Legislative Update – March 4 2015

The 2015 Legislative Session began on March 3.  Governor Scott delivered his State of the State Address, in which he identified five priorities: reduce taxes; make higher education more affordable; invest in workforce development; invest in K-12 education; and keep Florida beautiful.  The full text of his remarks can be read here.

The latest Bill Tracking Report, as of March 4, can be viewed here.

Of note over the past week:

SB 1554 (Senator Brandes) was filed on February 27 and relates to transportation issues.  It includes significant changes to airport zoning requirements.  Among these changes, the bill specifies that local governments who are required to adopt airport zoning regulations must provide a process to issue permits consistent with s.333.07 and notify the FDOT of receipt of a complete permit application.  The proposed language also provides for appeals.  Any existing zoning regulation must be amended to conform by July 1, 2016.  Any political subdivision having an airport hazard area which has not adopted airport zoning regulations must do so by October 1, 2017. For those local governments that have not adopted airport zoning regulations pursuant to chapter 333, F.S., FDOT will administer the permitting process for structures exceeding federal obstruction standards. This bill also would create the Florida Shared-Use Non-Motorized Network similar to that in SB 918 (Senator Dean).  The bill has been referred to three committees but has not been heard yet.

The House Subcommittee on Transportation & Ports reported favorably on PCB TPS1 on March 3.  This PCB is basically DOT’s transportation bill for this year.  The bill updates or deletes several sections of Florida statutes. Among other changes the bill gives FDOT the ability to designate certain areas as “ports-of-entry” that would not be subject to some permitting laws, and increases funding for the Florida Seaport and Economic Development Program.  The bill also proposes changes to airport zoning regulations which are generally consistent with those proposed in SB 1554.

CS/HB 7003 (House State Affairs Committee) was moved favorably by the House Appropriations Committee.  The amended bill clarifies that local governments have primary responsibility for providing urban stormwater management services pursuant to the provisions of their separate municipal storm water system permits and the operation of wastewater collection and treatment facilities.  CS/HB 7003 also added a new subsection in s.403.067 (7) (a) to deal with the development of basin management plans.  It requires FDEP to form a working group in areas where sewage treatment and disposal systems represent a source of excess nitrate-nitrite in springs or spring systems that must be controlled in order to meet a total maximum daily load. The working group is responsible for a) Collecting and evaluating credible scientific information on the effects of nutrients, particularly forms of nitrogen, on springs and spring systems;  b) developing and implementing a public education plan to  provide area residents with reliable, understandable information about onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems and springs;  and  c) developing projects necessary to reduce the nutrient  impacts from onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems.  FDEP is required to award funds to implement this subparagraph, contingent on a specific appropriation in the General Appropriations Act.  CS/HB 7003 has been placed on the House Special Order Calendar for March 4.

The House Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee reported favorably on PCB EDTS 15-03 on March 3.  The PCB focuses on economic development.   But as part of the bill, the PCB would create a three year window exempting certain new development from satisfying transportation concurrency requirements and contributing to its corresponding proportionate share. The bill also exempts certain transportation impact fees from being imposed on new development. The exemption window will apply to any new business development beginning on or after July 1, 2015, and before July 1, 2018. The exemption does not apply to business developments that consist of more than 6,000 square feet or new business developments that will include a business that employs more than 12 full-time employees. In addition, to maintain the exemption, a new business development must receive a certificate of occupancy on or before July 1, 2019. The exemption window will not apply to a new development in a local government’s jurisdiction where such local government, by super-majority vote of its governing body, revokes the exemption. The exemption window will also not apply if the exemption alters a local government’s financing contracts or bonds, or the developer elects to not have the exemption applied.

The PCB also extends, for the sixth time since 2009, the expiration date by two years for any environmental resource permit issued by DEP or a WMD with an expiration date from January 1, 2016, through January 1, 2018. The extension includes local government-issued development orders or building permits, including certificates of level of service.  The extension is in addition to any existing permit extensions; however, the total permit extension time for this bill or the previous extensions cannot exceed four years in total. The PCB requires that the dates for commencement and completion of any required mitigation associated with a phased construction project are also extended so that mitigation occurs in the same timeframe relative to the phase as originally permitted. The eligible permit holder must notify the authorizing agency in writing by December 31, 2015.  The PCB provides that permits extended under this section are subject to the rules in effect at the time the permit was issued, unless the rules would create an immediate threat to public safety or health. This provision applies to any modification of the plans, terms, and conditions of the permit, which lessens the environmental impact. A modification cannot extend the time limit beyond two additional years. The PCB does not prevent a county or municipality from requiring a property owner that has requested an extension to maintain and secure the property in a safe and sanitary condition in compliance with applicable laws.

The PCB EDTS 15-03 also creates ss. 290.50 and 290.60, F.S., which establish the Local Enterprise Zone program and the Enterprise Zone Certification program respectively.