Interim committee meetings leading up to the 2017 Legislative Session have begun. Bills are continually entering the system on a daily basis, but committee action so far has focused on introductory material, general issue overviews, and workshops. Read the full update here: 2017 Florida Pre-Legislative Session Agricultural Update.
Dean Mead’s Capitol Report follows below. Around 2,000 bills were introduced in the Florida Legislature this year, a fraction of which survived final passage. The Capitol Report highlights some of the bills that passed the Legislature that may affect your businesses or practice groups. We have provided a short summary of the important provisions within each bill.
The Governor has now acted on all legislation in this report, and the appropriate Session Law number follows the summary on each bill. The full text of each enrolled bill, as well as applicable legislative staff reports, are available on the legislative web sites (http://www.flsenate.gov; http://www.myfloridahouse.com).
The Capitol Report is intended to update you on changes to the law that affect your businesses and practice groups. For more information, please contact our Tallahassee Office at 850999-4100.
Residential Property—Discharge of a Firearm: The new law provides for criminal penalties for the discharge of a firearm in a residential area with a density of one unit or more per acre. (Chapter 2016-12, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/CS/SB 130 by Senator Richter.)
Service Personnel—Rental Approvals: The new law provides for a series of benefits for military service personnel. Among the provisions in the bill (Section 1) is new s. 83.683 that imposes a 7-day period on a condominium association or mandatory homeowners association to review an application by a member of the military as a prospective tenant. (Chapter 2016-242, Laws of Florida.) (CS/SB 184 by Senator Bean.)
Cohabitation Ban—Repealed: The legislation repeals the ban on an unmarried man and woman cohabiting together that is currently contained in s. 798.02 of the state’s criminal code. SB 498 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-188, Laws of Florida.) (SB 498 by Senator Sobel.)
Building Codes: The initiative is a comprehensive bill that updated the state’s building codes. Two of its provisions relate to existing residential structures and may be of interest. The first provision is found in Section 5 of the bill and it extends the provisions of the Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund to individual single-family residences. The second provision requires installation of minimum radio signal strength in all high- rise buildings for fire department communications. Those buildings not in current compliance must do so by January 1, 2022. (Chapter 2016-129, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/HB 535 by Representative Eagle.)
Community Residential Homes—Siting: The initiative amends Chapter 419 to clarify the distance requirements for siting community residential homes and provides that a residential home may not be sited within 1,200 feet of an existing home. CS/SB 1174 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-74, Laws of Florida.) (CS/SB 1174 by Senator Diaz de la Portilla.)
Elevator Retrofits: The new law requires all elevators in private residential structures to have a clearance of no more than 3 inches between the hoistway doors and the edge of a hoistway landing. The legislation was amended to provide that the standard is applicable only to new structures and does not require retrofitting of existing structures. It has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-211, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/SB 1602 by Senator Galvano.)
Mobile Home Parks: The new law revises the Florida Mobile Home Act and imposes complaint status notification requirements on the agency for complaints filed with the Division; directs implementation of a training program for board members; allows non- ad valorem assessments to be passed on to tenants if the charge was disclosed prior to tenancy; requires a 90-day notice prior to lot rental increases; and clarifies membership and quorum requirements for a mobile homeowners’ association. CS/CS/SB 826 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-169, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 826 by Senator Latvala.)
Family Trust Companies—Future Option for Managing Assets: SB 80 by Senator Richter and Representative Roberson completes the authorizing legislation in chapter 662 to permit the creation and regulation of family trust companies and licensed family trust companies in Florida. (Chapter 2016-35, Laws of Florida.) (SB 80 by Senator Richter.)
Digital Assets: The new law creates the “Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” based upon the Uniform Act and permits authorized representatives to access the digital assets of a deceased individual. CS/CS/SB 494 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-46, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 494 by Senator Hukill.)
Guardianships: The legislation reorganizes the Statewide Public Guardianship Office; requires the least restrictive means to be used; establishes practice standards, training and regulation for public and professional guardians; and provides for oversight and disciplinary procedures for professional guardians. (Chapter 2016-40, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/SB 232 by Senator Detert.)
Medical Marijuana—Designated Representatives: The new law provides for patients and legal representatives to purchase and possess marijuana for medical use, and it permits the representative to be a designated health care surrogate. CS/CS/CS/HB 307 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-123, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/HB 307 Representative Gaetz.)
Personal Estates: The legislation contains the following trust and estate initiatives — (1) it provides for the disposition of assets of a non-domiciliary, (2) it permits the use of trust assets to defend a breach of trust claim, (3) and it provides a technical clarification to the elective share statute. CS/CS/CS/SB 540 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-189, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/SB 540 by Senator Hukill.)
Cremated Remains: This new law makes regulatory changes to the funeral and cemetery services, and among its provisions, Section 30 declares that cremated remains are not considered property as a matter of law and are not subject to partition. The legislation provides that a division of cremated remains requires the consent of the legally authorized person who authorized the cremation. CS/CS/SB 854 been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-172, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 854 by Senator Hukill.)
Conservation Easements: The initiative amends Section 196.26 to provide that a property owner is not required to file a renewal application for a conservation easement until the use of the property no longer complies with the restrictions and requirements of the conservation easement. CS/SB 190 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-110, Laws of Florida.) (CS/SB 190 by Senator Hutson.)
Agricultural Lands: This legislation contains a series of agriculture industry initiatives, including the preservation of the agricultural classification for certain lands taken out of cultivation; permitting farm vehicles to move on public roads; preempts to the state the authority to regulate commercial feed; providing penalties for persons releasing plant pests; and clarifies that agricultural lands with a conservation easement may allow continued agricultural uses including, silviculture and livestock grazing activities. CS/CS/HB 749 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-178, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 749 by Representative Rayburn.)
Water Policy Revision: The legislation creates a comprehensive revision to the state’s policies concerning water quality, water supply and water conservation programs. Significant to Central Florida, the bill creates the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act to protect designated Outstanding Florida Springs (OFSs); provides deadlines for restoration of OFSs through a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), requires septic tank remediation plans, prohibits certain activities in the springsheds of OFSs and requires DEP to develop rules for groundwater withdrawals. The bill also codifies the Central Florida Water Initiative and ensures that the appropriate governmental entities continue to develop and implement uniform water supply planning, consumptive use permitting, and resource protection programs in the area encompassed by the CFWI.
For South Florida, the bill updates the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program to build upon the implementation of BMAPs for Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries. BMAP implementation will include construction of water projects, water monitoring and verification and enforcement of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) administered by DACS.
Statewide, the bill sets deadlines for adoption of minimum flows and levels and modifies the current annual reporting requirements of all water management districts to expand the requirements of the current 5-year planning process to include all projects to implement a BMAP, a “grade” for each impaired waterbody, and a priority listing for water resource projects to be funded through the state’s water resources development work program. Consumptive use permitting (CUP) is modified to protect water allocations if water use has dropped due to implementation of conservation measures or agriculture conditions have resulted in less water use. In the event of competing new CUP permits, the applicant closest to the source is granted a preferred status. Water usage monitoring is required for all new and renewed CUPs that authorize groundwater withdrawals of 100,000 gallons or more per day from a well with an inside diameter of 8 inches or more.
To help track progress, the legislation mandates a new data base of conservation lands and a consolidated annual report on water quality and quantity, and requires DEP to establish statewide standards for collection and analysis of water quality and quantity data. (Chapter 2016-1, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 552 by Senator Dean.)
Consumptive Use Permits—Modification: The bill prohibits a water management district from modifying or reducing CUP allocations based upon implementation of water conservation measures. The legislation also directs the adoption of rules to provide for conservation incentives and classifications to protect surface water for potable uses; and it authorizes use of land set-asides and land use modifications in water quality credit trading. The bill has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-130, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 589 by Representative Pigman.)
Transactions in Fresh Produce Markets: This bill allows the owner or operator of a market selling fresh produce, such as a farmer’s market, that does not have an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system to allow certain specified groups to implement and operate an EBT system in the market on behalf of the sellers. The bill clarifies that this applies when the market owner or operator is not an authorized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailer. The bill has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-51, Laws of Florida.) (CS/HB 103 by Representative Fullwood.)
Agritourism: This legislation prohibits local governments from enforcing any local ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy that prohibits, restricts, regulates, or otherwise limits an agritourism activity on land classified as agricultural land under Florida’s greenbelt law. Amendments have been adopted in committee to expand the scope of the definition of agritourism to include civic and ceremonial functions, such as weddings, and to provide that local governments may exercise their powers and duties to address substantial off-site impacts of agritourism activities. (Chapter 2016-14, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 59 by Representative Combee.)
Farm Vehicles: The legislation defines “covered farm vehicle” for purposes of Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law; revises requirements for a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle solely in intrastate commerce while transporting agricultural products; provides exemptions for covered farm vehicles from specified federal regulations relating to controlled substance and alcohol use and testing, commercial driver licenses, physical qualifications and examinations, hours of service of drivers, inspection, repair, and maintenance; and exempts drivers of covered farm vehicle from commercial driver license requirements. The bill has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-115, Laws of Florida.) (CS/SB 1046 by Senator Hutson.)
Fire Safety: The legislation exempts nonresidential farm buildings and agricultural pole barns from the Florida Fire Prevention Code; provides that structures used for agritourism activity are subject to annual inspection for classification; directs State Fire Marshal to adopt rules administering the section; and authorizes local fire official to consider specified publication when identifying alternative to firesafety code. It has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-83, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 431 by Representative Raburn.)
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS): The legislation addresses a number of issues relating to agriculture and the powers and duties of DACS. It preempts regulation and sale of foam containers to DACS, changes the frequency of reporting of fertilizer sales, and modernizes the statutes on Soil and Water Conservation Districts. It has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-61, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 7007 by Representative Raburn.)
Agricultural Lands—Special Assessments: The legislation prohibits counties and municipalities from levying and collecting special assessments on agricultural lands for fire protection services. Residential dwellings and nonresidential farm buildings with a just value over $10,000 may still be assessed, but all pole barns are excluded. It has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-89, Laws of Florida.) (CS/HB 773 by Representative Albritton.)
Implementation of Water and Land Conservation Constitutional Amendment: This bill provides for the distribution of funds deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Of the funds remaining after the payment of certain debt service obligations, the Legislature will be required to appropriate a minimum of the lesser of 25 percent or
$200 million for Everglades projects that implement the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The bill requires that from these funds $32 million will be distributed each fiscal year through the 2023-2024 fiscal year to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) for the Long-Term Plan. After deducting the $32 million, from the funds remaining, a minimum of the lesser of 76.5 percent or $100 million will be appropriated each fiscal year through the 2025-2026 fiscal year for the planning, design, engineering and construction of the CERP. The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the SFWMD to give preference to projects that reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee estuaries in a timely manner. The bill also requires an annual appropriation of $5 million annually to the St. Johns River Water Management District for projects dedicated to the restoration of Lake Apopka and minimum distribution of the lesser of 7.6 percent or $50 for spring restoration, protection and management projects. It has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-201, Laws of Florida.) (HB 989 by Representative Harrell.)
Tax Package: This legislation makes a number of changes to the administration of Florida taxes. The bill includes a provision that clarifies that for a limited period, current local option economic development tax exemptions can be granted in areas which were designated enterprise zones as of December 30, 2015. Also, some tax filing dates are changed to conform with federal filing date changes. The bill also adds an exemption for certain “postharvest machinery and equipment” for eligible businesses. It has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-220, Laws of Florida.) (HB 7099 by Representative Gaetz.)
Transportation Package: This is a comprehensive bill relating to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The bill includes provisions to modify the process for the development and review of public-private partnership project proposals and authorize DOT to establish a Business Development Program that would assist small businesses and increase competition in the procurement of highway project contractors. It has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-181, Laws of Florida.) (HB 7027 by Representative Rooney.)
Growth Management: The new law provides for the modification of previously approved developments of regional impact (DRI), a program eliminated last year. It creates a procedure to permit the exchange of designated land uses in an approved project; establishes procedures relating to rights, duties, and obligations related to certain development orders or agreements if a development elects to rescind a development order; and it creates a process to permit the addition of acreage to a previously approved project. It clarifies that certain proposed developments which are currently consistent with the local government comprehensive plan are not required to be reviewed pursuant to the State Coordinated Review Process for comprehensive plan amendments. And it establishes a timeframe for issuing a final order if the state land planning agency fails to take action when a comprehensive plan is established. CS/CS/HB 1361 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-148, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 1361 by Representative La Rosa.)
Community Development Districts: The new law modifies the regulation of CDDs by increasing the minimum size requirements for the creation of districts at the county level; creation of multi-county districts; revises the procedure for changing district boundaries; and provides procedures to merge existing districts. CS/HB 971 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-94, Laws of Florida.) (CS/HB 971 by Representative Sullivan.)
Service of Process: The initiative provides for the service of process at a virtual office, executive office or mini-suite in the same manner as service of process can be made at private mailbox. CS/CS/SB 1432 has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-207, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 1432 by Senator Stargel.)
Sale of Alcohol at Train Stations: An alcoholic beverage and tobacco package bill contains a provision allowing alcoholic beverage licenses for owners of railroad transit stations that are used for passenger service between two or more cities. The provision was supported by Brightline, which will soon provide All Aboard Florida passenger rail service from Orlando to Miami. The bill has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-190, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 698 by Senator Bradley.)
Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX): This legislation clarifies that members of CFX’s governing body from Seminole, Lake, and Osceola Counties must be a county commission member or chair, or a county mayor from the respective counties. Governor-appointed citizen members, who must be residents of either Orange, Seminole, Lake, or Osceola County, are made subject to Senate confirmation. The bill also clarifies that CFX is a party to a 1985 lease-purchase agreement between the former Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation. It has been signed into law. (Chapter 2016-193, Laws of Florida.) (SB 1110 by Senator Simmons.)
UCF Downtown Campus Appropriation: The General Appropriations Act includes $20 million in fixed capital outlay funding for the UCF downtown campus. It was added into the budget shortly after the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System, approved the downtown campus that UCF will share with Valencia College. The Governor signed the budget with this appropriation intact.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.