2017 Florida Legislative Session Agricultural Update – Week 4

The fourth week of the 2017 Regular Legislative Session has concluded. This week was the last scheduled week of regular House subcommittee meetings. House full committees will continue to meet, however bills that were not heard in subcommittee by now most likely will not be considered and we will start to remove them from the report. Senate committees are scheduled to continue to meet through week 7.

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. 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. SB 10 is scheduled to be heard in its final committee, Appropriations, on April 5. It will also be rolled over to the April 6 Appropriations agenda if necessary. 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 and is scheduled for its final hearing on April 5. 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 has passed its first committee.

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. It is scheduled for its final committee hearing on April 6. 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 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. It has been referred to three committees but has not been scheduled for hearing. HB 285 has passed two of three 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. HB 1357 has three committee references. It was schedules to be heard in its first committee but was temporarily postponed. SB 1686 was also temporarily postponed in its first committee.

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 the full House.

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 and is scheduled for its first hearing on April 3.

Property Rights, Budget, and Taxes

According to budgets coming out of both chambers this week, the Senate and House are far apart on how much money they want to spend on water projects, land conservation and Everglades restoration. The Senate’s proposed environmental budget proposes $3.8 billion for environmental and agricultural agencies, compared to the House’s $3.4 billion. The Senate wants to set aside $22.6 million for land acquisition — mostly under the Florida Forever program — compared to the House’s $10 million.

Neither the Senate nor House budgeted to pay property owners not to develop their farms, ranches and other lands. The Rural and Family Lands Preservation Program, which received $35 million last year, ensures agricultural lands don’t get lost to urban sprawl without the state having to maintain them.

The Senate wants to boost Everglades restoration funding to $275 million versus $166 million from the House, although it’s unclear which projects each chamber included in that amount. Springs also would fare better under the Senate budget, which proposes $50 million. That’s $10 million more than the House. The Senate also allocated more to help local governments pay for water, wastewater and stormwater projects — almost $65 million versus $20 million from the House.

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 and is scheduled for its second hearing on April 3. The House companion, HB 333 by Representative Clemons has three committees and has passed one. 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. It is scheduled for its first committee hearing where a vote will be taken on April 3.

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 has passed its first committee.

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 has passed its first committee. 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: SB 442 by Senator Young and HB 451 by Representative Mike Miller would ban fracking in Florida. According to Representative Miller, the bill is dead this year, with the state House and Senate unwilling to agree on whether a scientific study is needed before considering an all-out prohibition. Representative Miller, said he still thinks the state should have some sort of a fracking ban, but the study would ward off lawsuits brought by property owners who feel their rights have been violated. He said House leadership would not let his bill move forward without the study.

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 is scheduled for its first hearing on April 3.


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