BECKER UPDATE: 2021 Florida Legislative Session, Week #4

BECKER UPDATE: 2021 Florida Legislative Session, Week #4

Florida Capital BuildingHEADLINES

Budget. This week, the House and Senate released their respective budget proposals for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Both houses of the legislature prioritized resiliency, flood mitigation, and sea level rise-focused projects this year. The House set aside $29.1M for water projects; the Senate set aside $37.5M. Additionally, the House’s proposal included $100M for land acquisition through the Florida Forever program, while the Senate allocated $50M.

The Senate’s $95B budget proposal came in about $1.6B lower than the Governor’s budget recommendation, with Senate President Wilton Simpson expressing the need to “…make difficult choices throughout the budget.” However, the Senate’ budget set aside $5B for reserves, allocated $50M to the child welfare system, and allowed for the minimum wage of state employees and contractors to be raised to $13 an hour.

Alternatively, the House’s $97.1B budget proposal tracked closer with the Governor’s $96.6B proposal. The House budget increases K-12 funding by $181 per student, extends post-partum Medicaid coverage from two months to a full year, calls for $200M in beach replenishment; and allots $140M each in recurring funds for affordable housing, septic-to-sewer conversions and mitigating the effects of flooding and sea level rise, as well as an additional $140 million of nonrecurring funds in each area.

It is expected that the state will receive $10B in federal relief funds in the coming months.

GENERAL UPDATES

Cruise Ships. On Friday Attorney General Ashley Moody expressed that she was looking at ways to “push back” against a directive by the federal agency that essentially keeps the cruise industry from operating. “What is obviously clear is that the orders we’re operating under are based on outdated medical information, and they’re untimely,” Moody said. Governor DeSantis has said that he would like to see cruise ships operating again by June. The Florida Ports Council has shown frustration with CDC directives, issuing a statement last week stating: “While other modes of passenger travel, such as air, rail and even passenger ferries, have been able to resume operations using identified federal COVID-19 protocols, the cruise passenger travel industry has not been provided guidelines to even begin the implementation of resumption.”

Protest. On Friday, the Florida House voted on final passage of HB1 by Rep. Fernandez-Barquin. This measure has attracted controversy for its perceived restriction of free speech aimed at cracking down on violent protests by creating a variety of new crimes, enhancing riot-related penalties, and creating roadblocks for local governments to trim police spending. The legislation, a top priority for Governor DeSantis, heads to the Senate after a favorable vote of 76-39 by the House. The similar companion to the bill in the Senate, SB 484 by Sen. Burgess has not yet been heard in committee.

Infrastructure. On Monday, the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee passed HB 1239 by Rep. Tomkow with a vote of 15-1. The legislation seeks to address the lack of broadband infrastructure and access to the internet by Floridians living in rural areas by creating tax incentives for service providers for the purchase of equipment used to provide communications services. Furthermore, the legislation promotes the deployment of broadband services by mandating that municipal electric utilities offer broadband providers access to their utility poles and ensures that the fees charged for that access are constant across all service providers.

On Thursday, by a vote of 39-1, the Senate passed SB 100 by Senator Harrell, which seeks to undo much of what former Senate President Bill Galvano championed during his tenure with respect to the expansion of toll roads in rural Florida. Among other things, the bill is most notable for shifting 132 million earmarked for the Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) projects to the State Transportation Trust Fund and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise

Resiliency. On Monday, by unanimous vote the House Ways & Means Committee advanced HB 1429 by Speaker Pro Tempore Avila. This legislation would allow counties to spend dollars received through the collection of tourist and convention development taxes on the financing of flood mitigation projects or improvements. The bill is scheduled to be heard in its final committee stop, the State Affairs Committee, on March 29th.

On Wednesday, the State Affairs Committee unanimously passed HB 7019 by Representative Busatta Cabrera. The bill establishes the Resilient Florida Grant Program within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This program will fund costs of community resilience planning and requires the DEP to develop an annual Statewide Flooding & Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan for submission to the Governor & Legislature. Additionally, the legislation authorizes local governments, water management districts, and flood control districts to annually submit proposed projects to DEP.

Drones. HB 1049 by Representative Giallombardo passed the House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Subcommittee by a unanimous vote. This legislation expands authorized uses of drones by law enforcement agencies and requires governmental entities or units to take specified protective measures when using drones. The bill will be heard before the State Affairs Committee on March 29th. Its similar Senate companion, SB 44 by Senator Wright, has already passed the Senate and awaits action in the House.

PREEMPTION 

Seaports. SB 426 State Preemption of Seaport Regulations by Senator Boyd, which seeks to transfer the regulatory power of commerce in state seaports exercised by localities to the state, passed the Senate Community Affairs Committee on Wednesday by a favorable vote of 5-3. The bill was amended in committee to add some technical clarifying language. The legislation awaits being placed on the agenda of the Senate Rules Committee before being sent to the floor.

The House companion to this legislation, HB 267, has not moved since March 3rd and still awaits a hearing in two committees of reference.

Impact Fees. SB 750 Impact Fees by Senator Gruters passed its first committee stop on Wednesday in the Senate Community Affairs Committee by a vote of 5-3. If passed, this legislation sets standards for the rate of increase of an impact fee, as well as how they are calculated. Furthermore, it would restrict the use of funds collected from impact fees to be used for emergency medical, fire and law enforcement public facilities; and infrastructure, defined in the legislation as “costs required to bring the public facility into service.” The bill is scheduled to be heard in its second committee of reference on Wednesday, March 31st.

Utility Services. HB 919 Preemption Over Restriction of Utility Services by Representative Tomkow passed its second of three committee stops on Tuesday in the House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee by a vote of 14-4. If passed, this legislation would prohibit counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions from restricting or prohibiting the types or fuel sources of energy production used, delivered, converted, or supplied by certain entities to customers.

Building Design. SB 284 Building Design by Senator Perry passed its second of three committee stops on Tuesday in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee by a vote of 7-1.

This bill would prohibit local government from regulating specific building design elements for residential dwellings and from adopting zoning and development regulations that require specific building design elements for residential elements. Exemptions in the legislation exist for dwellings in community redevelopment areas and dwellings located in a planned unit development or master planned community created by ordinance before the bill’s effective date of July 1, 2021. The House companion, HB 55 by Rep. Overdorf has moved swiftly through all its committee meetings and has been placed on the special-order calendar for March 31st.

TALLAHASSEE UPDATES

Sales Tax. As an update from Week 2, CS/CS/SB 50 by Senator Gruters passed off the Senate floor on Thursday, March 25th with a vote of 30-10. The bill would require out-of-state retailers and marketplace providers with no physical presence in Florida to collect Florida’s sales tax on sales of taxable items delivered to purchasers in Florida if the out-of-state retailer or marketplace provider makes a substantial number of sales in Florida. The bill was amended to temporarily divert increased collections in sales tax, due to this bill, to the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund until it is replenished to pre-pandemic levels. The House companion CS/HB 15 is scheduled to be heard in its final committee of reference on Monday, March 29th.

Home Based Business. HB 403 Home Based Business by Rep. Giallombardo has been placed on the special-order calendar for March 31st. This legislation sets the standard for what can be considered a “home-based business,” and preempts local governments from regulating them, subject to those qualifications. In short, so long as there are no more than two employees who do not reside at the residence in which the business is being run, the use of the property appears consistent with the neighborhood from the street, and parking related to business activities comply with local zoning requirements, the business is allowed to operate in an area zoned for residential use.

Its companion bill, SB 266 by Senator Perry, is awaiting being heard in the Senate Rules Committee before being sent to the floor.

Code Enforcement. HB 883 County and Municipal Code Enforcement by Representative Overdorf scheduled to be heard on March 29th before the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee. This legislation would prohibit code inspectors and code enforcement officers from initiating a code enforcement investigation based upon an anonymous complaint. It also requires an individual making a complaint of a potential violation to provide his or her name and address to the local government body before an investigation occurs. If passed, the bill takes effect July 1, 2021.

Its Senate companion, SB 60 by Senator Bradley, passed the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 27-11.

Becker’s State Legislative Lobbying Team will continue to monitor these developments as they evolve and will share with you as soon as information becomes available.