2017 Florida Legislative Session Agricultural Update – Week 3

The third 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. (www.flsenate.gov; www.myfloridahouse.com; and 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, which has not been heard yet.

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, HB 1033 by Representative Altman has been referred to three committees but has not been heard.

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, which has not yet been heard.

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, which is scheduled for its first hearing on March 28.

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 through the press a function of the agency. It will require agency rulemaking. It has passed two of three committees. Representative Peters has filed the companion bill, HB 1065, which has not been heard.       

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, which has not been heard.

Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control: SB 816 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. Neither bill has been heard.

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. It has passed its first committee. The House companion, HB 551 by Representative Stone has not been heard.

Septic Tanks: HB 285 by Representative Fine requires that at the time of a sale of property, those with septic tanks must be inspected. The bill was amended to reduce the scope of the bill to only cover areas the Department of Environmental Protection has designated as impaired watershed areas — which were damaged by nutrients and human waste. Those outside of the areas would not have to go through inspection. It is scheduled for its second committee hearing on March 27. SB 1748 by Senator Stewart is the Senate companion. It has been referred to three committees but has not been scheduled for hearing.

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.

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. HB 1357 has three committee references and will be heard in its first committee on Monday March 27. SB 1686 has three committee references but has not yet been scheduled for hearing.

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 two of three committees. The House bill has passed all committees and has been placed on the Special Order Calendar for March 29.

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. It has not been scheduled for hearing and there is currently no Senate companion.

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 has passed one of its three committees. The Senate companion, HB 1726 by Senator Montford, has three committees of reference but has not yet been schedules for hearing.

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 which has passed its first committee.

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. The bill has passed its first committee. It is similar to SB 1536 by Senator Perry, which has passed its first committee.

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 has passed its first committee. The House companion, HB 333 by Representative Clemons has three committees and is scheduled for its first hearing on March 28. Related provisions also appear in the controversial House economic development reform package, HB 7005, which has passed the full House.

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 has passed its first of two committees.


Medical Marijuana: SB 614 by Senator Brandes is 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 three committee references and currently has no House companion. It was workshopped in the Health Policy Committee. Based on the discussion, it is likely the final product will be a blend of provisions contained in the various bills that have been filed on the subject.

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. The bill is scheduled for its first hearing on March 28.

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. The bill has been referred to three committees.

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. It is scheduled for its first hearing on March 27. The House companion is HB 1177 by Representative Toledo. Both bills have three committee references.

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.

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. Neither bill has been scheduled for hearing.

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.

Other Legislation of Interest

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. It has passed its first committee. The Senate companion, SB 1352 by Senator Young has not been heard.


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