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Becker Welcomes Newest Client, Butterfly Network, a Digital Health Company Revolutionizing Medical Ultrasounds

Butterfly network logo

Becker, a multi-practice commercial law firm with attorneys, lobbyists, and other professionals at offices throughout the East Coast, announced its representation of new digital health client, the Butterfly Network. The firm will provide federal lobbying services in Washington, D.C, beginning August 1, 2021.

Butterfly Network’s mission is to democratize access to medical imaging, enable high-quality care in low-resource settings, and advance global health equity. The company hopes to champion a new era of healthcare with the world’s first handheld whole-body imager, costing under $2,000.

Becker’s Government Relations team will be led by federal lobbyists Bert Gómez and Omar Franco who will work closely with Butterfly’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Andrea Hechavarria.

Mr. Gómez remarked, “Becker’s Federal Lobbying team is committed to ensuring The Butterfly Network’s innovative vision, blending healthcare and technology, is promoted at the federal level. We are proud to support their revolutionary approach to the well-being of underserved communities around the world and look forward to helping them improve the accessibility of this sustainable healthcare solution.”

Government Law and Lobbying has been a core practice for Becker since its founding in 1973. The firm’s team of lawyers and lobbyists includes several who have served in high-level government positions and distinguished themselves in the political and legislative arenas in state, local, and federal government.

Becker’s federal practice began in 2011 with the addition of two Capitol Hill Chiefs of Staff and the Legislative Director of a US Senator. The bipartisan powerhouse team quickly grew the practice to ten lobbyists and a portfolio of public and private clients throughout the United States including 3M, Univision, ViacomCBS, iHeartRadio, FOX, The National Association of Broadcasters, the Motion Picture Association, NAHREP, the Latino Coalition, Virginia Port Authority, the City of Virginia Beach, the University of Miami, Hennepin County, MN, and Palm Beach County, FL, among others.

“Director Term Limit Law Development,” Naples Daily News

Q:     Have there been any developments regarding the term limit law for condominium directors?  In prior columns you mentioned that there was some confusion as to when it will impact existing director terms. H.H.

A:     Yes, there is a recent development regarding this issue.  Condominium association term limits were first added to the statutes in 2018 but have been the subject of considerable debate regarding their applicability to board members whose term of service began before the statute was enacted. A new law, which became effective on July 1, 2021, finally clarifies that when calculating board term limits, the service start date will be on or after July 1, 2018.

Q:     Three weeks ago, I submitted an application to purchase a home in a community that is subject to a homeowners’ association.  I haven’t heard back from the board yet as to whether my application has been approved or denied.  The closing is coming up soon and I am worried that the board dragging its feet could cause the closing date to be delayed.  Is the board required to act on a sales application within a certain time period?  J.I.

A:    It depends on what the governing documents for the homeowners’ association say. The right of a homeowners’ association to review and approve a sales application must be contained in the governing documents.  Most homeowners associations with this authority are required to act, through the board, within a certain number of days after receiving a complete application, often 20 or 30 days after receipt.  The Florida Homeowners Association Act, Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes, does not, however, specifically address this issue.

Q:     I serve on the board of my condominium association.  There are five directors total but only two of the directors, the president and the vice-president, are authorized to communicate directly with the association attorney.  I have several legal issues that I would like to discuss with the association attorney but the attorney won’t take my calls as I’m not an authorized contact.  Is there anything I can do? R.C.

A:     My law firm, like most law firms who practice community association law, requests from each community association client a list of “authorized contacts,” so that we know which association representatives we are authorized to communicate with.  For some association clients the entire board is listed as an authorized contact, although this is the minority approach in my experience.  For other association clients there is only one or two authorized contacts assigned.  There are several reasons why a board may not want the entire board to serve as an authorized contact, including a desire to keep expenditures on legal fees down, and to avoid bringing the corporation’s counsel into internal political disagreements or addressing legal inquiries that are not supported by the board.  The decision is ultimately up to each board.

As for what you can do, as a director you can ask your board to either designate you as an authorized contact or you can ask your board to require the legal issues you would like addressed communicated to the association attorney through one of the two existing authorized contacts.  You could make a motion at a board meeting to seek these approvals.

To read the original Naples Daily News article, please click here.

David Muller is a Board-Certified Attorney in Condominium and Planned Development Law with Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. in Naples. Send questions to dmuller@beckerlawyers.com.

Becker’s Washington Weekly: July 19, 2021

THE HOUSEWashington Weekly Banner

The House is prepared to vote on five appropriations “minibus” packages this week, including Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, and State and Foreign Operations. The remaining bills are set to be taken up next week, including Agriculture-FDA, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will markup 12 bills this week, including paid family and medical leave for federal employees, software development, software engineering, and various cybersecurity and AI measures.

The House Foreign Affairs will also be busy this week. Its Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation will discuss U.S. and European cooperation in China and the Indo-Pacific. The Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee will consider peacebuilding efforts between Israel and Palestine. Additionally, the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration, and International Economic Policy will hold a hearing on recent protests in Cuba calling for the end of its Communist, Authoritarian regime.

Cybersecurity continues to be the subject of several committees. The House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will consider the growing threat of ransomware following the onslaught of cyberattacks in recent months. The House Small Business Committee will discuss the effects of cybersecurity issues on small businesses.

Diversity and equity issues are also top subjects for committees. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is holding a hearing on improving diversity and inclusion in the U.S. aviation workforce.  The House Science, Space, and Technology’s Energy Subcommittee will discuss fostering equity in energy Innovation and spectrum needs for observations in Earth and space sciences. The House Financial Services Committee will consider equitable housing infrastructure in America and HUD oversight.

THE SENATE

Though the White House and a bipartisan Senate cohort agreed to an infrastructure framework some weeks ago, no legislative text has been prepared and some Senators are starting to complain. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said this Sunday that conservatives’ distrust of the IRS has resulted in the removal of increased funding for improved tax collection as a way to pay for the plan. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) signaled that this provision could still be included in the Democrat-only $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan, which will include broader subjects than the largely traditional infrastructure-themed bipartisan framework.

Despite the lack of text, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will hold procedural cloture votes this week to advance both the bipartisan infrastructure and $3.5 trillion reconciliation proposals. Sen. Schumer plans will begin with the bipartisan infrastructure bill to start a 30-hour clock followed by a Wednesday vote. Senators would also vote on a budget resolution on the same day to begin the reconciliation process, which would require only a simple majority to eventually pass a Democrat-only spending bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said there is no way a bipartisan group can meet the Wednesday deadline and hopes Sen. Schumer will delay the cloture vote beyond this week.

Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee will begin closed-door consideration of the annual defense authorization bill. Though President Biden’s proposal calls for a 1.6% budget increase, the budget would actually decrease by 0.4% when adjusted for inflation. Key Republican Senators Jim Inhofe (OK) and Dan Sullivan (AK) want more defense funding. Additionally, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will likely push to include her legislation (S. 1520) to overhaul how the military prosecutes sexual assault, harassment, murder, and other major crimes. While two-thirds of the Senate once supported her bill, it has since stalled following comments by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley signaling that the bills’ changes might be too drastic.

Additionally, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is schedule to markup S.1275 to reauthorize the Family Violence and Prevention Services program through FY2026. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will discuss the effects of climate change, resilience, and reinsurance on 21st century communities.

Like the House, the Senate will also consider cybersecurity threats when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure.

THE ADMINISTRATION

President Biden delivered remarks from the White House this week touting the $3.5 trillion reconciliation spending plan as essential to tackling the country’s most pressing economic issues stemming from the pandemic. He emphasized how the plan will create millions of jobs benefitting middle class families. He also tried to quell fears that spending under his Administration is what’s causing increased inflation, and urged Americans that his financial regulators would respond as needed. He also argued that the spending plan will boost productivity and wages to stave off any inflation.

The President also discussed the bipartisan infrastructure framework amidst its ongoing negotiations.

Becker’s Federal Lobbying Team will continue to monitor these developments as they evolve and will share with you as soon as information becomes available.

“Maintenance of Structure Usually Association Responsibility,” News-Press

City worker in safety gear explaining something on a sheet of paper to a woman in ppe mask.Q: The foundation under my condominium’s sliding glass door has heaved which prevents me from opening the doors. My condominium manager says that I am responsible for taking out the slider door frame and grinding down the foundation cement. Am I responsible? (P.D., via e-mail)

A: This may be a symptom of a more significant structural issue and should be reviewed and addressed through the board of directors and probably looked at by an engineer. The association typically has the maintenance responsibility for the concrete infrastructure of a condominium building, although the declaration of condominium may make you responsible for the sliding glass door itself.

The basic rule of thumb is that you must look at the declaration to distinguish what parts of the building are “units” and what parts are “common elements.” Unless otherwise provided in the declaration, the unit owner maintains the units. The association maintains the common elements.

However, the declaration may describe common elements that are reserved for the specific use of a unit or group of units as “limited common elements.” The law allows the declaration to delegate maintenance responsibility for limited common elements to the benefitting owner(s), or to the association but at the expense of the benefitting owner(s), sometimes called a “limited common expense.” If the declaration is silent, maintenance of limited common elements is an association responsibility, as a “common expense,” meaning all owners share the cost.

Q: Can my HOA force me to have my roof, driveway, and garage doors power washed? (C.D., via e-mail)

A: Maybe. If the association’s properly adopted governing documents include provisions that are sufficiently clear and reasonably related to property values and the aesthetics of the community, these are enforceable.

A typical document provision might prohibit the accumulation of any visible dirt, mold, or algae on the homes or driveways. If other methods of cleaning would accomplish the same result, you may be able to pursue solutions other than “power washing.”

There are several different ways governing documents of a community can be enforced. The customary way is a lawsuit where the association would seek an injunction requiring you to clean your home. The winner of the lawsuit would be able to recoup their legal fees from the loser. Prior to starting a suit, the association would have to provide you with the opportunity to participate in pre-suit mediation, for which you be liable for half the cost.

Fining and suspension of common amenity use rights is another way to enforce governing documents. Depending on what the governing documents say, fines are typically one hundred dollars per day, capped at one thousand dollars for an ongoing violation. The HOA could potentially put a lien on your home of the fine reaches one thousand dollars. You would be entitled to a hearing before an independent committee before the fine could be finalized.

Suspension of common area use rights is also permitted for document violations. The suspension must be for a reasonable time. The association might argue that the reasonable time the suspension ends is when you do the work they think needs to be done. Suspensions are more related to common amenities and facilities and cannot restrict your rights of ingress and egress to your home. Hearings are required for suspension, in the same way as for fining.

Finally, depending on how your declaration of covenants reads, the association may also be entitled to pursue the remedy of “self-help.” This would typically involve the association hiring a contractor to do the work after you have failed to do so after them giving you reasonable notice and opportunity to correct the alleged violation. The association may also be entitled by the declaration to put a lien on your home which could be foreclosed just like a mortgage. Some associations have this remedy, some don’t, there are pros and cons from the association’s side of the case, as there usually is with most every legal issue.

My advice would be to ask a representative of the management company or the board to meet you outside your home, have them point out what they think is the problem, have your say, and see if the matter can be worked out.

Joseph Adams is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law, and an Office Managing Shareholder with Becker & Poliakoff. Please send your community association legal questions to jadams@beckerlawyers.com. Past editions of the Q&A may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.

Becker’s Washington Weekly: July 12, 2021

THE HOUSE

The House is back in session following the July 4th recess. The House Appropriations Committee will mark up its Subcommittees’ budget proposals after each Subcommittee’s respective markup. Key subcommittee bills are Commerce, Justice, and Science; Energy and Water Development; Labor, HHS, and Education; and Transportation-HUD.

The Energy and Water Subcommittee’s bill proposes spending $53.2 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion from FY2021, to develop clean energy, address the pressing historic drought in the West, and increase necessary funding for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Commerce, Justice, and Science bill proposes spending $81.3 billion, a $10.2 billion increase from FY21. Under the bill, the Justice Department, Commerce Department, and NASA would each see budget increases of around $2 billion. However, those increases may bring caveats. House members proposed a measure that would bar NASA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Space Council from using funds for coordinated programs with China. Additionally, Justice Department police grants would be conditioned on local police enforcing policy changes such as ending racial profiling, certain no-knock warrants, and chokeholds.

The Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education’s bill totals $253.8 billion – a $2.2 billion increase from FY21, which is $400 million more than the White House’s request. The bill in part would repeal Hyde Amendment language which bans the use of federal funds for abortions, while also nearly doubling Title I grants for low-income students.

The Transportation and HUD Subcommittee proposes increased funding to transform public transit with zero-emission buses, passenger rail, and other public transit. The bill totals $105.7 billion, surpassing FY21 funding by $18.7 billion.

Though Democrats’ sweeping elections bill, H.R. 1, stalled in the Senate after passing the House, the House Administration Subcommittee will continue holding hearings and building a legislative record for voting rights measures. They do so in preparation to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which will restore and update provisions from the Voting Rights Act previously struck down by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder eight years ago. Democrats say this, and the fallout of former President Trump’s 2020 defeat, fueled Republican states to pass restrictive voting measures. The House Administration Subcommittee is also examining the Constitution’s Elections Clause to determine to what extent – if any – Congress can enact federal voting measures.

The House will also conduct hearings to consider other bills:

  • The House Natural Resources Committee will consider multiple bills in its ocean bills markup, including H.R. 3764 requiring the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration to provide ocean-based climate solutions to reduce carbon emissions and global warming.
  • The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment is set to consider President Biden’s FY22 budget through agencies’ perspectives.
  • The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee will consider the FY22 Department of Defense budget request for fixed-wing tactical and training aircraft programs.

THE SENATE

The Senate is also back in session and will consider a number of measures at the committee level:

  • Voting rights measures will be discussed in the Senate Judiciary’s Constitution Subcommittee hearing on the Voting Rights Act.
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will markup 15 bills, touching upon cybersecurity, supply chains, and ways to prevent wildland fires.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider a multi-pronged bill to invest in developing, innovating, updating, and securing outdoor and energy infrastructure.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear a resolution to repeal previous Authorizations for the Use of Military Force and recent U.S. military strikes in Syria and Iraq.
  • The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Plans will hold a hearing concerning conduct that chills competition in the prescription drug market.

THE ADMINISTRATION

The Administration is also focusing on voting rights this week. On Monday, Vice President Harris discussed Republican-led bills which Democrats argue deny voting access. On Tuesday, President Biden will deliver a speech on voting rights.

Over the weekend, G20 finance ministers endorsed a new global tax agreement, which includes imposing a global minimum tax of at least 15% on corporations. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen began constructing a timetable for the Administration and Congress to adopt these measures. This will be a complex process, as each measure could require different methods of congressional approval based on their constitutional definitions.

For example, while some measures defined as treaties require a 2/3 Senate vote, others could be passed via reconciliation using a bare-majority Senate vote. Key Republicans, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX), have already expressed their concerns over the tax agreement to Secretary Yellen.

Becker’s Federal Lobbying Team will continue to monitor these developments as they evolve and will share with you as soon as information becomes available.

Donna DiMaggio Berger Addresses Service Animal/ESA Challenge for Community Associations

Woman shopping in a supermarket in a wheelchair in a with her Service Animal next to her.Ensuring that a shared ownership community welcomes legitimate service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) while protecting the group from fraudulent claims is one of the most complex issues facing volunteer boards today. Becker shareholder and executive director of the Community Association Legislative Lobby Donna DiMaggio Berger joins Sandra Gottlieb of Swedelson Gottlieb and Melissa Garcia of Altitude Community Law to clarify how boards can confirm legitimate requests, avoid claims of discrimination, and safeguard quality of life for all members of the community.

This roundtable, led by Associa’s Andrew Fortin, addresses:

  • the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal and the laws that govern accommodating individuals who need either;
  • how community/condo/homeowner association boards should handle requests for either type of assistance animal within a community;
  • the common missteps community/condo/homeowner association board and/or property managers make regarding requests for service/support animal accommodation; and
  • the best ways community/condo/homeowner association boards can address concerns about abuse of an emotional support animal.

“It’s incredibly important for boards to understand what they can legally ask – and what they can’t – when they are trying to determine the legitimacy of [accommodation] requests,” said DiMaggio Berger. “[You need to] work with experienced legal counsel to properly evaluate the request, and, obviously, grant the request where it is warranted.”

In Florida, she continued, making or enabling a fraudulent request for the accommodation of a service animal or ESA is a crime. “It behooves boards to get this right.”

To view the entire discussion, please click here.

Part of Associa’s year-long campaign to promote awareness of the role of service animals, this discussion is also in partnership with Patriot Paws, a nonprofit that trains and provides service dogs of the highest quality at no cost to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities. To learn more about Patriot Paws, please click here.

Chris Berardini Joins Becker’s Federal Lobbying Team in Washington, D.C.

Becker's Senior International and Government Relations Director Chris BerardiniFt. Lauderdale, FL, July 12, 2021 — Becker, a multi-practice commercial law firm with attorneys, lobbyists and other professionals at offices throughout the East Coast, today announced that Chris Berardini has joined the firm as a Senior International and Government Relations Director in its Federal Lobbying practice based in Washington, D.C.

He was most recently with Iron Bridge Strategies, LLC, a D.C.-based boutique international government affairs and political intelligence firm that he founded.

Mr. Berardini has over thirteen years of experience as Chief of Staff in the United States Congress. While serving on Capitol Hill, his legislative portfolio included Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, FinTech, Insurance, Housing, Tax, International Trade, Energy and Environment, Appropriations, Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, Agriculture and Organized Labor.

Mr. Berardini formed extensive strategic coalitions with the diplomatic community and was responsible for Congressional country caucuses from the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Mr. Berardini has specialized relationships within the Executive Branch including working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export-Import Bank and USAID.

Specific legislation that Mr. Berardini was responsible for that was enacted into law includes The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act Reauthorization Act; The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014; and The Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Act.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Mr. Berardini worked in collaboration with the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations to pass the 2013 Disaster Relief Appropriations Act which secured over $50 billion in disaster aid for coastal communities in New York and New Jersey.

Head of Becker’s Federal Lobbying Practice Omar Franco said, “We are very excited that Chris has joined our team. We know that our clients will greatly benefit from his international, legislative, and corporate experience.”

Mr. Berardini added, “I am proud to become a part of Becker’s lobbying practice, which has a strong reputation. I know I can contribute and collaborate with Becker’s group of top-tier, skilled lobbyists who have served at high levels of federal government.”

Government Law and Lobbying has been a core practice for Becker since its founding in 1973. The firm’s team of lawyers and lobbyists includes several who have served in high-level government positions and distinguished themselves in the political and legislative arenas and in state, local, and federal government. The group’s first-hand working knowledge of government, at every level, provides clients with valuable insights, unparalleled access and a deep understanding of the legislative, administrative and regulatory processes to help navigate the maze of government.

“Special Taxing Districts Explained,” News-Press

Hand lifting up a miniature wooden houseQ: What is an “MSTU”? My neighborhood association, which is voluntary, is considering getting one set up to maintain our roads. (P.K., via e-mail)

A: Counties have the authority to create a special taxing district, known as a Municipal Service Taxing Unit, commonly called an “MSTU,” or a Municipal Service Benefit Unit, commonly called an “MSBU.” Section 125.01(1)(q) of the Florida Statutes permits these entities to be set up as a funding mechanism to make neighborhood or community improvements.

An MSTU is a tax based on the assessed property value to address capital improvements that typically require continued maintenance obligations, such as roads. By comparison, an MSBU is a special assessment on a one-time benefit for improvements without ongoing maintenance obligation, for example paving a dirt road. In an MSBU, the assessment or charge may be applied in a variety of ways, such as a charge per linear foot of road frontage, or a charge per lot.

An MSTU or MSBU may be established by a voter referendum, action initiated by the Board of county commissioners, or a citizen sponsored petition. A request to establish an MSTU or MSBU by petition requires a citizen sponsor and must include a description of the project improvement and an area location map of the proposed district.

Upon receipt of a request, county staff will prepare a taxable value analysis to determine when the anticipated taxable values are sufficient to support the proposed capital improvement and required maintenance (if applicable), as well as a cost benefit analysis to determine the total number of properties to be included in the district. If the results from the staff’s review are favorable, the citizen petitioner will be given instructions to generate a valid citizen sponsored petition to be signed by a number of property owners within the proposed district equal to at least fifty percent plus one. Then, the matter must go to the county commissioners for approval.

An MSTU or MSBU may or may not be created with an “advisory committee” comprised of property owners. If there is an advisory committee, in addition to any specific responsibilities included in the ordinance that creates the district, the advisory committee members generally be involved in recommending a budget for each fiscal year, millage rates, operational expenditures, and other details regarding the funding and operation of the district.

Advisory committee activities are regulated by Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law, and not the more liberal “sunshine laws” applicable to homeowners’ associations. Meetings of the committee must be open to the public, the committee meetings must be reasonably noticed, and minutes of the committee meetings must be taken. The committee must also follow the county’s administrative and operational procedures.

Q: At a recent board meeting, the president of my condominium association made a motion, which was seconded by the vice president and then the board moved on the other business and treated the motion as approved by the board. There was no vote taken to show how each board member was voting on the matter and some of the other board members opposed the motion. Is each board member required to state how they are voting on a motion? (G. L., via e-mail)

A: Yes. Section 718.111(1)(b) of the Florida Condominium Act provides that each director present at a board meeting at which any action is taken is presumed to have consented to the action taken, unless they voted against such action or abstained. Further, the statute also provides that the votes or abstention for each board member must be recorded in the minutes for the meeting.

Further, the law requires that any unit owner present at the meeting be given the opportunity to speak regarding any designated agenda item. Your president should be asked to brush up on the rules of procedure, which are to some degree incorporated into the law.

The same general rules apply to cooperative and homeowners’ associations.

Joseph Adams is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law, and an Office Managing Shareholder with Becker & Poliakoff. Please send your community association legal questions to jadams@beckerlawyers.com. Past editions of the Q&A may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.

Legislative Changes on the Horizon

The tragic Champlain Towers South collapse has resulted in an outpouring of support worldwide, while also raising safety concerns among those who reside in community associations in Florida.

Becker’s Community Association Law team hears from clients daily seeking advice on how to assess the structural integrity of their building. The firm has always advised that individual building evaluations can only be addressed with the involvement of a qualified engineer. Separately, clients request guidance on legal steps to help their association more easily navigate these complicated issues. It is apparent that additional resources are needed to help safeguard the significant percentage of Floridians living in communities.

For this reason, the Florida Bar has appointed the Condominium Law and Policy Life Safety Task Force. This group will serve as a resource to the Governor and Legislature as they review all aspects of Florida condominium law, development, association operations, and maintenance to determine and recommend if legislative and or regulatory changes should be enacted. The task force consists of eight members, including Becker Shareholder Joseph E. Adams. Joe currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Florida Bar’s Condominium and Planned Development Committee, and is a former Chair of the Florida Condominium Council appointed by the Florida Legislature.

The Condominium Law and Policy Life Safety Task Force will discuss possible initiatives such as more frequent and statewide mandatory structural certifications, reserve funding mandates, removing hurdles to a board’s ability to assess and borrow for necessary repairs, as well as exploring the feasibility of a government-backed low interest loan program.

Becker’s Community Association Law Team will continue to monitor these developments as they evolve and will share with you as soon as information becomes available.

Ellyn Bogdanoff Introduces Power Panel of Florida’s Landmark Resiliency Law Roundtable

Becker Shareholder and former Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff kicked off the Florida’s Landmark “Always Ready” Resiliency Law Explained roundtable with introductions of Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, and DEP Director of the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection Alex Reed. The event, hosted by the American Flood Coalition and moderated by AFC Florida Director Alec Bogdanoff, explored the history and goals of the legislation, as well as its expected impact on Florida’s approach to flooding and sea level rise.

“This landmark legislation was quite interesting to watch,” said Ellyn Bodganoff. “As a former member of the House and the Senate, I don’t think I have ever witnessed a Speaker priority end up with everyone on the [House and Senate] floors pressing the green button. It was historic, it was bipartisan, and I anticipate many other states will be taking our lead.”

The group proceeded to address the importance of the bill to both coastal and inland communities and how these measures are expected to prepare all communities for both major rainfall events and coastline evolution. Also emphasized was the development of a framework for the future, rooted in scientific data overseen by a new Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research.

“When you think about businesses that want to relocate and where families want to go, you want to make sure that you have an area that’s resilient, where the economy and the state can thrive,” said Rep. Hunschofsky. “There’s no time like the present [to get started], and we have a lot of work to do.”

The “Always Ready” plan includes substantial funding made accessible to every Florida community, regardless of size or economy. Grant applications require a vulnerability assessment to identify critical and/or regionally significant assets within that community, as well as outlining any data gaps that need to be filled before moving forward. Special funding has been allocated to help financially disadvantaged communities perform the necessary vulnerability assessments.

AT A GLANCE: Q&A SEGMENT*

Are there specific types of projects that DEP is looking for?
DIR. REED: Not specifically, but the statute very clearly defines what critical assets we need to be focusing on. There are four categories, which covers everything from transportation to critical infrastructure – waste water, drinking, water from water – to community hospitals, homeless shelters or education centers, and then also our natural cultural and historic resources.

Can communities submit more than one project to DEP? And can they submit a project to multiple programs within DEP?
DIR. REED: Absolutely. They’ll all be ranked separately, and you can certainly apply to other programs. What we’re not likely going to be able to do is match a state grant to state grant; we have to be very careful since some of the funding that went into the trust fund was federal funding

What types of entities can apply for funding? Are regional planning councils eligible?
DIR. REED: We ask that any entity working in a regional resiliency capacity submit an application, so we can prioritize appropriately. The key is that applicants have or are in the process of getting a vulnerability assessment that has identified critical and/or regionally significant assets, and that there is a long-term plan. Projects without that long vision may not get us to where we want to go.

REP. BUSATTA: Part of this legislation was to allow DEP to issue grants to local communities to perform that vulnerability assessment. We recognize that some of our local communities don’t have the money to do a vulnerability assessment, so there is funding there for them.

Does the financially disadvantaged language align with the current definition of the state, and are there plans to really engage with those vulnerable populations?
DIR. BOGDANOFF: There is a reduced cost share for financially disadvantaged communities, and projects specifically focused on supporting disadvantaged communities are actually part of the ranking system.

DIR. REED: Disadvantaged communities are determined with a per capita comparison to communities in the rest of the state. Engaging all communities is going to be critical, so, in addition to having the webpage and the application portal, we have a quarterly coastal resilience forum that was started several years ago. We also know that we need boots on the ground in our communities, and we especially need to reach out to those communities that have not come to the resilient coastline program yet.

Why have water and wastewater been left out of this?
DIR. BOGDANOFF: My understanding is that this legislation is really about flood resilience. There are other budgets out there for water and wastewater i.e. the clean drinking water state revolving loan fund. This was designed to be specifically for resilience projects, so projects can be funded if their water quality is a portion of the flood mitigation project, but this pot of money is not specifically for water quality.

REP. BUSATTA: We definitely wanted to keep the focus of this on resiliency, sea level rise and flooding. There is a lot of money that the state has allocated specifically for water quality projects, but one of the issues that we did allocate funding for was septic-to-sewer conversion which, of course, goes hand-in-hand with water quality.

Where do we go from here?
REP. BUSATTA: As a state representative, we’re here to be a liaison for our local coalitions, communities, and municipalities, and we need to make sure that they know and understand that this exists.

REP. HUNSCHOFSKY: We need to keep this in the forefront, to make it possible for communities to access funding. I think it’s important that not only do we fund this program, but that we also make it user-friendly for everybody to access. I would like to think that this is a first step in legislation and that we’re not building something today that is going to cause a problem 20, 30 years down the road.

To view the complete discussion about Florida’s landmark resiliency law, please click here.
To read the entire Senate Bill 1954, please click here.
To explore the Florida Resilient Coastlines Program, including grant information, please click here.
To learn more about the American Flood Coalition, please click here.


*This is only a sample of the questions and answers featured in the roundtable. For the complete discussion, please view the recording here.