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Agriculture Issues for 2019

Published: April 30th, 2019
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Week eight of the 2019 Regular Legislative Session is complete. Bills relating to agriculture are summarized below. Updates from the previous report are in bold print.

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.)

Water and Natural Resources

C-51 Reservoir Project: SB 92 by Senator Book revises the portions of the C-51 reservoir project for which the South Florida Water Management District may negotiate and revises the water storage and use requirements for the project if state funds are appropriated. The bill also specifies that Phase II of the project may be funded by appropriation in addition to other sources. It has passed all committees and is on the Special Order Calendar for April 29. The House companion, HB 95 by Representative Jacobs has passed the full House and is in Senate Messages.

Water Quality Improvements: HB 141 by Representative Fine provides an appropriation for projects related to the Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and authorizes DEP to provide grants for such projects. The bill also requires each wastewater facility that unlawfully discharges sewage into a waterway or aquifer to notify its customers. It has passed two of three committees. The Senate companion, SB 216 by Senator Gruters has passed its first of three committees.

Fertilizers: HB 157 by Representative Thompson requires local governments to adopt and enforce the most recent version of the Model Ordinance for Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscapes in order to control water pollution and enhance overall water quality. The bill has three committee references. The Senate companion is SB 1716 by Senator Bracy, which also has three committee references.

Domestic Wastewater Collection System Assessment and Maintenance: SB 286 by Senator Albritton establishes the Blue Star Collection System Assessment and Maintenance Program within the Department of Environmental Protection as a voluntary incentive for the purpose of assisting public and private utilities in limiting sanitary sewer overflows and the unauthorized discharge of pathogens. It has passed two of three committees. The House companion, HB 105 by Representative Jacobs, has passed the full House and is in Senate messages.

St. Johns Upper Basin Wastewater Pollutant Control Program: HB 405 by Representative Grall creates the St. Johns Upper Basin Wastewater Pollutant Control Program, which would consist of an action plan designed to be a multifaceted approach to reducing pollutant loads by improving the management of pollutant sources. The bill also requires all entities disposing of septage within the watershed to submit an agricultural use plan to the Department of Health. The bill has passed two of three committees. The Senate companion, SB 1278 by Senator Mayfield has been debated on Special Order and is now on Third Reading.

Wetland Mitigation: HB 521 by Representative McClure removes provisions prohibiting a governmental entity from creating or providing mitigation for a project other than its own unless certain conditions are met. The bill has passed both chambers.

Dredge and Fill Permitting Program: HB 799 by Representative Overdorf urges Congress to direct U.S. EPA to issue memorandum of agreement so Florida may complete assumption of section 404 dredge and fill permitting program under federal Clean Water Act. It has passed the full House and is in Senate Messages. There is currently no Senate companion.

Water Quality Improvements: SB 1758 by Senator Mayfield creates the “Clean Waterways Act,” which transfers the onsite sewage program of the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) by a type two transfer. The bill also establishes a waterway grant program within DEP; revises requirements for a basin management action plan; and requires a wastewater treatment plan to notify customers of unlawful discharges of raw or partially treated sewage into any waterway or aquifer. The bill has passed two of three committees. The House companion, HB 1395 by Representative Raschein has been referred to three committees.

Biosolids Management: SB 1278 by Senator Mayfield requires the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules for biosolids management and provides that certain ordinances, moratoriums, or regulations remain in effect until they are repealed or expire. The bill has been debated on Special Order and has been placed on Third Reading. The House companion, HB 405 by Representative Grall has passed two of three committees. 

Agricultural Operations

Verification of Employment Eligibility: HB 89 by Representative Altman requires employers to use E-Verify for new employees and creates a system within DEO to accept and investigate complaints against non-compliant employers. The bill has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 164 by Senator Bean, has been referred to four committees.

Medical Marijuana Retail Facilities: SB 154 by Senator Thurston creates separate licensure for medical marijuana retail facilities to dispense medical marijuana acquired from medical marijuana treatment centers. The bill is a departure from the current system where single entities are licensed to handle the entire process from seed to sale. It has been referred to four committees. The House companion, HB 461 by Representative Thompson has been referred to three committees.

Smoking Marijuana for Medical Use: SB 182 by Senator Brandes eliminates the prohibition against the smoking of marijuana for medical use. The bill requires a physician to determine that smoking is an appropriate route of administration for the patient. The physician must also submit additional documentation to the applicable board justifying smoking as the appropriate route of administration, unless the patient is diagnosed with a terminal condition. Patients are limited to a 2.5 ounce supply in a form for smoking per 35-day period unless an exception is approved by the Department of Health. The bill has been signed by the Governor (Ch. 2019-1, Laws of Fla.

State Hemp Program: HB 333 by Representative Massullo creates the State Hemp Program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to promote the cultivation, handling, processing, and sale of hemp, hemp products, and hemp extract in Florida. The bill defines hemp as an agricultural commodity and specifies that certain hemp-derived cannabinoids intended for ingestion are foods are not controlled substances. The bill has passed all committees and has been placed on the Calendar. The Senate companion, SB 1058 by Senator Albritton, has been referred to three committees. Another related Senate Bill, SB 1020 by Senator Bradley, has passed the full Senate and is in House Messages.

Smoking Marijuana for Medical Use: SB 372 by Senator Farmer redefines terms to authorize the production, processing, transportation, sale, possession, and administration of marijuana in a smokable form for medical use. The bill has been referred to three committees. It does not currently have a House companion.

Cannabis: HB 1093 by Representative Jenne provides reduced criminal penalties for distribution or possession of certain amounts of cannabis concentrate or THC in cannabis products or edibles. The bill has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 1312 by Senator Pizzo, has been withdrawn from further consideration. 

Heat Illness Prevention: HB 1285 by Representative Smith requires employees in industries where employees regularly perform work outside to conduct heat exposure safety training and provide drinking water and access to shade. The bill has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 1538 by Senator Torres, also has three committees.

Property Rights, Budget, and Taxes

The House and Senate has been in budget conference meetings throughout the week in efforts to finalize the budget by the end of the Regular Legislative Session next week.

Tax Package: HB 7123 by House Ways & Means Committee is this year’s tax package. It includes a reduction of the business rent tax from 5.7% to 5.35%, a seven-day hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday, and a timing shift for the 2018 legislation regarding ad valorem taxes on hurricane impacted property to better understand the impacts. It has passed the full House and is in Senate Messages. The Senate version, SB 1112, includes an exemption for heavy equipment rented by a dealer, a reduction in the commercial rental tax from 5.7% to 4.2%. It has passed one of two committees, and changes the current law to require the state to collect taxes from remote retailers in accordance with the recent Wayfair decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Governor DeSantis released his $91.3 billion recommended budget, which would be the largest in state history if signed into law. The Governor’s recommendations include $150 million for water quality improvement and an additional $25 million to combat blue-green algae and red tide. These recommendations are part of a larger plan to spend $2.5 billion on water resource and everglades protection measures over the next 4 years. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services proposed budget includes requests of $75 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and $25 million for agricultural nutrient reduction and water retention projects.

Vegetable Gardens: SB 82 by Senator Bradley prohibits local governments from regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties. However, the bill would still allow local governments to adopt regulations of a general nature that do not specifically regulate vegetable gardens such as those relating to water use during drought conditions, fertilizer use, or control of invasive species. It has passed the full Senate and is in House Messages. The House companion, HB 145 by Representative Fetterhoff has passed all committees and has been placed on the Calendar.

Advanced Well Stimulation Treatment: SB 239 by Representative Fitzenhagen prohibits advanced well stimulation treatments and specifies that permits for drilling or operating wells do not authorize such treatments. It has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 314 by Senator Montford, has passed its first of three committees. The bills are related to SB 7064 by the Senate Agriculture Committee, which places restrictions on fracking and prohibits the use of flowback fluid for crop irrigation. SB 7064 has passed two of three committees. HB 7029 by Representative Raschein prohibits fracking and provides applicability of permits to drill and operate wells. It has passed one of two committees.

Rural Businesses: SB 298 by Senator Montford creates the “Florida Rural Job and Business Recovery Act” requiring DEO to accept applications to certify applicants as growth funds. The bill has passed two of three committees. The House companion, HB 739 by Representative Hill, has passed its first of three committees.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: SB 368 by Senator Harrell provides an annual appropriation of the lesser of 7.6% of the fund or $50 million for projects dedicated to the conservation and management of the Indian River Lagoon. It is linked to substantive water quality bills HB 141 and SB 216, which are described above. SB 368 has passed its first of three committees.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: SB 376 by Senator Montford appropriates $50 million each year through the 2025-2026 fiscal year for projects dedicated to conservation and management projects in counties impacted by Hurricane Michael. The bill has passed its first of three committees. The House companion, HB 555 by Representative Drake, has been referred to three committees.

Emergency Loans for Agricultural Producers: SB 1804 by Senator Albritton transfers the Agricultural Economic Development Program from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Division of Emergency Management within the Executive Office of the Governor by a type two transfer. The bill also revises eligibility requirements for the program and increases the maximum amount of loans. It has passed its first of three committees but does not currently have a House companion.

Bert Harris Act: HB 1383 by Representative Grant amends the Bert Harris Act to include legislative intent that all similarly situated residential properties be treated consistently. The bill states that settlement offers are presumed to protect the public interest and that the property owner retains the option to have the court determine compensation instead of a jury. The bill also allows suit to be filed by a property owner immediately if the owner loses the ability to continue previous use of the property and provides for attorney fees for a prevailing landowner. The bill has passed all committees and has been placed on the Calendar. The Senate companion, SB 1720 by Senator Lee, also has three committee references and was not considered in its first scheduled hearing.

Other Legislation of Interest

Federal Immigration Enforcement: SB 168 by Senator Gruters prohibits sanctuary policies and requires state and local governments and law enforcement agencies to comply with and support the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The bill has been debated and placed on Third Reading. An identical bill, SB 170, has been filed by Senator Bean. The House companion is HB 527 by Representative Byrd. It has passed the full House and is now pending in the Senate Rules Committee. 

Off-Highway Vehicles: SB 310 by Senator Perry redefines the terms “ATV;” “ROV;” and “all-terrain vehicle” to increase the authorized width and dry weight of such vehicles. It has passed both chambers.

Public Records Exemption for Trade Secrets: HB 759 and HB 761 are related bills by Representative Massullo that repeal all of the various trade secret exemptions that apply to specific agencies and replace them with one uniform exemption. The bills provide that agency contracts and agreements and related information cannot be trade secrets. The bills also detail a process for the owner of trade secret information to claim an exemption from disclosure as a public record and remove liability provisions for agency employees who release such records in good faith. The bills have the effect of significantly limiting protections for trade secrets related to agency contracts from disclosure as public records. They have passed the full House and are in Senate Messages. The Senate companions, SB 1414 and SB 1416 by Senator Gruters, have passed the first of three committees.

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