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This legislative session we have seen members of the Florida House and Senate file bills addressing both climate change adaptation and mitigation in a bipartisan manner. We are encouraged by the Florida Legislature’s acknowledgement that the state must take the lead in setting policies addressing vulnerabilities to changing climate conditions and to “futureproof” the state of Florida. We are taking a more thorough look at bills already filed in this edition of the Advocate! Below is a summary of filed legislation Audubon is following for the 2020 Florida Legislative Session.
Audubon Florida
Audubon Advocate | Your Policy Update
Water.
Climate Adaptation
The Florida Legislature continues to address climate change through adaptation. A bill that we’ve mentioned before, SB 7016  from the Infrastructure and Security Committee, led by Senator Lee, and HB 1073, filed by Representative Stevens, would establish the statewide office of resiliency within the Executive Office of the Governor to be led by Florida’s Chief Resilience Officer. SB 7016 also establishes the Statewide Sea-Level Rise Taskforce. This Taskforce would be responsible for recommending consensus projections of sea-level rise and the flooding impacts along Florida’s coastline.

Another bill that we’ve discussed previously, SB 0178 by Senator Rodriguez and HB 0579  by Representative Aloupis, would require a Sea Level Impact Projection (SLIP) study be conducted for any state-financed construction in coastal areas. The assessment must take into account sea level rise and increased storm risk for an expected structure life of 50 years.
Prothonotary Warbler. Photo: Michael Witt/Audubon Photography Awards.
Prothonotary Warbler. Photo: Michael Witt/Audubon Photography Awards.
Climate Mitigation
While adaptation and energy legislation have gotten the lion’s share of legislative attention, much needed legislation on mitigation policy – reducing our carbon emissions – is starting to become more common.

SB 286  by Senator Rodriguez and HB 1069 by Representative Joseph, entitled Tax Credit for Carbon Farming 2020, directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in consultation with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to determine the amount of the tax credits that may be accrued as a result of the economic value of carbon farming. SB 286 acknowledges the benefits that Florida’s ranchers and foresters provide in carbon sequestration, improved water quality, and significant reductions in greenhouse gasses.

Audubon Florida is encouraged that Florida’s elected representatives are not only focusing on adaptation but expanding the discussion to mitigation funding and legislation.
Solar panel.
Solar panel.
Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
This legislative session we have seen several bills filed in both chambers of the Florida Legislature that tackle renewable energy and energy efficiency legislation.

SB 144  by Senator Brandes (no House companion bill has been filed), a bill entitled Energy 2040 Task Force, would establish the Energy 2040 Taskforce within the Public Service Commission. The Energy 2040 Taskforce would address Florida’s energy needs over the next two decades. SB 144 also sets the foundation for an analysis of the impact of solar and other renewable technologies (by nonutility suppliers), sustainable energy, smart grid technologies, energy storage, and electric vehicles.

SB 288  by Senator Rodriguez (no House companion bill has been filed) would exempt a property owner from being defined as a public utility; if they own and operate a renewable energy source device with a capacity of up to 2.5 megawatts on their property and if they sell renewable energy from that device to users located on the property.

SB 338  by Senator Rodriguez (no House companion bill has been filed), a bill entitled Energy Efficiency Saving in State Agencies, would revise the energy consumption information each state agency is required to provide to the Department of Management Services to also include fleet energy consumption. It would require the state energy management plan to include recommendations to improve energy efficiency by transitioning, or replacing certain inefficient facilities and fleets.

SB 1230  by Senator Brandes and HB 1219  by Representative Toledo create the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Grant Program funded by the State Transportation Trust Fund to provide financial assistance to municipalities and other entities for the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. SB 1346 and HB 1221 allocate funds from a licensing tax and fees on electric and hybrid vehicles that will increase available revenues for the State Transportation Trust Fund.
 
Water.
Water.
Water
HB 1363 by Representative Overdorf (R- Stuart) and its companion bill SB 1382 by Senator Albritton (R-Bartow) focus on improving Florida Department of Agriculture’s ( FDACS) Best Management Practices (BMP) Program while adding regional projects both agricultural as well as urban within Basin Management Action Plans. The bill creates a grant program with the Department of Environmental Protection for agricultural and urban projects. Audubon is pleased to see language regarding BMP implementation and verification by FDACS, though we would like to see faster enrollment by producers into the program than the five years mentioned in the bill. Audubon will be working with the bill sponsors as this bill moves forward.

Senator Mayfield (R-Vero) filed an amendment this week to SB 712, The Clean Waterways Act. The amendment unanimously passed the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government yesterday. This bill is a comprehensive water quality bill that imposes new regulations on stormwater, wastewater, septic tanks, and agriculture and adds new requirements for BMAPs; the state’s water quality restoration plans. The amendment rolls back the frequency of data collection on fertilizer records reporting by FDACS and changes the language related to the types of records that will be reported.

Additionally, there is more protective language regarding local ordinances related to class B biosolids application and the bill now also includes administrative penalties for pollution dischargers. Audubon is actively working with the bill sponsor as well as the house sponsor Representative Payne (R-Palatka) to ensure passage of this bill and to make sure that it forms the basis of a strong regulatory structure on which the state can move forward to protect our precious waterways.
Miami.
Miami.
Moving Miami-Dade County's Comprehensive Development Master Plan in the Right Direction
Yesterday, the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners approved amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan that move Miami-Dade in the right direction, respecting taxpayer investment in Everglades restoration, discouraging urban sprawl, and increasing resiliency. Audubon Florida and Tropical Audubon were among the groups that advocated for the amendments and spoke before the commission.

The amendments establish and strengthen policies that help amplify resilience, including: removing areas that are vulnerable to storm surge from consideration for urban expansion, establishing a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, mapping groundwater to address sea level rise, and planning for other impacts of climate change. Significantly, one amendment shrinks the urban expansion areas (UEAs), areas outside of the urban development boundary that have been identified for projected growth. Environmentally important lands, like wetlands that are critical for aquifer recharge and Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) areas, were excluded from the UEAs, safeguarding them from future development.

Yesterday’s vote represents a commitment to and an understanding of the fact that in Florida, smart growth goes hand-in-hand with protecting our natural resources.
Highway.
M-CORES Update
Below is a reminder of upcoming M-CORES events:

Suncoast Corridor Community Open House

January 27, 2020
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
IFAS Auditorium
203 Forest Park Drive
Perry, FL 32348

January 28, 2020
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
College of Central Florida — Levy Campus
15390 NW Hwy 19
Chiefland, FL 32626

January 30, 2020
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Crystal River Armory
8551 W. Venable Street
Crystal River, FL 34429

Northern Turnpike Corridor Community Open House

January 28, 2020
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm College of Central Florida — Levy Campus
15390 NW Hwy 19
Chiefland, FL 32626

January 30, 2020
 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
National Guard Armory – Crystal River
8551 W Venable St
Crystal River, FL 34429

Southwest-Central Florida Corridor Community Open House January 30, 2020
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Turner Agri-Civic Center Exhibit Hall
2250 NE Roan Street
Arcadia, FL 34266

You can contact FDOT for more information at: FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us
White Ibis. Photo: Jean Hall/Audubon Photography Awards.
White Ibis. Photo: Jean Hall/Audubon Photography Awards.
Appropriations
As we focus on the many water, climate, and growth management bills being filed this session, we should not lose focus on appropriations needs for the state. The first versions of the proposed House and Senate Appropriations Bills will be filed on January 31st. The Governor requested over $625 million dollars in recurring funding for the next three years for water quality improvements, springs restoration, alternative water supply, and Everglades restoration. The Governor requested over $300 million for Everglades restoration projects, including $32 million for Restoration Strategies, $170 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and $47 million for the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.

This funding will help the state complete important and long-languishing projects like the C-44 Reservoir and the C-43 Reservoir. The budget also includes $64 million for the EAA Reservoir that will reduce harmful discharges and help send more clean water south. The budget also includes $100 million dollars in funding for Florida Forever and $54 million for state parks. Additionally, it is important to note that FDACS has made budget requests for their BMP implementation program.

As mentioned previously, SB 712 and HB 1343, as well as HB1363 and SB1382 expand the scope and implementation rigor of the BMP program. FDACS has requested ten additional staff of which eight will be for their Office of Water Policy’s BMP implementation and verification program. FDACs has also requested over $40 million for non-point source BMP implementation and additional funds for the program in the Lake Okeechobee basin. All the legislation both existing and new will not work if FDACS and DEP do not have adequate resources.
Common Yellowthroat. Photo: Boe Baty.
Common Yellowthroat. Photo: Boe Baty.
Winter Naturalist Magazine
The Winter Naturalist Magazine is out! Catch up on what we’re watching in the 2020 Legislative Session, read about a brand new living shoreline in the Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary, discover what our interns are up to at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and more! 

Click here to download an online copy.
 
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