On April 21, 2016, Southwest Florida’s state legislators presented a “Legislative Wrap-Up” at the Cohen Center of Florida Gulf Coast University. This year’s event was well attended and presented for the first time as a collaborative effort between and among ULI of Southwest Florida, REIS, and the FPZA.

This Year’s Legislative Panel

Attendees had the pleasure of hearing about many of this year’s successful and unsuccessful bills from the following legislative panel:

Highlights from the 2016 Legislative Session

Following a brief introduction by moderator Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, each panelist was given several minutes to discuss their greatest accomplishments of the 2016 Legislative Session.

From a natural resources perspective, Representative Caldwell was particularly proud of his Committee’s success with the comprehensive Water Policy bill and a State Lands bill which cleaned up a number of procedures relating to the acquisition, management, and disposition of state lands.

Representatives Passidomo and Rodrigues also discussed Florida House Joint Resolution 193, Solar or Renewable Energy Source Devices. This proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution passed unanimously in the Florida Senate and will be seen on the state’s primary election ballot on August 30th. According to Representative Passidomo, if approved by referendum, this energy policy would allow commercial businesses to write off the costs of installing solar panels for purposes of ad valorem taxation. As a requirement for amendments to the Florida Constitution, an approval by at least 60% of the electors voting on the measure will be necessary for the amendment’s passage.

In addition, Representative Eagle gave a brief summary of the Legacy Florida bill, which will help restore the Everglades, the state’s natural springs and Lake Apopka. The Legacy Florida bill was a bipartisan effort that requires the state to set aside up to $200 million a year for Everglades restoration over the next 20 years. According to Rep. Eagle, the Legacy Florida bill was created in order to implement Amendment I, a Florida Constitutional amendment that was approved by 75 percent of voters in 2014. He also described his efforts in sponsoring a Building Code bill that addresses a number of Florida Building Code related issues including fire safety requirements for new buildings and safety issues for both public and private swimming pools.

Unsuccessful Legislation in 2016

The panel also noted that, of the over 2,000 bills that are filed each year, only around 200 will ultimately pass and become law. Unfortunately, due to some disagreement between our state’s real estate interest groups, one of this year’s unsuccessful pieces of legislation was the much anticipated Marketable Record Title Act (“MRTA”) bill. An overview of the recently failed MRTA bill can be found in an earlier publication of the Legal Scoop by clicking here.

Another controversial bill that died in the Senate would have created new regulations for fracking in Florida. According to Representative Rodrigues, a sponsor of the bill, this legislation would have created a permitting scheme that required the disclosure of chemicals used for fracking and a moratorium on “unconventional” activities until further studies were completed. However, because a number of powerful environmental groups opposed the bill’s language which only placed a moratorium on “unconventional” drilling methods, it seems that the regulation of fracking will remain on the table until next year’s session.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Goebel under Flickr Creative Commons