January 17, 2020
“Starting something can be easy, it is finishing it that is the highest hurdle.” ― Isabella Poretsis 

On Tuesday the 2020 Legislative Session officially commenced — like a bullet from a gun! Almost a dozen bills impacting cities were heard this week, including some on Monday before the session had even officially kicked off. 

In the same way the Legislature wasted no time in getting to work, so too have Florida’s municipal officials. Your responses to our legislative alerts have been phenomenal. Your communications with your legislators let the League lobbying team know that we have your support and let legislators know that you are paying attention to what they are doing here in Tallahassee.  

In his opening day annual “State of the State” speech, Governor Ron DeSantis looked back at the accomplishments of the 2019 Session and reminded legislators that there is still lots of work to do. Governor DeSantis broadly outlined his priorities by stating that Florida needs to “tax lightly, spend wisely and regulate reasonably.” He discussed his plan for increasing teacher salaries and improving Florida’s school system. DeSantis referenced the work of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and asked the Legislature to pass and fully fund comprehensive water quality legislation based on the task force recommendations. Of primary importance to cities with regard to his thoughts on water quality, the governor chastised municipalities for discharging untreated wastewater and blamed cities for such discharges because “they have failed to invest in needed upgrades to their water infrastructure in part because it is cheaper to violate the law and pay a nominal fine.” 

In another recurring theme (of both the governor and House Speaker Jose Oliva), the governor called on legislators to decrease regulations on businesses. In a related vein, the governor pushed his controversial proposal to require Florida businesses to use what is known as E-Verify to ensure that only those individuals here legally can work. He said the use of E-Verify would place upward pressure on the wages of Floridians who work in blue-collar jobs.

Oliva came out swinging in his opening remarks. He declared a war of sorts on what he called “the health care industrial complex,” calling hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers the “robber barons” of our generation. Oliva said he’s also committed to supporting efforts to make Florida’s education system the best in the nation and specifically addressed the governor’s efforts to raise pay for teachers, but he said he is not convinced the governor’s plan is the best way to address the teacher pay deficit.

Senate President Bill Galvano’s sanguine opening day speech was short on policy specifics and instead focused on the need for constructive debate and collaboration. Galvano told his fellow senators, “We all know the issues. And, we all know at the heart of them is our budget. I am confident you know what to do.” 

We are ready and excited about the session. We ask you to help us over the next 56 days of the session by reading our weekly On Tap at The Cap and legislative bill summaries, being on the lookout for legislative alerts, responding to our calls for action (make sure you copy us on any emails you send to your legislators), participating in our weekly conference calls and joining us for Legislative Action Days on February 11-12. 

Please join us each week at 9:00 a.m. for our Monday Morning Call-In during which the FLC advocacy team will discuss which bills will be heard that week as well as update you on other important legislative happenings. The call-in number is 888.585.9008, and the conference room number is 301563714#.

REMINDER: Due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the Monday Morning Call-In will NOT be held on Monday, January 20 and instead will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 21.  

Be sure to let us know if you’re coming to Tallahassee. Contact Allison Payne to schedule a legislative briefing before you head over to the capitol.

The following is a brief synopsis of the key legislative actions and bill summaries for this week.

Thanks for all you do!
Bert Harris Act/Private Property Rights
On Thursday, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee passed CS/HB 519 (Grant, J.) on a party line vote of 10-5. This bill significantly amends the Bert J. Harris Act and substantially 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. Therefore, the legislation will have a severe chilling effect on the settlement of Harris claims. Additionally, the bill limits the timeframe for government entities to respond to Harris claims from 150 days to 90 days, removes prevailing party standard from the attorney fees provision only allowing a property owner to recover fees if they prevail. The bill opens the door to allow a property owner to recover business damages which is strictly prohibited under current law. The League is OPPOSED to this legislation because we believe this bill is nothing more than a back-door handout to the multi-million-dollar commercial short-term rental industry, that will exponentially increase attorney fees and leave the taxpayers with the bill. Please thank Reps. Antone , Diamond , Mercado , Omphroy and Thompson for voting NO on CS/HB 519 (Cruz) 
Vacation Rental Bill Rolls Back Local Regulations 
SB 1128 (Diaz), the short-term rental bill, passed its first committee despite bipartisan opposition. While the bill passed the committee on an 8-2 vote, many members of the committee raised objections to what was in (and wasn’t in) the current bill. The bill preempts any regulations relating to vacation rentals that have been adopted since 2014 and also appears to undo any licensing or inspection programs adopted prior to 2011 in “grandfathered” cities. 

A special thank you goes out to those who were in the room to register their opposition to the bill and the many city officials who emailed and called the senators on the committee prior to the hearing.  The House version, HB 1011 (Fischer), will be heard in its first committee, the House Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee , on Tuesday, January 21. Please contact the members of this subcommittee and express your opposition to HB 1011 ( Here is a link to the issue brief and talking points for this bill .) The FLC OPPOSES this bill. (Cook)  
Another Preemption (of Local Business Regulation) Moves in House 
On Wednesday, The House Business and Professions Subcommittee passed CS/HB 3 (Grant, M.). The bill picks up where it left off last session by expressly preempting the licensing of occupations to the state. The bill defines occupation to include a paid job, work, trade, employment or profession and defines licensing to include any training, education, test, certification, registration, procedure or license that are required for a person to perform an occupation. The bill provides limited exceptions for specified local licenses and any local government licensing of occupations that was expressly authorized by general law. The bill will prohibit a local government from requiring a person to obtain a license for a job scope that does not substantially correspond to the job scope of certain contractor categories set forth in Chapter 489, Florida Statutes. The FLC OPPOSES this bill. (Cruz)  
CS/SB 998 (Hutson) dealing with zoning, affordable housing, and impact fees issues passed out of its first committee of reference, the Senate Community Affairs Committee. Although the bill sponsor made several changes in favor of municipalities, FLC is still working with the sponsor to address other concerns relating to the placement of accessory dwelling units in single-family residential areas and a provision that permits a mobile home park damaged or destroyed by wind, water, or other natural force to be rebuilt on the same site with the same density as was approved, permitted, or built before being damaged or destroyed. In its current form, FLC OPPOSES this bill. (Branch) 
Impact Fees Bill Creates Confusion and Bureaucracy 
Continuing a recurring trend, a comprehensive bill, CS/HB 637 (DeCeglie), dealing with impact fees was taken up and passed out of the House Local and Federal Affairs Subcommittee. The bill requires impact fees to be based on a formula that accounts for recent and localized data collected within the last 36 months and excludes any cost that does not meet the definition of "infrastructure." The bill requires additional financial reporting for the collection of impact fees and the creation of an impact fee trust fund. Under this bill, local governments would be prohibited from requiring the collection of an impact fee earlier than the date the building permit is issued. The bill allows impact fee credits to be transferred from one development to another within the same impact fee jurisdiction for the same type of facility. Requires that each municipality establish, and impact fee review committee composed of two members of the local government, two members of the business community, two local contractors and one at large member. The League OPPOSES this bill. (Cruz)
Public Construction Bill Passes 2 nd Committee 
CS/SB 504 (Perry) requires local governments issuing bidding documents or other requests for proposal to disclose all fees affecting the project put out for bid was passed by the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. The bill also specifies the manner in which the estimated cost of a public building construction project must be determined when a local government governing board is deciding whether it is in the local government’s best interest to perform the project using its own services, employees, and equipment. Specifically, the bill requires the estimated cost of the project to be determined using generally accepted cost-accounting principles that fully account for all costs associated with performing and completing the work, including employee compensation and benefits, equipment costs and maintenance, insurance costs, and the cost of materials. The bill was amended in committee and removed the language prohibiting a local government from performing the project using its own services, employees, and equipment if the project requires an increase in the number of government employees or an increase in such capital expenditures. The FLC OPPOSES this bill. (Branch)  
Firefighter Cancer Decontamination Grant Program Moves 
Both the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee unanimously approved two bills that would create the Firefighter Cancer Decontamination Equipment Grant Program within the Division of State Fire Marshal of the Department of Financial Services. CS/HB 487 (Fetterhoff) and SB 1092 (Bean) would create this program to provide financial assistance to qualifying fire departments to help procure equipment, supplies, and educational training material designed to mitigate exposure to hazardous, cancer-causing chemicals. Currently, these bills do not fund the grant program. The League of Cities SUPPORTS these bills. (Hughes)  
Building Design
CS/HB 459 (Overdorf) passed out of the House Business & Professions Subcommittee on Wednesday. The bill prohibits municipalities adopting zoning and development regulations that require specific building design elements for single- and two- family dwellings unless certain conditions are met. This legislation would significantly affect municipalities ability to preserve the character of traditional neighborhoods. The FLC OPPOSES this bill. (Branch) 
Ethics Bills Impose Mandates and Preemptions
Multiple bills have been filed addressing a variety of ethics issues. Notable among them are a handful of bills establishing new mandates, preemptions and training requirements on local governments.  HB 1113 (Beltran) and SB 1270 (Lee) establish standards for the fiduciary duty of care additional standards of care for appointed members of local boards that have power to enforce codes as well as planning, zoning, adjustment, appeals and community redevelopment. It requires these individuals to obtain five hours of training per term on a wide variety of matters relating to board governance, fiduciary duties and professional responsibilities. The bills also require all legal counsel employed by a governmental entity to represent the interests of the governing body and not the interest of any individual or employee of the governmental entity. Both bills are awaiting their first committee hearing. (O’Hara)

SB 1538 (Gruters) and HB 1111 (Tomkow) create the Florida Integrity Office and Florida Integrity Officer and authorize the investigation or audit of any local government, local authority, local council or commission. They authorize the state Auditor General to report on activities by public officials or agencies to the Integrity Officer. The bills impose personal liability for repayment of funds upon persons who are determined responsible for fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement or misconduct in government. Both bills are awaiting their first committee hearing.  (O’Hara)

SB 766 (Perry) and HB 611 (Sabatini) mandate lobbyist registration requirements on all local governments and their agencies and preempt lobbyist registration to the state. The bills limit lobbyist registration and reporting fees by local governments that have adopted such local requirements, effectively establishing a state “ceiling” on minimum lobbyist registration and reporting. The bills also require notice all local government meetings except for emergency meetings to be posted seven days’ in advance, along with an agenda. Both bills are awaiting their first committee hearing. (O’Hara)
Legislature Targets Water Quality 
A series of bills have been filed to address Florida’s ongoing water quality woes. CS/SB 712 (Mayfield) and HB 1343 (Payne) impose new planning and reporting requirements on the Department of Environmental Protection, wastewater utilities, and local governments with septic tanks that contribute to nutrient impairment. The bills establish a matching grant program in DEP to assist with water quality projects necessary to meet the new requirements and require a $2,000 penalty for wastewater utilities that fail to take appropriate steps to reduce sanitary sewer overflows and leaks. CS/SB 712 is ready for consideration in its second committee, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government, and HB 1343 is awaiting action by its first committee of reference, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. HB 1091 (Fine) and SB 1450 (Gruters) would provide an across-the-board, 50% increase in penalties for violating a multitude of state environmental laws. Both bills await their first committee hearing.   (O’Hara)
Potable Water Reuse Bills Mandate Drastic Changes on Water Utilities
HB 715 (Maggard) and SB 1656 (Albritton) establish a regulatory framework for the state and Florida’s water utilities to treat reclaimed water for use as drinking water (potable reuse). Based loosely on the recommendations of the Florida Potable Reuse Commission, the bills turn up the heat on utilities to speed implementation by prohibiting surface water discharges from the utilities by 2026. While the bills provide for a few exceptions from this prohibition, utilities will likely face a multi-billion-dollar price tag to comply. Both bills await their first committee hearing. The League OPPOSES these bills. (O’Hara)
Florida Forever Funding 
SB 7024 (Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee) was introduced and passed unanimously by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee. The bill allocates $10 million of Florida Forever funding each year for acquiring lands and conservation easements in Florida under specified conditions for areas impacted by a hurricane within the five years prior to the fiscal year for which the acquisition funding is appropriated. The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to consult with other specified agencies for Florida Forever projects related to conservation lands and coastal areas subject to sea-level rise. Finally, the bill requires that the connection of wildlife habitat with a wildlife crossing be included in the benefits that land acquisition under the Florida Forever program is planned to provide. (O’Hara)
Statewide Office of Resiliency 
SB 7016 (Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee) which establishes the Statewide Office of Resiliency within the Executive Office of the Governor unanimously passed its second committee of reference, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, this week. The bill also creates the Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force, adjunct to the Statewide Office of Resiliency, to recommend consensus projections of the anticipated sea-level rise and flooding impacts along Florida’s coastline. The FLC SUPPORTS this bill. (O’Hara) 
Repeal of Aviation Fuel Tax Flies Out of Committee 
SB 1192 (Gruters) passed the Commerce and Tourism Committee this week. The bill would repeal the aviation fuel tax that helps provide funding to the State Transportation Trust Fund for programs such as the Aviation Grant Program. Local governments apply for this grant to help fund capital projects on airport property and services that lead to capital projects, such as planning and design services. The FLC OPPOSES this bill. (Branch)  
Firefighters’ Bill of Rights Passes
The Senate Government Oversight and Accountability passed CS/SB 620 (Hooper) which revises the current Florida Firefighters’ Bill of Rights statutes to require that the entire “Bill of Rights” process be followed during the informal inquiry process. The League is OPPOSED to this bill as the informal inquiry process is an important part of determining whether a formal investigation should be commenced or not and will waste time and tax dollars by requiring investigations to be conducted when they may not be required. The House companion, HB 215 (Casello), has not been heard in its first committee of reference.  (Hughes)
(No) Smoking in Parks
SB 630, sponsored by former FLC Defender of Home Rule Senator Debbie Mayfield, passed its first committee of reference this week on a unanimous vote. The bill amends current law to allow cities to regulate smoking in municipally-owned public parks. The bill now heads to the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee. The FLC SUPPORTS this bill. (Cook)
Is It Even Possible to Read 6 Point Font? 
HB 7 (Fine), a bill relating to public notice requirements, passed the House Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Wednesday. The bill allows cities the option to publish legally required advertisements and notices on a publicly accessible website if online publication would result in a cost savings for the government. The FLC SUPPORTS this bill. (Cook)
State Revenue Outlook — SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!!
The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met this week to estimate the state general revenue that will be used for the state to build their budget. The anticipated revenues were revised upwards slightly by $306 million for this current fiscal year and $86 million for next fiscal year. While this is positive, the state’s revenue collections for general revenue are still expected to fall below the prior year by 0.5% this year and the REC recognized that there is an elevated level of risk to any forecast due to the mature stage of the current economic expansion and geopolitical pressures to global growth. (Hughes)