Recap of Week 9: End of 2022 Session
from the LMA Newsletter of March 14, 2022
The Florida Legislature will adjourn this afternoon after passing the over $112 billion budget for next year. The legislature did NOT pass substantive insurance consumer protections, even though the Florida Senate sent some meaningful bills to the House. In the end, the House chose to not hear any of the bills sent over by the Senate. That means a further deterioration of the state’s dire property insurance market, with more double-digit rate increases and less consumer choice as more carriers either pull out of the market or become insolvent.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) told reporters recently that he wanted to wait and see what effect last year’s SB 76 reforms will have. He, for some reason, did not reference in his remarks that the entire bill is being challenged in the courts and any hearings resolving those challenges likely won’t occur until late spring or early summer.
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) commented in a Tweet, “How high will rates for Floridians have to go before the legislature acts? Time for @GovRonDeSantis to throw down the gauntlet and demand legislature fix this insurance train wreck.” But there will be no legislation to address the continued roofing fraud and changes to Citizens Property Insurance to attempt to slow its growth, now at nearly 800,000 policies today.
Senator Brandes said the legislature’s failure “gives the governor a perfect reason to call a special session,” which Senate President Wilton Simpson, who backed tougher reform, said was “a possibility.”
This Bill Watch clearly labels bills that DID NOT PASS and those that PASSED. PASSED bills require the Governor’s signature to become law, unless otherwise noted.
Here is a list of the legislative bills we followed in this 60-day session. You can click the bill link in the list below to go directly to the bill and its details farther below. Updates within each bill are noted in blue font:
Property Insurer Reimbursements
Department of Financial Services (DFS)
Hurricane Impact Programs
Building Inspection Services
Nutrient Application Rates
Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience
DID NOT PASS
Citizens Property Insurance
Insurance Policies (aka Insurance Omnibus Bill)
Domestic Surplus Lines Insurers
Motor Vehicle Glass
Sales Tax Refunds for Building Mitigation Retrofit Improvements
Mandatory Building Inspections
Community Association Building Safety
Community Association Database
Powers of the Florida Building Commission
Construction Defect Claims
Motor Vehicle Insurance (PIP)
Consumer Data Privacy
Advanced Air Mobility
Communicable and Infectious Diseases
Insurance Coverage for At-home COVID-19 Test Kits
Citizens Property Insurance – DID NOT PASS – HB 1307 by Reps. Tommy Gregory (R-Sarasota) and Mike Giallombardo (R-Cape Coral) would have allowed surplus lines companies to do takeouts of Citizens policies, just as admitted carriers can do. The bill also had other provisions to attempt to stem Citizens explosive growth, which ended 2021 with a policy count of 759,305, a 40% increase from 2020, with continued growth of almost 5,000 policies weekly. It would have made a current Citizens policyholder ineligible for renewal unless a private insurance company take-out premium is more than 20% higher than the Citizens renewal premium; and required Citizens to keep any premium in place from an unsound insurance company policy that Citizens assumes unless Citizens’ premium is higher. (Return to Top of Page)
Property Insurance – DID NOT PASS – SB 1728 by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) had key provisions to stem Citizens explosive growth. It also attempted to clarify advertising and solicitation restrictions in last session’s SB 76 reform law that a federal judge enjoined from enforcement last summer on free-speech grounds. The final version of SB 1728 that was sent to the House had the following provisions:
- Roof advertisement disclosures: Required “prohibited advertisements” to contain three disclosures informing the consumer of different acts of insurance fraud when deductibles are waived or incomplete information is provided to an insurer.
- Mandatory Roof Deductible: This concept replaced the previously proposed Actual Cash Value (ACV) reimbursement schedule with a mandatory 2% of Coverage A roof deductible for claims except for total losses, hurricane damage, or a repair that doesn’t require replacement.
- ACV Roof adjustment: If proof of payment of the roof deductible is not provided to the insurer, the roof claim would have been adjusted according to ACV.
- Citizens Depopulation: Would have made a current Citizens Insurance policyholder ineligible for renewal unless a private insurance company take-out premium is more than 20% higher than the Citizens renewal premium. Because 99% of Citizens homeowners policies are priced less than the private market, this change was important to transfer risk to the private market that otherwise is subsidized by all Floridians.
- Primary Residences definition: Confirmed that only primary residences remain in the Citizens rate glide path cap.
- Unsound Insurer rates: Required policies assumed by Citizens be charged the higher of either the unsound insurer rate or Citizens’ rate.
- Surplus Lines Takeouts: Allowed surplus lines companies to participate in takeout programs when Citizens exceeds 700,000 policies.
- Board and Executive Director experience: Required certain board members and the head of Citizens have insurance experience.
- Defense Costs: Insurers could have been awarded defense costs if a suit is dismissed for failure to provide pre-suit notice.
Senator Boyd successfully had urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve the revamped bill, saying “our constituents are paying sums that most of them cannot afford to pay,” for their homeowners insurance. The same concern that had been expressed over the ACV in previous committee meetings was expressed over the deductible, but an amendment to remove it failed. The bill moved to the full Senate, with Senator Boyd telling his colleagues that “if we do nothing…the market is going to collapse.” Amendments by opponents to remove the roof deductible and the defense costs provisions from the bill failed. The bill was fast-tracked and approved by an 18-11 vote, with 5 Democrats joining the Republican majority to support the bill, which went to the House.
However, it was frankly doubtful that the House would take up SB 1728 in the last five days of session. House Speaker Chris Sprowls told reporters recently that although he was evaluating various proposals, “I’m also cognizant of the fact that we just passed a very significant insurance bill last session. If what has been told to me in the eight years that I’ve been here from the insurance lobby is true, which is that it takes 18 months to see an impact in rates, which is what I’ve been told over and over and over again, then I don’t think we’re yet seeing the impact that we’re having in rates by the bill that we passed last year.”
Speaker Sprowls reference to the 18-month lag between action and reaction in the market was simply proof that our lawmakers should have taken these matters more seriously over the last three to four years when the industry was repeatedly calling for reforms before the situation reached the crisis-level it has become today.
While SB 1728 and HB 1307 above were fairly similar, the two glaring differences were allowing surplus lines companies to take policies out of Citizens Insurance and the roofing claim law changes – the Senate bill had them and the House bill did not. (Return to Top of Page)
Insurance Policies (Insurance Omnibus bill) – DID NOT PASS – SB 468 and HB 503 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) and Rep. Tommy Gregory (R-Sarasota) would have made changes to the insurance code…some minor changes and some major changes. SB 468 passed the Senate but was never taken up in the House and the House did not engage on its own HB 503, the companion bill. (Return to Top of Page)
Insolvent Insurers – PASSED – HB 1023 by Rep. Tom Fabricio amends several provisions of the Florida Insurance Code relating to the regulation and workings of our various backstop entities tasked with managing insolvent insurance companies. The bill authorizes insurers to make advance assessment payments to FIGA in quarterly installments; authorizes an insurer to forego recouping advances of assessments to FIGA; and requires insurers making assessment payments to FIGA to file reconciliation reports on a form and schedule adopted by FIGA regardless of assessment payment method. The bill awaits the Governor’s signature. (Return to Top of Page)
Property Insurer Reimbursements – PASSED – SB 1058 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) revises requirements for coverage under the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund of certain policies assumed from “unsound insurers” by authorized insurers or Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. The bill allows cat fund contract fund transfers when a company is in an “unsound condition” not just declared insolvent, making the funds available sooner. (Return to Top of Page)
Domestic Surplus Lines Insurers – DID NOT PASS – HB 951 and SB 1402 by Rep. Tommy Gregory (R-Sarasota) and Senator Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) would have changed the law governing surplus lines carriers, providing more options to consumers. It provided that the term “eligible surplus lines insurer” now include domestic surplus lines insurers; authorized specified non-admitted insurers to transact insurance as domestic surplus lines insurers; authorized domestic surplus lines insurers to write surplus lines insurance in any jurisdiction; required such insurers to be considered unauthorized insurers & non-admitted insurers for specified purposes; limited circumstances under which such insurers may write surplus lines insurance; and provided such policies are subject to specified taxes but are not subject to certain other taxes. The two comparable bills had some opposition in committee meetings because of the lack of rates and forms regulation for surplus lines insurers, the lack of guaranteed claim payout protection under the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA), and jurisdictional issues among various states’ laws governing surplus lines.
The House bill passed unanimously in its final hearing in the Commerce Committee on February 23 and never got a vote by the full House. The Senate bill passed the Senate on March 3 but was never taken up in the House. (Return to Top of Page)
Department of Financial Services (DFS) – PASSED – HB 959 by Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Broward) pertains to various administrative procedures, but tightens the rules on public adjusters; also included is a proposed change in the Department’s Legal Service of Process (LSOP) that alters when the “lawsuit notice of commencement clock starts.” The bill “requires DFS create a secure online portal as the sole means to accept service of process” and “shall promptly send a notice of receipt” to the insurance company, at which point it is valid and binding. There are measures in this bill impacting insurance agents and workers’ compensation insurance, too. The bill prohibits compensation to a public adjuster based on amounts attributable to additional living expenses unless the public adjuster and the policyholder agree to such compensation in a separate agreement that includes a specified disclosure. The bill also:
- Creates a new provision which states that compensation paid to a public adjuster may not be increased based on a claim being resolved by litigation.
- Requires that adjusting firms seeking licensure include the name and license number of the designated primary adjuster who is responsible for adjusters at each business location, and requires fingerprints for background checks of the owner(s) as well as corporate officers and directors;
- Requires that an applicant for licensure as a public adjuster must have been licensed and appointed in Florida as a non-resident public adjuster, or as an all-lines adjuster, on a continual basis, during the six months prior to application;
- Amends the definition of “public adjuster apprentice” to state that such apprentice must be employed by a public adjusting firm, rather than employed by a public adjuster;
- Requires that a $50,000 bond posted by each public adjuster apprentice remain in effect for one year after termination of the public adjuster apprentice license, and requires that the public adjusting firm provide DFS with notice of the primary adjuster who is responsible for the supervision of all adjusters at the firm’s location;
- Requires that the $50,000 bond posted by each nonresident public adjuster must remain in effect for one year following the expiration or termination of the public adjuster license, and also makes changes to comply with federal law related to the use of fingerprints in national background checks, discussed above.
You can read the final bill’s provisions in this staff analysis. The bill also adds an exemption to the examination requirement for the all-lines adjuster license; allows unaffiliated insurance agents to adjust claims without surrendering their appointments; and clarifies existing laws for title agents and agencies. (Return to Top of Page)
Fraud Prevention – PASSED – HB 749 by Rep. Chuck Clemons (R-Newberry) increases fines on public adjusters & public adjuster apprentices for certain violations under specified circumstances, including work performed during a state of emergency. The measure also requires sellers to allow consumers to cancel in specified manners & by specified means service contracts with automatic renewal provisions. It also removes provisions relating to circumstances under which investigations are considered active; revises requirements for advertisements issued or caused to be issued by service agreement companies or salespersons; revises felony violations for which prosecutions must be commenced within specified timeframe; provides that certain insurers are entitled to specified expenses at trials & appellate courts; and creates a $2,000 daily fine for insurance companies that fail to comply with a State Fire Marshall investigation. Both the House and Senate bills passed their respective first committees in mid-January, with the following provisions added to both bills:
- Expanding the existing $10,000 fine for contractors or unlicensed persons acting on their behalf who solicit or incentivize a residential property owner to file a roof damage insurance claim or receive a paid referral from insurance proceeds to $20,000 if the violations occur during a declared state of emergency.
- Entitling insurance companies that are victims of false and fraudulent insurance claims to recover investigation and litigation expenses, including attorney fees, when they have reported the possible fraud to the Department of Financial Services Division of Investigative and Forensic Services and the accused has been found guilty. This is in addition to having a cause of action in other cases to the recovery of compensatory damages, investigation and litigation expenses, including attorney fees that is already part of these bills.
- Requiring service agreement companies and salespersons to disclose their full legal name during phone solicitations and radio/television and written advertisements.
- A new section that requires development of a digital insurance verification system for licensed Florida motor vehicle drivers that can interface seamlessly to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ digital driver’s license project already in process. (Return to Top of Page)
Hurricane Impact Programs – PASSED – HB 837 by Rep. Matt Willhite (D-Wellington) will extend the state Division of Emergency Management’s hurricane loss mitigation program for 10 years. The bill directs an appropriation of $10 million a year from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund that would fund 3 programs: tie-downs or mobile homes; wind resistance mitigation for homes; and new construction and retrofits of public shelters. The bill also transfers administration and funding of the Manufactured Housing and Mobile Home Mitigation and Enhancement Program from Tallahassee Community College to Gulf Coast State College. (Return to Top of Page)
Mandatory Building Inspections – DID NOT PASS – SB 1702 was among several bills filed in the aftermath of the Champlain Towers South condominium collapse that killed 98 people in June of 2021. Although near the last of the group to be filed, legislative intelligence was such that all eyes in the condo communities and other stakeholders were on this bill as it appeared it would be the “vehicle” for condo law changes in the 2022 session. Sponsored by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) who Chairs the Community Affairs Committee, SB 1702 would have required multifamily residential building inspections statewide “to ensure that such buildings are safe for continued use.”
It would have imposed “milestone inspections” for buildings taller than three stories. Those within three miles of a coast would have been structurally inspected on their 20th anniversary and every seven years afterward; the rest on their 30th anniversary and every 10 years afterward. All those buildings opened before July 1, 1992 would have needed to have initial inspections performed by Dec. 31, 2024. Inspections would have to be performed by architects or engineers that “have a minimum of 5 years’ experience designing primary structural components of buildings and a minimum 5 years’ experience inspecting structural components of existing buildings of a similar size, scope and type of construction.”
For condominium buildings or cooperatives, copies of inspection reports would have been sent under seal to authorities and distributed to unit owners. The bill also required the Florida Building Commission to further develop structural and life-safety standards for all building types and structures by the end of this year. The bill mirrored some of the suggestions in a joint report by The Florida Engineering Society and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida, one of two reports out so far in the aftermath of the tragedy. The bill allowed local communities to establish even tighter standards.
At the bill’s first hearing in late January before her Senate Community Affairs Committee, Senator Bradley said Florida needs a minimum statewide standard so that another Champlain Towers collapse doesn’t happen again. ““We have half a million condo units in our state that are between 40 and 50 years old, more than 100,000 that are 50 years old or greater. And there is no requirement that they be inspected.”
The bill unanimously passed the Senate Rules Committee on February 23, its final stop before going before the full Senate. The bill was amended to include some of the provisions of SB 7042 below, to require condo associations conduct reserve studies to fund required building maintenance and repair. Although condo boards may waive the requirement, that decision would be part of the association’s official records. Condo boards would be allowed to assess owners for such repairs or borrow money to do so without a full vote of the owners.
SB 1702 was considered by the full Senate during the last week of session but was set aside for consideration of HB 7069, the main vehicle for reform in the House, which had been unanimously passed by the House on February 24. The House bill prohibited waiving reserve studies. The Senate approved an amendment onto HB 7069 to include some provisions that were in the Senate bill and sent it back to the House on Thursday. The House added its own amendment which included an “Alternative funding method” as an alternative to funding a reserve account. No further action was taken by either chamber and the bill died. In the end, it was reported, the Senate could not go along with a bill that would require condo residents to pay assessments for building repairs that they may not be able to afford. (Return to Top of Page)
Community Association Building Safety – DID NOT PASS – SB 7042 by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee was substantially the same and included the same milestone inspections as SB 1702 above, but included reserving requirements from the start so that high-rise condominium buildings can fund needed engineering studies, maintenance, and repair. The bill required three-story or higher condo buildings conduct a reserve study every three years and that the condo board review its reserves annually for sufficiency, along with other very specific requirements. The bill included an “alternative funding method” for a reserve account by means other than an assessment or special assessment of condo owners, including a line of credit and payments by developers offering units for sale. It also enhanced the authority of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes. The bill also stressed mandatory building maintenance, requiring the association perform any required work identified by the developer until new maintenance protocols are obtained by a licensed professional engineer or architect. The bill would have amended Chapter 718 which is condo law and Chapter 719 which is HOA law.
At the bill’s first hearing on February 1, Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) who is next in line to be Senate President, noted there are almost 1.6 million condos in Florida with nearly 106,000 that are at least 50 years old. “This problem is going to increase,” she warned the committee. There was limited public testimony and full Republican and Democrat support for the bill, which passed unanimously. The bill was never heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee, its final stop. The legislature’s proposals were the subject of a Wall Street Journal article. (Return to Top of Page)
Construction Defect Claims – DID NOT PASS – HB 583 and SB 736 by Rep. Clay Yarborough (R-Jacksonville) and Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) would require a claimant to provide written reasons for rejecting a settlement offer to remedy a defect; authorizes a supplemental offer; provides notice requirements for a supplemental offer; requires a court to stay action under certain circumstances; limits attorney fees under certain circumstances; requires certain claimants to complete repairs of construction defect within a specified time; provides requirements for payment of repairs; requires an expert to examine defect & prepare report; provides report requirements; provides for compensation of expert; provides liability; and requires certain notices of construction defects be sent to mortgagee or assignee. One provision in the bills’ earlier versions would reduce the current statute of repose for filing a lawsuit over latent defects from 10 years, to a tiered-system of one to five years, depending on the structure, in the Senate bill and to seven years in the House bill. Supporters say the measures would protect builders from frivolous lawsuits and help control rising liability insurance costs. Opponents say it would limit consumer protection over latent defects. The Florida Home Builders Association has produced this short video that bears a shocking resemblance to the same tort issues facing our property insurance market.
The Senate bill contains specific timeframes for construction of improvements, occupancy, claims and counter-claims, and inspection requirements. The statute of repose would be five years for single- and multi-family homes not over two stories and keep the current 10-year repose for all other buildings. Dissenting Senators have argued in committee meetings that a five-year window was too little time for some defects, such as faulty foundations and faulty structural components in attics and load-bearing walls, to present themselves. An amendment was adopted February 10 before a Senate floor vote that would set a seven-year repose for all improvements but allow a 10-year repose when defects have been fraudulently concealed.
The House bill reversed course at the February 8 meeting of the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee, which on an 11-5 vote, passed a committee substitute amendment that keeps in place Chapter 558 governing the alternative dispute process. It now reduces the current 10-year repose to seven years and changes the triggering event timeframe. For latent defects, the bill now calls for the clock to start 45 days after a certificate of occupancy is issued or the building permit closes, in place of current law that begins when the defect was or should have been discovered under due diligence. For material defects/violations, the bill now allows a 15-year state of repose, beginning under the same 45-day timeframe as latent defects, where it can be proven by clear and convincing evidence that the engineer, architect, or contractor knew about the violation during construction. The amended bill keeps the current four-year statute of limitations but moves to the 45-day timeframe above. Some at that committee meeting expressed their desire to return to previous version of the bill, which completely repealed Chapter 558. At its final committee stop before the Judiciary Committee on February 23, the bill was amended further to clarify timelines concerning defects discovered in common areas of homeowners or condominium associations. The latest bill analysis (pages 11-12) has the full changes to HB 583 that passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.
The House laid its own bill aside and took up the Senate bill in the last week of session, passing it last Wednesday with an added “strike-all amendment.” The bill was sent back to the Senate where it died. (Return to Top of Page)
Building Inspection Services – PASSED – HB 423 by Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) revises eligibility requirements for a building code inspector or plans examiner; revises special conditions that may be imposed on provisional certificates; authorizes partial completion of an internship program to be transferred between jurisdictions & private entities; limits the administrative fee that local jurisdiction can charge; provides certificate of occupancy or completion is automatically granted & issued; and requires a local building official to provide written certificate of occupancy or completion within specified time. (Return to Top of Page)
Consumer Data Privacy – DID NOT PASS – SB 1864 and HB 9 by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) and Rep. Fiona McFarland (R-Sarasota) would have created the “Florida Privacy Protection Act”. It would have required controllers that collect consumer personal information to provide certain information to the consumer and allow them to opt out of the sale and processing of their information by controllers. It also prohibited controllers from selling the personal information of consumers younger than 16 without their or (under 13) a parent’s consent. The House bill contained a private cause of action provision, something business interests are objecting to and that killed similar bills last session.
The House bill didn’t have its first hearing until February 10 (very late in session) and the Senate bill never received its first hearing. Highlights of the debate at the Feb. 10 House Commerce Committee (which passed the bill unanimously) saw business industry opponents warn of excessive costs of compliance and lawsuit traps, and sponsor Rep. McFarland saying that consumers value their privacy which comes with a cost of compliance. “This bill draws a line at the point where a company transitions from making money from me as the consumer and starts selling me to make money off of me,” McFarland said at the February 23 Judiciary Committee meeting. Although the House passed its bill, it was never taken up in the Senate. (Return to Top of Page)
Judicial Notice – PASSED – SB 634 by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) allows courts to accept images and other information taken from web mapping services, global satellite imaging sites, or Internet mapping tools (such as Google Maps) as evidence, so long as a date stamp is visible. The measures also provide for the authorizing parties to object to the admissibility of such information. The bill includes a provision addressing constitutional concerns related to criminal trials and specific elements of crimes that could not be proven without live testimony authenticating specific issues for criminal conviction. (Return to Top of Page)
COVID-19-related Claims – PASSED – This is one of several bills addressing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. SB 7014 from the Senate Judiciary Committee would extend current COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers for claims filed before June 1, 2023. The Senate passed the bill in mid-January on a 22-13 vote. The House was poised to take up its identical bill HB 7021 on February 9 but instead passed the Senate bill on an 87-31 vote. The Governor signed the bill into law on February 24. It extends COVID liability protections from the current expiration of March 29, 2022, to June 1, 2023. (Return to Top of Page)
Nutrient Application Rates – PASSED – SB 1000 by Senator Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) is meant to control nutrient run-off pollution from farms into streams and rivers. The bill authorizes agricultural producers to use specified recommendations to tailor nutrient application rates; requires such producers to keep certain records & to enroll in & implement certain best management practices; requires certain state universities & Florida College System institutions to recommend nutrient application rates, ranges, rate tailoring authorizations; and provides a presumption of compliance with certain requirements for agricultural producers using rate tailoring. (Return to Top of Page)
Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience – PASSED – HB 7053 by the House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee and Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera (R-Miami) augment last year’s SB 1954 that created sea-level rise and flood resiliency efforts across the state up to $100 million a year. The bill creates the Statewide Office of Resilience and mandate a State Highway System resilience action plan; augments the Resilient Florida Grant Program and amends the statute outlining the University of South Florida’s Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation; and seeks to create a searchable database of flood elevation certificates.
In 2021, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1954, which established several new programs and initiatives aimed at addressing the impacts of flooding and sea level rise on the state. To assist local governments in resilience planning, the bill created the Resilient Florida Grant Program (grant program), which authorized the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to provide grants to a city or county to fund the costs of community resilience planning. SB 1954 also directed DEP to develop a comprehensive flood vulnerability and sea level rise data set and conduct a vulnerability assessment based on the data set. In addition, the bill directed DEP to develop an annual Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan (plan), which consists of a list of ranked projects submitted by cities and counties that address risks posed by flooding and sea level rise. The plan must propose $100 million in funding and be submitted to the Legislature for approval each year. Lastly, SB 1954 established the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation. (Return to Top of Page)
Advanced Air Mobility – DID NOT PASS – SB 728 and HB 1005 by Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee and Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Mandarin) were designed to pave the way to the future of “VTOL aircraft” – vertical takeoff and landing craft. Our regular readers may remember past stories on these type of aircraft coming to Florida with More Self-Driving & Flying Cars and Flying Cars Welcome at Miami Condo. The bills would have created the Advanced Air Mobility Study Task Force adjunct to the Department of Transportation and associated administrative details, including defining the term “VTOL aircraft” and creating a report for the Governor and Legislature on this new mode of transportation that’s under continued development. The House never took up its own bill that was awaiting a floor vote nor the Senate bill that unanimously passed the Senate on February 23. (Return to Top of Page)
Motor Vehicle Glass – DID NOT PASS – SB 484 by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) (there is no corresponding House Bill to date) targets Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse in the windshield repair industry, an effort that failed to gain traction last session. The bill would prohibit motor vehicle repair shops or their employees from offering anything of value to a customer in exchange for making an insurance claim for motor vehicle glass replacement or repair, including offers made through certain persons, etc. The bill never received its first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Powers of the Florida Building Commission – DID NOT PASS – HB 771 and SB 1604 by Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) and Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) would require the Florida Building Commission to develop uniform standards for the maintenance and periodic inspection of existing building structures or facilities; provide requirements for such standards; and authorize the commission to adopt certain local rules that deviate from statewide standards. The House bill nor Senate bill ever received their first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Condominium Associations – DID NOT PASS – Another bill following the Surfside condo collapse, SB 880 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) (there is no corresponding House Bill to date), would expand the jurisdiction of DBPR in investigating complaints about condo associations. It would also revise criminal penalties on acceptance of things or services of value or kickbacks, specify acts that comprise fraudulent voting activities relating to association elections, and require an association provide an itemized list and a sworn affidavit to persons requesting to inspect records. The bill never received its first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Motor Vehicle Insurance (PIP) – DID NOT PASS – This is a perennial effort to do away with Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage under Florida’s No-Fault insurance law and replace it with bodily injury (BI) liability coverage. The primary difference between PIP and mandatory BI is that under PIP, someone injured in an auto accident seek coverage first under their own PIP policy, whereas under mandatory BI, someone injured in an auto accident would seek recovery from a responsible third-party’s (other driver’s) BI coverage.
While the legislature did pass a bill in the 2021 session, the Governor vetoed it, out of concern it could raise auto insurance rates and lead to more uninsured drivers on the road. This session, SB 150 and HB 1525 by Senators Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) and Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) and Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) are making another attempt at repealing PIP. The Senate bill has third-party bad faith reform and the House bill doesn’t – something that’s been a deal-breaker in the past. Many in the insurance industry insist that PIP repeal without bad faith reform will not reduce costs to motorists.
This session’s bills have each seen just one committee meeting and will see no more, with the effort now widely viewed as dead again for this year, as the Governor reportedly has made it clear to House Speaker Sprowls and Senate President Simpson not to send a PIP Repeal bill to him this session. Highlights of the debate include Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) calling the effort “legislative malpractice” without an updated study showing repeal will actually save motorists money as the sponsors claim, and House sponsor Rep. Grall in retort calling it “agency malpractice” for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to have released its latest study that showed rates would increase – after the legislature passed and before the Governor vetoed last year’s law. (Return to Top of Page)
Communicable and Infectious Diseases – DID NOT PASS – Citing this act as the “Sergeant Justin White Act,” SB 774 and HB 117 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-Deland) and Rep. Anika Omphroy (D-Lauderdale Lakes), the bills provide a presumption to specified workers that an impairment of health caused by COVID-19 or an infectious disease happened in the line of duty. They require certain actions in order to be entitled to the presumption and require emergency rescue or public safety workers to file an incident or accident report under certain conditions. The Senate bill nor House bill ever received their first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Insurance Coverage for At-home COVID-19 Test Kits – DID NOT PASS – SB 328 and H 129 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Miami-Dade) and Rep. Ardian Zika (R-Pasco) define the term “at-home COVID-19 test kit”; require health insurers and health maintenance organizations to provide 100 percent coverage for at-home COVID-19 test kits; and provide for expiration of the insurance coverage, among other provisions. The Senate bill nor House bill ever received their first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Telehealth – DID NOT PASS – SB 312 and HB 17 by Senator Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah) and Rep. Tom Fabricio (R-Miramar) and Rep. Mike Giallombardo (R-Cape Coral) revise the definition of the term “telehealth” and narrow the prohibition on prescribing controlled substances through telehealth to include only specified controlled substances. The Senate bill was passed unanimously by the full Senate on January 27 and was scheduled to be considered by the full House on February 9 along with the House bill, but was temporarily postponed. The only difference in the bills at this point is that the Senate version strikes a current prohibition on audio-only devices in telehealth visits, while the House version keeps the prohibition in place. Both bills were considered by the full House last week which decided to lay the House bill aside and unanimously approved the Senate bill, but with an amendment that keeps the current prohibition on audio-only telehealth visits. The bill was sent back to the Senate where it died. (Return to Top of Page)
Veterinary Telehealth – DID NOT PASS – SB 448 and HB 723 by Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) and Rep. James Buchanan (R-Sarasota) and Rep. Kristen Arrington (D-Osceola) would provide a framework for veterinary telemedicine. The measures generally authorize prescription of controlled substances under specified circumstances; revise grounds for disciplinary action against a veterinarian; and provide a supervising veterinarian assumes responsibility for person working under or at his or her supervision, among other provisions. The Senate bill was temporarily postponed twice from committee consideration in January and was not received on February 10 by the Agriculture Committee where it was scheduled to be heard. The full House unanimously passed HB 723 on February 10 and sent it to the Senate for consideration, where it has received no action to date. It appears the veterinary association and its members are still struggling with the balance between live visits and telehealth visits. Behind the scenes there are those who believe that telehealth visits are not as financially viable as office visits because veterinarians routinely recommend prescriptions during office visits and the pet owner may not be as engaged to buy those prescriptions from the veterinarian in a telehealth visit, opting to buy pet drugs online, often less expensively. If our readers are like me, the loyalty to our pet’s veterinarian is unwavering and we spend more on our pets than our mortgage! (Return to Top of Page)
Sales Tax Refunds for Building Mitigation Retrofit Improvements – DID NOT PASS – HB 863 and SB 1250 by Rep. Nick DiCeglie (R-Pinellas) and Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) would create a sales & use tax refund for homeowners who purchase building materials used for mitigation retrofit improvements, along with regulation of mitigation inspectors. This would be a win-win for Florida homeowners, to encourage them to fortify their homes and help save on future insurance premiums. The House bill nor the Senate bill ever received their first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Community Association Database – DID NOT PASS – HB 329 and SB 642 by Rep. Nicholas Duran (D-Miami-Dade) and Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Miami-Dade) require the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to establish a searchable database of condominium and homeowners’ associations’ information. This would include contact information of board members, community managers, articles of incorporation and the like, but also a copy of the annual budget and schedule of expenses and assessments. It must specify whether the association has reserve accounts for capital expenditures and deferred maintenance, and if they are fully funded. A copy of the most recent reserve study, if one has been conducted, would also be included in the database. The Senate bill was never heard, given creation of SB 7042 above in late January. The House bill never received its first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
LMA Newsletter of 3-14-22