(1) There is created within the Department of Transportation the Florida Highway Beautification Council. It shall consist of seven members appointed by the Governor. All appointed members must be residents of this state. One member must be a licensed landscape architect, one member must be a representative of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc., one member must be a representative of the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association, one member must be a representative of the department as designated by the head of the department, one member must be a representative of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and two members must be private citizens. The members of the council shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
(2) Each chair shall be selected by the council members and shall serve a 2-year term.
(3) The council shall meet no less than semiannually at the call of the chair or, in the chair’s absence or incapacity, at the call of the head of the department. Four members shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of exercising all of the powers of the council. A vote of the majority of the members present shall be sufficient for all actions of the council.
(4) The council members shall serve without pay but shall be entitled to per diem and travel expenses pursuant to s. 112.061.
(5) A member of the council may not participate in any discussion or decision to recommend grants to any qualified local government with which the member is associated as a member of the governing body or as an employee or with which the member has entered into a contractual arrangement.
(6) The council may prescribe, amend, and repeal bylaws governing the manner in which the business of the council is conducted.
(7)(a) The duties of the council shall be to:
1. Provide information to local governments and local highway beautification councils regarding the state highway beautification grants program.
2. Accept grant requests from local governments.
3. Review grant requests for compliance with council rules.
4. Establish rules for evaluating and prioritizing the grant requests. The rules must include, but are not limited to, an examination of each grant’s aesthetic value, cost-effectiveness, level of local support, feasibility of installation and maintenance, and compliance with state and federal regulations. Rules adopted by the council which it uses to evaluate grant applications must take into consideration the contributions made by the highway beautification project in preventing litter.
5. Maintain a prioritized list of approved grant requests. The list must include recommended funding levels for each request and, if staged implementation is appropriate, funding requirements for each stage shall be provided.
6. Assess the feasibility of planting and maintaining indigenous wildflowers and plants, instead of sod groundcovers, along the rights-of-way of state roads and highways. In making such assessment, the council shall utilize data from other states which include indigenous wildflower and plant species in their highway vegetative management systems.
(b) The council may, at the request of the head of the department, review and make recommendations on any other highway beautification matters relating to the State Highway System.
(8) The head of the department shall provide from existing personnel such staff support services to the council as are necessary to enable the council to fulfill its duties and responsibilities.
(9) Local highway beautification councils may be created by local governmental entities or by the Legislature. Prior to being submitted to the council, a grant request must be approved by the local government or governments of the area in which the project is located.
(10) The head of the department, after receiving recommendations from the council, shall award grants to local governmental entities that have submitted grant requests for beautification of roads on the State Highway System and which requests are on the council’s approved list. The grants shall be awarded in the order they appear on the council’s prioritized list and in accordance with available funding.
(11) State highway beautification grants may be requested only for projects to beautify through landscaping roads on the State Highway System. The grant request shall identify all costs associated with the project, including sprinkler systems, plant materials, equipment, and labor. A grant shall provide for the costs of purchase and installation of a sprinkler system, the cost of plant materials and fertilizer, and may provide for the costs for labor associated with the installation of the plantings. Each local government that receives a grant shall be responsible for any costs for water, for the maintenance of the sprinkler system, for the maintenance of the landscaped areas in accordance with a maintenance agreement with the department, and, except as otherwise provided in the grant, for any costs for labor associated with the installation of the plantings. The department may provide, by contract, services to maintain such landscaping at a level not to exceed the cost of routine maintenance of an equivalent unlandscaped area.
(12) The council shall annually submit to the head of the Department of Transportation a proposal recommending the level of grant funding.