With the early start to the 2016 legislative session, we are working diligently in Tallahassee to complete a robust and aggressive legislative agenda aimed again at lowering taxes and reducing regulations on Florida’s family farms. The 2016 legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 12 and end on March 11.
Bills that will likely be on Florida Farm Bureau’s 2016 legislative agenda are quickly moving through the legislative process during early committee meetings, where state lawmakers come to town to meet in preparation of the upcoming legislative session.
A comprehensive, statewide water policy bill is moving closer to final passage after failing to pass the Legislature last year. SB 552, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean (R-Inverness), has passed all committee stops in the Senate and is ready to be heard by the full Senate. HB 7005, sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres), has one hearing left in the House Appropriations Committee before it moves to the House floor. This legislation is a top priority of Florida Farm Bureau, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli. We are hopeful this good legislation passes, providing a long-term adequate water supply for agriculture, municipalities, Florida’s 19 million citizens and our natural resources.
Legislation aimed at providing additional regulatory relief for Florida’s agritourism operators has also made significant progress this fall. SB 304, sponsored by 2015 Legislator of the Year Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), has one committee stop remaining in the Senate. HB 59, sponsored by Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale), also has one committee stop left in the House before reaching the floor for a final vote.
Another bill that passed the Florida House in 2015 before failing to pass the Senate would give a consistency to the Florida Fire Code’s application to nonresidential farm buildings. It has also been heard in committee. HB 431, sponsored by Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Lithia), passed its first committee stop in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. It has one committee stop remaining before reaching the House floor. SB 822, sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, has not been heard in committee.
Florida Farm Bureau is also working on several other pieces of legislation, including a transportation bill that will modernize Florida’s transportation laws to comply with the federal MAPP 21 standards passed by Congress in 2012 and an omnibus agriculture legislative bill package that will include several provisions to keep agriculture strong and competitive for our state’s farmers and ranchers.