2017 Florida Legislative Session

The first week of the 2017 Regular Legislative Session is complete.

We will provide periodic updates as the Legislative Session continues, and for any relevant legislation, 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 last report are in bold text.

Water and Natural Resources

Negron Land Purchase Plan: SB 10 by Senator Bradley directs the South Florida Water Management District to secure willing sellers of 60,000 acres for a reservoir. The plan involves $1.2 billion in bonding. SB 10 has passed two committees. The bill continues to be vigorously opposed by the Executive branch, SFWMD and agricultural and business entities. The bill has been amended by adding funding for other water related programs and clarifies that eminent domain is prohibited, but it still remains problematic for landowners because it continues to mandate the acquisition of between 60,000 and 153,000 acres of valuable agricultural lands without demonstrating the need for the land. The current version of the bill also reduces the bonding capacity for Florida Forever by $3.3 billion and transfers the bonded authority to a new bond program for water resource development. The state anticipates the federal government would cover $1.2 billion in a 50-50 split on the reservoir. Negron and Bradley proposed paying for the state’s portion of the reservoir through money that Florida voters directed in 2014 to be used for water and land conservation. The House has not been enthusiastic about the proposal. The House companion is HB 761 by Representative Altman.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: SB 982 by Senator Bradley establishes a $30 million annual appropriation for projects dedicated to the restoration of the Indian River Lagoon System. The money will be distributed evenly to the St. Johns Water Management District and the South Florida Water Management District. The House companion, HB 1033 by Representative Altman has been referred to three committees.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: CS/SB 234 requires that the sum of $35 million be distributed from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund annually 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 its three committees. The House companion is HB 847 by Representative Payne.

Aquifer Replenishment: HB 755 by Representative Albritton requires additional permit conditions for certain projects involving underground injection and authorizes DEP to develop specific rule criteria for advanced water treatment and to establish additional conditions for construction of advanced water treatment facilities and underground injection. It has passed its first committee. The Senate companion is SB 1438 by Senator Broxson.

Public Notification of Pollution: Senator Galvano has filed legislation, SB 532 requiring reporting and public notice of pollution spills. Following on the heels of a sinkhole in a Mosaic settling pond and sewage spills in Pinellas County, the Governor had directed an emergency rule on public notification. The more permanent rule proposed by DEP was invalidated and the legislation is to direct further permittee and agency action in the event of a spill. Unlike the invalidated rule, the legislation keeps the public notification thru the press a function of the agency. It will require agency rulemaking. It has passed two committees. Representative Peters has filed the companion bill, HB 1065.

Water Planning: HB 413 by Representative Antone creates the Water Oversight & Planning Board to provide statewide oversight to water supply, water quality restoration, and protection of water and natural systems. The membership will consist of 15 members and the Board will have oversight of water supply planning; new potential sources of supply; and the identities of the largest consumers of water. The bill has received three committees of reference. The Senate companion is SB 1300 by Senator Gibson.

Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control: SB 818 by Senator Simmons directs the South Florida Water Management District to take control of discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee and take a leadership role in the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike. The bill also requires the district to set a goal of increasing lake storage up to a specified amount to reduce certain discharges and specifies that the state does not waive sovereign immunity for torts relating to the dike or project. The House companion is HB 1211 by Representative Roth.

Governor Scott’s proposed $83.5 billion budget plan includes $360 million for water quality projects with record funding for Florida’s springs of $65 million and $60 million for the new Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee Clean-Up Initiative. The plan also includes $225 million for Everglades restoration.

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee presented a long range financial outlook for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The outlook included an estimate of $81 million for water project funding for water projects and initiatives for local governments; over $14 million in state matching for drinking water and wastewater treatment facility construction; and $1.5 million for water supply planning and conservation programs.

Agricultural Operations

Verification of Employment Eligibility: HB 443 by Representative Gruters requires employers to use the E-Verify system to verify employment eligibility. The bill prohibits an employer from knowingly or intentionally employing an unauthorized alien and provides for suspension or loss of business licensure for noncompliance. The bill tasks the Department of Business and Professional Regulation with enforcement, including an online system for filing complaints. It has been referred to three committees and currently has no Senate companion.

Low-Voltage Electric Fences: SB 190 by Senator Artiles provides requirements for a low-voltage electric fence to be permitted as a low-voltage alarm system project. The bill has passed its first of three committees. The House companion, HB 241 by Representative Williamson, also has three committees of reference. The Senate bill has passed its first committee. The House bill has passed two committees.

Dogs in Vehicles: SB 320 by Senator Steube requires a person transporting a dog in the open bed of a pickup truck or an open area of any vehicle or trailer to keep the dog within certain secured containers or securely tether the dog. The bill also preempts to the state the regulation of the transportation of dogs in motor vehicles. It has been referred to three committees. The house companion, HB 627 by Representative Moskiwitz is in the same posture.

Fire Safety: HB 325 by Representative McClain provides that the installation and maintenance of an automatic fire sprinkler system is not required in certain nonresidential farm buildings. There is currently no Senate companion.

Property Rights, Budget, and Taxes

Agricultural Land Classification and Assessment: SB 86 by Senator Steube provides an exception from a requirement for lands to be classified as agricultural for taxation purposes and requires that land jointly used for commercial nonagricultural purposes and bona fide agricultural purposes directly related to apiculture be classified as agricultural. The bill has been referred to three committees but not yet scheduled for hearing. There is currently no House companion.

Sales Tax Exemptions for Agricultural Products: HB 765 by Representative McClain revises maximum sales prices of certain farm trailers exempt from the sales and use tax, and exempts certain animal health products and agricultural items from tax. It has been referred to three committees. It is related to SB 1536 by Senator Perry.

Agricultural Practices: HB 1231 by Representative Raburn exempts animal health products from sales tax and removes the the requirement for certain pesticide fees. It also provides that painted marks on trees identify posted land. It is similar to SB 1536 by Senator Perry.

Rural Economic Development Initiative: SB 600 by Senator Grimsley requires an analysis of the Rural Economic Development Initiative and rural areas of opportunity; revises legislative intent relating to the Rural Economic Development Initiative; and revises the duties, responsibilities, and membership of the Rural Economic Development Initiative. It has been referred to three committees. It is scheduled for its first hearing on March 13. The House companion, HB 333 by Representative Clemons has three committees. Related provisions also appear in the controversial House economic development reform package, HB 7005, which is on the House calendar.


Medical Marijuana: SB 614 by Senator Brandes is the second Senate bill aimed at implementing Amendment 2. The bill sets up a new regulatory framework for medical marijuana. Unlike Senator Bradley’s SB 406 and the current medical marijuana program, companies would not be required to be fully vertically integrated and could serve different functions of the industry. The bill eliminates the cap on how many medical marijuana treatment centers can exist and sets up four new types of licenses so companies can be licensed to grow, process, transport or dispense. The bill has been referred to three committees but currently has no House companion.

Compassionate Use of Low-THC Cannabis and Marijuana: SB 406 by Senator Bradley authorizes physicians to issue physician certifications to specified patients who meet certain conditions; requires written consent of a parent or legal guardian for the treatment of minors; requires that certain physicians annually reexamine and reassess patients and update patient information in the compassionate use registry; requires the Department of Health to register caregivers meeting certain requirements on the compassionate use registry; requires the Department of Health to register certain dispensing organizations as medical marijuana treatment centers; requires that containers be child proof; and requires a medical marijuana treatment center to keep a copy of a transportation manifest in certain vehicles at certain times. The bill has not yet been referenced and currently has no House companion.

Medical Use of Marijuana: HB 1397 by Representative Rodrigues creates a sales tax exemption for medical marijuana. It also provides implementing language for Amendment 2 and establishes medical marijuana testing laboratories. It includes an appropriation for $9,158,463.

Medical Cannabis: SB 1388 by Senator Artiles also implements Amendment 2. The bill directs the Department of Health to register medical marijuana treatment centers rather than authorize the establishment of dispensing organizations.

Medical Cannabis Research and Education: SB 1472 by Senator Galvano creates the “Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education Act” to establish the Coalition for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education within the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Inc. It also establishes the Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education Board to direct the operations of the coalition and requires the board to advise specified entities and officials regarding medicinal cannabis research and education in the state. The House companion is HB 1777 by Representative Toledo.

Medical Marijuana Tax Projection: According to the Revenue Estimating Conference, there are currently 17,218 users allowed the current law. If DOH successfully finalizes the proposed rule without any changes by July 3, 2017, and begins issuing identification cards by October 3, 2017, an additional 88,687 users will come on the market gradually through June 2020. Under that scenario, sales totaling $44,068,238 are estimated for fiscal year 2017-18 resulting in sales tax collection of 2,521,956.

Department of Health Rulemaking: On January 17, DOH released the preliminary text of proposed rules for implementation of Amendment 2. The release comes ahead of five public hearings schedule for early next month, giving Floridians a chance to weigh in on the agency’s rules and regulations governing the state’s medical marijuana program. Under the proposed rule, only patients with one of 10 specific medical conditions, like HIV/AIDs or cancer, are eligible for medical marijuana. The rule does allow for further use, as long as the Florida Board of Medicine identifies which debilitating conditions it can be used for. The preliminary rule also states all medical marijuana treatment centers, which under new rules would be the same as a dispensing organization, must go through the same “approval and selection process” outlined in existing law. Those organizations are also “subject to the same limitations and operational requirements” currently outlined in state law. The first public hearing was held in Jacksonville.

Amendment 2: The constitutional amendment passed during the 2016 general election to allow for broader use of medical marijuana than under current law. However, it also leaves a considerable amount of detail to be filled in through subsequent legislation and rulemaking. The amendment allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. The language also allows use of the full cannabis plant for the treatment of all qualifying conditions, as opposed to only terminal conditions under current law. House and Senate committees have held workshops and hosted panels to gather information in anticipation of drafting enacting legislation this Session.

Oil and Gas Exploration

Well Stimulation Treatments: HB 35 by Representative Jenne 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. The bill has four committee references and no Senate companion.

Well Stimulation: SB 98 by Senator Farmer creates the “Stop Fracking Act” and bans “fracking” in any form. The bill has four committee references and currently no House companion. Senator Farmer has also filed SJR 108, which is a proposed constitutional amendment to ban fracking.

Advanced Well Stimulation Treatment: SB 442 by Senator Young and HB 451 by Representative Miller are companion bills that prohibit the performance of advanced well stimulation treatments and clarify that permits for drilling or operating a well do not authorize the performance of advanced well stimulation treatments. Both bills have three committees of reference. The Senate bill has passed its first committee.

Dean Mead’s Governmental Relations, Lobbying & Administrative Team:

Peter Dunbar’s practice focuses on governmental, administrative, and real property law. He began his long career in Florida government in 1967 as staff director in the Florida House of Representatives. Mr. Dunbar later served for five terms as a distinguished member of the Florida House representing Pinellas and Pasco counties in the Florida Legislature. Upon leaving the Legislature, he held the posts of General Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs under Governor Bob Martinez and as General Counsel at the Department of Financial Services. Mr. Dunbar served as Chief of Staff during the transition from the Martinez administration to the administration of Governor Lawton Chiles, and he is former Chairman and two-term member of the Florida Ethics Commission. Mr. Dunbar was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1972. He is a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, an adjunct professor at Florida State University College of Law, and has recently been selected by his peers as a member of Florida Trend’s Florida Legal Elite Hall of Fame. He may be reached at pdunbar@deanmead.com.

Martha Edenfield focuses her practice on governmental affairs, environmental land use and administrative law. Now in her 30th year of private law practice in Tallahassee, she has gained a wide variety of experience representing clients before the Florida Legislature, the Governor, the Cabinet and state agencies. Ms. Edenfield utilizes her political leadership skills to advocate for her clients and coordinate a legislative team. Ms. Edenfield has extensive experience as legal and governmental counsel for agricultural trade groups, industrial associations, medical professionals and local governments. She may be reached at medenfield@deanmead.com.

Cari Roth has 30 years of public and private sector legal and legislative experience and is a recognized leader in government relations and environmental and land use law. Her legal and legislative practice focuses on state and local government issues, including land use, water and environmental law, growth management and infrastructure issues, and intergovernmental relations. She also has significant experience in special district law. Most recently, Ms. Roth served as chair of a statewide firm’s land use and government consulting practices. Prior to that, she worked for four years as General Counsel and Assistant Secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs in Tallahassee where she played a lead role in negotiating major growth management legislation. As General Counsel, she was involved in many inter-agency efforts, particularly those with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Department of Transportation and all the regional Water Management Districts. She may be reached at croth@deanmead.com.

John Wharton represents both public and private clients in cases from application creation to administrative litigation before state and federal agencies. He also practices general litigation in state and federal courts. Mr. Wharton has over 25 years of experience in Tallahassee practicing before and often litigating against numerous state agencies in the areas of water resource planning; permitting and regulation; mitigation banking; health care; utility law and utility regulation; professional regulation and environmental law. Mr. Wharton has represented clients before the Florida Public Service Commission, the Division of Administrative Hearings, the Department of Environmental Protection, the St. John’s River Water Management District, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Financial Services, various boards within the Department of Professional Regulation, the Department of Health, the Florida Department of Lottery, and the Governor and Cabinet sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, among others.  He may be reached at jwharton@deanmead.com.

Bill Townsend practices in the areas of state and local taxation and multi-state taxation. He has represented clients in various states on issues in administrative and judicial actions relating to sales, corporate income, business and organization taxes and telecommunications taxes, as well as state taxation of intellectual property, electronic commerce taxation (E-commerce) and unclaimed property (escheat) issues. Additionally, Mr. Townsend represents clients on legislative tax matters, including the taxation of computer services, corporate income tax issues and sales tax exemption matters. He has an extensive background in structuring business transactions to minimize state tax impacts. Mr. Townsend has also assisted representing new businesses and expanding businesses in dealing with Enterprise Florida and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. He has also represented clients in dealings with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on matters dealing with liquor and tobacco issues. He may be reached at btownsend@deanmead.com.

Brittany Finkbeiner focuses on Real Property and Administrative law. Prior to going into private practice, Ms. Finkbeiner served as a chief attorney for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes. In addition, she’s worked at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee and as a legislative aide for the Florida Senate. She may be reached at bfinkbeiner@deanmead.com.