Florida Legislative Update
The 2006 Legislative Session in Florida will commence on March 7, 2006, and is scheduled to end on May 5, 2006. Leadership in both the House and Senate appear to be on the same page and it can be expected that many significant initiatives will be considered. This is the last Session for Governor Bush, Senate President Tom Lee and House Speaker Alan Bense. Here are some of the issues that are likely to arise.
During the special session that was held in December of 2005, the Legislature passed a new lobbyist disclosure bill (SB 6-B). The new legislation, which was signed by the Governor and became effective on January 1, 2006, prohibits lobbyists and their principals from providing anything of value to legislators, legislative staff or agency officials and employees. The new legislation will have significant impacts on the way in which business is conducted in Tallahassee during the session, and is likely to have many unintended consequences. Among the most controversial provisions is the requirement that “lobby firms” as defined in the statute report the fees that they receive for lobbying services. Those that intend to participate in the session activities and lobby should pay close attention to this legislation.
The recent United States Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, has caused considerable public outcry and led to the creation of a Florida House Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights. The Committee has conducted a series of meetings and it appears that it will focus its efforts on revising the Florida Community Redevelopment Act of 1969. That statute permits local governments to create community redevelopment areas and use tax increment financing to upgrade those areas. Expect legislation to focus on the conditions that must be met before a parcel can be taken for the purpose of eliminating slum and blight conditions, limitations on government action and the burden of proof that is required to justify such a taking.
Following up on the growth management reform enacted last year, Senator Bennett has filed SB 1020 that would streamline the DRI process by eliminating duplicative paperwork and reviews, better addressing and defining when DRI projects reach their build out, improving the process for handling changes to already approved DRI projects, and updating what projects are exempt or are partially exempt from DRI review.
The extraordinary hurricane season that Florida and other parts of the country experienced in 2005 has focused attention on energy and emergency preparedness issues. High gasoline prices and extensive electricity disruptions have caused a number of bills to be introduced and resulted in the Governor issuing Executive Order 05-241 calling for a statewide comprehensive energy plan. There are a considerable number of energy bills that will be considered this year. Expect a number of them to pass.
Sunset Review of Agencies
Key leaders in the House are promoting a sunset review of all administrative agencies. This will involve a systematic method for review of agency functions. Expect this to be controversial.
An outgrowth of last years growth management debate was the issue of whether standards should be established for the collection and imposition of new fees by local governments. Impact fees are becoming a widespread method of raising money to help defray the costs of growth. A study commission has been working on the development of an impact fee law that would provide standards for all local governments authorized to collect such fees. Legislation will likely be filed to address this issue.
Coastal High Study Hazard Committee
The Governor created by executive order a coastal high hazard study committee charged with developing land use policies to address natural hazards, protect private property, preserve coastal resources, and foster sound economic development and tourism opportunities along Florida’s coasts. The Committee’s recommendations focus on coastal high hazard areas. However, during the debate it became clear that there is a desire to expand the focus to areas beyond the immediate coast. These initiatives could have an effect on future coastal development in Florida.
Growth Management Glitch Bill
There will be an effort to adopt legislation that would fix defects in the 2005 Growth Management Bill (SB 360). The Governor has indicated that he does not intend to revisit fundamental policy issues, but wants to concentrate on true unintended consequences and errors. Numerous groups have proposed changes and it should be expected that any “glitch” bills will result in battles over more fundamental issues.
These are just a few of the issues that are expected to be taken up. As always, expect the unexpected.