BECKER UPDATE: 2021 Florida Legislative Session Wrap Up, Week #9

BECKER UPDATE: 2021 Florida Legislative Session Wrap Up, Week #9

Florida Capital BuildingHEADLINES

Sine Die. The Florida Legislature adjourned on Friday, April 30th around 2:40 pm. The 2021 regular session presented some extraordinary challenges to all who participated in the legislative process. As this COVID-19 Session comes to an end, the following business was conducted:

  • 3,140 Bills and Proposed Committee Bills (PCBs) filed
  • 2,632 Amendments filed
  • 3,788 Votes taken
  • 39 Floor Sessions
  • 275 Bills passed both chambers

Although the regular session is over, lawmakers will return to Tallahassee during the week of May 17 to consider a proposed gambling deal that Governor DeSantis reached with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The 75-page agreement, which allows sports betting in Florida, could bring in $2.5 billion for the state over the next five years and $6 billion through 2030. The arrangement would run for the next 30 years.

Budget. After two weeks of negotiations, the House and Senate passed a $101.5 billion budget ($36.3 billion GR; $65.2 billion TF; $6 billion Reserves), now headed to Governor DeSantis’ desk. The new budget is a significant increase thanks to the $10 billion in federal stimulus money and rebounding state tax revenues.

In addition to funding bonuses for first responders, examples of spending include a $50 million increase to raise teacher salaries; about $96 million to provide home and community-based services to more people with developmental and intellectual disabilities; and $100 million to clean up an old phosphate plant in Manatee County that drew recent concerns about a potential environmental catastrophe.

The budget also includes money for Everglades restoration, addressing effects of sea-level rise, and $43 million to raise minimum wage for the state’s nearly 13,000 employees to $13 an hour. Most of the federal stimulus will go toward infrastructure and environmental projects such as $2 billion for the State Transportation Fund and $300 million for the Department of Environmental Protection land acquisitions.

Also allocated is $30 million for the African American Cultural and Historic Grant Program and $9 million for the Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity infrastructure.

The final budget won’t be $101.5 billion after the Governor issues his vetoes, but it will most likely reach $100 billion, the highest budget in state history. Last year, the Governor made just over $1 billion in line-item vetoes, a historic amount as Florida braced for the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Governor DeSantis has until July 1, 2021 – the beginning of the fiscal year – to sign the budget.

SIGNED BY GOVERNOR

Sales Tax Fairness. CS/CS/SB 50 by Senator Gruters was signed by the Governor on April 19, Chapter No. 2021-002, and will go into effect July 1, 2021. The bill requires out-of-state retailers and marketplace providers with no physical presence in Florida to collect sales tax on taxable items delivered to purchasers in Florida if the out-of-state retailer makes a substantial number of sales in Florida.

COVID-19 Liability. CS/SB 72 by Senator Brandes was signed by the governor on April 5, Chapter No. 2021-001, and is effective upon becoming law. The bill adds lawsuit protections for businesses, local governments, universities and other public entities that may be facing claims related to COVID-19.

Combatting Public Disorder. CS/HB 1 by Representative Fernandez-Barquin was signed by the Governor on April 19, Chapter No. 2021-6, and will go into effect upon becoming law. This bill, a top priority for Governor DeSantis, creates a new crime of “mob intimidation”, enhances riot-related penalties, and makes it harder for local officials to reduce spending on law enforcement.

Right to Farm. SB 88 by Senator Brodeur was signed by the Governor on April 29, Chapter 2021.007, and is effective July 1, 2021. This bill will preserve Florida’s agricultural heritage and modernize Florida’s Right to Farm Act which regulates agriculture throughout the state of Florida. This bill would expand the legal protections for farmers by shielding them from what are known as nuisance lawsuits.

AWAITING GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE

Election Administration. CS/CS/CS/SB 90 by Senator Baxley makes significant changes to the Election Code. The bill places restrictions on vote by mail ballots, limits the use of drop boxes, creates additional security and accountability measures related to ballot drop boxes, and makes other administrative changes intended to facilitate administration.

Supporters of the bill said that it is needed to ensure election security and integrity. Those who oppose the bill contend that the bill is designed to place barriers on voting, essentially creating voter suppression. The bill has been engrossed and enrolled. A priority of the Governor, the bill is awaiting his signature. The bill will take effect on July 1, 2021.

Impact Fees. CS/CS/CS/HB 337 by Representative DiCeglie was heavily amended and substituted for CS/CS/CS/SB 750 by Senator Gruters passing both chambers. The bill restricts the allowable expenditures of impact fee revenue and caps how much impact fees can be raised on a yearly basis. Impact fees are collected by local governments to fund local infrastructure to meet the demands on population growth. The bill is now awaiting action by the Governor and will take effect upon becoming law.

Preemption of Fuel Retailers. SB 856 by Senator Hutson was substituted for HB 839 by Representative Fabricio passing both chambers. The bill would preempt local governments from banning gas stations and associated infrastructure necessary to provide fuel to gas stations. The bill also prohibits local governments from requiring gas stations to provide electric vehicle charging stations. The bill will take effect upon becoming law.

Reclaimed Water. CS/SB 64 by Senator Albritton passed both chambers last week. The bill requires certain wastewater utilities to develop plans by November 2021 for eliminating surface water discharges within a 10-year time frame. The bill does not accommodate adverse impacts to local utility customers or technical or environmental feasibility, but the bill’s original five-year compliance deadline was extended to 10 years. The bill is now awaiting action by the Governor and will take effect upon becoming law.

Home-Based Businesses. CS/HB 403 by Representative Giallombardo was substituted for CS/CS/SB 266 by Senator Perry and was amended before passing both chambers. The bill would preempt local government from being allowed to regulate or ban businesses from being run in a residential zone and sets forth certain restrictions.

Although the bill passed both chambers, there was controversy in the Senate as the bill passed with a vote of 19-18, with 3 Senators failing to vote while being present in the chamber. The House passed the bill with a vote of 77-41 and ordered the bill engrossed then enrolled. The Senate requested that the House return the bill back to the Senate, however, the House failed to do so.

Local Occupational Licensing. HB 735 by Representative Harding would preempt licensing of occupations to the state and prohibit local governments from imposing additional licensing requirements or modifying licensing. Any licensing of occupations adopted prior to July 1, 2021 will continue to be effective until July 1, 2023, at which time it will expire. Any licensing occupations authorized by general law is exempt from the preemption. HB 735 was a priority of the speaker of the House and is awaiting action by the Governor. The bill will take effect July 1, 2021. The Senate companion SB 268 by Senator Perry was substituted for HB 735.

Property Insurance. HB 305 by Representative Rommel was substituted for CS/CS/CS/SB 76 by Senator Boyd, is aimed at curbing increases in property insurance rates with changes to the law around attorney fees and prohibitions on how roofers can solicit business. The legislation also allows for higher rate increases. The heavily amended bill passed both chambers with a vote of 35-5 in the Senate and 75-41 in the House. The bill has been ordered engrossed and enrolled and awaits action by the Governor. The bill will take effect July 1, 2021.

Transgender. SB 2012 by Senator Stargel and HB 1475 by Representative Tuck was substituted for SB 1028 Charter Schools by Senator Hutson. The original transgender bill is designed to ban male-to-female transgender students from playing on girls or women’s school sports teams in Florida. The provision will require student athletes to prove their gender by providing school sports officials with an official birth certificate from near the time of birth.

Elementary school students are not included in this legislation and medical examinations of a student’s reproductive anatomy is also excluded. Unable to agree on the details in both the House and Senate, this bill was shelved however, unexpectedly, it was resuscitated late Wednesday evening and tacked onto the Charter Schools bill. SB 1028 is awaiting action by the Governor and will take effect July 1, 2021.

Name, Image and Likeness. CS/CS/SB 646 (Ch. 2020-28) passed the legislature last year was a landmark legislation, recognized by the Governor, that would have made Florida the first state in the nation to allow NCAA athletes to make money off their talents. Originally set to take effect on July 1, 2020, an amendment to SB 1028 Charter Schools by Senator Hutson, delays the implementation of the bill to July 1, 2022.

Social Media Platforms. SB 7072 by Senator (A) Rodriguez requires social media companies to more specifically spell out what would get someone “deplatformed,” or kicked off the service and to provide a reason to those persons who have been kicked off the service. The bill also prevents the companies from rejecting posts by candidates for office – as happened to former President Donald Trump, whose Twitter account was suspended last year. Legislation relating to social media platforms was a priority of the Governor. The bill is awaiting his signature and will take effect July 1, 2021.

Renewable Energy. SB 896 by Senator Brodeur preempts local government from deciding whether solar facilities should be granted permits as agricultural land and redefines pulling methane gas from a landfill as renewable energy. It’s defined as anaerobically generated biogas, a landfill gas or wastewater treatment gas refined to a methane content of 90% or greater, which may be used for fuel or electrical generation.

The legislation also allows the Public Service Commission to approve cost recovery for the purchase of renewable natural gas. Before passage, the legislature carved out an exception to help the small historically black community of St. Peter near Archer in Alachua County. The bill is awaiting action by the Governor and takes effect on July 1, 2021.

Motor Vehicle Insurance. SB 54 Senator Burgess eliminates the requirement that motorists carry personal-injury protection, or PIP, coverage, and replace it with a requirement that they have bodily-injury coverage. This bill switches Florida from a no-fault to at-fault auto insurance state which would end all personal injury protection claims and lawsuits. In lieu of PIP coverage, the bill requires motorists to have a policy that provides $25,000 coverage for a single person injured in an accident or $50,000 when two or more people are injured, and $10,000 for property insurance damage caused by a crash. The bill awaiting action by the Governor and takes effect on January 1, 2022.

Police Reform. HB 7051 by Representative Byrd requires law enforcement agencies to have certain departmental policies around use of force, and more training on the same. Some of the training requirements are that police have a duty to intervene when a colleague uses excessive force. The proposal also has provisions meant to boost scrutiny of police applicants. The bill also requires independent investigations of use of force incidents that result in a death. This language unanimously passed both the House and Senate and is headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. The bill is effective July 1, 2021.

Cottage Food Operations. SB 1294 by Senator Brodeur was substituted for HB 663 by Representative Salzman. The bill increases the current sales cap on cottage food operations from $50,000 to $250,000 and it also preempts cottage food operations to the state prohibiting local governments from regulating the operations. The bill awaits action from the Governor and takes effect on July 1, 2021.

Preemption Over Restriction of Utility Services. SB 1128 by Senator Hutson was substituted for HB 919 by Representative Tomkow. The bill would prohibit a local government from enacting or enforcing an ordinance or resolution that restricts or prohibits, or has the effect of restricting or prohibiting, a property owner, tenant, or utility service customer from choosing his or her electric utility service regardless of energy sources. The bill awaits action from the Governor and takes effect on July 1, 2021.

PREEMPTION

Seaports. SB 426 State Preemption of Seaport Regulations by Senator Boyd was temporarily postponed on Second Reading in the Senate

Building Design. HB 55 Building Design by Representative Overdorf was read a third time and passed the House with a vote of 89-24. The bill died in Rules along with the Senate companion, SB 284.

Vacation Rentals. CS/CS/SB 522 Vacation Rentals by Senator Diaz, which would preempt regulation of vacation rentals from localities to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, died in the Senate Rules Committee. The bill was amended several times throughout session to narrow the new preemptions. The final version of the bill would have protected existing vacation rental regulations but preempt cities from specifically regulating advertising platforms.

Its companion in the House, CS/HB 219 by Representative Fischer, died in the House Ways & Means committee. CS/HB 219 would have undone any local registration, inspection or licensing requirements specific to short-term rental adopted since 2011.

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.