2017 Florida Pre-Legislative Session Agricultural Update

Interim committee meetings leading up to the 2017 Legislative Session continue. Bills are still entering the system on a daily basis, and committees are hearing increasingly more bills.

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

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 Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Environment and Natural Resources heard presentations on Senator Negron’s proposal to buy property south of Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir. Senator Bradley has filed SB 10 directing 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 has passed its first committee. The House companion, HB 761 by Representative Altman, is recently filed and has not yet been referred to 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. 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. The bill is recently filed and has not yet been referred to committees. There is currently no Senate companion.

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. Representative Kathleen Peters is expected to file legislation addressing the same issue in the House and has recommendations from the regulated community to consider as her bill is drafted.

The House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee heard presentations on wastewater utility systems by FDEP and the Florida Water Environmental Association Utility Council.

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 and currently has no Senate companion.

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 is scheduled to be heard on February 22.

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.


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.

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 Jennings 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.


If you have any questions, please contact our Government Relations, Lobbying & Administrative Law Team.