Key Policy Items That Got Across the Legislative Finish Line

BY PATRICK GILLESPIE

The Florida Legislature wrapped up its annual 60-day session passing a bevy of bills aimed at environmental improvement and regulation, giving Gov. Ron DeSantis options for signing or veto.

SB 7040

One of the most impactful pieces of legislation to pass was SB 7040, which ratifies the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) environmental resource permitting rule for stormwater management. FDEP filed the rule for adoption on April 26, 2023.

The bill was filed by the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and carried in the House by the House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee.

The bill also mandates future amendments to the department’s rule 62-330.010, Florida Administrative Code, must be submitted and approved by the Florida Legislature. It establishes pollutant loading, inspection protocols, a framework for pollutant reduction goals, and other measures.

HB 1557

House Bill 1557 is the Department of Environmental Protection’s agency bill, tackling a number of policy areas, from seagrass to water management districts, to flood protections, and other provisions.

The 76-page bill was carried by Rep. Linda Chaney and the Senate companion by Sen. Alexis Calatayud.

The legislation revises the operation of aquatic vessels in aquatic preserves, prohibiting boaters from operating in a manner that causes seagrass scarring, as well as establishes the Kristin Jacobs Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area as a new aquatic preserve to be operated by FDEP.

The bill mandates rules for the use of reclaimed water, adjusts regulations for resilience funds, and clarifies the department’s enforcement authority related to septic tanks or other onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems. The bill also sets new wastewater treatment facility standards that must be met within 10 years relating to reclaimed water.

Also, as part of a push for additional reclaimed water usage statewide, the bill mandates the state’s five water management districts to develop rules to encourage the use of reclaimed water. The bill attempts to improve coordination for resiliency and flood planning and revise FDEP enforcement strategies relating to onsite sewage treatment and disposal system violations.

SB 1136

Senate Bill 1136, by Sen. Jay Trumbull, is a bill related to the regulation of water wells. The bill requires that individuals seeking to become licensed water well drillers must first have 2 years of experience in water well construction in Florida, and it prohibits businesses from advertising water well drilling services unless it employs at least one licensed driller. 

HB 165

House Bill 165, by Rep. Gossett-Seidman, revises provisions related to the bacteriological sampling of beach waters and other public bathing places. The bill preempts to the Florida Department of Health the requirement to issue public health advisories within 24 hours whenever water quality at public bathing places does not meet the standards set for human pathogens such as E. coli.  

SB 1532

Senate Bill 1532 is legislation designed to create a framework around mitigation bank credits, including enabling private mitigation banks in credit-deficient basins on local government lands.

The bill allows water quality enhancement credits to be sold to applicants, which includes governmental entities and private sector developers. The bill also prohibits using public funds to back construction and implementation of a mitigation bank.

The legislation also specifies how mitigation bank credits are calculated when the land is adjacent to local government conservation lands. “It may not increase the uniform mitigation assessment method location factor assessment and scoring value, even if the conservation status of the mitigation bank land is improved due to such location,” the bill reads.

CORRECTION:

The March/April edition story about legislative policy items should not have included SB 738, which passed the Florida Senate but did not pass the Florida House. We regret the error.

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