Legislative Update: 3/12/21

The Legislature has completed their second week of committee discussions for Regular Session 2021. We continue to deal with the issue of state preemption of seaport regulations, but we also are following other preemption and transportation-related legislation that impacts seaport operations.

Budget development, including the issue of federal relief dollars, has not been formally planned to date but should begin shortly. We provide the following report on the recommended budget and seaport/transportation-related legislation:

Budget Discussions. The House and Senate have yet to begin their initial deliberations over the development of the Fiscal Year 2021/2022 Budget. As you know, Governor DeSantis has recommended appropriations for seaports of $122.6 million (an increase of approximately $3 million from last year. Specific line items in the recommended budget for seaports are as follows:

  1. Line Item 1869 — $15 million for debt reserve payments (FPFC 1996 Bond Refinance).
  2. Line Item 1870 — $10 million for debt reserve payments (FPFC 1999 Bond Refinance).
  3. Line Item 1871 — $75,557,585 for the FSTED Program, SIS, GM, SPII and other FDOT allocations in FDOT 5-Year Work Program.
  4. Line Item 1872 — $10 million for the Seaport Investment Program/Bond debt reserve payments.
  5. Line Item 1874 — $50,073,171 for the FDOT Intermodal Development/Grants.

This may or may not include some seaport projects.

The signing of the American Rescue Plan Act by President Biden on March 11th will also impact budget deliberations. Since the Florida Legislature is in Session now, the Governor and Legislative leadership have stated that the Florida Legislature should appropriate the $10 billion the state will receive in the Fiscal Year 2021/2022 Budget. Governor DeSantis, Senate President Simpson, and House Speaker Sprowls have all issued initial press statements concerning the uses of ARPA funds.

Governor DeSantis has stated that one of his priorities is to allocate monies toward the state’s resiliency flood programs. Senate President Simpson stated that he wants to use federal relief dollars to supplement the state’s unemployment trust fund and to stimulate the economy with local projects. Senator Simpson specially noted that the State Transportation Trust Fund (STTF) was impacted by a loss of revenue and that allocating federal dollars to the STTF for transportation projects could stimulate job creation. Speaker Sprowls has stated his support for supplementing the state’s unemployment trust fund and allocating monies toward the state’s resiliency flood programs.

The Governor has noted that these discussions will takes weeks and may even require deliberations during a Special Session after the conclusion of Regular Session 2021 on April 30th. We will continue to discuss this issue as part of our FPC calls and develop a plan for dollar and project requests.

State Preemption of Seaport Regulations (CS/SB 426 by Senator Boyd and CS/HB 267 by Representative Roach). As discussed during our FPC Lobby Group calls over the past two weeks, this legislation has dominated or Regular Session 2021 efforts to This legislation has been heard in its initial Senate and House committees and the legislation continues to change based on those hearings. To date we have two different versions in the House and Senate.

SB 426 was heard in the Senate Transportation Committee on March 10th. The bill was amended by a “strike-all” amendment and passed out as a committee substitute by a vote of 6 yeas to 2 nays. As amended, CS/SB 426 now provides the following restrictions:

  1. Prohibits any local ballot initiative or referendum from restricting maritime commerce in the seaports of Florida. Any ballot initiative or referendum, or any policy enacted pursuant to such initiative or referendum, is void. This language was added to the Senate bill to render the Key West citizen initiative on cruise vessel sizes
  2. Prohibits any municipality (we have concerns over the definitions on municipal seaports in the amendment) from restricting maritime commerce in the seaports of this state with respect to any federally authorized passenger cruise vessel operations. It is unclear why this is necessary given the provisions above, but the Harbor Pilots have expressed concerns over what restrictions the City of Key West may still try to implement with respect to cruise vessel operations.

We remain concerned with some of the definitional language used in this amendment, and the potential unintended impacts of the language on port business decisions at our municipal seaports. We will continue to work with the Senate bill sponsor and other legislators to at least narrow the scope of the legislation.

CS/SB 426 has two additional Senate committee references – Community Affairs and Rules.

HB 267 was heard in the House Subcommittee on Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy on March 3rd. The bill was amended by several amendments and passed out as a committee substitute by a vote of 12 yeas to 6 nays. As amended CS/HB 267 now provides the following restrictions:

  1. Prohibits any municipally owned seaport from regulating or restricting commerce in their The amendment language does not delineate who will now be responsible for regulating commerce in such seaports.
  2. Provides limited exceptions to this prohibition by citing chapter 313, F.S. related to harbormaster authorities. These exceptions include harbormaster vessel movement decisions, fees for vessel use of wharves and other port property, and harbor

We have significant concerns with the removal of authority for municipally owned seaports in this legislation. We expect that the House bill will be amended to reflect the same language in the Senate bill discussed above. We will still need to address the concerns with the Senate bill cited above.

CS/HB 267 has two additional House committee references – Local Administration and Veterans Affairs, and Commerce.

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

SB 1364 has been referred to three Senate committees – Transportation; Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations; and Appropriations.

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

Neither the Senate or House bill has been placed on an agenda to date. 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.

State Preemption of Transportation Energy Infrastructure Regulation (CS/SB 856 by Senator Hutson and CS/HB 839 by Representative Fabricio. This legislation preempts regulation of transportation energy infrastructure to the state. Currently the Senate and House bill provide a very broad preemption and prohibition on the construction or repair of transportation energy infrastructure in the

The House sponsor has stated that the impetus for this legislation was to prevent local governments from banning the construction of gas stations. Several of our seaports have expressed their concerns that this legislation would impact their ability to construct and repair petroleum and natural gas facilities on their seaports. We will be working with the Senate and House sponsors to narrow the language of this preemption bill to remove any unintended impacts of state seaport energy facilities.

CS/SB 856 has two additional Senate committee references – Community Affairs, and Rules. The bill has been placed on the Senate Community Affairs agenda for Tuesday, March 16th at 9:00 a.m.

CS/HB 839 has two additional House committee references – Local Administration and Veterans Affairs, and Commerce Committee.