On Thursday, the Senate released their proposed General Appropriations Act (SB 2500) for the 2023-24 fiscal year with the House releasing their version (HB 5001) on Friday. The House proposes a $112.9 billion budget where the Senate proposes a $113.6 billion budget. Each chamber’s budget is less than the proposed $114.8 budget presented by Governor DeSantis. The House and Senate are scheduled to review both spending plans on Wednesday, March 28 in their respective Appropriations committees. In the coming weeks, the two chambers will enter negotiations on a final version. An agreement must be reached by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before voting on the budget to end the Regular Session by May 5, the last scheduled day of the 60-day regular session.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Carbon Sequestration by Representative Masullo
CS/HB 1149 by Representative Masullo will authorize the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to conduct a study on carbon sequestration activities and programs. Carbon sequestration is the process – both geologic and biologic – of capturing and storing atmospheric CO2 to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The study must include, at minimum, a comprehensive list of existing state agency carbon sequestration activities, recommendations for a state level exchange program to assist in the recruitment of agriculture producers to participate in these activities, and the legislature’s recommendations for the creation of these programs and activities. The legislature will appropriate $500,000 to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to conduct these studies. CS/HB 1149 received unanimous support in its first hearing and will be heard in the Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee. It has not yet been scheduled.
Controlled Substances by Senator Brodeur
Controlled Substances by Representative Plakon
CS/SB 280 by Senator Brodeur will amend current statutes to classify the supply of a substance or mixture that is proven to have caused, or is proven to be, a substantial factor in the death or serious injury of an individual. Under current law, a controlled substance is required to be the proximate cause of death for a victim. SB 280, ‘substantial factor’ is defined as the use of a substance or mixture [of substances] alone is sufficient to cause death, regardless of whether any other substance or mixture used is also sufficient to cause death. Under the changes made by the bill, individuals guilty of distribution will have committed a felony in the second degree. Repeat offenders found guilty of the same crime will have committed a felony in the first degree. SB 280 also specifies that unlawful distribution may be from a person who directly or indirectly provided the substance or mixture to the victim who suffered severe bodily injury or drug overdose. CS/SB 280 received 11 Yeas and 1 Nay on the Appropriations Committee on Criminal Justice on Tuesday, March 21. The House companion, CS/HB 365 by Representative Plakon, has passed favorably in its previous committees and is awaiting to be heard in its third and final committee, Judiciary committee. Currently, it has not been scheduled to be heard; however, the bill is scheduled to be discussed during the EDR Criminal Justice Impact Conference on Monday, March 27, at 8:30 am. No votes will be taken regarding this bill.
Civil Remedies by Representative Gregory
Civil Remedies by Senator Hutson
CS/CS/HB 837 by Representative Gregory will revise Florida’s current civil justice system. The bill specifies the admissibility of evidence in personal injury and wrongful death cases to give the jury in these cases an accurate picture of medical damages. HB 837 will set clear guidelines for insurance company claimants in third-party cases to reduce third-party bad faith incidents in lawsuits. The bill will also change Florida from a ‘pure comparative negligence jurisdiction’ to a ‘modified comparative jurisdiction’ establishing that the party found to be majority at fault for their own injury can not recover damages. HB 837 will also adjust the attorney fee calculations. Several amendments were filed, including one by Senator Grall to address bad faith lawsuits against insurance companies, the verdict form regulations, and the enactment date established by the bill; all proposed amendments failed. On Thursday, March 23 CS/CS/HB 837 was heard on the Senate floor and passed with 23 Yeas and 15 Nays. On Friday, March 24 the bill was signed by Governor DeSantis and is now effective.
CS/CS/CS/CS HB 1
School Choice by Representative Tuck
CS/CS/ SB 202
K-12 Education by Senator Simon
CS/CS/CS/CS/HB 1 by Representative Tuck is a comprehensive education package intended to expand the Florida Tax Credit and Florida Empowerment Scholarship programs and reduce state regulation of Florida’s public schools. The expansion of school choice vouchers will allow for an increase in the number of eligible students for state scholarships by allowing all students, regardless of their family income, to apply for and receive school choice vouchers totaling $8,000. The Senate companion, CS/SB 202 by Senator Simon, was the first of the two to include language to streamline transportation and allow more discretion in the increase of teacher salaries; HB 1 eventually adopted the language. Concerns regarding the lack of accountability for private schools, the ultimate cost to taxpayers, and the decrease in funding to Florida’s public schools were echoed in every committee hearing and on the House floor during HB 1’s second reading. Both Representative Tuck and Senator Simon were adamant that the fiscal impact would not be detrimental to Floridians as they do not anticipate that every parent will take advantage of the scholarship expansion. CS/CS/CS/CS/HB 1 was read a third time on the Floor of both chambers on Thursday, March 23 and passed. It will head to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
Municipal Utilities by Representative Busatta-Cabrera
Municipal Electric Utilities by Senator Martin
CS/HB 1331 by Representative Busatta-Cabrera will revise the state’s utility code regarding a municipal electric utility provider’s operation outside of the municipality’s corporate boundaries by addressing two primary issues: the transfer of significant portions of municipal utility revenues to a city’s general revenue fund and charges imposed on municipal water and wastewater customers located outside a municipality’s boundaries. In addressing the first issue, HB 1331 will determine fund transfer amounts by assessing the average rate of return of a city’s regulated peers and the utility providers in the private sector to determine transfer caps. The bill will provide for even lower caps based on the percentage of utility customers outside the city boundaries and encourages the city to create utility authority with board members that are elected to represent outside customers. To address the second issue, the bill will eliminate the no questions asked 25% surcharge imposed on customers outside of a city’s boundary. HB 1331 will also require rate charges to be established at a public hearing for outside customers. CS/HB 1331 received 17 Yeas and 1 Nay in the Energy, Communications, and Cybersecurity Subcommittee. The Senate companion, SB 1380 by Senator Bradley, was originally scheduled for its first hearing in the Regulated Industries committee on Tuesday, March 21 but was temporarily postponed.
Substance Abuse Prevention by Senator Boyd
Emergency Opioid Antagonists by Representative Caruso
SB 704 by Senator Boyd will expand the authority of pharmacies, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and first responders to possess, dispense and administer emergency opioid antagonists. SB 704 will also expand the civil and criminal immunities for the dispensing and administration of emergency opioid antagonists. The bill will also establish the Statewide Council on Opioid Abatement within the Department of Children and Families to enhance the development and coordination of state and local efforts to abate the opioid epidemic and to support victims. SB 704 received unanimous support in the Health Policy committee. The House companion, CS/HB 783 by Representative Caruso, received unanimous support in the Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee. Neither bills have been scheduled for their next hearing.
Flooding and Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Studies by Representative Hunschofsky
Flooding and Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Studies by Senator Calatayud
CS/HB 111 by Representative Hunschofsky will expand the current provisions set forth by the legislature’s passage of SB 178 during the 2020 legislative session regarding seal level impact projection studies prior to the commencement of a new building construction in at-risk areas. HB 111 provides a definition for ‘area at risk due to sea level rise’ and provides additional characteristics for determining if an area can be categorized as such. At-risk areas include those susceptible to property or infrastructure damage due to sea level rise. The bill authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a standard for conducting sea level impact projection studies by which a state-financed constructor must follow. HB 111 will also expand the Resilient Florida Grant Program to provide funding for counties and municipalities to conduct feasibility studies and cover the costs of finding solutions to reduce the impact of flooding and sea level rise. The expansion of the Program will also allocate funding to water management districts to support local government adaptation planning. HB 111 received unanimous support in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations subcommittee. Its Senate companion, SB 1170 by Senator Calatayud, received unanimous support in the Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government on Tuesday, March 14. Neither bill has been placed on the calendar for a third committee hearing.
Alternative Mobility Funding System by Representative Robinson (W)
Alternative Mobility Funding Systems by Senator Brodeur
CS/HB 235 by Representative Robinson will provide clarity for local governments in the adoption of mobility plans and the use of a mobility fee system and the impact fees associated with the system. HB 235 provides a definition for mobility fees and mobility plans. The bill will prohibit a transportation impact fee or fee that is not a mobility-based fee from being imposed within the area that is within a mobility plan; mobility fees will also need to be updated every five years under HB 235. The bill will also authorize local governments to adopt alternative mobility planning and fee systems and includes specific criteria to be used by a local government in adopting a mobility plan and fee for transporting mitigation improvements and requiring these fees to be expended over a specific time period. CS/HB 235 received unanimous support in the Local Administration, Federal Affairs, and Special Districts Subcommittee. The Senate companion, SB 350 by Senator Brodeur, has been referred to three committees, but has not been scheduled for its first hearing.
Building Construction by Representative Maggard
Building Construction by Senator Hooper
CS/HB 89 by Representative Maggard states that a local enforcement agency or local government may not make or require any changes to a building plan unless otherwise required for compliance with the Florida Building code, Florida Fire Prevention Code, or an amendment set forth by a local government. HB 89 adds language permitting a Class A air-conditioning contractor to perform certain duties including, but not limited to, the reconnecting of breakers and fuses on an electrical circuit and the replacement – and other potential fixes – to switches and boxes. The bill also requires a local government to inform building permit applicants of the specific parts of a building plan that do not apply with either Florida Fire Prevention code, Florida’s Life Safety Code, or local amendments and allow the applicant to rectify the issues in order to receive the permit. CS/HB 89 received unanimous support in the Local Administration, Federal Affairs and Special Districts Subcommittee. It is scheduled to heard in its second committee of reference, Commerce Committee, on Monday, March 27 at 3:00 pm. The Senate companion, SB 512 by Senator Hooper, has been referred to three committees but has not been scheduled for its first hearing.
Solid Waste Management by Representative Holcomb
Solid Waste Management by Senator Ingoglia
CS/HB 975 by Representative Holcomb intends to create open competition and provide commercial businesses with freedom of choice in hopes of eliminating price gauging. HB 975 will prohibit local governments from enacting an ordinance, regulation or rule that will prohibit or unreasonably restrain a private entity from providing recycling or solid waste management to commercial, industrial, or multifamily residential properties. Local governments may implement regulations for private solid waste management entities by requiring them to obtain a permit, license, or nonexclusive franchise equivalent, but the permit, license or nonexclusive franchise equivalent may not cost more than the administrative costs associated with permit issuance. HB 975’s provisions will not apply to a municipality or county that is the sole provider of solid waste collection services in its jurisdiction performed by employees of the municipality or county using municipal or county-owned equipment. According to the bill’s sponsor, local governments may be negatively impacted to the extent that these local governments currently charge a franchise fee more than the associated administrative costs. CS/HB 975 received 11 Yeas and 5 Nays in the Local Administration, Federal Affairs, and Special Districts Subcommittee. The Senate companion, SB 798 by Senator Ingoglia, has been referred to three committees, but has not been scheduled for a hearing.
Management and Safety of Condominium and Cooperative Buildings by Representative Lopez
Condominium and Cooperative Associations by Senator Bradley
CS/HB 1395 by Representative Lopez amends current law established by the 2022 Special Session D passage of SB 4D relating to building inspections following the collapse of the Surfside Tower in Miami, Florida. HB 1395 will require all condominiums and cooperative buildings to conduct a milestone inspection when buildings reach 25 years, regardless of the location. Local governments can extend the deadline for milestone inspections if certain circumstances arise. Under the bill, condominiums and cooperative buildings may use prior inspections if they were conducted within the last 5 years. HB 1395 will require the Florida Building Commission to create a uniform form for certain inspection reports and allows for an injunction process to enforce milestone inspection and Structural Integrity Reserve Study (SIRS) requirements in county courts. CS/HB 1395 received unanimous support in its first committee hearing. The Senate companion, CS/CS/SB 154 by Senator Bradley, was placed on second reading on March 17. It has not been scheduled.