Consultants Shawn Foster of the Sunrise Consulting Group with Laura Boehmer of The Southern Strategy Group updated the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on the results of the latest legislative session including the new online sales tax law, revisions in work from home rules and a law which safeguards individual rights during a public health emergency.
According to Foster, $101.5 billion was approved by the state for the funding of several programs. $1.5 billion were vetoed. Measures that passed include:
Community Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services: $1.051 billion
Homeless Program Challenge Grants: $3.2 million
Resilient Florida Trust Fund program: $500 million
Septic to Sewer / Stormwater improvements: $626 million
State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP): $146.7 million
Florida Job Growth Grant Fund: $74 million
Emergency Rental Assistance Program: $1.5 billion
Foster added that had it not been for the American Rescue Act, (commonly known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan) Florida would have missed out on $10 billion or 10% worth of funding.
The largest portion of the funding for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services is reportedly a priority of Governor Ron DeSantis and wife Casey. Boehmer stated that the Resilient Florida Trust Fund program which will aid the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is not yet live, as it is a new program with policies still pending.
Foster added that DeSantis “wanted more” for the SHIP program, and expects more allotted for this program in the next session. “Things are going to get tough. Rents are rising. People are going to be put out of homes soon through evictions.” A website has been created to ease the application process for this funding at www.ourflorida.com.
SB 2006, an Emergency Management bill, which requires no funding, amends the State Emergency Management Act to address the threat posed by a future pandemic or other public health emergency. The bill requires “political subdivision” before imposing an ordinance or other measure that deprives a person of a right, a liberty or property. In order to impose such ordinances, the government must prove that the measure is “narrowly tailored” and serves a “compelling public health or safety purpose.” The governor will have the authority to invalidate an emergency order that “unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties.”
A home-based business bill (SB 266 / HB 403) specifies that local governments may not enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation or policy, or take any action to license or otherwise regulate a home-based business in a manner that is different from other businesses in the local jurisdiction. The bill also specifies which conditions a business is considered “home-based,” and authorizes them to operate in residential-zoned areas. It also specifies that these businesses are subject to certain business taxes.
SB 50 sealed off a loophole that allowed for businesses to avoid paying sales taxes when selling goods online. The law now “applies Florida’s sales and use tax to online / e-commerce sales from out of state retailers regardless of whether the entity has a physical presence within the state.” Foster and Boehmer reported that the bill will increase the state General Fund by $973.6 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 21-22, and $1.08 billion each year afterward. The measure also has the potential to increase the state trust fund by $3 million in FY 21-22 and each year after that.
Foster added that Florida was one of two states that were not collecting adequate sales tax. He did not mention the other.
House Bill 35 changes the rules on publication of legal notices. The bill provides government agencies with the option of internet-only publication of legal notices with any newspaper of general circulation within the local government’s jurisdiction. County Attorney Jeff Rogers commented that it is not certain whether or not this bill will result in a cost savings for the county.
Boehmer and Foster suggested that this bill may come back in a later session. Commissioner Jeff Holcomb commented, “I will guarantee this bill will come back.”
HB 337 addressed impact fees, and involves preemption of local ordinances. Going forward, there are six provisions regarding impact fee increases within the bill in order to increase an impact fee beyond the cap amount. In order for these increases, three requirements must be met; a demonstrated need to justify the increase, two publicly noticed workshops and adherence to a provided definition of “infrastructure.”
This bill was also opposed by Foster and Boehmer, and they remarked that they expect further modification of this bill in the future.
HB 421 modifies the Bert Harris Act of 1995. Opposed by the lobbyists, the new bill “revises the term ‘action of a government entity’ to include adopting or enforcing any ordinance, resolution, regulation, rule or policy and clarifies the term ‘real property’ to include surface, subsurface, and mineral estates and other land interests held by a property owner.”
It will also reduce the timeframe in which a property owner must notify the government before filing a court action to 90 days. The former timeframe was 150. Foster reported that the language of the bill came to 150 pages and required 12 pages of analysis.
A bill to watch, House Bill 1059 addresses construction permits. The interesting language of the bill states, “If a local government fails to meet established deadlines for reviewing and issuing a building permit for a single-family residential dwelling, it must reduce the original permit fee by 10% for each date it’s late.” The bill also requires posting online comprehensive instructions and statuses for each type of building permit application.
A separate bill, HB 667 requires local code enforcement agencies to allow requests for inspections to be submitted electronically.
Senate Bill 64 hands down a state mandate to eliminate “non beneficial surface water discharge” by 2032. Another in-depth bill will require plans and timelines to be submitted to the DEP by November 2021. Foster commented that the bill affords “too much rulemaking ability to the DEP.” Both expect modification in later sessions.
Awaiting DeSantis’ signature is Senate Bill 1086 that will include language that creates anchoring limitations in springs and spring runs. The governor has until July 1, 2021 to sign the bill.
Bills that failed were:
Vacation Rentals (SB 522 / HB 219)
Public Funds for Lobbying by Local Governments (HB 215)
Occupational Regulations Review Process (SB 344 / HB 471)
Building Design (HB 55 & 284)
Matters of Great Governmental Concern (SB 102 / HB 1053)
The senate version of the last failed bill would have given the state Attorney General (AG) the sole responsibility for the prosecution, management and coordination of any civil proceeding brought by government entities in matters the Legislature has declared to be of great governmental concern. The house bill, which did pass (however, opposed by the SB) would have required local governments to provide notice to the AG of each civil action filed and provide 180 days for the AG to declare the subject matter to be of great governmental concern.
Boehmer added that this was a priority of the current AG Ashley Moody, so she expects to see this return to the next legislative session.