- Opening Day – Tuesday, January 11, 2022, marked the opening day of the 2022 Legislative Session. President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls addressed both chambers with a common theme: Keep Florida free. This theme aligns with Governor DeSantis who also presented his State of the State address to both chambers. While he did not speak of any new policy initiatives, Governor DeSantis spoke about how his $100 billion budget would leave about $15 billion in reserves and emphasized top budget items such as his proposal for a $1 billion gas tax holiday and bonuses for teachers and first responders. He also spoke about legislation dealing with critical race theory and the integrity of elections. In his speech, Speaker Sprowls said that, there can be questionable legislation on both sides, though the joint idea from both parties is to do what is best for the constituents moving forward. Specific areas of interest that we can expect to see a vast amount of legislation include preemption, local government, and education.
- Local Ordinances. SB 280 by Senator Travis Hutson and HB 403 by Mike Giallombardo authorize courts to assess and award reasonable attorney fees and costs and damages in certain civil actions in which individuals sue local governments over ordinances that they believe conflict with state and federal law. The bills also require local governments to prepare a business impact estimate before the enactment of a proposed ordinance. SB 280 passed its first committee of reference, Community Affairs, on Tuesday, January 12, with a vote of 6 Yeas and 2 Nays. It is scheduled to be heard in its second committee of reference, Rules, on Thursday, January 20 at 9:30 a.m. The identical House companion passed its first committee of reference in December with a vote of 11 Yeas and 4 Nays.
- Local Government and Business Damages Caused by Local Government. SB 620 by Senator Travis Hutson and HB 569 by Representative Lawrence McClure are considered to be the “backend” versions of SB 280 by Senator Hutson. HB 569 provides a mechanism for a Florida business to recover damages related to local government action. This bill will allow a “lawful business” that has been in operation for more than 3 years preceding the enactment of an ordinance or charter provision to recover damages incurred from a county or municipality’s ordinance or charter provision that reduces their revenues or profit by at least 15 percent. Damages include the loss of profits imputable to the reduced profit-earning capacity directly as a result of an ordinance or charter provision. HB 569 was reported favorably in its first committee with 12 Yeas and 5 Nays. It is set to be heard in the local administration and veteran affairs subcommittee but has not yet been scheduled. Its companion bill, SB 620 by Senator Hutson passed favorably in its first committee with 7 Yeas and 4 Nays. It was originally referenced to the rules committee but was removed. It is now scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations committee on Thursday, January 20 at 11:30 am.
- Prohibition of Public Funds for Lobbying. HB 501 by Representative Tommy Gregory prohibits all local government agencies and non-profit organizations from using any public funds to contract lobbyists; however, it also allows for an employee of the local government to register as a lobbyist and represent the local government before the legislative or executive branch of the state government. Any violation of this bill will subsequently result in the prohibition of lobbying, or registering to lobby, for no more than 2 years. This bill was referenced to 3 committees but was withdrawn prior to introduction.
- Mandatory Building Inspections. SB 1702 by Senator Jennifer Bradley imposes a statewide structural inspection program specifically for multifamily residential buildings to make sure that buildings are safe and in compliance with Florida Building Code. This bill requires that the property owner of a multifamily residential building that is more than 3 stories in height perform a “milestone inspection” by December 31 of the building’s 30th anniversary and every 10 years after. This date can be determined by the date on which the certificate of occupancy was issued. The bill was referenced to 3 committees, the first being Community Affairs. It has not yet been scheduled.
- Vacation Rentals. HB 325 by Representative Jason Fischer and SB 512 by Senator Danny Burgees preempt local governments from adopting zoning ordinances specific to short term rentals as well as regulating the duration of stays and the frequency in which properties are rented. The bills also expand the local regulation on advertising platforms. HB 325 was referred to three committees but has not been heard to date. However, SB 512 passed favorably in its first committee with a vote of 8 Yeas and 0 Nays. It is now in its second committee of reference, Community Affairs, but has not been scheduled for a hearing.
- Municipal Contraction Procedures. HB 1401 by Representative Jenna Persons-Mulicka and SB 1876 by Senator Keith Perry specify that if more than 70 percent of land in an area proposed for contraction is owned by individuals, corporations, or legal entities that are not registered electors, the area may be contracted if the owners of more than 50 percent of the parcels of land in the area consent to the contraction. A vote of electors of the area is not required if the area does not have any registered electors on the date the ordinance is adopted. Both HB 1401 and SB 1876 are referred to three committees of reference and neither has been scheduled for a hearing.
- Establishing the Congressional Districts of the State. SB 102 by Senator Ray Rodrigues proposed the 28th Congressional map and was reported favorably with 10 Yeas and 2 Nays. The joint resolution bill, SB 100 Joint Resolution of Apportionment, also by Senator Ray Rodrigues, was reported favorably with 10 Yeas and 2 Nays. Both bills received slight pushback from both legislators and community representatives; however, on Thursday, January 13 the Senate Reapportionment Committee was able to reach a final consensus on both the Congressional and state Senate maps.
- William L. Boyd, IV Effective Access to Student Education Grant Program. HB 6067 by Representative Randy Fine repeals the requirement for an institution to be a non-profit in order to be deemed eligible to participate in the Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) grant program. Ultimately, this bill allows for private universities to be eligible to receive aid. Although there were many questions, and some public testimony in opposition to this bill, HB 6067 passed unanimously in its first committee, and is set to be heard in the higher education subcommittee; a date has not yet been determined.
- Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program and Medicaid Managed Care Specialty Plans. SB 1950 by Senator Jason Brodeur and HB 607 by Representative Kamia Brown would consolidate the state’s Medicaid managed care regions from 11 to eight. The bills would also require managed care plans to contract with two of the state’s cancer hospitals, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Moffitt Cancer Center. They would also require the authorization of and reimbursement method for provider service networks be on a prepaid basis. Medicaid managed care contracts with the state are set to expire soon and the Agency for Health Care Administration has asked the Legislature for an additional $2 million to help the agency during the upcoming procurement process, which is expected to take place in 2023. SB 1950 was referred to three committees: Health Policy, Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, and Appropriations. Currently, it has not been scheduled for a hearing.
- COVID-19 related Claims Against Health Care Providers -Judiciary Committee. SB 7014 extends the length of time that a health care provider can receive liability protections related to COVID-19 claims by 14 months. During the 2021 Legislative Session, claims filed because of COVID-19 had to have been filed within 1 year after the effective date, March 29, 2022. However, this bill will extend to June 1, 2023. SB 7014 requires that a plaintiff, provide evidence that a healthcare provider was “grossly” negligent and “engaged in intentional misconduct,” among other things. The fiscal impact on the private sector is unclear, though a negative impact may only be incurred by injured parties. SB 7014 will take effect upon becoming a law.
- Critical Infrastructure and Critical Infrastructure Standards and Procedures. SB 828 by Senator Travis Hutson and HB 1147 by Representative Mike Giallombardo will require local governments who operate critical infrastructure to have those systems and controls comply with and meet the operational standards defined in the ISA/IED 62443 series of standards as determined by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity framework by July 1, 2024. Local governments are also required to conduct an annual risk assessment and create a mitigation plan. Both HB 1147 and SB 828 have been referenced to their respective committees. Neither has been scheduled to be heard.