2013 End of Session Report

The 2013 Regular Session ended relatively early at 7:16 p.m. on Friday, May 3rd. Florida seaports had another very successful year, receiving significant appropriations in this year’s General Appropriation Act. Legislators cited the importance of investing in Florida’s seaports when discussing a variety of economic development and transportation bills, including the manufacturing tax exemption bill. The following is a report on issues that either passed or failed to pass during Regular Session 2013:

Legislation Passed by the Florida Legislature
1. Fiscal Year 2013/14 Budget (SB 1500): The General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013/14 contained the largest ever total appropriation for projects at Florida seaports – approximately $281 million. Specific line items in the budget containing seaport appropriations include:

a. Line Number 1840 — $15 million for debt reserve payments (FPFC 1996 Bond/Refinance).
b. Line Number 1841 — $10 million for debt reserve payments (FPFC 1999 Bond/Refinance).
c. Line Number 1842 — $243,069,966 for the FSTED Program, SIS, GM, and other FDOT allocations – in the FDOT 5-Year Work Program.
d. Line Number 1843 — $10 million for Seaport Investment Program (authorized for bonding in FY 2013/14). (Note: this will finance the projects approved by the FSTED Council in June 2012 ($150 million to priority seaport projects) that are specifically included in the line item 1842 above).
e. Line Number 1845 — $48,482,070 for FDOT Intermodal Development Grants – this would include some identified seaport intermodal projects.
f. Line Number 1896 — $2 million for loan payments at Port of Port St. Joe — the FDOT administrative expense line item includes the following proviso for Port of Port St. Joe “The nonrecurring general revenue funds in Specific Appropriation 1896 ($2 million) are provided to the Port St. Joe Port Authority to directly pay costs attributable to Capital City Bank loans #6806390850 and #6806390851…”
g. Line Number 2160A — $300,000 for Seaport Employment Training Grants — These funds come from federal workforce training funds and would be controlled by the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The FSTED Council will be working with DEO on the allocation of these grants.

2. Sales Tax Exemption for the Purchase of Industrial Machinery and Equipment (Included in CS/CS/HB 7007 – Economic Development Legislation — by House Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee): The House and Senate agreed upon a modified version of this legislation to authorize a tax exemption for the purchase of industrial machinery and equipment beginning April 30, 2014. Manufacturing businesses that have their primary business operations in this state and purchase equipment used in this state as an “integral part in the manufacturing, processing, compounding, or production of tangible personal property for sale” may purchase such equipment tax free. The legislation also provides that the exemption will sunset on April 30, 2017.

3. Numeric Nutrient Criteria Agreement Legislation (CS/HB 7115 by House State Affairs Committee and CS/SB 1808 by Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee): The Legislature passed legislation to implement the agreement between the state of Florida and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This legislation will require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt state rules, when combined, that will eliminate the need for continued dual rulemaking between the federal and state agencies, and secure the foundation for a singular, state-led solution for the state of Florida.

The legislation also requires DEP to complete its nutrient criteria rulemaking for remaining coastal and estuarine waters by December 1, 2014, and establish interim nutrient standards until then. The legislation would further codify requirements for nutrient conditions in all managed conveyances and canals, and make it clear that all state criteria would go into effect when EPA removes the federal criteria and ceases future rulemaking.

4. Tampa Port Authority Local Bill (HB 1367 by Representative Young): The Legislature passed this local bill to delete a requirement in the Tampa Port Authority Charter that all expenditures by the Port Director of the Tampa Port Authority be approved by an affirmative vote of the Port Authority Board. This change to the Tampa Port Authority Charter will make spending limits at the Port of Tampa similar to other seaports around the state.

5. Environmental Regulation Legislation (CS/CS/CS/HB 999 by Representative Patronis and CS/CS/SB 1684 by Senator Altman): The Legislature passed environmental legislation that includes a variety of issues to resolve delays in state permitting procedures. The legislation also includes the language we worked on with DEP to modify existing authority in the Preapproved Advanced Cleanup (PAC) program to increase the total amount that DEP can award under that program to individual projects from $500,000 to $5 million and amend the total PAC program amount from $10 million to $15 million. We expect that the DEP will be contacting our seaports, after this legislation is signed by the Governor, to determine what projects might be eligible for submittal under the PAC program.

6. Public/Private Partnership Legislation (CS/CS/CS/SB 84 by Senator Diaz de la Portilla and CS/HB 85 by Representative Steube): The Legislature passed legislation creating an alternative procurement process and requirements for public-private partnerships to facilitate the construction of public-purpose projects, and creates a Public Facilities and Infrastructure Act Guidelines Task Force. If desired, local government seaports would have the ability to use these partnerships to construct public-purpose projects on seaport property.

Legislation NOT Passed by the Florida Legislature
1. FDOT Transportation Legislation (CS/CS/SB 1132 by Senator Brandes and CS/CS/HB 7127 by House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee): This Legislation was the subject of several amendments during the last day of Session. One of these included the removal of the language changing the administration of the Small County Dredging program from the FSTED Council to the FDOT. The amendments also included sport facility funding amendments that ultimately led to this bill dying on the House floor.

As reported by email last week, Senator Brandes, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, had filed an amendment several times to require the Florida Transportation Commission “to evaluate the feasibility of consolidating any existing port districts and port authorities, and all of their assets, rights, powers, authority, duties, and bond liabilities, into one or more port districts and port authorities.” At the urging of FPC staff, the Senator agreed to withdraw the amendment, but intends to meet with us and FDOT over the interim to pursue a study that all parties can be involved in developing. The Senator is very adamant about looking at the operations of our seaports, and determining whether the state is achieving the maximum return from its investments in Florida’s seaports.

We expect to hear more from Senator Brandes on this issue at our June meeting and during the interim before the next regular Session.

2. Freight Logistics Zones Legislation (CS/CS/CS/HB 879 by Representative Ray and SB 1058 by Senator Ring): The House version of this language was amended several times. The Senate version was never heard in that chamber, and this House bill died in the Senate. Representative Ray has stated that he would like to continue to pursue this concept with FDOT during the interim before the next regular Session.