Governmental Powers/Preemption Train
On Monday, the Florida House is poised to take a final vote on HB 1299. The bill includes seven preemptions. The bill restricts a municipalities ability to annex or purchase properties in another municipality, to levy taxes on nicotine products, to establish a minimum age for the purchase of nicotine products, to establish marketing requirements for nicotine products, to regulate the use of single-use plastic straws and sunscreen, to regulate alternate generated power sources for motor fuel dispensing facilities, to establish temperature requirements at assisted living facilities when such facilities act as a receiving provider, and to approve a district school board impact fee if the fee results in an increase of 5 percent or more over a two-year period.
Attorney Fees Bill Passes House 74 – 37
SB 1140 and HB 829 require courts to award attorney fees and costs against a local government if the local government’s ordinance is determined by a court to have been preempted by state law. According to bill sponsors, the purpose is to deter “rogue” local governments that adopt or enforce ordinances in willful disregard of clear legislative preemptions. Both bills limit the fee awards to legal actions involving express legislative preemptions (rather than implied). SB 1140 differs from HB 829 in that it would provide for an award of fees to the prevailing party (which could include the local government) in such challenges. SB 1140 is awaiting action on the Senate Calendar. HB 829 passed the House was amended to eliminate the provision of the bill providing for retroactive application.
Tree Trimming Bill Passes House and Senate
SB 1400 and HB 1159 impose restrictions on enforcement of local government tree ordinances. HB 1159 provides that a local government may not enforce its tree requirements against a residential property owner for the trimming or removal of a tree if the owner obtains documentation from an arborist or a licensed landscape architect that the tree presents a danger to persons or property. The bill specifically prohibits a local government from requiring the property owner to replant a tree that was removed under such circumstances.
Water Quality Bills in Limbo
HB 973 transfers responsibility and oversight of the Onsite Sewage Treatment & Disposal Systems (OSTDS) program from the Department of Health (DOH) to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The bill revises current law provisions relating to water quality and wastewater planning and protection, septic tank remediation, sewage spill notification, water quality grant funding, and land application of biosolids. HB 973 are comparable to SB 1758 (providing for revisions to wastewater and septic tank requirements), which is stuck the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Telecommunications Bill Further Strips Local Authority
HB 693 was temporary postposed by the full House. The Senate companion, SB 1000, passed the full Senate (34-3). The bills repeal important agreed to provisions of the 2017 Wireless Facilities law which was ostensibly passed to hasten the implementation of 5G technology around the state. Both bills further strip cities of the ability to regulate the placement of communications equipment in public rights-of-way. The following provisions were added to the bill: requiring the small cell “shot clock” (time frame) to apply to all permit applications for communications facilities in local government rights-of-way; significant relating to the registration process; removal of language from 2017 relating to undergrounding; extensive provisions on the placement of new poles in rights of way; attorneys fee provision to industry; and numerous new limitations on city/county authority in the permitting process/regulation of rights of way.
Mandated Benefits for Firefighters with Cancer Heads to the Governor
Both the House and the Senate approved SB 426 which mandates certain benefits for firefighter diagnosed with one of twenty-one cancers. Upon the diagnosis of cancer, a firefighter that meets certain conditions will receive a $25,000 lump sum payment; cancer treatment; reimbursement for out-of-pocket deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance; disability retirement; and a death benefit to the firefighter’s beneficiary. The bill also gives broad rulemaking authority to the Department of Financial Services to adopt rules to establish employer cancer prevention bet practices as it related to personal protective equipment, decontamination, fire suppression apparatus, and fire stations.
Small-Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendments
The Senate Rules Committee passed SB 1494 removing the acreage limitations that apply to small-scale comprehensive plan amendments. The bill repeals the 120-acre cumulative annual limit on small-scale development amendments that may be approved by a local government. The bills have now passed all committees of reference and it awaiting a final vote of the Senate.
Federal Immigration Enforcement/Sanctuary Policies
The House passed HB 527 while the Senate passed its companion bill SB 168 relating to state and local government enforcement of federal immigration laws. The bills create the “Rule of Law Adherence Act” to require state and local governments and law enforcement agencies, including their officials, agents, and employees, to support and cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The Senate bill differs from the House bill by excluding the Department of Children and Families from the requirements of the bill. Because the two bills are not identical, the Senate bill will next be considered by the House.
House Passes 2019 Tax Cut Package
HB 7123 the House tax cut proposal for this session, passed the full House (69-44). The bill includes a reduction in the tax rate for commercial leases from 5.7 to 5.35 percent, a three-day “back-to-school” sales tax holiday and a seven-day “disaster preparedness” sales tax holiday. The bill also includes multiple provisions relating to property taxes including amending the requirements for hospitals to qualify for the charitable tax exemption. The bill will also delay, from January to June, the payments to local governments in fiscally constrained counties and Monroe County to offset property tax refunds granted to homeowners due to hurricanes in 2016 and 2017 to allow for the related state appropriation to be based on actual data. HB 7123 is estimated to reduce local government revenues by $13 million annually. It is unclear what the Senate plans to do.
Micromobility Devices and Motorized Scooters
HB 453 passed the House Chambers after being amended substantially. The bill now allows municipalities to regulate scooters locally without any preemption from the state, making it identical to the Senate bill.
Sober Homes Bill Passes the House, but Faces Uncertainty in the Senate
HB 369 passes. The bill, based on recommendations from the Sober Homes Task Force, amends the definition of “recovery residence” to include the community housing component of a licensed day or night treatment facility with community housing and strengthens provisions related to patient brokering and deceptive marketing practices in recovery residences. The Senate companion faces an uncertain future. SB 900 remains in the Senate Appropriations Committee, its final committee of reference, and will need to have the committee reference removed to be considered by the full Senate.
Tactical Medical Professionals
SB 722 (Hooper) passed its final committee of reference on Tuesday and now heads to the full Senate. The bill authorizes a “tactical medical professional” (TMP) who has a concealed weapons and firearms license to carry a firearm when he or she is actively operating in direct support of a tactical law enforcement operation. A TMP is defined as a paramedic, physician, or osteopathic physician who is appointed to provide medical services during a tactical law enforcement unit engaged in high-risk incidents. The bill requires sign off by the police chief, additional training requirements for the TMP, and the agency to have an established policy in place before a TMP can carry a firearm. HB 487 passed the full House last week.
Electronic Filing of Financial Disclosure Forms Passes House and Senate
HB 7021 provides for the mandatory electronic filing of Form 1 and Form 6 financial disclosures by specified state officers and employees. Form 6 filers would be required to file their forms electronically beginning January 1, 2022. Form 1 filers would be required to file their forms electronically beginning January 1, 2023. HB 7021 passed the House and Senate and has been enrolled.
Beach Bill Passes House and Senate
HB 325 revises the criteria the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must consider in determining and assigning annual funding priorities for beach management and erosion control projects. The bill revises the ranking criteria to be used by DEP to establish certain inlet-caused beach erosion projects. In addition, the bill revises requirements for the state’s comprehensive long-term management plan, including requiring the plan to include a strategic beach management plan, a critically eroded beaches report and a statewide long-range budget plan. The bill further requires the DEP to submit a three-year work plan and related forecast for the availability of funding to the Legislature.
Recycling Bill Passes House
SB 816 and HB 771 require that contracts between local governments and vendors for the collection, transport and processing of residential recycling materials must include terms and conditions to define and reduce levels of contamination. The new requirements would apply to new contracts and contracts extended after October 1, 2019. HB 771 was amended to impose a five-year moratorium on the local regulation of plastic straws and provide for a study on local plastic straw regulations by the state Office of Program and Policy Analysis.