Legislative Update: 02/24/2021

The Legislature has begun their initial committee meetings for Regular Session 2021. There are already several bills filed that would have an impact on seaport operations in Florida, and it may be a busy Session for seaport operational issues. Governor DeSantis also has released his budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2021/2022. Please see the following report on the recommended budget, committee action, and seaport/transportation-related legislation filed:

Governor DeSantis Recommended Budget for Fiscal Year 2021/22. Governor DeSantis released his initial budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2021/2022 on January 28th. The amount of total recommended appropriations for seaports is $122.6 million (an increase of approximately $3 million from last year. Specific line items in the recommended budget for seaports are as follows:

  • $75,557,585 for the FSTED Program, SIS, GM, SPII and other FDOT allocations in FDOT 5-Year Work Program.
  • $50,073,171 for the FDOT Intermodal Development/Grants. This may or may not include some seaport projects.
  • $35 million for obligated debt reserve payments.

Senate Transportation Committee Seaport Presentation. Senator Harrell (R-St. Lucie), Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, requested a presentation from the Council on seaport governance, operations, and the impact of COVD-19 at the committee meeting on February 2nd. The Ports Council presentation (about 53-minutes in) was well received and allowed us to discuss our fiscal concerns and educate committee members about governance issues in anticipation of future discussions.

On February 16th, the Ports Council was requested by the Senate Transportation Committee to join members of the maritime industry in discussions on current seaport regulations, loosely regarding proposed legislation that broadly preempts regulation of commerce at Florida’s seaports to the state.

State Preemption of Seaport Regulations (SB 426 by Senator Boyd and HB 267 by Representative Roach). This legislation would provide a broad and undefined preemption of the ability of local government seaport boards to restrict or regulate “commerce” at their seaports. This would include, “but would not be limited to” policies regulating “vessel’s type or size, source or type of cargo, or number, origin, or nationality of passengers.” There are limited exceptions to this preemption, including vessel movements, fees, and communications of vessel traffic if such policies are “required to ensure safety due to the physical limitations of channels, berths, anchorages, or other port facilities.” Any preempted charter (including charters previously approved by the Florida Legislature), resolution, regulation, or policy that existed before or after the effective date of the act would be void if passed.

SB 426 has been referred to three Senate committees – Transportation, Community Affairs and Rules.

HB 267 has been referred to three House committees – Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy; Local Administration and Veterans Affairs; and Commerce.

We have spoken to Chair Harrell of the Senate Transportation Committee and Senator Boyd several times on this bill and a variety of seaport issues. We have informed them, as well as Representative Roach, of our opposition to the bill and have provided their offices with our analysis.

Prohibited Governmental Transactions (SB 810 by Senator Gruters and HB 439 by Representative Fine). This legislation would require local government entities (including seaports) that purchase goods that contain “at least 25 percent or more parts that were produced in China,” to include in the contract for purchase a “provision” that authorizes the termination of the contract because of the Chinese production. The bill would also prohibit local government agencies from purchasing or renewing a purchase order for any “good or service made, sold, or provided by Facebook, ; Twitter, Inc.;, Inc.; Apple, Inc.; or Alphabet, Inc.”

SB 810 has been referred to five Senate committees – Commerce and Tourism; Government Oversight and Accountability; Community Affairs; Appropriations; and Rules

HB 439 has been referred to four House committees – Public Integrity and Elections; Government Operations; State Administration and Technology Appropriations, and State Affairs.

We have spoken with Representative Fine, and his intent is to end Florida’s dependence on Chinese-made products. The Representative indicated his willingness to work with the Council on admendatory language that would extend the impact of this legislation on specific types of manufactured goods for a time period that would allow for the development of Florida or other manufacturing entities.

Marina Evacuations (SB 578 by Senator Wright and HB 223 by Representative Plasencia). This legislation would provide authority for the removal of vessels under 500 gross tons at marinas located in a deepwater seaport after the U.S. Coast Guard sets condition Yankee at such Such vessels may not remain in a marina “that has been deemed not suitable for refuge during a hurricane.” The provision authorizes the marina owner/operator to remove the vessel if the owner of the vessel fails to remove the vessel.

SB 578 has passed out of two Senate committees unanimously – Environment and Natural Resources and Transportation. The bill has one more committee reference, the Senate Committee on Rules.

HB 223 has passed out of one House committee unanimously – Environment, Agriculture and Flooding. The bill has two more committee references — Pandemics and Public Emergencies; and State Affairs.

Similar to last year, we will be expressing support for this legislation in Senate and House committee meetings.

Transportation Projects (SB 1364 by Senator Brodeur and HB 729 by Representative Gregory). This legislation revises several provisions of law relating to the State Transportation Trust Fund (STTF), and Department of Transportation use and purchasing authority with respect to STTF funds. The bill would cap the amount of funds that can be committed annually by the Department from the STTF for public transportation projects, including airport, seaport and transit projects, to no more than 25 percent.

SB 1362 has not been referred to any Senate committees to date.

HB 729 has been referred to three House committees – Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy; Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations; and Commerce.

We are concerned about the impact of the cap of 25 percent on the use of funds for public transportation projects contained in this legislation. We will be working with our partners in the Florida Airport Association to express our opposition to this annual cap language.