March 2-6, 2020
As we enter the final stretch (we hope) of the 2020 Legislative Session, it is imperative to remember to continue the fight for Home Rule until the official end. Even if the press reports it and even if your legislator says it’s dead, there is always a path for a bill to pass. This is the time for late-filed amendments and trickery. Thank you all for your advocacy, but we aren’t done yet. So, in the final days of session, keep up the good work. Keep the pressure on because, as Yogi Berra says, “It ain’t over 'til it’s over.” 
Vacation Rental Bills Stalled - For Now

CS/SB 1128 (Diaz) and CS/CS/HB 1011 (Fischer) change current law relating to vacation rentals, also known as short-term rentals (STRs). The bills were amended to:

  • Clarify the definition of an advertising platform and narrow it by removing print advertisements from its scope.
  • Allow a “grandfathered” city to amend its short-term rental regulations if the amendment makes the regulation less restrictive.
  • Require the department to maintain vacation rental property license information in an accessible electronic format.
  • Require advertising platforms to verify a property’s license number prior to publishing its advertisement on its platform and every quarter thereafter.
  • Require advertising platforms to quarterly provide the department with the physical address of the vacation rental properties that advertise on their platforms.
  • Impose a duty on advertising platforms to collect and remit taxes in relation to the rental of a vacation rental property through its platform.
  • Establish requirements that advertising platforms adopt an anti-discrimination policy and inform their users of the public lodging discrimination prohibition found in current law.
  • Clarify that the provision of the bill shall not supersede any current or future community association governing document.

Additionally, CS/CS/HB 1011 now requires sexual predators to notify the sheriff's office of a temporary residence within 24 hours of arrival. Language carving out the Florida Keys from certain elements of the preemption was also added to the bill.

The Senate version, CS/SB 1128 was temporarily postponed in Senate Rules which is not scheduled to meet again. CS/CS/HB 1011 was taken up and Temporarily Postponed by the House on Friday afternoon. According to House Rules, if the bill is not taken up by March 11 it will effectively be dead for this session. However, there are other bills that could be amended with the vacation rental language and the Senate bill, which is stuck in the Senate Rules Committee, is still technically available for consideration (though not likely to be pulled from the committee.) (Cook)
Expanded Permitting Timelines Passes Senate-Awaiting House Action
CS/SB 7018 (Infrastructure and Security) passed out of the Senate (38-0) and is now awaiting action by the House. The bill includes language that extends the 5G “shot clock” and “deemed approved” provisions provided for in the Advanced Wireless Deployment Act to all permit applications for ALL utilities in the right of way of municipalities and counties jurisdictions. This language is also included in HB 7099 (State Affairs), CS/CS/CS/HB 395 (Andrade) and CS/CS/CS/HB 203 (McClain). The League OPPOSES these bills. (Branch)
Water Quality Bills Poised for Action by House and Senate  
CS/CS/SB 712  (Mayfield) and  CS/HB 1343  (Payne) make numerous changes to current law relating to water quality improvements, septic systems, basin management action plans, stormwater management, sanitary sewer overflows and wastewater project grants. CS/CS/SB 712 passed the Senate on March 5. As amended in their final committees, the bills are now substantially similar. The remaining difference between the bills concerns the appointment process for the DEP Secretary. CS/HB 1343 is ready for a vote by the full House. The League is continuing to monitor both bills. (O’Hara)
Amended Reclaimed Water Bill Poised for House Passage
CS/CS/HB 715  (Maggard) and  CS/CS/SB 1656 (Albritton) prohibit domestic wastewater utilities from disposing of effluent, reclaimed water or reuse water by surface water discharge beginning January 2026. While the bills exempt some types of discharges, fiscally constrained governments, and municipalities with annual revenues of $10 million or less from the prohibition, the overall mandate on local governments to comply will be staggering. The bills direct the Department of Environmental Protection to develop rules relating to the beneficial reuse of water for public water supply purposes. The bills specify the rules should require the treatment of reclaimed water to drinking water standards. CS/CS/SB 1656 is in its final stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee. CS/CS/HB 715 passed the House State Affairs Committee on March 2. The bill was amended to address the surface water discharge prohibition. As amended, the bill would require wastewater utilities to develop a plan to eliminate surface water discharges by July 2023. The plans would be subject to DEP review and would be incorporated into the utilities’ operating permits. Notably, the plan would provide some relief for utilities that could demonstrate that eliminating all discharges would be economically, environmentally or technically infeasible or would work an undue economic hardship on utility ratepayers. The League OPPOSES the surface water discharge mandate in the bills but SUPPORTS the provisions relating to potable water reuse.  (O’Hara)
Local Government Reporting Passes House
SB 1512 (Diaz) and CS/HB 7069 (State Affairs) requires DFS to create a website and mail a report to every household that grades cities and counties on a multitude of budget and economic factors. The House passed (83-34)  CS/HB 7069  and sent it to the senate for consideration. To facilitate this report, local governments will have to submit certain information to DFS. Given the differences in municipalities, ranking and comparing municipalities will put data out there that has no value and could cause confusion among residents. The bill also was amended to include a $3 million appropriation to DFS. While the Senate companion, SB 1512, is stuck in a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, it is rumored that this bill is a priority of House Speaker Oliva so anything can happen. The League OPPOSES the bills.  (Hughes)
House Committee Merges Fiduciary Duty Bill with Government Integrity Bill
HB 1113 (Beltran) and CS/CS/SB 1270 (Lee) establish new standards for the fiduciary duty of care owed by appointed public officers (city managers, appointed local boards and councils, finance officers, etc.). The bills impose fiduciary duties of care for these officials and impose training requirements on them relating to the various duties of care and responsibilities set forth in the bills. The bills also prohibit government attorneys from representing any individual or employee of the governmental entity, except when directed by the government entity. CS/CS/SB 1270 passed the Senate (38-1) on Friday, March 6 and is headed to the House for action there. The substance of HB 1113 was amended onto CS/CS/HB 1111 (Tomkow), relating to Government Integrity, and passed the House State Affairs Committee on March 2. The underlying Government Integrity bill, CS/CS/HB 1111, creates the Florida Integrity Office and the position of Florida integrity officer. The bill authorizes the integrity officer to investigate complaints alleging waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct or gross mismanagement (as defined in the bill) in connection with the expenditure of public funds within and by state and local government. The bill authorizes the auditor general and the Florida integrity officer to investigate or audit the activities of any political subdivision, unit of local authority or local council or commission. CS/CS/HB 1111 has passed all its committees of reference and is awaiting action by the full House. The Senate companion, SB 1538 (Gruters), has not been heard in committee. The League OPPOSES the bills. (O’Hara)
House Scales Down Bert Harris Act/Private Property Rights Legislation
CS/HB 519 (Grant, J.) is likely to be voted on by the full House next week. As originally drafted, the bill significantly amended the Bert J. Harris Act and substantially handicapped local government ability to resolve these claims. The bill required 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 was never defined in the bill. This week on the House floor, Representative Grant substantially scaled down the bill by removing the concept of “similarly situated”. The amendment also removed provisions that would have allowed the inclusion of business damages as part of a Harris claim. The bill as amended removes a provision allowing governments to seek attorney fees and costs when a property owner refuses a bona fide offer which reasonably would have resolved the property claim fairly. The bill also, changes the timeframe under which a claimant must notify the government before filing an action from 150 days to 90 days.

On Monday the Senate Rules Committee failed to consider CS/SB 1766 (Lee) when it ran out of time. As amended the Senate bill had also completely removed the concept of “similarly situated properties” from the bill. The Senate Rules Committee is not scheduled to meet during the final week of the regular legislative session. As such, the fate of CS/SB 1766 is in doubt. (Cruz)
Impact Fee Legislation Narrowed
On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to CS/CS/CS/1066 (Gruters) that addressed various League concerns with a developer backed impact fee bill. As amended the bill prohibits the application of a new or increased impact fee to pending permit applications. The bill authorizes local governments with charters that contain provisions providing for school capacity to require contributions related to public education that are used to mitigate impacts not otherwise funded by impact fees or other exactions related to public education facilities, under certain circumstances. This provision only applies to Orange County. Lastly, the bill provides that impact fee credits are assignable and transferable at any time after establishment within the same impact fee zone or impact fee district, or an adjoining zone or district within the same local jurisdiction. Provisions that would have limited expenditures of impact fee revenue or required the creation of an impact fee review committee were all removed from the bill. The bill is now awaiting a final vote by the Senate on Monday. (Cruz)
Growth Management Train Continues to Advance
In the legislative process a “train bill” is the insider phrase for the practice of combining various unrelated concepts into one bill to facilitate passage of the various issues, rather than filing multiple standalone bills. This week a comprehensive growth management bill, CS/CS/SB 410 (Perry) passed the Senate on a 26 to 14 vote and was sent to the House for action by that body. The underlining bill requires local governments to adopt by July 1, 2023, a new mandatory element in their comprehensive plans that addresses the protection of private property rights. As amended the bill now includes the following provisions:

  • A provision that extends the 5G “shot clock” and “deemed approved” provisions provided for in the Advanced Wireless Deployment Act to permit applications for ALL utilities in the right-of-way.
  • Provides that a county charter provision or comprehensive plan goal, objective, or policy adopted after January 1, 2020, may not impose a limitation on lands within a municipality unless the municipality, by referendum or local ordinance, adopts and imposes the provision, goal, objective, or policy.
  • Specifies that a party, or its successor in interest, may amend or cancel a development agreement without securing the consent of other parcel owners whose property was originally subject to the development agreement, as long as the amendment or cancellation does not directly modify the allowable uses or entitlements of such owner’s property.
  • Allows agreements pertaining to existing developments of regional impact that are classified as essentially built out, which agreements were valid on or before April 6, 2018, to be amended including amendments exchanging land uses under certain circumstances.

In response to League concerns, a provision that would have provided for the mandatory award of attorney fees, costs and damages in a civil action for which a local government land use regulation was determined to have been expressly preempted by the state Constitution or by state law was removed from the bill.

The House companion, CS/CS/CS/HB 203 (McClain) , is awaiting action by the full House. It is very similar to CS/CS/SB 410 but includes two additional provisions the League is OPPOSED to. CS/CS/CS/HB 203 provides that a municipality may not extend new water or sewer services into the unincorporated area of a county, without consent of the county, if the county already provides the same service, on or after July 1, 2020. Additionally, CS/CS/CS/HB 203 expands on language included in last year’s growth management legislation by allowing the prevailing party in a challenge to certain local ordinances for local growth policy and land development regulation to seek attorney fees and costs. The League is OPPOSED to these bills. ( Cruz )
Construction Retainage Sent to Governor
CS/SB 246 (Hooper) and CS/HB 101 (Andrade) would allow municipalities the ability to retain only up to 5% across an entire construction project. Currently, municipalities can withhold up to 10% of retainage for the first half of a construction project and up to 5% on the last half. Retainage serves as a safeguard against possible overpayment to the general contractor when the estimated percentage of project completion, used for periodic payments, exceeds the actual percentage completed. Additionally, retainage helps to ensure that the project is 100% complete prior to funds being released to the contractor. CS/HB 101 passed both chambers and is awaiting action by the governor. The League is neutral on the bills. (Branch)  
Housing Bills Teed Up for Final Action
CS/CS/SB 998 (Hutson) and CS/CS/CS/CS/HB 1339 (Yarborough) make varied and comprehensive changes to Florida law impacting affordable housing. The bills:

  • Allow a local government to adopt an ordinance to allow accessory dwelling units in any area zoned for single-family residential use.
  • Require the reporting of impact fee charges data within the annual financial audit report submitted to the Department of Financial Services.
  • Require reporting on annual expenditures for affordable housing in reports of economic status information to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
  • Establish biannual regional workshops for locally elected officials serving on affordable housing advisory committees to identify and share best affordable housing practices.
  • Permit a mobile home park damaged or destroyed by natural forces to be rebuilt on the same site with the same density as was approved, permitted, or built before being damaged or destroyed. The League is now NEUTRAL on these bills. (Branch)
Local Government Public Construction Awaiting Final Action
CS/CS/SB 504 (Perry) and CS/CS/HB 279 (Smith, D.) require a local government, in deciding whether it is in the public’s best interest for the local government to perform a public building construction project using its own services, to fully account for all costs associated with performing and completing the work, including the cost of direct materials to be used in the construction. The bills clarify that a local government shall list all other governmental entities that may have additional permits or fees generated by the project when issuing a bidding document . The House bill is awaiting final action by that body while the Senate bill is on the Senate Special Order Calendar. The League OPPOSES the bills. (Branch)  
Electric Bicycles on Track for Final Vote 
CS/CS/HB 971 ( Grant, M.), a bill related to electric bicycles, is awaiting a final vote by the House Chamber and will be sent to the Senate next week for a vote as well. The bill creates regulations governing the operation of e-bikes by permitting them to operate where bicycles are allowed. The League SUPPORTS this bill.  (Branch) 
Expensive Midblock Crosswalks Bill Advances in House
CS/CS/CS/CS/HB 1371 (Fine) which mandates local government regulation of midblock crosswalks is awaiting final action by the House next week. The bill requires municipalities to either install traffic control devices (unfunded mandate) or remove the midblock crosswalks by October 1, 2004. The Senate companion, CS/CS/SB 1000 (Perry) is stuck in the Senate Appropriations committee. The League is OPPOSED to the bills. (Branch) 
Employment Eligibility (E-Verify) Bill Less Muddled
CS/CS/CS/SB 664 (Lee) requires public employers that enter into contracts in excess of $35,000 to register with and use an employment verification system to validate the work authorization status of all new employees and identify whether an employee is an unauthorized alien. Additionally, certain contractors and subcontractors who have entered into, or are attempting to enter into, a contract with a public employer must register with and use E-Verify or some other similar employment verification system. Only those contractors or subcontractors that have more than 10 employees in Florida and that have contracts with a public employer that are valued in excess of $35,000 are required to comply with these requirements. These requirements take effect for public employers and their contractors and subcontractors on July 1, 2021. CS/CS/CS/SB 664 also requires specific private employers to register with and use the E-Verify system or an alternative verification system to verify the employment eligibility of new employees. The requirement that private employers use an employment verification system will generally apply to employers that have 20 or more Florida employees once it has been phased in on a specified schedule. (Hughes)
Tax Package Grows and Moves
CS/HB 7097 (Ways and Means) is the House “tax package” for the 2020 Session and includes several tax reductions and other tax-related modifications. Of note, the bill includes a 0.5 percent rate reduction for both the state communications services tax and the direct-to-home satellite services. The sales tax rate on commercial leases is reduced from 5.5 to 5.4 percent. The bill includes two sales tax holidays: a three-day “back-to-school” holiday and a seven-day “disaster preparedness” holiday.

The bill includes a requirement that school capital outlay sales surtaxes approved in the future be proportionately shared with charter schools. The bill restructures the authorized uses of tourist development, convention development and local option food and beverage taxes levied by Miami-Dade County. The bill also expands the allowable uses for tourist development tax revenues to include certain water quality improvement and parks and trails projects. The bill makes multiple changes to property taxes including amending the requirements for hospitals to qualify for a charitable tax exemption and updates the qualifying operations for the deployed servicemember tax exemption. The bill provides for a one-time increase of $8.2 million available for the brownfields tax credit equal to the amount of the current backlog of approved tax credits. The bill provides for an approximately one-third reduction in the aviation fuel tax paid by commercial air carriers. The bill also includes several provisions proposed by the Department of Revenue designed to enhance its administration of state taxes and oversight of property taxation.

Additionally, the bill provides for a future sunset of the Charter County and Regional Transportation System Sales Surtax currently levied in Miami-Dade County and a requirement that any future levy of the tax in any eligible county be limited to 20 years in duration. The total local government revenue impact of the bill in fiscal year 2020-21 is -$24.8 million (-$42.5 million recurring). CS/HB 7097 passed the House (97-16) and is awaiting Senate action. (Hughes)
Comparative Information About Municipalities and Counties
SJR 1502 (Diaz) and HB 7061 (State Affairs Committee) propose an amendment to the Florida Constitution requiring Florida’s chief financial officer to annually provide information about counties and municipalities to residents in a manner that allows residents to compare economic and noneconomic factors of each local government. HB 7061 passed the House (90-23) and is awaiting action by the Senate. (Hughes)
Communications Services – Department of Economic Opportunity 
CS/HB 969 (Drake) and CS/CS/SB 1166 (Albritton) designate the Department of Economic Opportunity as lead state agency to facilitate expansion of broadband internet service. The bills require DEO to work collaboratively with certain entities including local governments. The bills create the Florida Office of Broadband within DEO for the purpose of developing, marketing and promoting broadband internet services in this state. The bills allocate $5 million of the funds transferred to Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise for the Multiuse Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program to be used for projects that assist in the development of broadband infrastructure within or adjacent to a multiuse corridor. CS/CS/SB 1166 was substituted for CS/HB 969 . CS/HB 969 passed both chambers and is awaiting action by the governor. The League SUPPORTS this bill. (Hughes)
Regional Rural Development Grant Program Revised 
CS/CS/HB 1139 was amended to remove the provision that increased the amount DEO may expend on Regional Rural Development Grants from $750,000 to $1 million. The bill also reduces the percentage of grant funds that must be matched with nonstate funds from 100% to 25% of the state’s contribution. CS/SB 426 still includes this provision. The Senate companion, CS/SB 426 passed the Senate (40-0) and is on the way to the House. (Cook)
Legal Notices Publication Stuck in Senate 
CS/HB 7 (Fine) and SB 1340 (Gruters) allow a governmental agency the option to publish legally required advertisements and notices on a publicly accessible website if certain conditions are met. The bills require a governmental agency to publish a notice at least once a year in a newspaper of general circulation that the resident or property owner may receive legally required notices or advertisements via first class mail or email by registration of his or her name, address and email address with the local governmental agency. CS/HB 7 passed the House (71-47) and is on the way to the Senate while SB 1340 was never heard by any senate committee. The League SUPPORTS these bills. (Cook)