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2017 Florida Legislative Session

After an extension to finish work on the budget, the 2017 Regular Legislative Session concluded on May 8, 2017.

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 passed the full Senate and was immediately certified to the House. The House significantly amended the bill with language that was negotiated between the chambers. It has been presented to the Governor. The final version of the bill does the following:

  • Reduces the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) distribution from $100 million to $64 million.
  • Clarifies that funding priority shall be given to the EAA reservoir project and clarifies that any remaining funds may be used for Phase II of the C-51 reservoir project.
  • Reduces the bonding authority from $1.2 billion to $800 million, which corresponds to the amount that can be bonded with an annual debt service
  • payment of $64 million.
  • Revises the appropriation for the C-51 reservoir project from the LATF to the General Revenue Trust Fund.
  • Provides loan requirements and clarifies that the loan agreement may be modified once the Department of Environmental Protection adopts rules for the Water Storage Revolving Loan Fund.

Agricultural Operations

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 passed both chambers.

Industrial Hemp: HB 1217 by Representative Massullo bill authorizes a state university with a departmental or generalization specialization in Florida agriculture to conduct an industrial hemp research project. The research project is required to include hemp cultivation projects that specifically address the potential impact hemp may have on other crops commercially grown in Florida, including the impacts of plant pests and diseases, and any related vectors, as well as research on the invasive nature of industrial hemp. The research project is required to take place over a minimum of 10 semiannual crop rotations or 5 years, whichever is longer. It was temporarily postponed in its final committee. The Senate companion, SB 1726 by Senator Montford, has passed both chambers.

Reportable Pollution Release: CS/CS/SB 1018 by Senator Grimsley creates the “Public Notice of Pollution Act” that requires reporting of spills to the Division of Emergency Management at DEP within 24 hours of discovery of the release. The legislation requires the Department to create a website for the posting of notices and promulgate rules to implement the Act. The legislation also provides for site assessment and rehabilitation for real property contaminated by petroleum and dry cleaning solvent. It passed both chambers.

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: CS/CS/HB 467 by Representative Raburn is the comprehensive Department package. Among its provisions, the legislation revises the Departments firearms regulation; it requires the filing of a detailed drawing of livestock brands in lieu of a facsimile of the brand; it extends a livestock brand registration from 5 years to 10 years; and it expands the Department’s safety inspections service to raw commodities grown, produced, harvested, and packed. The bill passed both chambers.

Property Rights, Budget, and Taxes

Budget: The Senate accepted the House budget offer on the agriculture and natural resources segment last week. It includes a total of $40 million for water projects.

The $3.6 billion total plan zeros out funding for land acquisition. The agreement also zeros out additional funding for springs restoration. It gives $2 million for St. Johns River and Keystone Heights projects, a drop from the Senate’s $20 million position.

It offers $13.3 million for beach recovery and an additional $39.9 million for beach projects on top of its $10 million base budget.

More than $109 million would go to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and another $5 million would go to northern Everglades and estuaries.

The budget plan calls for more than $37 million for citrus canker eradication claims from homeowners in Broward and Lee counties whose healthy citrus trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker. However, the money won’t cover homeowners in Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties who have also sued the state over lost citrus trees.

Tax Package: HB 7109: The 2017 tax package contains a number of tax modifications and reductions. With relevance to agriculture, the bill:

  • Provides guidance for the determination of whether certain heavy construction and agricultural equipment returned under a rent-to-purchase option is inventory and exempt from property tax;
  • Increases the exempt sales price for farm trailers from $20,000 to $25,000; and
  • Exempts from sales tax certain animal health products and other agricultural items such as compressed liquefied oxygen, hog wire, nylon mesh netting, barbed wire fencing.

Pesticide Registration: HB 5401 eliminates the supplemental fee for each registered brand of pesticide that contains an active ingredient for which the EPA has established a food tolerance limit. The bill passed both chambers.

Property Tax Cap: CS/HJR 21 by Representative Burton is a proposed constitutional amendment that will make permanent the 10% cap on assessment increases for non-homestead real estate for purposes of calculating property taxes. The proposal will appear on the 2018 General Election ballot.

Other Legislation of Interest

Renewable Energy Source Devices: SB 90 by Senator Brandes expands the current prohibition against the consideration of a renewable energy source device in determining the assessed value of real property. It has passed the full Senate and is in House messages. HB 1351 by Representative Rodrigues has passed all committees but was temporarily postponed on Second Reading. It also expands the increased assessment prohibition and tangible personal property exemption as authorized by constitutional amendment. As amended, the bill’s assessment provision is only applicable to renewable energy devices installed on non-residential property on or after January 1, 2018. The same effective date is indicated for the TPP exemption. SB 90 passed both chambers.

Terrorism and Terrorist Activities: HB 457 provides penalties for intentionally disseminating or spreading contagious, communicable, or infectious disease among crops, poultry, livestock, or other animals through water supply. It has passed both chambers.

Drones: HB 1027 provides that the authority to regulate the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft systems is vested in the state; prohibits certain operation of an unmanned aircraft in relation to certain critical infrastructure facilities; and prohibits possession or operation of an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system with certain attached weapons or devices. It has passed both chambers.

Legislation that did not pass

Compassionate Use of Low-THC Cannabis and Marijuana: HB 1397 was the vehicle for Amendment 2 implementation. With the House and Senate unable to agree on the issue of capping the number of locations allowed for each medical marijuana treatment center, the bill bounced between the chambers with amendments and ultimately did not pass.

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. The Senate companion was SB 1438 by Senator Broxson. Neither bill passed all committees.

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. It has passed its first committee. The House companion was HB 1033 by Representative Altman. Neither bill passed all committees.

Nutrient Pollution from Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems: SB 874 by Senator Young requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop remediation plans for onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems as part of a basin management action plan in coordination with the Department of Health and relevant local governments and wastewater utilities if the DEP determines that remediation is necessary to achieve a total maximum daily load. The bill requires $20 million to be appropriated annually from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The House companion was HB 551 by Representative Stone. Neither bill passed all committees.

Reclaimed Water: HB 1357 by Representative Ponder and SB 1686 by Senator Simmons are companion bills relating to reclaimed water. The legislation directs OPPAGA to prepare an analysis of water supply projects; authorizes water management districts to promulgate rules to provide incentives for reuse; requires plans to be developed to eliminate existing discharges into surface waters; and provides a new definition for “direct potable reuse” for human consumption. The legislation also requires that DEP complete a report on reuse by October 10, 2018 and directs that rulemaking begin on July 1, 2019. Neither bill passed all committees.

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 and has passed two. The House companion, HB 333 by Representative Clemons has three committees and has passed two. Neither bill passed all committees.

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 settling pond and sewage spills, 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 through the press a function of the agency. It will require agency rulemaking. It passed the Senate but died in House messages.

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 passed the full Senate but died in House messages.

Septic Tanks: HB 285 by Representative Fine was substantially amended to remove the requirement for a septic tank to be inspected before a sale of property if is located within an impaired waterway and its watershed. The current version requires the Department of Health to identify and report the location of all septic tanks in the state. The current bill also requires the seller of property to disclose to the purchaser either before or at the execution of the contract for sale the existence of a septic tank on the property. SB 1748 by Senator Stewart is the Senate companion. HB 285 passed the full House but died in Senate messages.

Farm Share Program: HB 2971 is an appropriations project request for $3 million to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to fund a project to provide food free of charge to families, children, senior citizens, and individuals in need in an effort to fight hunger and poverty throughout the state of Florida. It did not pass all committees.

Division of Administrative Hearings: HB 1225 by Representative Fitzenhagen bill requires the director of DOAH to be a full-time ALJ employed by DOAH. The bill also removes the requirement for the director to be confirmed by the Senate. The bill requires full-time ALJs to be appointed by the Governor from a list of three individuals nominated by a statewide nominating commission. The bill did not pass.

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If you have any questions, please contact our Government Relations, Lobbying & Administrative Law Team. To view the prior week’s update click here.



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.