Becker’s State Lobbying Update: Week 7, February 21-25

Becker’s State Lobbying Update: Week 7, February 21-25

Becker Weekly Spotlight Week 7 February 21 February 25

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 7 (February 21 – February 25) of the 2022 Legislative Session.

HEADLINES

  • General Appropriations Act. With SB 2500/HB 5001, the House and the Senate will finally commence, next week, in formal budget negotiations that are expected to last for at least three to four days, with just two weeks left in the legislative session. The state of Florida requires a 72-hour “cooling off” period, which means legislators must finish the budget by Tuesday, March 8, to end the Session on time. There are many budget recommendations that were presented by Governor Ron DeSantis that the Legislators have yet to embrace. Governor DeSantis recommended a $1 billion gas tax moratorium as well as the second round of $1,000 bonuses to first responders. He also recommended that the Legislature continue to provide $300 million in recurring dollars to hospitals that offer the most amount of Medicaid care in the state. Other recommendations include increased funding for cancer research, a priority of First Lady Casey DeSantis, and a $10 million boost in spending for Alzheimer’s research. The one requirement for Florida Legislators is to pass a balanced budget. Session is scheduled to end on Friday, March 11.
  • Individual Freedom. HB 7 by Representative Bryan Avila and SB 148 by Senator Manny Diaz will prohibit school curricula and training sessions within the workplace from including material that promotes the idea that people may be inherently racists, or that people should feel guilty for the actions that members of their race may have committed in the past. The measure is a reaction to what is known in academia as “critical race theory,” which examines the nature of racism, particularly structural racism. The bill, supported by Governor Ron DeSantis, was presented with several amendments, many that were not accepted. On Thursday, February 24, after an extensive debate, HB 7 passed the House with a vote of 74 Yeas and 41 Nays. The bill was immediately certified and referred to Senate Rules, where it is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, March 1, at 1:30 PM. Its Senate companion, SB 148, passed its first committee of reference, Education, and is now awaiting a hearing in its final committee of reference, Rules.
  • Parental Rights in Education. HB 1557 by Representative Joe Harding and SB 1834 by Senator Dennis Baxley is designed to give parents more control over what their children are exposed to in schools. The bill includes a provision that would prohibit any instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students. It will also create a cause of action for parents that permits them to enforce their rights through declaratory and injunctive relief. A prevailing parent is entitled to attorney fees and court costs and may be awarded damages. On Thursday, February 24, after an extensive debate, HB 1557 passed the House with a vote of 69 Yeas and 47 Nays. The bill was immediately certified and referred to Appropriations but has not been scheduled to be heard. Its Senate companion, SB 1834, passed its first committee of reference, Education, and is now awaiting a hearing in its final committee of reference, Appropriations.

 LOCAL GOVERNMENT

  • Private Provider Inspections of Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems. CS/CS/CS/ HB 309 by Representatives Elizabeth Fetterhoff and Mike Giallombardoand CS/SB 856 Senator Jason Brodeur will allow the owner of an onsite sewage treatment and disposal system (OSTDS) to hire a private provider to perform inspections, and be paid directly by the owner, to alleviate the backlog that currently exists. CS/CS/CS/HB 309 outlines the individuals qualified to conduct an inspection to include environmental health professionals, master septic tank contractors, or professional engineers. Inspectors are required to follow the applicable regulation requirements specified by the Department of Environmental Protection; however, the bill prohibits the department from charging inspection fees when utilizing a private provider. The bill further requires that the department be notified by 2:00 PM within 2 business days of the inspection. Under this legislation, the department is authorized to audit up to 25 percent of private providers each year to ensure “accurate performance.” A report must be submitted to the Speaker of the House and the Senate President by October 1, 2023, on the use of private providers for onsite sewage treatment and disposal system inspections. The report must include the number of onsite sewage treatment and disposal system inspections performed by private providers. This bill will take effect on July 1, 2022. The Senate companion, CS/SB 856 is similar HB 309, however the requirement to submit a report to the leaders of both chambers is not included. Both bills received unanimous support in their final committee hearings. CS/CS/CS/HB 309 has not been scheduled to be heard on the House floor; however, CS/856 has been placed on the Special Order Calendar to be heard on Tuesday, March 1.
  • Motor Vehicle and Vessel Law Enforcement and Stunt Driving on Highways. CS/CS/CS/HB 399 by Representative Anthony Rodriguezand CS/CS/CS/SB 876 by Senator Jason Pizzo prohibit an individual driving a motor vehicle from engaging in any “street takeovers” or stunt driving and/or racing on a highway, on a roadway, or in a residential neighborhood. A street takeover, as defined in the bills’ texts, is the taking over of a portion of a highway or roadway by blocking or impeding the regular flow of traffic to perform burnouts, drifting, or other stunt driving. An individual who is found in violation of CS/CS/CS/HB 399 is committing a misdemeanor of the first degree and will be subjected to a fine between $500 and $1,000, and one-year suspension of their license. Law enforcement officers are permitted to arrest an individual without a warrant if there is probable cause that they engaged in a street takeover or stunt driving. Individuals who are believed to have been passengers in a motor vehicle during the commencement of a street takeover are also subject to a fine or arrest. The bill also adds a new provision specifying that any individual using police lights, or any other flashing light bars or sirens, will be subject to arrest and be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Other penalties may include the vehicle being impounded. State and local government entities are expected to see an indeterminate fiscal impact associated with fines and traffic infractions. CS/CS/CS/HB 399 was heard in its final committee on Wednesday, February 23, where it received unanimous support. It was placed on the calendar for a second reading but has not been scheduled yet. Its Senate companion, CS/CS/CS/SB 876, was also placed on the calendar for its second reading on the Senate floor but has not been scheduled yet.
  • Sovereign Immunity. CS/CS/CS/SB 974 by Senator Joe Gruters and CS/HB 985 by Representative Mike Beltran seek to increase the limits of the state’s waiver of sovereign immunity for individual and collective suits. Current law for sovereign immunity provides $200,000 per injured person and $300,000 per incident; however, under CS/CS/CS/SB 974, claim limits would increase to a minimum of $1 million per injured person and $3 million per incident, a provision that was not originally included in the first version of the bill. The $1 million claim limit will be adjusted annually to align with the increase in inflation. Under SB 974, insurance policies are not applicable for conditions of payment. State and local governments are expected to face a significant negative fiscal impact; however, this will be contingent upon the number of claims filed that are significantly greater than the current limits but lower than the limits proposed in the legislation. Senator Travis Hutson filed multiple amendments to SB 974, one of which would create a tiered system that would adjust claim amounts according to the size of a county’s population. Opponents of the amendment argued that a “one size fits all” approach would work best for Florida, but the committee still moved to adopt it. This bill will take effect on July 1, 2022. It is currently in its final committee of reference, Appropriations, but has not been scheduled for a hearing. Its House companion, CS/HB 985, was scheduled to be heard in its final committee, Judiciary, on Wednesday, February 23; however, it was not considered. It has now been scheduled to be heard on Monday, February 28.
  • Financial Disclosures for Local Officers. CS/SCS/B 510 by Senator Jason Brodeur and HB 301 by Representative Spencer Roach were proposed to increase transparency between constituents and their local government officials. CS/CS/SB 510 will require Mayors, City Commissioners, elected members of a City Council, and City Managers to file a Form 6 through the Florida Commission on Ethics. The commission would be required to accept federal income tax returns, financial statements, and other forms or attachments showing sources of income, for the purpose of reporting on an elected official’s financial status. This bill will become effective on January 1, 2023. Beginning January 1, 2024, a statement of financial interests and/or any other forms required must be filed electronically through an electronic filing system, and Commission must post a notice on the website instructing filers on the timing of when electronic filings will be accepted. CS/CS/SB 510 was read a third time and immediately certified by the Senate on Wednesday, February 23, with 30 Yeas and 7 Nays. Its House companion, HB 301, passed unanimously on Monday, February 7, in the Local Administration and Veteran Affairs Subcommittee. It will be heard in its final committee of reference, State Affairs, on Monday, February 28.
  • Digital License Plates. CS/HB 91 by Representative Nicholas X. Duranand CS/SB 1178 by Senator Doug Broxson would allow Floridians to purchase and replace a physical license plate for a motor vehicle with a digital license plate. As defined in the bill, a digital license plate is an electronic display of the information that is currently required by the Department of Transportation on a physical license plate. CS/HB 91 requires that the DOT permit a registered motor vehicle to be equipped with a digital license plate so long as they have purchased an up-to-date physical license plate; the physical copy does not need to be displayed with the digital copy. Individuals who wish to attain a digital license plate must do so by purchasing the plate directly from a digital license plate provider and may be subject to paying the DOT any applicable fees for specialty plates. A strike-all amendment was adopted to bring CS/HB 91 into conformity with its Senate companion, CS/SB 1178 which received 11 Yeas and 0 Nays in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development. CS/HB 91 also passed unanimously in its final committee hearing but has not been scheduled for its second reading. Both versions of the bill will take effect upon becoming law.

INFRASTRUCTURE

  • Building Regulations. PCS/HB 423 by Representative Chip LaMarca and CS/CS/CS/SB 644 by Senator Jason Brodeur 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, PCS/HB 423 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 ordinance 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. PCS/HB 423 received unanimous approval in its final committee of reference, Commerce, on Wednesday, February 23. It has been placed on the calendar on second reading but has not been scheduled. The Senate companion, CS/CS/CS/SB 644 was placed on the special calendar, temporarily postponed on second reading, then retained on Calendar. It has not been scheduled yet.
  • Mandatory Building Inspections, Residential Associations, and Community Association Building Safety. CS/SB 1702 by the Regulated Industries Committee and Senator Jennifer Bradley, SB 0394 by Senator Anna Rodriguez, and SB 7042 by Regulated Industries 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. To maintain structural integrity throughout the state, this bill will establish a two-part inspection system that includes a mandatory structural inspection program beginning July 1, 2022, for all multi-family residential buildings. The first component of the inspection will require a qualitative assessment of the structural conditions of the building to identify “surface imperfections,” including but not limited to, cracks, distortion, and/or signs of leakage. The second phase will involve destructive or nondestructive testing at the inspector’s discretion, in order to confirm that the building is structurally sound and safe for continual usage. Additionally, 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. The bill also requires the Florida Building Commission to develop “comprehensive structural and life safety standards” for maintaining and inspecting buildings and structures that are three stories or more in height by December 31, 2022. 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 received unanimous approval in the Senate Rules committee on Wednesday, February 23. It has been placed on the calendar for a second reading but has not received a finalized date. A related bill, SB 0394, passed favorably in its first committee of reference, Regulated Industries, and is now awaiting a hearing in its second committee of reference, Community Affairs. SB 0394 will have to be heard in its final committee of reference, Rules, before it can be heard on the Senate floor. Another related bill, SB 7042, passed unanimously in its first committee of reference, Regulated Industries. It is now awaiting a hearing in its final committee of reference, Appropriations.
  • Net Metering and Renewable Energy Generation. CS/CS/HB 741 by Representative Lawrence McClureand SB 1024 by Senator Jennifer Bradley promote the development of renewable energy in Florida in a way that is fair and equitable to all public utility customers, and propose that a redesign of net metering is necessary due to the development of the solar energy industry and the increase in customer-owned/leased renewal generation support. Currently, electricity companies claim that the growing installation of solar panels forces them to buy electricity at higher rates than wholesale costs, and these costs are subsequently passed to non-solar customers. Under CS/CS/HB 741, the value of the credit a customer who owns or leases renewable generation receives will be determined by the date a net metering application is approved for the customer-owned or leased renewable generation, and credits will be netted monthly. The bill requires that the Florida Public Service Commission revise current net metering rules to include provisions that if PSC finds that the penetration rate of customer-owned or leased renewable generation across the state exceeds a certain threshold by January 1, 2023. Proponents of the bill argued that a vote against the bill would be a “yes” to subsidizing rich Floridians while opponents argued that the tradeoff would profit off poor Floridians. CS/CS/HB 741 received 17 Yeas and 4 Nays in its final committee hearing. Several amendments were filed on Friday, February 25. It has been placed on the Special-Order calendar for Tuesday, March 1. The Senate companion, SB 1024 provides for a gradual reduction in rates paid by rooftop solar producers. It will have its final hearing in the Rules committee on Tuesday, March 1 at 1:30 PM.

HEALTHCARE

  • Medicaid Managed Care. CS/HB 7047 by Representative Sam Garrison and SB 1950 by Senator Jason Brodeur were brought forth to revamp the laws regulating Medicaid and to consolidate the state’s current Medicaid Managed Care regions from 11 to 8. CS/HB 7047 addresses healthcare worker shortages by allowing health plans to include nurse train expenses in their medical expenses and expand the use of funds to include students who are not in a physician residency. Currently, Medicaid is the second largest budget allocation and the state’s largest expenditure, and because of this, the bill’s sponsor believes a consolidation will “reasonably allocate enrollee volume.” His goal is to make each region equally attractive for bidders with the goal of increasing competition and value to both taxpayers and patients. This bill did receive slight criticism, with one representative inquiring about the provision requiring hospitals to contract all medical plans. The bill also received criticism from those who saw an issue with the mandatory contracting provisions, claiming that although there were stanch improvements to specific sections, the bill still seemed to be “draconian” in its approach to hospitals throughout the state. HB 7047 received 15 Yeas and 5 Nays in its final hearing in the Health and Human Services Committee. A committee substitute was filed on Wednesday, February 23, removing the reintegration of dental benefits and imposes additional requirements for dental services. Its Senate companion, SB 1950, was placed on the committee agenda for the Senate Appropriations hearing that will take place on Monday, February 28, at 10:30 AM.
  • Peer Specialists and Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. CS/HB 795 by Representative Elizabeth Fetterhoffand CS/SB 282 by Senator Daryl Rouson will allow individuals who have recovered from substance abuse to be employed as a peer specialist counselor for individuals who struggle with their mental health or suffer from substance abuse. The legislature finds that peer specialists will be the most cost-efficient way to assist an individual’s recovery efforts, academic or workforce attainment, and development of life skills. CS/HB 795 requires that individuals only be allowed to become peer specialists upon the completion of an extensive background report and confirmation that they have not committed a felony within 3 years of applying for the position. CS/HB 795 was substituted for its Senate companion, CS/SB 282, and received unanimous support on the House floor on Thursday, February 24, where it was immediately certified. It now awaits a final approval from Governor DeSantis.
  • Newborn Screenings. CS/SB 292 by Senators Tina Polsky and Lauren Bookand CS/HB 1073 by Representative Vance Aloupis Jr. will 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, received unanimous support in the Health and Human Services committee. It has been placed on the calendar for its second reading. Both bills will take effect on July 1, 2022.

EDUCATION

  • K-12 Education and School Boards. HB 1467 by Representative Sam Garrison and SB 1300 by Senator Joe Gruters will repeal school board members’ salaries. However, HB 1467 was amended to allow for $200 per-meeting payment and a maximum of $4,800 per year payment for each school board member. Effective January 1, 2025, the authority for school board members to receive a salary will be removed; however, members are permitted to retain their salaries through the end of their term. Additionally, beginning August 1, 2022, newly elected or re-elected members may not receive a salary. HB 1467 will also place term limits, like the limit rules for state legislators, at a maximum of eight consecutive years. Furthermore, HB 1467 requires that school districts post all materials available to students within the school library online for public review. Instructional materials must be selected by a school district employee who holds a valid educational media specialist certificate, regardless of whether the book was purchased or donated. The Department of Education will be required to develop an online training program for school librarians, media specialists, and other personnel involved in the selection and maintenance of library media and other material maintained on a reading list no later than January 1, 2023. HB 1467 was passed on the House floor with 78 Yeas and 40 Nays, and immediately certified. It was referred to the Senate Rules committee and is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, March 1. The Senate version, SB 1300, does not include provisions for term limits for school board members, but it still contains the provisions to completely repeal the members’ salaries. On Wednesday, January 26, it was removed from one of its committee references and awaits a final hearing in the Senate Rules committee. This bill will take effect July 1, 2022.
  • Postsecondary Education. CS/SB 7044 by the Education Committee and Senator Manny Diaz and HB 7051 by the Post-Secondary and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee and Representative Amber Marianowould require state colleges and universities to display course information, including required textbooks, on the college or university’s website in a manner that is “clear and easy to read.” CS/SB 7044 will also require state colleges and universities to find another accrediting agency. Currently, state colleges and universities utilize the Southern Association of Colleges for their accreditations; however, proponents of the bill argue that the statewide usage of one agency resembles a “totalitarian structure.” Opponents argue that schools should be allowed to use whichever agency they choose, and the provision within the bill that requires post-secondary institutions to contact another agency “ruins an otherwise good bill.” CS/SB 7044 received 11 Yeas and 9 Nays in the Senate Appropriations committee on Thursday, February 24. It was placed on the calendar for second reading but has not been scheduled. The House companion, HB 7051 was scheduled to be heard in the Education and Employment Committee on Wednesday, February 23, but was temporarily postponed. A new hearing date has been set for Monday, February 28, at 3:30 PM.