State economists mull cost of priority flooding legislation

The legislation is backed by House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

The Revenue Estimating Conference determined the fiscal impact of legislation to encourage people to flood proof their homes.

Two companion joint resolutions (HJR 1377 / SJR 1182) are making their way through both chambers of the Legislature that would provide incentives for certain home improvements in flood-prone areas.

Sponsored by Pinellas County Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Linda Chaney the resolutions would, if approved by voters, amend the state constitution to allow a tax exemption for home improvements to mitigate flood impact.

The legislation provides for home improvements because of flooding in coastal or inland parts of the state.

“These effects of sea level rise are not just impacting homes on the beach or across the street from the beach. There are so many homes on canals being impacted too,” Amy Baker, coordinator at the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said at the Revenue Estimating Conference’s Impact Conference Friday.

The agreed upon estimates at the impact conference were provided by fiscal year. The legislation is estimated to cost the state $4.1 million in FY 2023-2024, $8.4 million in FY 2024-2025 and $12.9 million in FY 2025-2026.

Estimating the impact seemed tricky because as Matthew Moore, chief economist for the Florida Department of Revenue, said at the meeting, it is unknown exactly how many homeowners would take advantage of provisions in the legislation.

The issue might highlight a need for sophisticated mapping included in other flood-related legislation sponsored by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera. Parts of her bill include a $100 million project run by the Department of Environmental Protection to procure “high-resolution coastal mapping services to provide seafloor data from the coast to the edge of the continental shelf or beyond.”

Both proposals are backed by House Speaker Chris Sprowls. Just prior to Session in February, Sprowls called sea level rise and flooding “two of the most pressing issues of our time.” He has made several pieces of legislation dealing with the effects of climate change, like flooding, a centerpiece of his legislative agenda and proposed House budget.

Robert Babin, staff director of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee who was at the impact meeting of the Revenue Estimating Conference, cautioned that estimated costs of the legislation could still change after implementation or based on any amendments to the legislation.

To become law the joint resolution would have to be approved by three-fifths of the membership of each legislative chamber. The proposal would then be subject to approval by at least 60% of Florida voters.

If the resolutions make it through both chambers, they would be put to voters on the 2022 General Election ballot. If approved by voters, the law would take effect January 1, 2023.

Both joint resolutions are on their second of three committee stops.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected].


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