposed 2018-19 state budget includes $22 million for the citrus industry, including $10 million for the Citrus Research and Development Foundation based in Lake Alfred, which is leading the search for a greening solution. Scott’s budget proposal also includes $5 million to support marketing programs at the Florida Department of Citrus aimed at increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of fresh Florida citrus fruit and orange juice.

Other Legislation of Interest

Federal Immigration Enforcement: HB 9 by Representative Metz creates the “Rule of Law Adherence Act” to require state and local governments and law enforcement agencies (covered bodies), including their officials, agents, and employees, to support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The bill passed its only committee and is on Third Reading. The Senate companion, SB 308 by Senator Bean, has two committee references but has not been heard.Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC): HB 203 by Representative Willhite changes how the Governor may fill vacancies on the ERC and changes the voting requirements for certain standards approved, modified, or disapproved by the ERC. The bill has passed its first of three committees. The Senate companion, SB 316 by Senator Stewart has also passed its first of three committees.