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2016 legislative session update – Water and Property Rights

Below is an update on bills that passed and did not pass (which sometimes may be a good thing) during the 2016 legislative session.

Statewide water policy. SB 552 (Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness) was one of the first bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law. It’s a complex bill that lays the foundation for a comprehensive water management program for the state. Several aspects of this 134-page bill align with Florida Realtors’ view on how to preserve one of Florida’s greatest natural assets: (1) protect and restore fresh water springs; (2) give the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) oversight for scientifically-based water research programs; and (3) allow the DEP to oversee pollution control measures for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and the St. Lucie River and Estuary.

Implementation of Water and Land Conservation Constitutional Amendment. HB 989 (Rep Harrell and Rep Caldwell) requires the following minimum distributions from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to be appropriated annually to the following projects through fiscal year 2025-2026:

–       The minimum of the lesser of 25 percent of the funds remaining after the payment of debt service or $200 million for Everglades projects;

–       The minimum of the lesser of 7.6 percent of the funds remaining after the payment of  debt service or $50 million for spring restoration, protection, and management projects; and

–     Five million dollars for projects dedicated to the restoration of Lake Apopka.

Budget Allocations: The 2016-2017 state budget provides monies for environmental projects and includes $159.7 million for Everglades restoration; $56.8 million for northern Everglades and estuaries protection; and $50 million for springs protection projects.

No new restrictions on vacation rentals. Florida Realtors successfully worked against several bills that would have allowed local governments to ban or restrict short-term rentals.

No new homeowners’ association disclosure. SB 1122 and HB 1375 would have required prospective buyers to receive a homeowners’ association’s governing documents within seven days of closing. The buyer would have been allowed to terminate the contract for purchase within three days after receipt of these documents. Both bills died in committee early in the session.

Fracking.  SB 318 and HB 191 would have regulated fracking on a state level and preempt local government from banning fracking.  HB 191 passed the House floor but SB 318 died in its last committee stop. So currently fracking is still allowed in Florida and local government can ban fracking if they wish to.

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