2007 Florida Legislative Forecast
In our last issue, we summarized a few of the environmental and land use measures that passed during the 2006 Florida Legislative Session. The following is a summary of some of the bills that died this year but likely will be considered again in 2007.
In 2005, the Florida Legislature passed a comprehensive and complex growth management law. Initial efforts to implement the law identified a number of issues, including how transportation and school concurrency are to be implemented. A House committee developed two bills to address some of these issues. One bill sought to address the issues that were thought to be less controversial. A second bill included more controversial changes, such as removing the requirement that the entire local comprehensive plan be financially feasible, clarifying the effect of administrative challenges to the capital improvements plan and establishing certain exemptions from transportation concurrency. This bill also would have required the study of a “per trip” transportation fee as an alternative to impact fees and to the implementation of “proportionate fair share of mitigation.” Look for some of these proposals to return in 2007.
This bill was an “incentives only” version of the performance-based permitting measures urged by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in prior years. The bill sought to encourage compliance by providing incentives to those permittees who have good compliance records. The bill also would have restricted DEP’s current authority to revoke permits, to those instances where a permittee has intentionally submitted false information or has intentionally violated applicable laws, rules, orders and has refused to correct or cure such information. The bill passed the House, but not the Senate. Look for it again in 2007.
This legislation would have created the Florida Springs Protection Act and established the Florida Springs Commission. The Commission would have been required to assess the existing condition of all first- and second-magnitude springs, and to evaluate and recommend strategies for protecting and ensuring the long-term viability of these springs. The commission also would have been required to develop an overall model springs protection plan that applies the recommended strategies.
Vegetative Index Ratification
This bill would have ratified changes to the vegetative index approved by the Environmental Regulation Commission. The changes were designed primarily to conform to Florida’s methodology for determining wetlands jurisdiction to that used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and thereby to remove one of the perceived impediments to the delegation of federal wetlands permitting to the state. Expect this issue to be considered again in 2007.
Water Management Districts/Elected Boards
Two bills would have required all water management districts, governing board members to be elected from single-member districts, rather than appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Water Management Districts/Review of Millage Rates
These bills would have required the Legislature to annually review the authorized millage rate for each water management district and to annually set the amount of revenue authorized to be raised by each district from the taxes authorized by law.
Florida law authorizes the water management districts to establish reservations of water for the environment. Some believe the current law is unclear as to whether water may be reserved to the environment that otherwise may be available for reasonable beneficial uses. DEP has adopted rules creating a process for establishing reservations. The rules were controversial and are the subject of a pending legal challenge. Attempts to clarify DEP’s authority through amendments to other environmental legislation failed in 2006. Look for this issue to be considered again in 2007.
Department of Interior/FWC
Two bills would have authorized a proposed constitutional amendment for consideration by voters in the 2006 general election to create a Department of the Interior, to be headed by an elected cabinet officer who would have supervision of matters pertaining to the state’s natural resources, including fish and wildlife. The new Department of the Interior would have been created on July 1, 2009, and on that same date, the constitutional provision establishing the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its duties would have been removed from the Florida Constitution.
The next Legislature will convene in an organizational session in mid-November and legislative committees will meet each month thereafter until the beginning of the 2007 regular session on March 6, 2007. Early indications are that environmental and land use issues will receive much attention. Stay tuned.