Becker Weekly Spotlight Week 6 February 14 – February 18
Welcome to Becker’s Weekly Spotlight! As your trusted lobbyists, we are proud to provide you with the latest developments in politics and policy in Tallahassee. Here is what happened in Tallahassee during Week 6 (February 14 – February 18) of the 2022 Legislative Session.
- Budget. On Thursday, February 17, the Senate unanimously passed the $108 billion budget proposal, which sets a precedent for the highest state budget proposal and passage in the state’s history. The Senate’s version of the 2022-23 budget is approximately $3 billion more than that of the House and does not include the provision to reduce the funding for schools in Duval, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties, all of which are immensely penalized in the House budget for defying Governor DeSantis’s orders against mandatory mask mandates. Members of both the House and Senate were given a deadline of March 8th to make any adjustments this week to give the Governor enough time to review and approve the budget for a timely end of the 2022 Legislative Session. Governor DeSantis officially signed SB 96 into law, subsequently establishing the Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund, a bill relating to the state’s use of $500 million worth of funds, which would allow Governor DeSantis and subsequent governors to use the funds during a declared state of emergency. 2022 marks the Legislature’s second attempt to create the emergency fund as the measure was vetoed by Governor DeSantis in 2021 due to federal requirements for COVID-19 spending. Opponents of the bill argued that they did not see the logic in increasing funding and using such “broad terminology,” to which the bill’s sponsor, Representative Dana Trabulsy, responded that it would prevent the Governor from having to “tap into additional state revenue and reserves.”
- Redistricting. Last week, Governor DeSantis made it painstakingly clear that he would veto any congressional maps that included any evidence of gerrymandering. On February 1, Governor DeSantis requested an advisory opinion from the Florida Supreme Court to the constitutionality of the newly drawn congressional district that stretches from Jacksonville to Gadsden County to “ensure sufficient voter strength,” however the motion was denied due to insufficient information to conduct a full statistical analysis. A second version of this map was drawn and awaits a further hearing on the constitutionality of it.
- Condominium and Cooperative Associations and Community Association Building Safety. HB 7069 by the Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee, SB 1942 by Sen. Jason Pizzo, and SB 7042 by the Regulated Industries committee were filed in response to the collapse of Champlain Towers South. They would require more frequent and thorough condo building inspection. About 2 million Floridians live in condo units; however, most communities do not require periodic inspections to ensure that aging buildings are structurally sound. The bill would require building recertification for those buildings that are three stories in height 30 years after initial occupancy, and 25 years after initial occupancy for those buildings located within three miles of the coast. They also require that a building is recertified every 10 years after its initial recertification. On Thursday, February 17, the bill was placed on the Special-Order Calendar to be heard on Tuesday, February 22. The bill has two Senate bills, SB 1942 by Senator Jason Pizzo and SB 7042 by the Regulated Industries committee. SB 1942 was referred to three committees; however, it has not been heard. SB 7042 was referred to two subcommittees. It passed favorably in its first committee of reference, Regulated Industries, with a vote of 8 Yeas, 0 Nays. It is now in its last committee of reference, Appropriations, awaiting a hearing.
- Local Ordinances. HB 403 by Representative Mike Giallombardo and SB 280 by Senator Travis Hutson were proposed with the intent of minimizing preemptions on the state level by giving local governments a pathway to resolve issues surrounding local ordinances and charter provisions. The sponsors explain that the current pathways – disputing ordinances or charter provisions through the court system and/or retaining a lobbyist for a preemption from the state level – do not suffice and meet the needs of Floridians. HB 403 authorizes courts to assess and award reasonable attorney fees, costs and damages in certain civil actions where individuals sue local governments over ordinances that override state and federal law or are “arbitrary or unreasonable.” It also requires local governments to prepare a business impact estimate before the enactment of a proposed ordinance. Critics of the bill suggested that it was strikingly similar to HB 569 by Representative McClure – a major point of contention in the weeks prior. However, a major difference between the two bills is the requirement for cities and municipalities to retain a new hire for the sole purpose of developing a business impact estimate. HB 403 was passed favorably by the Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee on Wednesday, February 16 with 12 Yeas and 6 Nays. The bill has one more committee before reaching the House floor. The Senate companion, SB 280 by Senator Travis Hutson, passed favorably on its third reading on January 27.
- Local Government Solid Waste and Recycling Collection Services and Local Governmental Actions Against Public or Private Waste Entities. CS/CS/HB 1241 by Representative Fred Hawkins and SB 1944 by Senator Dennis Baxley address the pandemic-related service delays and address the clean-up items within the Department of Environmental Protection by prohibiting local governments from charging liquidated damages or administrative penalties when solid waste pickup is delayed by hours or days. According to both the bill’s sponsor and proponents of the bill, solid waste companies have faced punitive damages of up to 1000% due to the unavoidable delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. CS/CS/HB 1241 also requires a local government to pay for any collection services provided within a 36-hour window but specifies that the local government does not have to pay the applicable fee for a specific collection service for a residential customer until that service is provided. This will apply to contracts for the collection of residential solid waste or recyclable materials that are executed or renewed after July 1, 2022, the effective date. CS/CS/HB 1241 was unanimously supported in the House Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee. It will be heard in the State Affairs Committee but has not been scheduled. The Senate companion, SB 1944, was referred to three committees of reference, but has not been heard in any of them.
- Electric Vehicle Transportation Electrification Plan and Electric Vehicle Transportation Electrification Plan. CS/HB 737 by Representative David Borrero and SB 920 by Senator Keith Perry would prohibit utility companies from adding the costs of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to a rate paid by all Floridians regardless of the type of vehicle they drive. Representative Borrero contends that the premise behind the legislation is to “preserve the free market,” citing that about 58,000 EVs are driven throughout the state, making Florida second in the nation for the highest number of electric vehicle sales. CS/HB 737 will require the Public Service Commission to adopt rules for competition and allow private companies to operate electricity to Florida drivers. This bill will further prevent investor-owned companies such as FPL and TECO from imposing rate-based prices on EV charging stations, a measure that ensures homeowners are not burdened with the cost. The bill also requires that utility companies do not have to divest charging stations that were installed prior to the PSC’s rulings becoming effective. CS/HB 737 passed favorably on Tuesday, February 15, with 13 Yeas and 3 Nays. It will have one last committee hearing in the Commerce Committee before it is heard on the floor, but a date has not yet been determined. The Senate companion, SB 920, was last heard in the Regulated Industries committee on January 18 where it received 7 Yeas and 1 Nay. It has not received any additional hearings but will be heard in the Transportation committee when it is finally scheduled.
- Building Regulations and Building Permits. CS/CS/CS/SB 644 by Senator Jason Brodeur and HB 635 by Representative Randy Maggard attempt to reduce extensive delays in the building permitting process. The bills will allow private providers more room to be involved in the permit process under the supervision of a licensed building code administrator. They will also allow an individual person to sit for the building inspector or plans examiner license test by completing a four-year internship with a private provider, or private provider firm. Furthermore, CS/CS/CS/SB 644 requires the Florida Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board to adopt a rule establishing that partial completion of an internship program may be transferred among local jurisdictions and private providers. The bill also prohibits a local government from enacting local ordinances that may restrict the ability of a private property owner to obtain a building permit to demolish any single-family residential structure located in certain flood hazard areas in accordance with the Flood Insurance Rate Maps. This bill will become effective on July 1, 2022. CS/CS/CS/SB 644 received 16 Yeas and 1 Nay in its final committee hearing and was placed on the special-order calendar for February 23. The House companion, HB 635, will be heard in its final committee before it heads to the House floor, but a date has not been determined.
- Mandatory Building Inspections and Community Associations’ Building Inspections. CS/SB 1702 by the Regulated Industries Committee and Senator Jennifer Bradley and HB 1391 by Rep. Joe Geller help identify that there is an immense need for building management and inspection regulations throughout the state, in lieu of the tragic collapse of the Surfside Towers in 2021 that claimed the lives of more than 90 people. This legislation will establish a two-part inspection system including a mandatory structural inspection program beginning July 1, 2022, for all multi-family residential buildings. CS/SB 1702 creates the term “milestone inspection,” which will be conducted by a licensed architect or engineer and take place 30 years after the initial date of the building’s development, and every 10 years after for residential buildings that are 3 stories or higher. The bill adds a specific provision for residential buildings that are along the coast, requiring that they be inspected 20 years after the initial date of the building’s development, and every 7 years after that to ensure that there are no imminent dangers to residents caused by water damage. Additionally, the bill also gives room to inspectors to use “destructive or non-destructive testing” at their own discretion when assessing the condition of the building. Counties and municipalities are expected to face an indeterminate fiscal impact; however, current Miami-Dade building inspections typically range between $20,000 to $40,000. CS/SB 1702 was placed on the calendar for February 23 at 9:00AM where it will be heard in the Rules committee before it heads to the Senate floor. The companion bill, HB 1391 by Representative Joe Geller, requires certain buildings to be inspected upon building reaching 30 years of age and every five years thereafter. The bill was referred to three committees of reference and has yet to be heard.
- Independent Hospital Districts and Conversion of a Public Health Care System. SB 1260 by Representative Joe Gruters and PCS/HB 897 by the Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee establish a procedure for an independent hospital district to convert into a private nonprofit entity and vote to evaluate the benefits of conversion for the residents. Currently there are 1,216 independent special districts within the state specializing in the provision of health care services. Under SB 1260, governing bodies will be required to conduct public hearings, contract with independent entities that have at least five years of experience conducting similar evaluations and maintain documentation that supports the information is available to the public. Evaluations must be completed, and a final report must be submitted no later than 180 days after the date the vote was taken. Final reports are required to include a statement signed by the presiding officer, as well as the chief executive officer of the independent entity. Counties and municipalities are not expected to face a fiscal impact; however, state governments may receive a small positive fiscal impact on state revenues. This bill will take effect on July 1, 2022. SB 1260 was passed and immediately certified on Thursday, February 17 with 38 Yeas and 0 Nays. The House companion, CS/HB 897 received unanimous support in its second committee hearing on Thursday, February 10. It will be heard in the State Affairs Committee, its last hearing before it heads to the House floor, but a date has not been set.
- Newborn Screenings. CS/SB 292 by Senators Tina Polsky and Lauren Book and CS/HB 1073 by Representative Vance Aloupis Jr. amend current Florida statutes to require each newborn be tested for cytomegalovirus (CMV) in an effort to circumvent and reduce any potential long-term health concerns such as hearing loss, or a delay in speech, language, and/or cognitive development. SB 292 further requires the development of a statewide comprehensive and coordinated interdisciplinary program of early hearing impairment, screening, identification, and follow-up care for newborns. The bill also requires that, if a newborn fails a hearing screening, the hospital or state licensed birthing facility administer a urine polymerase chain reaction test, or any other diagnostically equivalent test on the newborn to screen for Congenital CMV. The Department of Health estimates that the fiscal impact is somewhere between $286,037 and $19,603,864. SB 292 passed unanimously in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, February 9. It was placed on the special calendar to be read a second time but has not been scheduled. The House companion, HB 1073, was heard in its second committee of reference on Monday, February 14 where it received unanimous support. It will be heard in its final committee but has not been scheduled. Both bills will take effect on July 1, 2022.
- Children with Developmental Delays. SB 236 by Senator Shevrin “Shev” Jones and HB 15 by Representative Fred Hawkins and Representative Allison Tant were proposed to align current state laws with federal laws. Under the IDEA, young students who are not meeting developmental benchmarks are classified as “developmentally delayed” and receive educationally relevant assistance until they reach age 9 or through the completion of grade 2. Florida’s current law ends this assistance for children once they reach age 5. SB 236 will support children, educators, and multidisciplinary teams by expanding age requirements, as well as limiting the amount of testing that is administered. Currently, children who test, and show delays, at age 4 are required to retest at age 5, which typically costs the state upwards of $6,000 and delays the application of resources. Proponents of the bill suggest that amending state law will benefit students with autism, dyslexia, and other developmental delays that affect the learning environment. SB 236 passed unanimously in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on Wednesday, February 16. Its House companion, HB 15, was last heard in the Pre-K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee where it received unanimous approval. Both versions have one last committee stop before they head to the floor. Dates have not been set for either.