Section 527.23, Florida Statutes 2008
527.23 Marketing orders; referendum requirements; assessments.--
(1) Subject to the legislative restrictions and limitations set forth in this act, any marketing order issued by the department may contain any or all of the following provisions:
(a) Provisions for the establishment of plans and programs for advertising, sales promotion, and education to maintain present markets or to create new or larger markets for propane gas produced or marketed in the state. The department is authorized to prepare, issue, administer, and enforce plans and programs for promoting the sale of propane gas; however, any plan or program shall be directed toward increasing the sale of the commodity without reference to a private brand or trade name.
(b) Provisions for carrying on research studies in the production, marketing, or distribution of propane gas; for economic research or environmental research related to propane gas; and for the expenditure of moneys for such purposes. In any research carried on pursuant to this paragraph, the department, upon recommendation of the council, shall select the research project or projects to be carried on. These projects may be carried out by any research agency the department chooses, based upon recommendations of the council.
(c) Provisions incidental to and not inconsistent with the terms, conditions, and provisions specified and necessary to effectuate the other provisions of the marketing order.
(2) Upon request of the council, the department shall conduct a referendum of all producers and dealers of propane gas who are in the state to levy an assessment upon producers and dealers of propane gas who are in the state based upon the gallonage of odorized propane gas sold and based upon the rate of assessment recommended by the council.
(3) Due notice of any hearing shall be given to all persons who may be directly affected by any action of the department. These hearings shall be open to the public. All testimony shall be received under oath, and a full and complete record of all proceedings at any hearing shall be made and filed by the department in its office. All interested persons shall have a period of not less than 7 days following the public hearing for filing written briefs with the department concerning such action.
(4) After notice and hearing, the department shall issue a marketing order if it finds and sets forth that the order will tend to accomplish the objectives and purposes of this act.
(5)(a) With respect to any referendum conducted under this act, the department shall, before calling and announcing a referendum, determine and publicly announce, at least 15 days in advance of the date on which ballots and copies of the proposed order are mailed to all producers or dealers of propane gas who are in the state and whose names and addresses are known, the date by which ballots must be returned to the department.
(b) It is the duty of the producers or dealers of propane gas who vote in each referendum to send their marked ballots to the department, which shall have the ballots counted by qualified and impartial personnel in its office, and the department shall, within 10 days after the closing date for submitting ballots in any referendum, certify in writing and publish the results of such referendum in a newspaper of general circulation in the state and in such other newspapers as the department prescribes.
(6)(a) No marketing order or amendments thereto directly affecting and regulating producers or dealers of propane gas in this state shall become effective unless the department finds that the order has been approved by ballot by persons representing two-thirds of the total gallonage of odorized propane gas voting in the retail marketer class.
(b) All percentages determined by the department as required in this section shall be computed on the basis of persons voting in the referendum.
(7) From assessments collected, the council shall reimburse the department for costs incurred in holding the referendum establishing the council, making appointments to the council, and other expenses directly related to the council, development, marketing, and consumer awareness.
(8) Before issuing any marketing order, or any suspension, amendment, or termination thereof, the department shall provide notice to the producers and dealers affected by the marketing order.
(9)(a) To provide funds to defray the necessary expenses incurred by the department in the formulation, issuance, administration, and enforcement of any marketing order, producers and dealers in propane gas shall pay to the department an assessment, at such times and in such installments as the department prescribes. The department, after receiving the recommendations of the council, shall fix the rate of assessment on propane gas dealers and producers.
(b) The collected assessments shall be deposited into the General Inspection Trust Fund and shall be used for the sole purpose of implementing the marketing order for which the assessment was collected. Three percent of all income of a revenue nature deposited in this fund, including transfers from any subsidiary accounts thereof and any interest income, shall be deposited in the General Revenue Fund pursuant to chapter 215. The department is not subject to the procedures found in s. 287.057 in the expenditure of these funds. However, the director of the Division of Marketing and Development shall file with the internal auditor of the department a certification of conditions and circumstances justifying each contract or agreement entered into without competitive bidding.
(10) The council, or producers or dealers representing 35 percent of the total gallonage of odorized propane gas sold in the state, may petition the commissioner to suspend or terminate an order levying an assessment. The commissioner may not suspend or terminate an order levying the assessment unless the suspension or termination is approved in a referendum by those persons representing more than one-half of the total gallonage of odorized propane gas in the dealer class.
(11) The initial assessment shall be set at no greater than one-tenth of 1 cent per gallon. Thereafter, annual assessments shall be sufficient to cover the costs of the plans and programs developed by the council and approved by the commissioner. The assessment shall not be greater than one-half of 1 cent per gallon of odorized propane gas. The assessment may not be raised by more than one-tenth of 1 cent per gallon annually.
(12) The owner of propane gas immediately prior to odorization in this state or the owner at the time of import into this state of odorized propane gas is responsible for the payment of the assessment on the volume of propane gas at the time of import or odorization, whichever is later. Nonodorized propane gas shall not be subject to assessment until odorized.
(13) The department shall adopt rules necessary for administering, collecting, reporting, and the payment of assessments collected under this act.
History.--s. 1, ch. 97-105.