2000 Florida Legislative Report
The Florida Legislature concluded its 2000 Regular Session on May 5. During the 60-day session, the Legislature considered a number of bills affecting Florida’s environment. Here’s a brief summary of the key measures that passed, as well as some that failed. (Remember: “SB” refers to Senate bill, “HB” refers to House bill, and “CS/” means Committee Substitute for.)
Bills That Passed
Everglades/Lake Okeechobee. Everglades restoration and funding and the restoration of Lake Okeechobee were again significant environmental issues. CS/CS/HB 221 commits more than $1 billion of state funds over a ten year period for implementation of the Comprehensive Plan for Everglades Restoration that resulted from the restudy. CS/CS/HB 991 addresses various elements of the restoration of the Lake Okeechobee watershed. The bill also clarifies the manner in which the total maximum daily loads for the lake will be calculated and allocated and extends the deadline for DEP’s report to the Legislature on this issue to February 1, 2002.
Brownfield Redevelopment. CS/CS/CS/SB 1406 amends Florida’s existing brownfield redevelopment law in a number of respects. Among other things, it streamlines the designation process, provides cleanup liability protection for adjacent properties, and directs DEP to begin mapping and registering contaminated sites.
Citrus Juice Processing Permit-by-Statute. In what may be a sign of things to come, CS/HB 1425 establishes a permit-by-statute for the citrus processing industry. The bill imposes specific emissions limits and authorizes emissions trading. The bill also directs DEP to explore other alternatives to traditional methods of regulatory permitting, so look for other industries to consider this approach, if it is approved by EPA.
Motor Vehicle Emissions Inspections Repeal. SB 772 repeals Florida’s motor vehicle emissions inspections program. The testing program currently is in place in six Florida counties.
Florida Building Code. HB 219 provides for the adoption of a unified building code. The code calls for shutters, special window glass or other protections against broken windows in most parts of Florida, with the exception of the western panhandle, where only new buildings within one mile of the coast are subject to this new requirement.
School Impact Fees. HB 2179 limits the imposition of school impact fees. Only those counties that currently assess school impact fees will be allowed to continue to do so, and even these counties must reduce the amount of the fees by approximately two-thirds. Governor Bush vetoed this bill, but look for this issue to be considered again next year.
Right to Farm/Pesticides. CS/CS/SB 1114 amends the Florida Right to Farm Act to prohibit local government interference with land classified as agricultural and subject to regulation by a state agency or water management district. The same bill also seeks to provide farmers with protection from liability for contamination caused by pesticides that were applied in accordance with their label instructions. Environmental interest groups have asked the Governor to veto this measure.
DEP Reorganization. CS/SB 186 makes several changes to the structure of the DEP. A third Deputy Secretary is authorized, and the Office of Chief of Staff is created. In addition, language is included in the bill making clear that the DEP divisions are to direct the district offices and bureaus on matters of interpretation and applicability of rules and programs.
Environmental Regulation Commission. CS/HB 2365 includes language that revises the geographic distribution of members of the ERC. The bill deletes language requiring one, but not more than two ERC members from each water management district and replaces it with language requiring the Governor to provide reasonable representation from all sections of the state.
Bills That Failed
Several key measures did not pass:
Submerged Lands. HB 1807 was by far the most controversial environmental bill of the legislative session. Proponents claimed that the bill simply codified the most recent court decisions establishing the ordinary high water line, which is the line of demarcation between state and privately-held lands in freshwater areas. HB 1807 also would have prohibited the Attorney General from initiating litigation to claim that submerged lands belong to the state without approval from the Cabinet. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin, but was not taken up in the Senate, as a result of very heavy lobbying on the part of environmental groups and others. Expect this issue to return next year.
Water Markets. The House Committee on Water Resource Management considered a proposal to establish what would amount to a water market in the Southern Water Use Caution Area located within the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The bill would have created a pilot project that would have allowed permit holders to sell water rights under certain circumstances. The concept became very controversial and the bill did not pass. However, the Committee Chairman indicated that he will take on the issue as an interim project and that it may be the subject of legislation next year.
Consumptive Use Permit Transfers. Senator Campbell filed a bill in the Senate that would have restricted the ability of a permit holder to transfer a consumptive use permit as a result of the sale or other transfer of a property or business. The bill would have required a new application to be filed upon such an event. The bill did not pass, but may resurface next year, particularly if the water markets legislation is refiled.
Administrative Fines. DEP sought to substantially broaden its authority to issue fines administratively for environmental violations. This issue has periodically been considered by the Legislature over the past ten years, and has always been very controversial and opposed by regulated interests. This year’s edition, SB 1948, was no exception. The bill did not pass, but may be on the agenda again for next year.
Copies of bills are available via the Internet at www.leg.state.fl.us.