2023 Legislative Update Addendum

The following is legislative update addendum provided by the FWEA Utility Council.

Operator License Bill

HB 23 was laid on the table, but SB 162 – Water and Wastewater Facility Operators was the bill that crossed the finish line. CS/CS/CS/SB 162 requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to issue reciprocal licenses to water utility workers licensed in other jurisdictions and other license applicants who meet certain requirements. The bill directs the DEP to award education and operational experience credits to license applicants who have performed comparable duties in the United States Armed Forces but who do not meet some other requirements for a reciprocal license. The bill also provides that, during a declared state of emergency under s. 252.36, F.S., the DEP:

  • May issue a temporary license to applicants who otherwise meet the requirements for licensure reciprocity; and
  • Must waive the application fee for a temporary operator license. The DEP must also adopt rules for licensure by reciprocity.

In addition, the Bill identified water and wastewater facility personnel are essential first responders. The bill defines the term water and wastewater facility personnel.

Local Ordinance Bill

SB 170 – Local Ordinances also passed. CS/CS/SB 170 pertains to the passage and challenging of local ordinances. It adds to the process for local governments passing ordinances and gives certain additional rights to those challenging local ordinances. The bill requires counties and cities to produce a “business impact estimate” prior to passing an ordinance, with exceptions. The estimate must be published on the local government’s website and include certain information, such as the proposed ordinance’s purpose, estimated economic impact on businesses, and compliance costs. Additionally, the bill imposes certain conditions on lawsuits brought by any party to challenge the legal validity of local ordinances as preempted by state law, arbitrary, or unreasonable. In these cases, the bill:

  • Requires the local government to suspend enforcement of an ordinance of such legal challenge, under certain circumstances.
  • Requires the court to give those cases in which enforcement of the ordinance is suspended priority over other pending cases and render a preliminary or final decision as expeditiously as possible.
  • Provides that a court may award up to $50,000 in attorney fees to a prevailing plaintiff who successfully challenges an ordinance as arbitrary or unreasonable.