January 2019 Monthly FPC Advocacy Update

The Legislature finished up January committee week meetings on January 24th. Because of the transition by Governor DeSantis’ – including the selection of several new agency heads – there have been limited discussions on substantive issues by the Florida Legislature since the election. We expect the February committee week meetings to provide some initial discussions on the Governor’s priorities.

We provide the following update on issues and legislation currently being discussed for Regular Session 2019:

Governor’s Budget.

The Governor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019/20 is due on Monday, February 4th, and we expect a presentation before House and Senate committees next week outlining his entire budget.

The budget presentation also should include a presentation on FDOT’s Work Program for Fiscal Year 2019/20. Based on our initial discussions with FDOT, we expect the Work Program to include full funding for the FSTED Program at $25 million, continued funding for the ongoing debt payments for the FPFC Bonds ($25 million), and an allocation of at least $35 million for Strategic Port Investment Initiative projects. However, at this time, it is unclear what additional funds might be included in our seaport project appropriation line item for additional port projects – including seaport security projects.

As provided in our board report, Eric Green and others have expressed the need to continue investing in Florida’s seaports to Governor DeSantis’ transition team. We have held initial meetings with House and Senate leadership on seaport priority funding issues, and they have expressed support for seaport projects. We also have held initial discussions with incoming FDOT leadership and they also have expressed their support for seaports. We will continue to educate the Governor, Florida Legislature, and others on the need to continue state investments in Florida’s seaports.

House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

The House and Senate have held initial appropriations meetings to discuss the process and other administrative issues. As stated above, Governor DeSantis and his staff will be presenting his proposed budget to the committees on February 6th. This will include a presentation on the FDOT Work Program to subcommittees on transportation appropriations.

House and Senate members have begun submitting individual member appropriation requests. Currently, over $180 million in member projects have been submitted in the House and over $14 million in the Senate. There have not been any individual member submissions for seaport infrastructure projects.

House and Senate Substantive Transportation Committees.

It is unclear at this time if the House or Senate substantive transportation committees will hold any initial meetings to provide members with educational information on transportation modes. These types of education meetings have been held in the past, but were not held during the last two sessions. We have offered to provide any materials for future committee hearings.

We have been in contact with House and Senate transportation leadership and members, and provided them with educational materials and other information on seaport issues for the upcoming Regular Session.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Brad Drake (R-DeFuniak Springs), has met twice since the November Organizational Session. The Subcommittee has held some initial discussion on jurisdiction and other transportation issues.

The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon), has not met yet, but has scheduled a meeting on February 5th to discuss the Florida SunPass system and distracted driving.

Public Financing of Construction Projects (SB 78 by Senator J. Rodriguez and HB 169 by Representative Fernandez).

Senator J. Rodriguez (D-Miami) has refiled the same legislation he filed during Regular Session 2018. The bill would prohibit state-financed contractors from commencing construction of certain structures in coastal areas without first conducting a sea level impact projection study and having such study published and approved by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The bill would require the DEP to develop rules for the standards of conducting a sea level impact project study – to include 50-year sea level rise, storm damage and flooding risks. There was no House bill filed last year, and the bill died in the Senate last year without a hearing.

The Senate bill has been referred to four Senate committees: Environment and Natural Resources; Infrastructure and Security; Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government; and full Appropriations. No committee hearing has been scheduled for the bill to date.

Representative Fernandez (D-Coral Gables) has filed the identical bill in the House. The House bill has been referred to three committees: Agriculture and Natural Resources; Appropriations; and State Affairs. No committee hearing has been scheduled for the bill to date.