March 18-22, 2019
Week 3 of the legislative session has come to a close and it was a busy one. If you were to ask, most lobbyists would tell you that the first four weeks and the last two weeks of session are the most stressful. During this first month, the majority of our time is spent analyzing bills, educating legislators and gathering intel. What is real and what is mirage? Typically, by week 4, the picture has become clearer and the “real” threats have emerged. The bills that we were worried about in Week 1 often aren’t the same ones we’re focused on in Weeks 3 or 4. 

Then, in the final 2 weeks there is a sense of urgency bordering on panic and desperation. Substantive policy is introduced through amendments that seemingly appear out of thin air. Timeframes are extremely short, and everyone’s patience is wearing thin or non-existent. All the while, the attack on local decision-making continues.

The one thing we have that keeps us focused and ready for whatever may come our way is each of you. For example, earlier this week we sent out a legislative alert on a bill that would unfairly require cities to pay for lawsuits dealing with ordinances passed relating to issues where we have been preempted. The response we received was incredible. I was copied on many thoughtful, factual and articulate emails to legislators expressing concerns with the bill. Furthermore, many of the committee members cited your emails during debate. While the vote on the bill didn’t go our way, I can tell you that behind the scenes, the concerns raised by stakeholders before and during the first hearing often determine whether the bill is heard in the next committee of reference. Your efforts are making a difference.

Next week, many of you will be in town for our legislative action days and I encourage you to keep the pressure up. Praise the members who’ve “practiced what they preach” and hold those accountable that have strayed from campaign promises. I fundamentally believe that the government closest to the people governs best and look forward to working together to remind legislators to protect local voices and local choices.
Earlier today (March 22, 2019), we sent a legislative alert with the following calls to action:
Preemption of Local Regulations Bill Stripped 
CS/CS/CS/HB 3 ( M. Grant) started out as a massive preemption of any and all local actions having any direct or indirect impact on business or professional activity, along with fiscal impact analysis requirements, and extraordinary vote and sunset requirements for local ordinances. The bill was amended and its scope narrowed as it moved through committees, in response to overwhelming objections from numerous stakeholders. On Thursday, the House Commerce Committee adopted a "strike all" amendment that scales the bill back even more. Now, the worst of the preemptions are gone. What's left? A preemption on the licensing of occupations to the state. The bill is now available for House floor action. Its Senate companion, SB 1748 ( Perry), has not moved in the Senate. While the League greatly appreciates Rep. Grant for being responsive to the concerns expressed by so many and for taking steps to address the majority of these issues, we remain opposed to the legislation. ( O'Hara)
Bert Harris Act/Vacation Rental Ordinances
On Monday, March 25 at 3:00 p.m., the House Civil Justice Subcommittee will consider HB 1383 ( Grant, J. ). This bill substantially amends the Bert J. Harris Act and significantly handicaps local government ability to resolve these claims. The bill requires any settlement reached on a Harris claim that involves the issuance of a variance or exception to a regulation on a residential property be automatically applied by the government entity to all similarly situated residential properties that are subject to the same rules or regulations. Similarly situated is not defined in the bill. In essence, the bill will make an exception to a rule, the new rule. Variances are not handed out carte blanche by government entities. The bill fails to consider notice provisions, hearings, or even impacts on neighboring property owners when giving an across the board variance. Therefore, the legislation will have a severe chilling effect on the settlement of Harris claims.

The bill is a thinly veiled attack on cities and counties that have been dealing with Harris claims due to the enactment of vacation rental ordinances. However, the bill has far reaching impacts on land use regulations, environmental regulations and code enforcement regulations. Additionally, the bill limits the timeframe for government entities to respond to Harris claims from 150 days to 90 days, and increases the likelihood of paying the property owners attorney fees. Please reach out to the members of the House Civil Justice Committee and ask them to OPPOSE the bill. ( Cruz )

Attorney Fee Awards in Preemption Challenges Clear First Committees
CS/SB 1140 ( Hutson) and CS/HB 829 ( Sabatini) 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 n willful disregard of clear legislative preemptions. CS/SB 1140 was amended to apply only to legal actions involving express legislative preemptions (rather than implied) and to provide for an award of fees to the prevailing party (which could include the local government) in such challenges. The League OPPOSES the bills. ( O'Hara)
Communications Services Tax Bill Becomes Small Cell (5G) Trail
CS/HB 693 ( Fischer) unanimously passed the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee. As originally introduced, the bill seeks to reduce the tax rate, by 1 percent, on the state communications services and direct-to-home satellite services. The bill was substantially amended in the House Committee to include language OPPOSED by the League which repeals important, agreed to provisions of the 2017 law, and further strips cities of the ability to regulate the placement of communications equipment in public rights-of-way. The following provisions were added to the bill: significant changes to section 337.401(3) 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. The Senate companion , CS/SB 1000  ( Hutson) will be up Tuesday, March 25 in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. The League is OPPOSED to these bills and encourages you to call the members of the Committee to voice your opposition to this bill. ( Hughes

Impact Fees/Inclusionary Zoning Bills Progress
CS/SB 1730 by (Lee ) and HB COM1 by the House Commerce Committee each passed their respective committees. The bills restrict the ability of a county or municipality to adopt and enforce inclusionary housing ordinances or regulations. After receiving an application for approval of a development permit or order, a local government is required to review the application for completeness and issue a response to an applicant within 90 days unless the time frame is waived by the applicant. Local governments are required to credit certain contributions, constructions, expansions, or payments toward any other impact fee or exaction imposed by local ordinance for public educational facilities. The bills require the collection of an impact fee occur no earlier than the issuance of builder permit for the property that is subject to the fee. The ‘dual rational nexus test’ for impact fees is codified as articulated in case law. Additionally, local governments are prohibited from charging an impact fee for the development or construction of affordable housing. The League is OPPOSED to these bills. ( Branch )
Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs)
This week CS/HB 9 ( LaMarca) passed its last committee of reference in the House on an 16 to 7 party line vote. Of immediate concern to the League, HB 9 specifies that after October 1, 2019, a new CRA can only be created by a county-wide referendum in a primary or general election that requires the approval of two-thirds of the electors' votes to pass. The bill outlines a process by which all CRAs will be terminated by 2039 unless reauthorized by the body that created the CRA by a two-thirds vote. Despite vigorous debate in the three committee stops against the provision mandating a county-wide referendum for the creation of new CRAs, no changes to this provision have been made.

Next week, the Senate Community Affairs Committee will consider SB 1054 ( Lee) (the Senate CRA companion bill) in its first committee of reference. The meeting will be on Tuesday, March 26 at 4:00 p.m. We encourage our members in town for Legislative Action Days to attend this meeting. The League is OPPOSED to both the House and Senate bills in their current form. ( Cruz)

Water Quality Bills Carry High Costs and Penalties for Local Governments
CS/SB 1758  ( Mayfield) and  HB 1395  ( Raschein) are bold proposals for addressing water quality issues relating to nutrient pollution associated with wastewater treatment facilities, septic tanks, and residential fertilizer use. The bills require all local governments to adopt and enforce the state’s Model Fertilizer Ordinance. They require wastewater treatment facilities to upgrade to advanced waste treatment. They require local governments, as part of a Basin Management Action Plan, to implement septic-to-sewer connections and septic tank remediation requirements. To help offset the steep cost of these required upgrades, the bills create a grant program (local governments would need a 50 percent match to be eligible) in DEP. Notably, the bills do not identify a source of funding for this grant program or provide any assurances that funding would be at a level necessary for statewide compliance by local governments. Local governments that fail to comply with the bills’ requirements would be prohibited from approving any building permits for new construction and could face additional penalties from DEP. The bills also impose notice requirements and penalties on wastewater facilities for sanitary sewer overflows. CS/SB 1758 passed the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee 5-0. The League expressed concerns about the bill's significant fiscal impact and requested further analysis of the bill's impact by state economists. HB 1395 has not moved in the House. Because they lack a designated funding source to accomplish these well-intentioned objectives, the League is OPPOSED to these bills. ( O'Hara)
Local Government Fiscal Transparency Sees Its Way Through Committee
CS/CS/HB 15 ( Burton) passed (13-2) the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday. The bill amends multiple provisions related to local government financial transparency including requiring additional public notice, public meeting, analysis and reporting for new or increased taxes, long-term tax-supported debt and economic development. ( Hughes)
Rebranding Local Fees to Taxes Moves 
HB 7053 ( Ways and Means Committee) passed (21-9) the House Appropriations Committee. The bill will require, on a prospective basis, any new impositions or rate increases of certain local fees to be titled as and represented to the public as “taxes.” The local fees that will be impacted are special assessment, impact or mobility fees, franchise fees and charges to pay for the cost of regulation. The bill expressly provides that it does not affect, amend or alter a city’s home rule authority under the Florida constitution or other provisions of law to impose the affected local government levies. The League is MONITORING this bill. ( Hughes
Costly Rulemaking Authority for DFS
SB 1704 ( Wright ) is on the agenda for the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee next Monday. The bill requires the Division of State Fire Marshall to adopt rules to establish employers' cancer prevention best practices related to personal protective equipment, decontamination, fire suppression equipment, and fire stations. Given that this rulemaking authority is so broad, it could be very costly to taxpayers. ( Hughes )
The House Commerce Committee passed HB 101, Rep. Andrade’s retainage bill. The bill reduces by half the amount of retainage a municipality could with-hold from a general contractor for a construction project. Currently, municipalities can with-hold up to 10% of retainage for the first 50 percent of the project and up to 5 percent on the second 50 percent. The League is OPPOSED to this bill. ( Branch )
Charter Schools Zoning Bypass
On Tuesday, March 19 the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee adopted an amendment to a Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) PKI 19-02 dealing with zoning of charter schools. Specifically, the amendment states that libraries, community service organizations, museums, performing arts facilities, theatres, churches and other houses of worship, and state college or university facilities “may provide space or land to a charter school within their property or facility under their preexisting zoning and land use designations without obtaining a special exception, rezoning, or a land use change.” The effect of this amendment-adding the words “land” and “property”-greatly expands the ability to site a charter school where one was not previously authorized. The addition of the words “land” and “property” mean that cities would be preempted from requiring traffic studies or other land use related requirements on these specified charter school locations. Under the amendment, any of the described facilities could provide an empty lot to a charter school to build on without any regard for existing land use or zoning classifications. The League is OPPOSED to this bill. ( Branch )
911 Services
CS/SB 536 ( Brandes) passed the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee on Wednesday afternoon. The bill, in its current form, places additional requirements on public safety answering points (PSAPs) with the goal of improving communications with police, fire and sheriff’s departments within neighboring jurisdictions. League staff expects the bill to be amended in a future committee stop with language that reduces the financial burdens created by the current bill. However, in its current form the League is OPPOSED to this bill. ( Cook)
Solid Waste
CS/HB 1169 ( McClure) passed through the Local, Federal, and Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The bill makes it increasingly more expensive for cities that have an open market for waste collection to displace private providers if the city chooses to provide the service in-house or via a limited list of providers. The League is OPPOSED to this bill. ( Cook)
HB 1237 ( McClain) passed the House Local, Federal, and Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The bill prohibits cities from requiring towing companies to pay a fee as a part of any proposal to provide towing services. Additionally, the bill would prevent cities from charging an impoundment fee to people arrested for the commission of certain crimes, who have, as a result of their arrest, had their vehicle towed and impounded.  If your city is impacted by either of these two changes, please send League staff information regarding your current towing programs. The League is OPPOSED to this bill. ( Cook)
Local Government Membership on the Florida Building Commission Removed
HB 27 by Rep. Ingoglia passed the Business and Profession Subcommittee by a vote of 11 to 4 despite the objections of the Florida League of Cities. The bill removes the joint appointment from the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties off the Florida Building Commission. The League is OPPOSED to this bill. ( Branch )
Vegetable Gardens
CS/SB 82 ( Bradley ) passed the Senate 35-5. The bill preempts any local ordinance or regulation of vegetable gardens on residential property. Some cities have adopted ordinances that regulate the size or placement of vegetable gardens in the front yards of homes. While local governments would be preempted from prohibiting vegetable gardens, the bills allow for local ordinances to regulate the use of water during droughts, fertilizer use or invasive species control. The bill would not apply to homeowners association regulations or deed-restricted communities. The bill was amended to define vegetable garden to include vegetables, fruits, herbs or flowers grown for human consumption. ( Cruz )
Repeal of Constitution Revision Commission
This week, CS/CS/HJR 249 ( Drake) passed its final committee of reference. The bill repeals the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The sponsor cited the need for constitutional amendment due to the 2018 CRC’s bundling of unrelated constitutional proposals on the 2018 ballot, and the political appointment process of CRC members. If CS/HJR 249 passes the legislature, it will require 60% of voters to support it on the 2020 general election ballot. ( Cruz)
House and Senate School Safety Bills 
A Senate proposal to amend school safety requirements was temporarily postponed in the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee. Of interest to cities, SB 7030 ( Education ) would provide school districts with greater flexibility to improve school safety by authorizing the transfer of additional funds within the Florida Education Finance Program towards school safety expenditures. SB 7030 is scheduled to be taken up again by the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee on Tuesday, March 26.

The House introduced its own school safety proposal, HB 7093 , in the Education Committee . The bill expands access to school guardians by allowing private schools and charter schools to employ school guardians (either directly or by contract) and revises the safe school’s allocation to distribute funds based on the number of students instead of the crime index. The priority use of such funds is now safe-school officers, instead of solely school resource officers which allows school districts and charter schools to use funds for school guardians. A safe-school officer may be a school resource officer, school safety officer or a school guardian per the definitions in the bill. The bill was approved by the committee and is awaiting additional committee references. The League is MONITORING this legislation. ( Cook )
Transportation Infrastructure Bill Picks Up Speed 
A bill that would pave the way for three major road building projects cleared its second Senate committee Tuesday. SB 7068 ( Lee ), would extend the Suncoast Parkway to the Georgia border, connect it to the Florida Turnpike and fund the construction of a new highway connecting Polk and Collier counties. The bill, a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, funds the roads projects at $128 million in the 2019-20 budget, with $45 million of that cash coming from the State Transportation Trust Fund and $83 million from general revenue. ( Branch )
Show Me the Money … Lots of Money 
This week, the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees rolled out their budget plans this week and, in the process, revealed some discord that may get in the way of negotiations on non-budget policy issues. The full House and Senate Appropriations Committees will meet next week to hammer out the spending plans for their respective chambers before sending the final spending bills to the House and Senate floor for a vote by the full membership of those bodies. The current proposals are about $400 million apart and will have to narrow the gap in areas such as per pupil funding levels, tourism marketing efforts, environmental projects, and transportation funding.

Below are some of the key spending proposals put forth by each chamber.

Florida House of Representatives:
  • $50 million for targeted water-quality-improvement grants
  • $50 million for grants related to setting "total maximum daily loads" for nutrients in waterways
  • $50 million for springs restoration
  • $10.8 million for water-quality monitoring and establishing a blue-green algae task force 
  • $4.2 million to create a center for red tide research
  • $10 million for "innovative solutions" for algae
  • $50 million for beach renourishment
  • $50 million for park repairs and improvements
  • $120 million for petroleum tank site cleanup
  • $123 million for Affordable Housing (SHIP and SAIL programs combined)

The Florida Senate Preliminary Budget by the numbers:
  • $656 million for water programs (including $360 million for Everglades restoration, with $107 million for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee)
  • $45 million for land acquisition through the Department of Environmental Protection.
  • $90 million petroleum tank site cleanup (with $40 million from the cleanup trust fund to be used for alternative water supply.)
  • $100 million for springs restoration
  • $129 million for water-quality improvements
  • $10.8 million for water-quality monitoring and establishing a blue-green algae task force
  • $44.4 million for beach restoration
  • $15 million for state park improvements
  • $5 million for Lake Apopka restoration
  • $6.6 million for red tide research
  • $10 million for "innovative technologies" for algae
  • $48.8 million for Hurricane Irma federal grants
  • $29.6 million for water projects
  • $231 million for Affordable Housing (SHIP and SAIL programs combined) 

The Senate's proposed $90.3 billion budget can be found here. The budget summary here.

The House proposed budget and related bills can be viewed here
Please participate in our 30-minute conference call every Monday during session (March 5 through May 3) at 9:00 a.m. EST. You will be updated on what issues the legislature will be discussing in the upcoming week and what advocacy efforts might be needed.
CALL IN NUMBER: 1-888-585-9008
CONFERENCE ROOM #: 301-563-714