Florida Legislative Session Agricultural Update – 2017 Special Session A

The legislature concluded 2017 Special Session A on Friday, June 9. With respect to agricultural interests, the call of the 3-day special session was expanded during the session to include medical marijuana and the repair of the Herbert Hoover Dike. This report also includes updates on the Governor’s actions on legislation that passed during regular session.

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.

2017 Special Session A

Medical Marijuana: Senate Bill 8A by Senator Bradley passed during the special session. The bill implements Article X, section 29 of the Florida Constitution, which allows the use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions. The topic was not in the original call for the special session but was later added by the Governor. Below is a detailed summary of this comprehensive legislation.

The bill requires patients to be certified by a licensed Florida physician as having at least one qualifying medical condition. If a patient is younger than 18 years of age, a second physician must also agree. The following are qualifying medical conditions:

  • Cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS);
  • A medical condition of the same kind or class as those listed above; or
  • Chronic nonmalignant pain that is caused by one of the enumerated qualified medical conditions or that originates from a qualified condition and persists beyond the usual course of that condition.

The legislation also requires physicians to complete a 2-hour course and examination offered by the Florida Medical Association or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. The course must be completed upon each licensure renewal.

Further the bill establishes requirements for physicians prior to certifying a patient and after certification. A certifying physician must:

  • Determine that medical marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks to a patient;
  • Check the patient’s prescription history in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database; and
  • Recertify every 30 weeks.

Senate Bill 8A also removes the three-month treatment prerequisite for patients. Patients and caregivers must provide proof of residency, register with the Department of Health (DOH), and possess an identification card. The DOH is required to create and maintain an online medical marijuana use registry for patients, caretakers and physicians. The bill clarifies that edibles and vaping are permitted, while smoking is prohibited.

The bill provides a permanent tax exemption for medical marijuana and marijuana delivery devices. Medication in Florida is tax exempt.

Senate bill 8A requires DOH to license Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) which, like the existing law for low-THC marijuana, are vertically integrated entities to cultivate, process, transport, and dispense low-THC marijuana, medical marijuana, and medical marijuana delivery devices. DOH is further required to license the existing Dispensing Organizations (DOs) created under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act for low-THC marijuana, as MMTCs as soon as practicable, no later than July 3, 2017.

DOH is required to award ten additional MMTC licenses as soon as practicable, but no later than October 3, 2017. For up to two of these licenses, DOH is required to give preference to applicants that demonstrate in their applications that they own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses and will use or convert the facility or facilities for the processing of marijuana. DOH is also required to license at least one applicant that is a recognized class member of either Pigford v. Glickman or In Re Black Farmers Litigation and is also a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter.

Moving forward, the legislation requires DOH to award four additional MMTC licenses for every 100,000 active patients in the medical marijuana use registry. MMTCs must have their products tested by marijuana testing labs certified by the DOH.

Senate Bill 8A restricts the number of dispensing facilities each MMTC may initially establish to 25. MMTCs are allowed to operate five additional dispensing facilities for every 100,000 active patients in the medical marijuana use registry. DOH will determine the number of allowable dispensing facilities per region for each MMTC. The number of dispensing facilities per region will be calculated based on a region’s population relative to the state’s overall population.

MMTCs are authorized to sell unused dispensary slots to another MMTC. An MMTC that buys such an unused slot may utilize the slot only within the same region in which the slot could have been used prior to the purchase. The buying and selling of slots will increase or reduce an MMTC’s statewide and regional maximums regarding the number of dispensaries it may operate.

The bill provides a sunset date for the dispensing facility cap to expire on April 1, 2020, and requires dispensing facilities to look and feel like a physician’s office.

Senate Bill 8A allows local governments to regulate the location of dispensing facilities and provides that a local government may ban dispensaries within its borders. However, if a local government permits dispensing facilities, it may not impose limits on the number of dispensing facilities.

Senate Bill 8A creates the Coalition for Medical Marijuana Research and Education within the Moffitt Cancer Center to conduct scientific research, provide education, disseminate research, and guide policy on the ordering and dosing practices for the medical use of marijuana. DOH is required to implement a statewide marijuana education and illicit use prevention campaign regarding the health effects of marijuana use, particularly on minors and young adults. Further, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will implement a statewide impaired driving education campaign to raise awareness and prevent marijuana-related and cannabis-related impaired driving.

If signed into law by the Governor, the bill will take effect immediately.

Herbert Hoover Dike Repair: $50 million has been appropriated to accelerate the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike. The appropriation is a contribution to the $2 billion federal government project that is scheduled for completion in 2025.The Governor has been a strong supporter of repairing the dike to allow more water to be held in the lake. The repair of the dike was added to the call by the Governor just hours before the conclusion of the special session. The repairs are part of a strategy aimed at helping reduce the frequency of harmful freshwater discharges to the coastal estuaries.

2017 Regular Session

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.

It has been signed into law by the Governor and became effective immediately. (Chapter 2017-10, Laws of Florida).

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 House companion, HB 241 by Representative Williamson passed both chambers. It has been signed into law by the Governor. Portions of the new law became effective immediately, while others will take effect on October 1, 2017. (Chapter 2017-52, Laws of Florida).

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. It has been presented to the Governor but not yet acted upon. If signed into law, it will take effect immediately.

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 amends existing statute for site assessment and rehabilitation of real property contaminated by petroleum and dry cleaning solvent. It passed both chambers. It has been presented to the Governor but not yet acted upon. If signed into law, it will take effect July 1, 2017.

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 packedThe bill passed both chambers. It has been signed into law by the Governor and will take effect July 1, 2017 (Chapter 2017-85, Laws of Florida).

Property Rights, Budget, and Taxes

Budget: The budget includes a total of $40 million for water projects. It has been signed into law subject to line item vetoes. (Chapter 2017-70, Laws of Florida).

The $3.6 billion total plan zeros out funding for land acquisition under the Florida Forever program, but keeps the conservation easement program under the DACS Rural and Family Lands program funded at $10 million. The budget also zeros out additional funding for springs restoration. It gives $2 million for St. Johns River and Keystone Heights projects.

It funds $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 goes to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and another $33 million goes to northern Everglades and estuaries.

The budget called 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 would not cover homeowners in Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties who have also sued the state over lost citrus trees. This line item was vetoed by the Governor.

Tax Package: HB 7109: The 2017 tax package contains a number of tax modifications and reductions. It has been signed into law by the Governor and will take effect July 1, 2017 (Chapter 2017-36, Laws of Florida). With relevance to agriculture, the law:

  • 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 and is pending action by the Governor.

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 has been filed with the Secretary of State and 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. It has been presented to the Governor but not yet acted upon. If signed into law it will take effect July 1, 2017.

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. It has been signed into law by the Governor and will take effect October 1, 2017 (Chapter 2017-37, Laws of Florida).

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 and is pending action by the Governor. If signed into law, it will take effect July 1, 2017.