Florida Legislative Outlook
The Florida Legislature will convene on January 22, 2002, in Tallahassee for the Regular Session. Although reapportionment and tax issues undoubtedly will dominate the agenda, there are a number of environmental issues that also will be addressed. Here are a few issues that should receive attention during the session:
Performance-Based Permitting. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been seeking authority to consider a permit applicant’s track record as a part of its determination of whether the applicant has provided "reasonable assurance" that the permit should be granted. This has been opposed by most regulated interests. Senator Rod Smith has filed SB 564, which is version of the DEP proposal. The bill contains several categories of violations that could be considered by the DEP in the permit application process. Expect the DEP to continue its effort to find a compromise acceptable to the regulated community. This appears to be a DEP priority.
Energy 2020 Task Force. The debate over whether to deregulate or reregulate all or parts of the electric utility industry continue in Florida. The recent California experience, however, appears to have injected a cautionary note into the process. Florida’s 2020 Task Force spent considerable time studying the matter and issued a report in December. The prospect for legislation is uncertain. Bills related to this issue that have been filed to date include SB 226, HB 305 and SB 602.
Water Concurrency. Last legislative session, proposals were heard that were intended to coordinate local government comprehensive plans and water planning. This issue is back again for the 2002 session. Bills addressing this issue have been filed in both the House and Senate and are expected to receive considerable attention.
Growth Management. Once again, the Legislature will consider measures to address school concurrency and other growth management issues. Bills filed to date include SB 382 and HB 269. Also look for related legislation dealing with judicial review of development orders and with the development-of-regional-impact (DRI) process.
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). The Clean Water Act requires states to identify water bodies that are impaired and to establish TMDLs for those water bodies that would limit the discharges that are allowed. Florida legislatively adopted a process to identify impaired water bodies, and that process required that rules be adopted. The rules were adopted and were challenged in a lengthy hearing that recently concluded. The outcome of that hearing could produce more legislative proposals this session. The DEP is to submit its impaired water body list by October 2002.
Administrative Procedure Act. In each of the last two years, the Legislature considered and came close to enacting legislation that would address some of the delays caused by third-party administrative challenges to permitting decisions. Similar legislation already has been filed again for 2002 in the form of HB 257 and SBs 270 and 280. Among other things, the bills seek to expedite the administrative hearing process and to limit standing to challenge permitting decisions to persons who would be affected by the decision.