2008 Florida Legislative Forecast
In our Second Quarter, 2007 issue, we summarized a few of the environmental and land use measures that passed during the 2007 Florida Legislative Session. The following is a summary of some of the issues we expect to see considered in 2008, including some that were the subject of bills that died or were vetoed last session.
Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham has repeatedly said that the state’s growth management laws are in need of an overhaul, and it seems that 2008 is the year for comprehensive revisions. For example, the Secretary is likely to seek changes that establish different regulatory processes for urban and rural areas (and places in between), further change concurrency requirements, and improve the local planning process.
Environmental “Gold Star” Recognition
House Speaker Marco Rubio developed a list of “100 Ideas” that are his legislative priorities for his two-year term as leader of the House. One of these ideas was the Environmental “Gold Star” Recognition program. HB 7171 would have created a performance-based permitting program to reward top environmental performers, but it proved controversial because it also would have authorized the denial of permits based on an applicant’s history of non-compliance. Because this is one of the Speaker’s 100 Ideas, look for it to be considered again in 2008.
Representative Boyd already has introduced HB 31 for the 2008 legislative session. The bill establishes the Florida Springs Stewardship Act and creates the Florida Springs Stewardship Task Force. The Task Force is to identify the zones of influence for each of Florida’s 33 known first-order springs and to propose a program that encourages the implementation of best management practices. The Task Force also is to submit a report summarizing its findings and proposals prior to the 2009 legislative session.
Sunset Review of DEP and WMDs
A measure enacted in 2006 established a Legislative Sunset Advisory Committee to review state agencies according to a schedule. The Department of Environmental Protection and the State’s five water management districts are among the first agencies scheduled for review. These Sunset reviews could lead to legislation affecting these resource agencies.
Since our last report, Governor Charlie Crist vetoed two measures that were enacted by the Legislature. HB 7123 would have created the Energy Policy Governance Task Force. The Governor vetoed the bill because he found that it “does not go far enough and, in some instances takes a step backwards.” The Governor pledged to continue moving forward aggressively and to work with key legislative leaders to develop a clean, efficient energy policy. The Governor has issued three executive orders as part of his Climate Change Summit, including one establishing the “Florida Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change.” Key legislators appear to be interested in playing an active role in setting the State’s energy policy, so look for these issues to receive substantial attention again in 2008.
Governor Crist also vetoed HB 7183, which would have created the Open Government Act. This bill would have provided for additional restrictions on the use of unadopted rules, among other measures. The Governor vetoed this bill because of concerns regarding unintended consequences, but he directed state agencies to work with the Legislature “to address any concerns, recommend changes to streamline government, simplify procedures, and better serve the people of Florida.” Accordingly, look for these issues to be considered again in 2008.
The Legislature will meet in special session in September 2007 to address budget issues, and legislative committees will meet each month thereafter until the beginning of the 2008 Regular Session on March 4, 2008. Early indications are that environmental and land use issues will receive much attention. So stay tuned.