April 14, 2017
Week Six - 2017 Session
 
"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."    -   Anne Bradstreet

Spring is the season when nature reignites and fills our senses with colors and fragrances. The dogwoods, azaleas, gardenias and roadside wildflowers are exploding onto the scene in technicolor. Animal life cycles also often begin in the spring season as evidenced by the abundance of baby birds and woodland creature born in this season. Easter and Passover are being celebrated by Christians and Jews, respectively. Spring cleaning, weddings, baseball, the vernal equinox, local spring-related festivals honoring one flower or another, beehives regenerating after the winter respite and the commencement of the music festival circuit are all under way. What a glorious time of the year indeed.

Of course, spring also means pollen, allergies, the reemergence of ticks, spiders and fleas and the flare up of ulcers and other physical ailments due to the increase in the body's metabolism. And, in Florida, spring is also synonymous with the legislative session and the annual struggle to protect Home Rule.

As we enter the second half of the 2017 session, we have seen little that makes us feel that this is the season of rebirth and hope. Instead, this session has been more like Charles Dickens' description of spring in which he writes the "sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light and winter still in the shade."

It has been wildly unpredictable and filled with uncertainty - the only sure thing is that Home Rule is under attack. Despite this effort to undermine and subvert local control, we can take comfort in the realization that "deep roots never doubt spring will come." Municipal officials in Florida are those deep roots - knowing that long after the Legislature concludes its business, cities will lead the way in solving problems, fostering a positive economic environment and delivering services to their citizens. We remain hopeful for the prospects of the legislative session and look to each of you to continue to grow in your commitment to protect Home Rule. 

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Each year, there are always a few municipal leaders who make extraordinary advocacy efforts. The League appreciates these efforts and created the Home Rule Hero Award as a way to recognize and thank them. At the December 2016 Legislative Conference, the League announced factors that are considered when selecting Home Rule Hero Award recipients. To view the Home Rule Hero Award criteria, click HERE .

Legislative Policy Committee Sign-Up is now available online.  Click  HERE   for more information on policy committees and to sign-up to serve for 2017-2018. The deadline to sign-up is May 1.

Join us again on Monday, April 17, at 9:00 am ET for the Monday Morning Call-In. The number is 1-888-419-5570 and the participant code is 7355-9461.  During the call-in, we will discuss the big issues that will be heard by the Legislature for the upcoming week and provide you with direction to take as advocates for Home Rule. To view what issues will be discussed, access the House and Senate calendars and follow along.

Please note due to the holidays, the weekly Legislative Bulletin will not be published this week. Instead, refer to bill summaries below. 

Stay engaged. Check out our Issue Briefs and social media feeds to access comprehensive background information and timely updates on the status of key legislative issues we are tracking.

Remember, when you come to Tallahassee during session, please visit us here at the League office. Staff will discuss the important issues of the day and provide you with all the information you need to be a successful advocate here in Tallahassee.
 
Thanks to each of you for all you do on behalf of your city and the citizens of Florida.

 
C. Scott Dudley
Legislative Director
The following is a brief summary of the key activities from Week Six of the 2017 Session.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT and ECONOMIC AFFAIRS

Community Redevelopment Agencies Likely House and Senate Agenda for Next Week
Neither CS/CS/HB 13 (Raburn) and CS/SB 1770 (Lee) were considered in committee this week. The League has been actively engaged in working with the sponsors to address the issues of transparency and accountability for CRAs. Despite the progress made on these issues, the bills still severely restrict the ability of Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs) to conduct their original purpose and create a process by which to terminate or phase out all CRAs in Florida. CS/CS/HB 13 still prohibits the creation of any new CRA while CS/SB 1770 requires a super-majority vote of the governing body to create a CRA. Additionally, under both bills, the use of TIF (Tax Increment Finance) funds is limited only to those purposes specified in statute, severely limiting the flexibility CRAs need to address community needs.
 
Preemption of Municipal Home Rule Powers Bills Stall
CS/HB 17 (Fine) & SB 1158 (Passidomo) were not considered in committee. These bills opposed by the League, will eliminate municipal home rule powers as applied to businesses, professions and occupations. Any effort to repeal local control of businesses will leave local communities without effective tools to address the health, safety, welfare and property rights concerns of their residents and businesses, in a manner best suited to their needs.
 
Constitution Revision Commission
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is holding public meetings around the state for public input about making changes to the Florida Constitution.  Thanks to all the municipal officials who have attended the four CRC meetings thus far and advocated on the importance of maintaining the home rule provisions of the Florida Constitution. The Commission has announced the next five public meetings, location and times are still to be determined.  We encourage you to attend these upcoming meetings. Please let us know if you plan to attend.
  • April 26th- Gainesville
  • April 27th- Jacksonville
  • May 3rd- Bay/Escambia Counties
  • May 10th- Lee County
  • May 17th- Hillsborough County

FINANCE, TAXATION and PERSONNEL 

Local Business Tax Legislation Creates Exemptions for Veterans and Others
The Senate local business tax bill, CS/CS/HB 330 (Steube), passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. The bill creates new exemptions from the local business tax for veterans, a surviving spouse of a veteran, the spouse of active duty military, and certain low income individuals. The bill was amended to "clarify" that if an exempt individual owns a controlling interest in a business, the business is exempt. The League has concerns with the administration of this language. CS/HB 487 (Renner) did not move this week.
 
Implementation of Voter Approved Constitutional Amendments
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax also passed two bills that implement constitutional amendments approved by the voters in 2016. CS/SB 90 (Brandes) implements Amendment 4 by providing property tax relief for owners of renewable energy source devices whether these devices are installed on residential or nonresidential real property or are taxed as tangible personal property. The companion bill, CS/CS/HB 1351 (Rodrigues) is in the House Commerce Committee. CS/CS/SB 764 (Baxley) implements Amendment 3 by providing an exemption from ad valorem taxation for the homestead of a first responder who is totally and permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty and to his or her surviving spouse. The House companion, CS/HB 455 (Metz) is in the House Appropriations Committee.
 
Non-homestead Cap Reauthorization Ready for Senate Vote
CS/SJR 76 (Lee) passed its last committee of reference and heads to the Senate floor. CS/SJR 76 is a proposed constitutional amendment that removes the repeal of the ten percent assessment limitation on non-homestead properties. This provision was originally adopted in the 2008 by Amendment 1, the property tax reform constitutional amendment. The House version, HJR 21 (Burton), has already passed the full House.
 
Workers' Compensation Bill Amended to Include Specified Cancers
CS/SB 1582 (Bradley), a bill on workers' compensation, was amended on April 13 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The amendment redefines "occupational disease" under the workers' compensation law to mean for firefighters that multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are deemed to be occupational diseases arising out of work performed in the course and scope of employment. The amendment was sponsored by Senator Latvala, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Flores, Senate President Pro Tempore. The amendment passed on a voice vote, with Senator Brandes voting against - please thank Senator Brandes for his "no" vote. The amendment is estimated to have a minimum statewide fiscal impact on workers' compensation expenses on employers of firefighters of $4 million, with cities having an approximate $2 million impact.
 
Florida Retirement System Undergoes Substantial Revisions
The Senate unanimously passed SB 7022 (Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability ) which establishes the contribution rates paid by employers participating in the Florida Retirement System (FRS) beginning July 1, 2017. The House took up SB 7022 and amended the bill to include the substantive provisions of HB 5007 (House Government Accountability Committee) which makes multiple changes to the FRS including changing the default selection from the pension plan to the investment plan for members who do not affirmatively choose a plan. The bill makes the survivor benefit for members of the Special Risk Class retroactive to July 1, 2002 and establishes a survivor benefit for all other membership classes of the investment plan who are killed in the line of duty and provides that the benefit is retroactive to July 1, 2002. The bill also establishes the contribution rates paid by employers participating in the FRS for 2017-18 fiscal year. SB 7022 passed the House (74-41) and now goes back to the Senate.
 
Progress on the State Budget
Both the House and Senate passed their respective budgets this week paving the way for final budget conference meetings to begin in week 7. Overall, the Senate's $85 billion budget, which passed unanimously and was helped by a midweek announcement of an additional $1.5 billion in federal healthcare funding, is almost $4 billion bigger than the House's $81 billion plan. Significant differences remain in major policy areas such as funding for education, the environment, health and economic development. The Senate has developed its education budget, in part, by capturing increasing local property taxes caused by new construction and increasing property values. The Senate uses $535 million in that funding, known as required local effort, in its education budget. Speaker Corcoran has been very vocal that the House see it as a tax cut and refuse to use it as part of their budget. The House also did not include the additional $1.5 billion in federal healthcare funding in their budget. Appropriation Chairman Trujillo said that the House would more likely use the funds to cut taxes or shore up the state's reserves.
 
Homestead Exemption Increase Stay
Neither bills proposing the new $25,000 homestead exemption for city, county and special district property taxes moved this week. HJR 7105 (House Ways and Means Committee) is still waiting to be referred to committees or straight to the full House. The Senate version is  SJR 1774 (Lee) was not heard in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. If approved by 60 percent of voters, it is estimated that this will have a negative recurring impact of $752 million and shift the tax burden to renters and the business community. The League is opposed to this legislation.
 
Local Governmental Fiscal "Responsibility"
HB 7063 (House Ways and Means Committee) was not heard in its only committee of reference, House Government Accountability, this week. The bill significantly intrudes on local government authority. The bill would restrict cities' ability to issue new, tax-supported debt and increase taxes, including property taxes. For example, local governments, cannot adopt millage over the rolled-back rate unless they spend down certain reserves. In effect, this prohibits property tax increases unless excess fund balances are spent down. The bill also requires voter approval for certain new, tax-supported debt. This voter approval, as well as local-option taxes that currently require voter approval, must be at a general election with a 60% threshold for approval. Additionally, the bill prohibits cities and counties from enacting, extending or increasing local option taxes other than property taxes, if they had adopted a millage rate in excess of the rolled-back rate in any of the three previous years.

URBAN ADMINISTRATION  

Public Records Passes Senate-House Companion Ready for Floor Action
CS/CS/SB 80 CS/CS/SB 80 (Steube) has passed the Senate and is in House Messages.  CS/HB 163 (Burgess), the House companion, should be taken up and approved by the full House next week. The bills aim to stop abuses associated with the public record law.
 
Vacation Rentals Ready to Move In Both Chambers
CS/SB 188 (Steube) is on the agenda of the Senate Community Affairs Committee next Monday. The House companion, HB 425 (La Rosa), is expected to be on the House Commerce Committee's agenda next Wednesday. Both bills seek to eliminate a 2014 law allowing cities to adopt regulatory ordinances specific to vacation rentals.
 
Municipal Elections Bogged Down
HB 7103 (Caldwell/Government Accountability) would preempt cities from setting their own election dates. Instead, cities would be required to hold elections on a specific date in April or November. The bill is now in the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee. The Senate companion, SB 990 (Passidomo) would also preempt municipal elections and would require a city to hold its election in November unless certain conditions are met. The bill has yet to be heard in its first committee of reference, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

TRANSPORTATION and INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS
 
Charter School Site/Facility Conversion Land Use Preemption
CS/CS/HB 7101 (PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee); HB 5105 (Education Committee), SB 1362 (Broxson); and SB 796 (Bean) are a series of comprehensive bills dealing with all aspects of charter schools. Under current law, any facility or portion of a facility, used to house a charter school is exempt from ad valorem taxes, and specified entities, including a library, community service, museum, performing arts, theatre, cinema, church, Florida College System institution, college, and university may provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations. CS/CS/HB7101 includes language that strengthens this provision by clarifying that the entities listed above may provide space to charter schools, and the charter school shall not have to obtain any special exception, rezoning, land use charter or other approval. CS/CS/HB 7101 includes language issues preemption contained in multiple bills; ultimate product will be worked out in budget conference negotiations. The Senate companion, SB 1362 (Broxson) is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Education Committee on April 17.
 
Telecom Bill Temporarily Postponed in Senate
CS/CS/SB 596 (Hutson) wireless communications infrastructure legislation was temporarily postponed by the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday but will likely be heard next week. The House companion measure, HB 687 (La Rosa) is expected to be heard by the House Commerce Committee next week also.
 
Construction Bill Contains Numerous Preemptions
SB 1312 (Perry) is on the Community Affairs agenda for this Monday at 4:00pm. The bill prohibits a local jurisdiction from requiring an owner of a residence to obtain a permit to paint their residence regardless if the owner is a limited liability company. Local governments, including utility providers, are prohibited from requiring a separate water connection for a fire sprinkler system for a one or two family dwelling if the dwelling's original water connection can meet the needs of the sprinkler system. Additionally, local governments are prohibited from charging a water or sewer rate for a larger water meter for a one or two family dwelling due to the installation of a fire sprinkler system above that which is charged to a one-family and two-family dwelling with a base meter. However, if the installation of fire sprinklers in a one-family or two-family dwelling requires the installation of a larger water meter, only the difference in actual cost between the base water meter and the larger water meter may be charged by the water utility provider.
 
Highway Beautification Council Sunset
CS/CS/SB 1118 (Gainer) passed the Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Committee unanimously on Thursday. The bill repeals the authority for the Highway Beautification Council, but does not remove the associated grant funding or affect the highway beautification grant application process. The bill was amended in committee to include a provision that creates the Florida Smart City Challenge grant program for municipalities for the advancement of infrastructure to support autonomous and connected vehicles.
 
Senate Budget Overview
Transportation:
  • $914,572 non-recurring for Sunrail Quiet Zones Matching Grant Program
  • $800,000 non-recurring for Highway Beautification Grants
Affordable Housing/Homelessness:
  • $37,500,000-50 percent must be used to fund the construction or rehabilitation of units through the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) Program.
  • $10,000,000-non-recurring to fund a competitive grant program for housing developments designed, constructed and targeted for persons with developmental disabilities.
  • $40,000,000-non-recurring funds for the SAIL program to construct workforce housing to primarily serve low-income persons
  • $100,000-non-recurring for the expense of the Affordable Housing Workgroup
  • $124,900,000-State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) Program. From these funds $5,200,000 must be used to provide services to homeless persons

ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT and NATURAL RESOURCES  

Natural Hazards Working Group Ready for Final Action
Legislation creating a State Agency Work Group on Natural Hazards - CS/HB 181 (Jacobs) passed the House (111-1). The Senate companion, SB 464 (Clemens) is awaiting action by the full Senate.
 
Beach Restoration Grant Flowing
CS/SB 1590 (Latvala) and the House companion, CS/CS/HB 1213 (Peters) ready for House floor. The bills revise the criteria to be considered by the Department of Environmental Protection in determining and assigning annual funding priorities for beach management and erosion control projects as well as revise the ranking criteria to be used by the department to establish certain funding priorities for certain inlet-caused beach erosion projects. Additionally, the bills require certain funds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to be used for projects that preserve and repair state beaches. There are differences in the two bills regarding the dollars allocated for the grant program which will need to be addressed before these bills are finalized.
 
Lake Okeechobee Discharges
CS/CS/SB 10 (Bradley), a comprehensive bill dealing with Lake Okeechobee water discharges and the creation of a reservoir to contain those discharges passed the Senate and was sent to the House with a scaled back reservoir component and other changes. House leadership says the bill is "getting better" but still doesn't like bonding provisions.
 
EENR Budget Issues
The House and Senate passed their respective budget proposals this week but differences remain on several key spending items. Neither the House nor the Senate provided any money for conservation easements through the Rural and Family Lands Program. The House provided no money for Amendment 1 land acquisition; the Senate provides $22.6 million. The House proposal also retreats from a 2016 commitment in the "Legacy Florida" bill to provide $50 million for Springs restoration, and reduces springs money to $40 million. The House proposal offers $30.1 million for beach renourishment; the Senate budget provides $50 million recurring for beaches, plus $50 million nonrecurring for beach erosion caused by 2016 hurricanes. Florida Communities Trust: House provides $10 million; Senate provides $5.3 million. FRDAP: House provides $3 million; House provides $5.3 million; Septic-to-sewer grants: House provides $25 million; Senate provides $20 million. Local projects: House allocated $20 million; Senate allocated $65 million.
 
Septic Tank Inspection Requirements Not Likely to Happen
Two bills dealing with septic tank inspection programs are likely dead for the 2017 Session. SB 1748 (Stewart) was never heard in Senate while the House companion measure, CS/CS/CS/HB 285 (Fine) amended to require disclosure only and is awaiting final passage in the House.
 
Public Notice of Pollution
SB 532 (Galvano) passed Senate but the House companion, HB 1065 (Peters) never received a hearing.
 
Fracking Bans Dead
HB 451 (Miller) was never heard in House while the Senate companion, SB 442 (Young) remains stalled in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources.