Florida 2001 Legislative Update
The Florida Legislature concluded its 2001 Regular Session on May 4. The 2001 session was notable as much for what passed, as for what died. Here's a quick summary of 10 bills that passed, as well as a look at five bills that died but that are likely to be back next year.
Bills That PassedDEP Administrative Fines. HB 1635 authorizes the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to assess administrative fines in certain cases. DEP historically has not had this authority; rather, DEP was required to pursue the assessment of civil penalties in circuit court. The bill grants DEP this administrative fine authority in certain cases and establishes the amount of the penalty for specific violations. Significantly, the alleged violator may "opt out" of the administrative process.
DEP Internet Notice. State agencies must publish certain legal notices of actions in the Florida Administrative Weekly. SB 1738 will allow DEP to begin a pilot project implementing Internet publication of legal notices on the DEP Web site, in lieu of publication in the Florida Administrative Weekly. Although the pilot project initially will affect only DEP, it is expected that the benefits to the public will be so favorable that other agencies also will be interested.
Growth Management/True Cost Accounting Study. CS/HB 589 includes a $500,000 appropriation to DEP for a study to develop a true cost accounting model relating to growth management. True cost accounting is a priority for Governor Bush in the growth management debates.
DRIs. HB 1225 increases by 150% certain of the thresholds that trigger development-of-regional-impact review in specific rural counties (primarily in northwest Florida). Another bill, CS/CS/SB 1376, provides an additional DRI exemption for certain heavy mineral mining operations. Yet another bill, CS/CS/HB 1053, would have exempted airports and petroleum storage facilities that meet certain requirements, but Governor Bush vetoed this comprehensive transportation measure.
Phosphogypsum Stack Management. CS/CS/SB 1376 is designed to provide DEP with the authority and the financial resources to abate imminent hazards associated with phosphogypsum stack systems. This was prompted by the bankruptcy of an operator in West Central Florida.
Rural & Family Lands. CS/SB 1922 includes a provision establishing a program to provide conservation easements and agreements as well as stewardship agreements to promote the conservation of rural lands.
Solid Waste Management/Recycling Study/Notice. CS/HB 9 requires an applicant for a permit for a solid waste management facility to notify the local government with jurisdiction over the facility before filing the permit application with DEP. As originally filed, the bill would have prohibited DEP from issuing state environmental permits for any solid waste management facility until the applicant had provided proof that it had obtained all of the required local approvals. CS/HB 9 also requires DEP to conduct a comprehensive review of the waste reduction and recycling goals, and to prepare a report, with recommendations and proposed legislative changes, by October 31. This may lead to the introduction of significant solid waste legislation during the 2002 Regular Session.
Discharge of Demineralization Concentrate. SB 536 is designed to streamline the permitting process for water supply projects that require the discharge of demineralization concentrate. These alternative water supplies will be increasingly necessary as Florida seeks to ensure an adequate water supply for the future.
Florida Forever. CS/SB 1468 makes a few minor changes to the acquisition criteria and land management procedures for Florida's landmark land acquisition program, "Florida Forever."
Everglades. SB 1524 creates an expedited permitting program for project components to be built pursuant to the massive comprehensive Everglades restoration plan. The Legislature also provided $100 million for Everglades restoration. Of this, $75 million was transferred from unspent balances of the Preservation 2000 funds.
Bills that Died and Are Likely to Be Back Next Year
A number of significant environmental bills did not pass this year, but are likely to be back next year. Here are five to watch:
Growth Management/Schools Concurrency. The key elements of the Governor's growth management proposals were the result of a study commission. These include an effort to tie approval of an additional development density to the provision of adequate classroom space in schools, as well as authorization of some pilot projects to test implementation of a "full cost accounting" methodology to enable local governments to determine whether or not a proposed development will pay for itself.
Water Concurrency. At least two bills would have linked public water supply planning and availability to local comprehensive plans.
Citizen Standing in Environmental Proceedings. Two of the more controversial environmental bills this session would have limited those who may "initiate" administrative proceedings on environmental permitting decisions. The bills also would have eliminated review by the Governor and Cabinet, sitting as the Florida Land & Water Adjudicatory Commission, of any order or rule of a water management district, if the order or rule already has been the subject of an administrative challenge.
Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR). Part of the water storage for the Everglades restoration plan is based on aquifer storage and recovery technology. Legislation that would have authorized the storage of untreated water underground proved to be very controversial and was ultimately pulled.
Performance-Based Permitting/Reasonable Assurances. DEP sought the enactment of legislation that would have expressly authorized the agency to deny permits to applicants who otherwise met all applicable criteria simply because the applicant was a "bad actor" as determined based on a point system similar to that used for driver's licenses.
The next session of the Florida Legislature will start in early January. Legislative committees will begin holding meetings in September 2001, to prepare for this early start.
Copies of bills, as well as the Senate and House summaries of major legislation passed, are available on the Legislature's Web site: http://www.leg.state.fl.us.