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Florida Policy Weekly Roundup

The Florida Legislature meets in March and April, and The Nature Conservancy staff is working hard to ensure that nature is a part of the conversation. Stay tuned for weekly updates on the most important conservation issues in Florida.


Tallahassee, Fla. | May 02, 2014

Week 9 – May 2, 2014

 As we speak, the Florida Legislature is wrapping up its work, with the only bill they are required to pass, the appropriations bill, HB 5001, scheduled for final passage this evening.  When the dust settles, the environmental agenda for 2014 focused more on project based appropriations as opposed to significant policy changes.  In the major environmental success of the session, Senate Appropriations Chair Joe Negron, skillfully negotiated full funding for the Everglades/Indian River Lagoon package, $231,998,021, set forth in the final report of the Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin.  In addition, the legislature provided $4,270,000 to launch $50,000,000 of bonds to fund Florida Keys wastewater treatment facilities.

While the Everglades/Indian River Lagoon/Lake Okeechobee related projects fared very well, other budget priorities such as land protection and springs protection did not receive the funding requested by Governor Scott.  Governor Scott proposed a total of $55 million for springs protection in his recommended budget, yet the Legislature appropriated a lower value of $30 million, with springs legislation remaining unaddressed in the Florida House of Representatives.  Finally, while the 2013 legislature appropriated $30 million of new land protection funding through the Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, the new cash funding available in the 2014 budget for land protection is $17,500,000, almost half of last year’s allocation.  Key issues in the Senate and House Environmental and Agricultural Budgets are highlighted in the table below. 

budget-chart-wk-9

Springs Protection: Status of 5:00 pm - Stuck in the House
CS for CS for SB 1576 by Senator by Dean, Simmons, Montford, Hays & Simpson 

On April 30th, the Senate voted 38-0 to adopt its comprehensive springs protection bill and sent the bill to the House where it has remained unheard and likely to die as of midafternoon on the last day of the legislative session.   The Springs Protection bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday with substantial changes that remove the recurring funding source from the bill (a percentage of documentary stamp tax funding) and weakened many of the regulatory requirements and deadlines. The changes to the bill were made in an attempt to make the bill more acceptable to regulated interests and local governments and to match the scope of the bill to the actual amount of money likely to be appropriated for springs protection this year, which landed at $25 million for projects and $5 million of agricultural best management practices.

SB 1576 creates a  framework for delineating springs protection and management zones for Outstanding Florida Springs, creating a stricter standard for establishing minimum flows and levels that is based on preventing “harm” rather than “significant harm”, using the BMAP process for identifying specific sources and project plans to address nutrient pollution to Outstanding Florida Springs within 15 years of the adoption of a basin management action plan, and a requirement that local governments adopt a fertilizer ordinance that meets the requirements of the Model Ordinance for Florida Friendly Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscape.  The bill, in its current form, prohibits within spring protection zones, new wastewater treatment facilities that do not meet advanced wastewater treatment standards, the lands spreading of septage or residuals, and the siting of hazardous waste facilities. 

Establishing Minimum Water Flows and Levels for Water Bodies: Status - Final Passage
HB 7171 by the State Affairs Committee 

This bill exempts the minimum flows and levels established by DEP and the Suwannee River Water Management District for the Lower Santa Fe and the Ichetucknee River from the requirement that the administrative rule be ratified by the Florida Legislature.  This will allow for adoption of the rule immediately after the resolution of pending rule challenges. 

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Status- Final Passage
HB 7091/SB 1630 by Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee

Section 2 of this bill provides that landowners who enter agreements with water management districts to store water on agricultural land and who implement best management practices on agricultural lands continue to be classified as agricultural lands during the duration of the inclusions of the lands in the program. 

Section 7 of the bill allows private landowners who are implementing best management practices to seek a baseline survey of the condition of wetlands on the property before improvements associated with the best management practices are constructed. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services must submit the proposed baseline condition documentation to the lead agency for approval.

Department of Transportation: Status- Final Passage
HB 7175/SB 696 by Economic Affairs Committee 

Section 22 of the Department of Transportation’s agency bill includes changes to the method in which the Department provides mitigation for wetlands destroyed or affected by road construction activities. The bill provides that FDOT must consider using credits from a permitted mitigation bank before projects are identified for inclusion in a water management district mitigation plan. The bill also allows FDOT to purchase mitigation credits for current or future use directly from a mitigation bank, through the water management districts or the Department of Environmental Protection, provide its own mitigation or through other mitigation options allowed by state or federal law. The amount programmed each year by FDOT must equal the estimated cost to mitigate for the functional loss identified in an environmental impact inventory. 

Coastal Resilience
Coastal Management: Status as of 5:00 pm - In returning messages from Senate
HB 791 by State Affairs/SB 956 by Appropriations

The bill authorizes DEP to grant general permits under the coastal construction program for dune restoration, swimming pools associated with single-family residences that do not advance the line of existing construction and minor reconstruction for existing coastal armoring structures.  The Department of Environmental Protection is authorized to accept donations to support aquatic preserves and deposit these funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.  The Department is authorized to grant concessions within aquatic preserves and associated uplands if compatible with the aquatic preserve’s management plan as approved by the Acquisition and Restoration Council. Once a proposed concession business plan is submitted, DEP must public notice of the proposed concession on its website.

The latest version of the bill on its way to the House, includes language opposed by the Department of Environmental Protection that prohibits the Division of State Lands from issuing new concession agreements “in a state park that provides beach access and contains less than 7,000 feet of shoreline if the type of concession is available within 1,500 feet of the park’s boundaries.” 

Citizen’s Property Insurance Corporation: Status- Final Passage
HB 1089 by Raschein and SB 1274 by Hays

The bill delays by one year, until July 1, 2015, the effective date of the prohibition on Citizens’ Insurance ability to write coverage on new construction seaward of the coastal construction setback line or within Coastal Barrier Resource Units.  The delay was requested by Monroe County and Citizen’s to allow for time to identify lots potentially subject to the prohibition and develop a definition of “substantial improvement.”   The bill also creates a new prohibition on Citizen’s coverage that applies to wind-only coverage for commercial lines residential condominiums.  Effective July 1, 2014, a condominium is ineligible for coverage if 50 percent of the units are rented more than 8 times in a calendar year for a rental period of less than 30 days.

Flood Insurance: Status - Final Passage
CS/CS/CS/ SB 542 by Brandes

This bill is intended to encourage private insurers to write flood insurance in Florida. An authorized insurer may issue an insurance policy providing personal lines residential coverage for the peril of flood on any structure or the contents of personal property within the residence.  Standard flood insurance issued pursuant to the bill must cover only losses from the peril of flood equivalent to that provided under a standard flood insurance policy under the National Flood Insurance Program.  Supplemental flood insurance may provide coverage designed to supplement a flood policy obtained from the National Flood Insurance Program.  The bill requires rate filings with the Department of Insurance and requires submission of project flood loss data, which may be produced by a model found to be acceptable by the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology. 

Stay tuned to the Florida Chapter’s Facebook page for more conservation news and updates.

 

Week 8: April 25, 2014

After a week off for Easter & Passover, the Florida Legislature has turned its focus to resolving differences between the House and Senate appropriations bill in the budget conference process. Budget Conference subcommittees were given until Wednesday night to resolve differences before the process moved to the full Budget Conference committee.  In the case of the Agriculture & Natural Resources budget, the subcommittee level conference failed to come to agreement on major budget items including: Florida Forever/Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, Everglades/Indian River Lagoon, Springs Protection and Water Projects.  During the initial budget negotiations, the total House Florida Forever offer was reduced from $70 million to $62.5 million with the cash portion of the appropriations reduced from $30 million to $22.5 million. The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program funding level offer from the House was reduced from $15 million to $7.5 million. The Senate position for Florida Forever remains limited to $40 million in spending authority for the proceeds of the sale of non-conservation lands.  For Springs Protection funding, the Senate raised its offer from $18 million to $22.8 million which remains far below the $45,000,000 position of the House.

 

Resolution of Everglades/Indian River Lagoon Funding is the key to the remainder of the agriculture/natural resources budget falling in place given the emphasis placed on this issue by Senate Appropriations Chair Joe Negron. Currently, the Senate position on the Indian River Lagoon/Lake Okeechobee package is $157.8 million while the House position is at $125 million. Because Senate funding for Indian River Lagoon/Lake Okeechobee include fund shifts from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund and the Conservation and Recreation Lands Trust Fund to the Save our Everglades Trust Fund, the available revenue to distribute to land management and acquisition will be affected by the Indian River Lagoon package.  The Conference Committee on House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations/Senate General Government Appropriations did agree to the higher Senate level of invasive plant management funding of $34,823,647.

 

Springs Protection

CS for CS for SB 1576 by Senator Dean

  

The Springs Protection bill passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday with substantial changes that remove the recurring funding source from the bill (a percentage of documentary stamp tax funding) and weaken many of the regulatory requirements and deadlines. The changes to the bill were made in an attempt to make the bill more acceptable to regulated interests and local governments and to match the scope of the bill to the actual amount of money likely to be appropriated for springs protection this year, which ranges from $20-50 million dollars.

 

The bill still contains a framework for delineating springs protection and management zones for Outstanding Florida Springs. It creates a stricter standard for establishing minimum flows and levels that is based on preventing “harm” rather than “significant harm”, using the Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) process for identifying specific sources and project plans to address nutrient pollution to Outstanding Florida Springs within 15 years of the adoption of a BMAP and a requirement that local governments adopt a fertilizer ordinance that meets the requirements of the “Model Ordinance for Florida Friendly Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscapes”.  The bill, in its current form, prohibits within spring protection zones, new wastewater treatment facilities that do not meet advanced wastewater treatment standards, the lands spreading of septage or residuals, and the siting of hazardous waste facilities.

 

 The changes to SB 1576 that weaken or delay implementation include the following:

  • Removal of documentary stamp tax funding for springs protection and restoration projects that was contained in earlier versions of the bill. Senate leadership is looking to the proceeds of the Florida Land & Water Legacy Amendment, if passed, to provide the funding source for a comprehensive springs program.
  • Five year extensions for local governments to implement projects identified in an adopted recovery and prevention strategy for water bodies falling below adopted minimum flows and levels and for any project contained in an adopted Basin Management Action Plan. For a local government in a rural area of critical state concern, the extension for BMAP projects can be for up to 10 years.
  • Restrictions on new nutrient sources within springsheds have been weakened so that the prohibition on septic tanks on lots smaller than 1 acre, except for passive nitrogen removing onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems, does not take effect until 6 months after the Department of Health has approved the use of passive systems. Additionally, new concentrated animal feeding operations are no longer prohibited within springs protection areas.
  • Extensions of deadlines for the adoption of minimum flows and levels, basin management action plans, delineation of spring protection and management zones, and completion of surveys of onsite sewage treatment and disposal system within each spring protection and management zone.  

 

With the removal of the funding source, local government interests were particularly vocal in their opposition to the bill, with other business groups such as the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries maintaining their opposition. The Nature Conservancy and other environmental stakeholders continue to support the bill. The fate of the bill in the House is very tenuous as the bill has never had a committee hearing and faces procedural hurdles to be heard on the floor.  The Senate sponsors expect the bill to be heard on the Senate floor on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.  

 

Establishing Minimum Water Flows and Levels for Water Bodies

HB 7171 by Porter and SB 1748 by Environmental Preservation & Conservation Committee

 

This bill exempts the minimum flows and levels rule adopted by the Suwannee River Water Management District for the Ichetucknee and Lower Santa Fe from the need for ratification by the legislature.  This week the House passed the bill on the floor and sent to the Senate. The bill may be a vehicle for all or parts of the Senate Springs bill, SB 1576.

 

Coastal Resilience

HB 1089 by Raschein and SB 1274 by Hays, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

 

This bill delays by 1 year, from July 1, 2014 to 2015, the prohibition against Citizens Insurance from covering new construction seaward of the coastal construction setback line or within a Coastal Barrier Resource Unit. The delay was sought to allow additional time to address implementation issues and identify properties subject to the limitation. The prohibition is important in reducing coastal risk and limiting the financial exposure of the state from the Citizens Insurance Corporation. The bill passed the House today and the Senate version of the bill is on the calendar waiting for the House companion to arrive in messages.

 

As the session draws to a close, stay tuned to the Florida Chapter’s Facebook page for updates on the budget negotiations, springs legislation and last minute surprises.

 

 

Week 7: April 18, 2014

The Legislature has taken a break this week to commemorate Easter and Passover. When they return on April 21st, the process of reconciling the two chamber’s budgets will be front and center. Next week is also critical to the fate of the Springs bill, CS/CS/CS/SB 1576 which will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, April 22nd. Now is the time to remind House leadership of the importance of addressing Springs Protection during the 2014 legislative session.

 

Land Protection Funding

 

This week The Nature Conservancy is highlighting the status of funding for land protection and management.  At this juncture, the House budget is more robust for land acquisition, while the Senate budget appropriates more funding for land management. House land protection funding includes a total of $70 million dollars for land protection, including: $55 million dollars for Florida Forever, $15 million in cash and $40 million in spending authority from the sale of nonconservation lands. The Florida Forever appropriation shall be used for: “land acquisitions that are less-than-fee interest, for partnerships where the state’s portion of the acquisition cost is no more than 50 percent, and for conservation lands needed for springs protection, military buffering or water resource protection.” In addition, the House appropriation includes $15 million dollars for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program to fund the acquisition of conservation easements over agricultural lands. Last year, the legislature provided $11.4 million dollars to fund this program and the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has received and ranked 50 applications from ranchers, farmers and foresters interested in the program.

In contrast to the House, the Senate budget provides $0 funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program with land protection funding limited to spending authority of up to $40 million from the sale of nonconservation lands for the Florida Forever program. The Nature Conservancy and our Florida Forever Coalition partners sent the Senate budget chair, Senator Joe Negron, the following letter outlining the importance of providing cash funding to both the Rural and Family Lands Protection and Florida Forever programs and highlighted the role of land protection funding in protecting water resources such as the Indian River Lagoon. Click to read letter.

 

Land Management Funding

 

Robust land management funding is equally important to protecting Florida’s investment in conservation lands for habitat, hunting and recreation.  Increasing land management funding and support is an important legislative priority of the Florida Chapter. During the recession, land management funding was sharply curtailed because of a steep decline in documentary stamp tax collections that fund land management related trust funds including the Conservation and Recreation Lands Trust Fund, the State Game Trust Fund and the Invasive Plant Management Trust Fund. As documentary stamp tax receipts increase, it is important that these additional revenues are committed to land management.

 

The Senate budget follows Governor Scott’s budget recommendations that increase land management funding levels over those of last year.  For example, the Governor requested and the Senate included in their budget an appropriation of $34,823,647 for invasive plant management that compares with the 2013 appropriation of $31,823,647. The House chose to fund invasive plant management at this 2013 level without adding revenue growth to the appropriations. For the Conservation and Recreation Lands funding, both chambers provide CARL management funding that is distributed to the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commissions following the Governor’s recommendation or, in some cases, increasing the appropriation beyond that was requested in the Governor’s proposed budget. While funding levels for land management are increasing as documentary stamp tax collections increase, the Governor’s proposed budget and Senate and House versions of the budget are not funding new positions devoted to land management which makes it more difficult to enhance the amount and quality of land management efforts.

 

Springs Protection

 

To date, the House has failed to consider its version of the Senate Springs Protection bill, CS/CS/SB 1576 (Dean) and Speaker Weatherford continues to signal that consideration of comprehensive Springs legislation by the House is unlikely before the end of session.  The Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, as noted in a previous update, sent Speaker Weatherford a letter on April 4th urging consideration of a House version of the Springs Protection bill. Several major news outlets, including the New York Times, ran articles this week highlighting the fate of Springs Protection legislation during the 2014 session, and noting the reluctance of the House to consider a bill this year. While a bill is not moving in the House, money for springs restoration projects will be a budget conference issue and the difference between the House number of $50 million and the Senate number of $18 million is significant. The House version of the budget contains proviso language directing DEP to submit a project list to the Legislative Budget Commission project plan: “that includes, but is not limited to, a prioritization of springs projects that best represents all geographic regions of the state with an emphasis on equality of spending between urban and agricultural areas to protect the quality and quantity of water that flows from springs.” 

 

In contrast, the Senate approach would use CS/CS/Senate Bill 1576 as the framework for identifying and prioritizing projects and directs the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt an administrative rule to evaluate, select and rank projects which would afford public input into the rule-making process. Without a springs bill, the budget proviso language increases in importance in determining the direction of springs protection in the coming year and setting the stage for the major water policy discussion that will occur during the 2015 session.

 

 

Week 6: April 11, 2014

The Sprint before Spring Break
Week 6 in the Legislature provided the last chance for bills to move far along in the committee process and remain in play for the last two weeks in the session; as well, a number of bills appeared to die in committee meetings. While both chambers passed their version of the budget at the end of Week 5, only the Senate had named its budget conferees by the end of this week. Legislators are going home to their districts next week, so the budget conference process will not commence until members return from their Passover/Easter break on April 21st. When they return, only two weeks remain in the regular 2014 legislative session and attention will be focused on budget negotiations.

Environmental Regulation
CS/HB 703 (Patronis), SB 1464 (Simpson)

This controversial  bill that affected local wetlands and springs protection ordinances, long-term consumptive use permits for certain types of land uses, and other regulatory relief provisions, appeared to die this week when Senator Simpson temporarily postposed the bill in the Senate Community Affairs Committee, which he also chairs. The House companion, HB 703 did not receive a hearing this week, the last week of regular committee meetings. Instead, the sponsors have signaled to the press that while the bills may be dead, individual pieces of the bill may be offered by members as amendments to other bills in the appropriations committee or on the floor. 

Springs Protection
SB 1576 (Dean)

The comprehensive springs protection bill that originated in the Senate also appears to have stalled out for the 2014 Legislative session.  This week the bill failed to be noticed for hearing at its next stop, Senate Appropriations, while the House companion failed to receive a first hearing in a House committee.   The last version of the bill, CS/CS/SB 1576, “the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act,” sought to allocate a significant percentage of documentary stamp tax money (estimated for FY 2014-2015 to be up to $379 million dollars) to fund a grant program for water quality and quantity projects that protect springs, including advanced wastewater treatment facilities, connecting homeowners on septic tanks to central sewage, implementing recovery and prevention strategies for water quantity and developing and implementing agricultural best management practices.  In contrast to the fate of the bill, funding in the range of $28-55 million dollars for springs protection projects is still on the table in the appropriations bills and will be the subject of budget conference negotiations when members return from their break.

Establishing Minimum Water Flows and Levels for Water Bodies
SB 1748 (Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee)/ HB 7171 (State Affairs)

This bill, approved by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee this week exempts the adoption of administrative rules establishing minimum flows and levels for the Upper Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers from the legislative ratification requirement. This exemption does not preempt any rule challenge brought by third parties to challenge the content of the rule but will remove the delay of waiting for a subsequent legislative session to pass before the rule can take effect.  

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
CS/SB 1630 (Montford)/ HB 7091 (Pigman)

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services agency bill addresses various aspects of the department’s programs and policies. This week the bill was amended to include incentives to encourage agricultural land owners to participate in a dispersed water storage program where landowners are paid to store water on their land. First, the bill allows agricultural lands that participate in a dispersed water storage program to continue to be classified as agricultural while in the program. Second, the bill allows a private landowner and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to establish a baseline wetlands determination as part of an agreement to implement best management practices associated with water quality related best management practices.

In addition to these changes, the bill clarifies the authority of the Florida Forest Service to grant privileges, permits, leases and concessions for the use of state forest land to include both lands leased or assigned to the Forest Service for management purposes. The Forest Service may grant such leases if the use is authorized by a land management plan or by an interim assignment letter issued by the Department of Environmental Protection. The bill also allows the Florida Forest Service to work with water management districts, municipalities and other government agencies in designating forestry lands to be managed for forestry purposes. Finally, the bill removes the pilot project status that allows the use of Australian Pines, Causarina cunninhamiana, for windbreaks to protect against citrus greening, and establishes the special permit conditions for planting and selling Causarina for windbreak purposes.

Coastal Resilience
SB 1274 (Hays)/ CS/CS/HB 1089 (Raschein), Citizens Property Insurance

This bill was amended in both the Senate Community Affairs Committee and the House Regulatory Affairs Committee this week to delay by one year the implementation on prohibition against Citizen’s providing insurance coverage to new construction, or major modifications to structures located seaward of the coastal construction control line or within a Coastal Barrier Resource Unit.  Originally, the bill was drafted to provide a narrow exception for Monroe County from the prohibition; however, problems were identified with the administration of the provision and members were requested to delay implementation by a year to enable an inventory to be conducted of affected properties and development of a clear definition of major modification. 

CS/SB 1326 (Brandes)/ HB 7065 (Eagle), Emergency Management 

CS/SB 1326 would authorize and fund a flood vulnerability study for the State of Florida.  In addition, the bill provides an appropriation of funding to the Department of Emergency Management to fund technical assistance to local governments on the Federal Flood Insurance Community Rating System.  The bill would also exempt the adoption of flood maps by local governments from taking claims brought under the Bert Harris Act. This week, the House Economic Affairs committee approved the House version of the bill that includes the Bert Harris exclusion for the adoption of flood maps, but lacks the flood vulnerability study and technical assistance provisions of the Senate version of the bill.

 

Week 5: April 4, 2014

House and Senate Pass Budgets
This week marked the midpoint of the legislative session with each chamber of the Florida Legislature passing a budget bill. The two chambers are now in the posture to begin the budget conference process where the differences between the two chambers are negotiated and resolved. The House’s $75.3 billion budget includes $27.6 billion of general revenue funds, $22.1 billion of state trust fund revenue and $25.6 billion in federal funds. The Senate’s budget of $74.9 billion includes $27.4 billion in general revenue and $47.5 billion in trust funds. The Senate budget also sets aside over $3 billion dollars in reserve and includes a $500 million dollar tax cut, compared to $2.9 million set aside in the House reserve.

The House and Senate Environmental budgets are higher than last year with the total House Agriculture & Natural Resources budget of $3.4 billion, increasing total spending by $265.1 million over the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The Senate combines agricultural and environmental budget categories with other general government categories such as the Department of Revenue and Department of Management Services making it difficult to compare the total budget figures between the House and Senate. In the agriculture and environment programs, the House provides more funding than the Senate for the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection Programs, Springs Protection and Water Projects.  

The Senate provides more funding for Indian River Lagoon/ Caloosahatchee Restoration and land management but fails to fund The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and Florida Keys wastewater improvements. The Nature Conservancy will urge the Senate in conference to agree with the House approach to providing new cash funding for the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection Programs instead of exclusively relying on the proceeds of the sale of nonconservation land to fund the Florida Forever Program.                       

Highlights of the House and Senate
Agriculture & Environment Budget Proposals

Agriculture & Environment Budget Proposals

Environmental Regulation
CS/HB 703 (Patronis), SB 1464 (Simpson)

During Week 5, CS/HB 703 progressed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee. The House version does not include moderating changes that were adopted by the Senate Environmental and Preservation Committee last week.  For example, CS/HB 703 extends the operation of the Agricultural Lands Practices Act by preventing local governments from enforcing modifications and re-adoptions of wetlands and springs protection ordinances that were enacted prior to July 1, 2003 and allows water management districts to issue 30-year consumptive use permits to developments of regional impact that are located in rural areas of critical state concern. The Senate did not hear CS/SB 1464 this week but the Senate Community Affairs Committee will take up the bill on Tuesday, April 8th.      

Springs Protection
CS/SB 1576 (Dean)/ HB 1313 (Brodeur)

The Senate Springs bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee this week with the adoption of another strike-all version of the bill. The strike-all amendment adopted by the Committee included several positive changes suggested by The Nature Conservancy: 1) to ensure that the deadlines imposed by current law are not inadvertently changed by certain compliance deadlines in the bill that are contingent on funding be made available by the state and 2) to allow nutrient reduction practices to be included within the pilot project funding. Time is running out for the bill to be heard by a House Committee and The Nature Conservancy delivered a letter on April 4th to Speaker Weatherford requesting that the bill be scheduled for a committee hearing.

The Senate Committee Substitute creates the “Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act,” and seeks to allocate a significant percentage of documentary stamp tax money (estimated for FY 2014-2015 to be up to $379 million dollars) to fund a grant program for water quality and quantity projects that protect springs; including advanced wastewater treatment facilities, connecting homeowners on septic tanks to central sewage, recovery and prevention strategies for water quantity, and agricultural best management practices. 

The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection and the water management district to delineate springs protection zones for each first magnitude spring and to develop a springs protection plan for each spring. The Department of Environmental Protection is directed to adopt criteria for ranking and selecting springs protection projects and to also create a Pilot Project Program directed at funding innovative nutrient reduction technologies. The bill prohibits certain future activities in spring protection zones including: new septic tanks on lots less than 1 acre, new facilities for the disposal of hazardous waste, the land spreading or dumping of domestic wastewater residuals or septage, and new concentrated animal feeding operations or slaughterhouses.

Coastal Management
SB 956 (Bean)/ HB 791 (Renuart)

This bill expands the scope of area-wide permits for dune restoration and certain structures, including swimming pools and the repair of existing bulkheads and authorizing DEP to grant concessions in aquatic preserves. Both bills progressed this week through the Senate General Government Appropriations Committee and the House State Affairs committee with State Affairs committee improving the bill by requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to require consultation with the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission on habitat issues, to provide greater transparency in the concessionaire selection process, and to allow the Department to accept gifts and donations and to deposit the funding in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for future acquisition or development of aquatic preserves and their associated upland.         

Aquatic Preserves
CS/HB 1123 (Porter)/ CS/SB 1094 (Dean)

The bill creates a new Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve and grants the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to manage the preserve as part of the state aquatic preserve system. The creation of this preserve closes a gap that has not been afforded the same regulatory and management protections as other coastal areas of the state. This week the bill passed out of the House State Affairs Committee without objection.   

Emergency Management
CS/SB 1326 (Brandes)/HB 7065 (Eagle)
 

This week the Senate Community Affairs Committee approved the bill that would authorize and fund a flood vulnerability study for the State of Florida. In addition, the bill provides an appropriation of funding to the Department of Emergency Management to fund technical assistance to local governments on the Federal Flood Insurance Community Rating System. The bill would also exempt the adoption of flood maps by local governments from taking claims brought under the Bert Harris Act. While moving in the Senate, the bill has yet to receive a hearing in the House. 

 

                             

Week 4 – March 28, 2014

The Florida Legislature continued its fast pace this week with both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees adopting initial budget proposals. Both the House and Senate Agricultural and Environmental budgets focus on funding for Everglades/Indian River & Caloosahatchee River restoration, water infrastructure projects and springs protection. While the budget numbers for the environmental budget are generally much higher than the 2013-2014 levels, the Senate has so far declined to provide cash funding for the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. The House in contrast, has split $30 million of cash between the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection programs and the difference between the two chambers will be resolved in the budget conference process and the Florida Chapter will be meeting with House and Senate budget conferees to support funding for the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection programs.  

Highlights of the House and Senate Agriculture and Environment Budget

 

Water Resource Legislation
HB 703 (Patronis), SB 1464 (Simpson) Environmental Regulation

The Senate Environmental & Preservation Committee passed the bill out of committee this week with substantial amendments that remove some of the more controversial provisions of the bill that limit the ability of local governments to enact or enforce wetlands ordinances. A strike-everything amendment proposed by Senator Simpson re-moved a provision that would have allowed water management districts to issue 50-year consumptive use to landowners who make land available for dispersed water projects. 

Senator Altman sponsored an amendment to the strike all to delete language that would have exempted certain water control infrastructure from local government permits while Senator Latvala proposed an amendment that deleted from the bill certain proposed changes to the Agricultural Lands Practices Act that would have impaired the ability of local governments to enforce modifications and re-adoptions of wetlands and springs protection ordinances that were enacted prior to July 1, 2003. The bill as passed out of committee still contains a troublesome provision that would allow water management districts to issue 30-year consumptive use permits to developments of regional impact that are located in rural areas of critical economic concern. The House companion, HB 703 is scheduled for hearing this coming Monday, March 31st, in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Springs Protection
SB 1576 (Dean)

The comprehensive springs protection bill that passed out of the Senate Environmental Preservation & Conservation Committee on March 20th will be heard by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday, March 31st. The committee substitute, the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act,” seeks to allocate a significant percentage of documentary stamp tax money (estimated for FY 2014-2015 to be up to $379 million dollars) to fund a grant program for water quality and quantity projects that protect springs; including advanced wastewater treatment facilities, connecting homeowners on septic tanks to central sewage; recovery and prevention strategies for water quantity and agricultural best management practices. The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection and the water management district to delineate springs protection zones for each first magnitude spring and to develop a springs protection plan for each spring. The Department of Environmental Protection is directed to adopt criteria for ranking and selecting springs protection projects and to also create a Pilot Project Program directed at funding innovative nutrient reduction technologies. The bill prohibits certain future activities in spring protection zones including: new septic tanks on lots less than 1 acre, new facilities for the disposal of hazardous waste; the land spreading or dumping of domestic wastewater residuals or septage; and new concentrated animal feeding operations or slaughterhouses. While the bill has momentum in the Senate and the backing of Senate President designate Andy Gardiner, the House has yet to take up the companion bill, HB 1313 and time for committee consideration is running out. The revenue estimating conference will be meeting today to estimate the fiscal impact of the bill which will likely exceed the level of funding for Springs Protection that is currently in the House and Senate budget bills.

Coastal Resilience
SB 956/HB 791-Coastal Management

Both the Senate and House versions of this bill, expanding the scope of area wide permits for dune restoration and certain structures, including swimming pools and authorizing DEP to grant concessions in aquatic preserves were heard in the Senate Community Af-fairs and House Agriculture & Natural Resources committees this week. In Senate Community Affairs, the bill was favorably amended to require consultation with the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission on habitat issues and to provide greater transparency in the concessionaire selection process.

SB 1274 by Hays, HB 1089, by Raschein-Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

This bill creates a narrow exemption for Monroe County, from the prohibition of Citizens writing policies for major modification of structures located seaward of the coastal construction setback line or within the Coastal Barrier System. This exemption for Monroe County only applies if Citizens issues 75 percent or more of the total number of policies for each line of personal residential, commercial residential and commercial nonresidential insurance. Once the availability of private insurance causes the Citizen’s portfolio to drop below 75% in Monroe County, Citizen’s will no longer be able to write policies for major modifications that occur seaward of the coastal construction setback line or within the Coastal Barrier System. The bill passed out of the Senate Banking & Insurance and House Insurance & Banking Committees this week.

 

Week 3 – March 21, 2014

This week in Tallahassee included the remembrance and celebration of the life of Governor Askew who, among his many achievements, was the architect of land and water protection initiatives that form the foundation of conservancy policy in Florida.

Highlights of the week include:         

Budget

At the Legislature, both the House and Senate appropriation sub-committees issued initial budget recommendations for fiscal year 2014-2014.   As this update is being written, these recommendations are being turned into a draft budget bills that will be hear by each chamber next week. Generally, the environmental budgets focus on water resource protection with large allocations directed at Everglades & Indian River Lagoon Restoration; member water projects and springs protection. The House included a healthy initial allocation for the Rural and Family Lands Program of $15 million while the Senate declined to include funding in its initial budget and limited new Florida Forever funding to up to $40 million of the proceeds of non-conservation land sales. The House allocated a total of $70 million for the Florida Forever Program with $15 of the $30 million in cash directed towards the Rural and Family Lands Program. Springs protection projects received $45 million for in the Senate and $20 million in the House.            

Springs Protection

A major springs protection bill, SB 1576 passed out the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee on March 20. 2014, with the support of the Florida Chapter. The bill, the “Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act,” seeks to allocate a significant percentage of documentary stamp tax money (estimated for FY 2014-2015 to be up to $379 million dollars) to fund a grant program for water quality and quantity projects that protect springs; including advanced wastewater treatment facilities, connecting homeowners on septic tanks to central sewage; recovery and prevention strategies for water quantity and agricultural best management practices. 

The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection and the water management district to delineate springs protection zones for each first magnitude spring and to develop a springs protection plan for each spring. The Department of Environmental Protection is directed to adopt criteria for ranking and selecting springs protection projects and to also create a Pilot Project Program directed at funding innovative nutrient reduction technologies. The bill prohibits certain future activities in spring protection zones including: new septic tanks on lots less than 1 acre, new facilities for the disposal of hazardous waste; the land spreading or dumping of domestic wastewater residuals or septage; and new concentrated animal feeding operations or slaughterhouses.

At the meeting, Senator Andy Gardiner spoke of his commitment to address Spring Protection both this session and during his terms as Senate President. While the potential documentary stamp tax funding capacity provided by the bill is several hundred million dollars, the initial budget proposals for springs protection for the 2014-2015 fiscal year are more modest.

The House initial budget proposal allocates $45 million for springs protection projects and $5 million for the development of agricultural best management practices to protect springs. The initial Senate budget proposal allocates $20 million for Springs Protection Projects and $5 million for the development of agricultural best management practices for springs.  

Coastal Resilience           

The Florida Chapter is supporting wind and flood insurance reform measure that create market incentives to reduce coastal hazard risk and fund natural infrastructure measures such as living shorelines and protective dunes.

Both the House and Senate initial subcommittee budget recommendations include $1,543,300 to support second year funding to Florida International University for the development of a storm-surge, flood component to the Florida Hurricane Loss Model.                

This week the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee passed Senate Bill 1326, Emergency Management, by Senator Brandes that would authorize and fund a flood vulnerability study for the State of Florida. In addition the bill provides an appropriation of funding to the Department of Emergency Management to fund technical assistance to local governments on the Federal Flood Insurance Community Rating System. Moreover, the bill would also exempt the adoption of flood maps by local governments from taking claims brought under the Bert Harris Act.        

 

Week 2 - March 14, 2014  

The highlight of Week 2 of the Legislature was the opportunity for Florida's Chapter Director Shelly Lakly and Chapter staff to partner with the Florida Cattlemen's Association to advocate for $25 million of funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. By the end of the week, both the House and Senate Budget writers were starting initial budget preparation work, and next week the House leadership will begin issuing initial budget allocations as described below.   

 

Budget

 

House Speaker Weatherford announced an initial budget allocation for the Agricultural and Natural Resources budget categories--$467 million in general revenue, which is substantially higher than the $311.5 million allocated in 2013-2014.  In the announcement of the allocations, Speaker Weatherford described the House environmental funding goal to: 

Protect and enhance Florida's environment by a comprehensive and balanced approach to water supply and quality, as well as to purchase lands to preserve Florida's unique natural resources and provide recreational opportunities. 

This statement would seem to signal a willingness to provide funding for Florida Forever Program and invest in water resource protection and water supply development. In addition, we have had positive discussions with House members on their interest in providing funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. 

 

Springs Protection
SB 1576 (Dean)/HB  1313 (Brodeur) 

 

Although the Springs Bill was on the agenda for the Senate Environmental Preservation Committee meeting this week, the vote on the bill was temporarily postponed to allow stakeholders to review a draft strike-everything version of the the bill that has yet to be officially filed.    

 

The draft under review...

  1. Grants the Department of Environmental Protection, rather than the Acquisition and Restoration Council, authority to rank and select springs protection projects for funding;Requires DEP to develop Spring Action Plans that develop recovery and prevention strategies for both impaired Outstanding Florida Springs (OFS), and those expected to be impaired within 20 years, and requires identification of each point source or category of nonpoint sources and a detailed allocation for each pollutant;
  2. Deletes the requirement that local governments located within OFS adopt fertilizer application ordinances that require fertilizer to contain at least 50% slow release fertilizer, in addition to meeting the minimum requirements of DEP's model fertilizer ordinance;
  3. Ties certain remedial actions to the availability of springs protection grant funding, including meeting wastewater treatment standards of 3 mg/l and the implementation of agricultural best management practices in spring protection zones;
  4. Requires DEP in consultation with the Department of Health and local governments to inventory certain septic tank systems located within springs protection zones and assist the local governments where the systems are located in developing a sewage treatment and disposal remediation plan. The local government is required to submit proposals for funding to DEP at least every two years;
  5. Requires DEP to develop rules to fund nutrient reduction pilot projects and rules to competitively rank and select springs protection projects by December 31, 2014;
  6. Identifies several additional activities within springsheds, including the land spreading of domestic wastewater residuals and septage and new concentrated dairy cattle operations.
  7. Legislators and stakeholders will continue to negotiate the provisions of the bill during the upcoming week prior to the next Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation meeting.

Coastal Resilience

The Florida Chapter is supporting wind and flood insurance reform measures that create market incentives to reduce coastal hazard risk and fund natural infrastructure measures such as living shorelines and protective dunes. 

This week the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed SB 7062, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Coverage that includes language that would remove the ability of Citizen's Insurance to offer new commercial residential policies providing multi-peril coverage limiting new coverage to commercial residential wind-only policies. 

Language amended on to the bill would exempt Monroe County from legislation we supported last year that prohibits Citizen's from providing residential wind-storm coverage for new construction in federally designated Coastal Barrier Resource Act (sensitive coastal areas).  We are working with partners and legislators to narrow the scope of the exemption to allow property owners with existing structures and existing Monroe County Rate of Growth entitlements to access Citizen's Insurance and we are hopeful the language will be amendment onto the bill at its next stop. 

 

Coastal Management  

 

Bills SB 956 (Bean) & HB 791 (Renuart) passed this week out of the Senate Environmental Preservation & House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committees. Both bills expand the scope of general permits for coastal construction to include dune restoration, on-grade walkovers for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and allow DEP to grant general permits for swimming pools associated with single-family residential structures that do not advance the line of existing construction and for minor reconstruction of existing coastal armoring structures. 

In addition, the bill allows DEP to award concessions for the use of aquatic preserves and associated uplands if the use is compatible with the aquatic preserve's management plan.  The dune restoration general permit created by the bill could assist in implementing future coastal resilience projects that protect against storm surge and coastal erosion, although other provisions of the bill encourage the construction of repair structures seaward of the coastal construction setback line.

 

 

Week 1 - March 7, 2014

The Legislature is off to a quick start for the opening week of the legislative session, with members immediately delving into issues important to our conservation agenda and touching on land protection & water policy. 

Highlights of the week include:

Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services agency bill
PCB ANRS 14-01

The proposed committee bill, which passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee includes a provision allowing the agency to pay for land appraisals and administrative costs out of the CARL Trust fund for the Rural and Family and Lands Program.

Springs Protection
SB 1576 (Dean)/HB 1313 (Brodeur)

 The "gang of five," Senators Simmons, Dean, Simpson, Hays have filed their comprehensive springs protection bill which allocates significant documentary stamp tax revenue for the restoration and protection of Outstanding Florida Springs, and creates the "Florida Springs Protection and Aquifer Act." The bill explicitly allows this funding to be used for acquisition of lands that protect springs that are on the Florida Forever list or identified by a water management district as essential for springs protection. We are working with the members to ensure that the grant funding can be used for incentives for voluntary crop conversion and long-leaf protection within spring protection zones.

The bill also creates a grant program to be a vehicle for funding advanced wastewater, septic tank removal or retrofit, agriculture best management practices, and pilot programs to demonstrate nutrient reduction technologies. Hard deadlines are set forth for the adoption of minimum flows and levels and the adoption of recovery and prevention strategy plans. Finally, the bill prohibits certain new activities within a spring protection and management zone of an Outstanding Florida Spring including certain septic tank systems and requires local governments to amend their comprehensive plans to reflect these restrictions. 

Coastal Resilience

The Florida Chapter is supporting certain wind and flood insurance reform measures that create market incentives to reduce coastal hazard risk and fund natural infrastructure measures such as living shorelines and protective dunes. During the 2014 session, bills have been filed that would further reduce the portfolio of Citizens Insurance that provides state-subsidized wind-storm insurance, and bills that would allow for private flood insurance as an alternative to the Federal Flood Insurance Program.

This week the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee temporarily postponed SPB that would remove the ability of Citizen's Insurance to offer new commercial residential policies providing multi-peril coverage limiting new coverage to commercial residential wind-only policies. Of concern is an amendment filed to the bill that would exempt Monroe County from legislation we supported last year that prohibits Citizen's from providing residential wind-storm coverage for new construction in federally designated Coastal Barrier Resource Act (sensitive coastal areas).

The House Insurance & Banking Committee approved HB 879 related to flood insurance that authorizes the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology to evaluate projected flood loss models to be used by private flood insurance providers in Florida. This and other measures are intended to facilitate market entry for private flood insurers to offer alternative products to the Federal Flood Insurance. 

Environmental Regulation
HB 703 (Patronis)/SB 1464 (Simpson)

The first hearing of a proposed committee substitute for HB 703 relating to environmental regulation took place in the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee this week. 

Of concern in this bill are provisions that would authorize water management districts to issue 30- year consumptive use permits for developments of regional impact that are located in a rural area of critical economic concern and 50-year permits for landowners who make their lands available for dispersed water storage. The trend for authorizing long-term permits has emerged over the last three years and we feel requires a comprehensive evaluation in the context of the larger water policy discussion that Speaker Designate Crisafulli and President Designate Andy Gardiner have signaled will be a priority of their tenure in 2015-2016.

Also of concern is a provision that limits the ability of local governments to enforce, modify, or readopt certain springs protection and other water resource ordinances that were approved on or after July 1, 2003. We intend to work with the sponsors on language that addresses our concerns. 

Aquatic Preserves
SB 1094 (Dean)/HB 1123 (Porter)

This bill creates the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve Including submerged lands adjacent to Citrus and Pasco Counties, which has been a major gap in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Aquatic Preserve System and will highlight the coastal resource value of the Nature Coast. The bill passed out of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee this week and could be an important tool for managing the important seagrass, marsh and other coastal resources and facilitate management planning and project identification that could help Florida's Gulf of Mexico restoration efforts.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org

Contact information

Janet Bowman
Director of Legislative Policy & Strategies
janet_bowman@tnc.org


Jennifer Conner Nelms
Director of Government Relations
jconner@tnc.org


Greg Knecht
Director of Protection
gknecht@tnc.org

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