Recap of Week 2 & Preview of Week 3 of Session
Property insurance reforms, including combating insurance fraud, continue to make good progress in the Florida Legislature as we enter the third week of the nine-week session. Lawmakers are also mindful of the next state budget they must pass for the new fiscal year July 1, even as monthly revenue estimates continue to beat forecasts in our ongoing COVID-19 recovery. More good economic news is expected today as the state releases unemployment numbers for January, with hope they’ll beat December’s 5.1% figure.
Legislative leaders and Governor DeSantis last week discussed innovative ways to fill existing budget gaps while funding one-time needed infrastructure, including the proposed mega flooding & resiliency package (see the Resilient Florida Grant Program bills below). Governor DeSantis said some of the new $8 billion in federal stimulus money going to Florida could be used to fund resiliency proposals.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Sprowls and Senate President Simpson Announced a Plan to Prevent Unexpected Tax Hikes on Florida Businesses by passing E-Fairness/Remote Sales Taxes legislation (SB 50 & HB 15) to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on Floridians’ purchases. Part of the agreement is to use the added state revenue ($1.08 billion annually) to replenish the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, which has been decimated due to rising unemployment from the pandemic..
Here is a master list of the legislative bills we’re following so far in the 60-day session (you can click the bill link to go directly to its details farther below). “New” and “Updated” bills are so noted. Updates within each bill are now noted in blue font:
Contingency Risk Multipliers
Residential Property Insurance Updated
Offers of Judgment Updated
Litigation Financing Consumer Protection
Consumer Protection Updated
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Updated
Insurance Policies Updated
Medical Expenses New
Credit for Reinsurance Updated
Civil Liability for COVID-19 Damages Updated
COVID-19-related Claims Against Health Care Providers Updated
Motor Vehicle Insurance (PIP) Updated
Demand Letters for PIP
Motor Vehicle Insurance Coverage Exclusions Updated
Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program Updated
Resilient Florida Grant Program Updated
Climate and Resiliency Task Force
Tourist and Convention Development Taxes
Telehealth Practice Standards
Construction Defects Updated
Florida Building Code
Contingency Risk Multipliers – SB 212 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) is a renewed attempt to put the brakes on a growing abuse of attorney fee awards. The bill provides that for certain attorney fees awarded for claims arising under property insurance policies, a strong presumption is created that a lodestar fee (billable hours x reasonable hourly rate) is sufficient and reasonable; and providing that such presumption may be rebutted only under certain circumstances, specifically “in a rare and exceptional circumstance with evidence that competent counsel could not be retained in a reasonable manner.” The bill passed the House last session but got hung up in the Senate. The bill awaits its first hearing. There is no identical bill in the House. (Return to Top of Page)
Residential Property Insurance – Comparable in some aspects to SB 212 is SB 76, which focuses on attorney fees and roof replacements. Sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), the bill would require a notice of intent 60 days before initiating a lawsuit. It creates a “strong presumption” for a lodestar fee (billable hours x reasonable hourly rate) but award attorney fees based on the relationship between the plaintiff demand and final judgment. If the claimant recovers at least 80%, full attorney fees would be awarded; less than 20%, then there would be no attorney fees. Judgments between 20% and 80% would merit the same proportional attorney fee. The bill also attempts to thwart neighborhood roofing canvassers trying to use insurance policies to cover normal wear-and-tear. It would require insurance companies to provide full replacement for roofs under 10 years old and establish a reimbursement schedule for older roofs based on age and type of roof to pay actual cash value. A claim would have to be filed within two years (instead of the current three) and insurance companies would have the right to request inspection and photographs prior to work commencing.
SB 76 passed by a 7-3 vote last Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and now goes to the Rules Committee, its final stop before the full Senate. Committee member Sen. Doug Broxson commented that Florida has a “hole in the Titanic” in its property insurance market. “We’ve got to take care of the hole so we don’t sink,” he said. Senator Boyd noted there were numerous examples of litigation where attorney fee awards greatly exceeded the awarded claim. Opponents say there’s only a handful of excessive awards where the multiplier was applied, but those seeking reform say it’s not the small number but rather it’s the threat of the multiplier that hangs over claim settlement discussions, driving claims costs and preventing claims resolution.
At the February 2 Banking and Insurance Committee meeting, Senator Brandes noted that 93% of claims come in after the first year of the event, with most fraud occurring in later years, with Senator Boyd saying that “two years is plenty of time to file a claim.” Both pointed to Texas and two other states that experienced these same problems and passed similar legislation to solve them. Under federal law, Boyd noted, contingency fee multipliers are awarded only in “rare and exceptional circumstances” when the lodestar fee would not have been “adequate to attract competent counsel.” Boyd said the Florida Supreme Court has not adopted the federal standard and has held there is no “rare and exceptional” circumstances requirement before a court can apply a contingency fee multiplier. “Reforming the multiplier will help consumers,” he said.
The Office of Insurance Regulation made a presentation in January showing that homeowners insurance companies will likely double their losses from 2019 to 2020. The combined ratios are above 100 for the third year in a row, with net underwriting losses in each of the past five years.
Offers of Judgment – SB 686 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) would allow parties in a lawsuit to make an exclusive offer of judgment identifying the total amount of indemnity or damages and stipulating attorney fees and costs would be determined at a later date by the parties or the court. A party serving the offer would not be required to stipulate an amount offered for attorney fees and costs; the other party would have 30 days to challenge the validity of the offer. The bill had its first hearing on February 15 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Senator Brandes chairs. There was lengthy debate on an amendment to clarify language, but the bill ultimately passed on a 6-4 vote. Committee staff prepared this updated bill analysis afterward. The bill passed 8-3 in the Banking and Insurance Committee this past Wednesday and now goes to the Rules Committee, its final stop before the full Senate. A similar bill was filed this past week in the House. HB 1533 by Rep. Fiona McFarland (R-Sarasota) differs in requiring arbitration in addition to a fee award hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Litigation Financing Consumer Protection – SB 1750 is a second attempt by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola) to create a regulatory framework for litigation financiers who provide capital to firms who take cases on contingency, similar to a “factoring” company that buys receivables and pays an upfront, discounted fee for the right to assume the receivable at full value. A similar House bill, HB 1293 by Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Stuart) was also filed last week; both await committee assignments. Senator Broxson’s bill last year never got a hearing; its counterpart in the House passed all three of its committees but was never heard by the full House and the Senate. (Return to Top of Page)
Consumer Protection – HB 717 by Rep. Chuck Clemons (R-Dixie & Gilchrist) attempts to go to the heart of insurance fraud in Florida – unlicensed and unregulated contractors. The bill prohibits unlicensed activity by an adjusting firm; prohibits a person from providing claims adjusting services unless the person meets specified requirements; and prohibits licensed contractors & subcontractors from engaging in certain activities unless licensed & compliant as public adjusters. The bill also provides disclosure requirements that insurance coverage must meet before being eligible for export under Surplus Lines Law; prohibits foreign venue clauses in property insurance policies; and provides penalties for a licensed bail bond agent or a temporary bail bond agent who knowingly engages in certain activities.
The bill also address life & health insurance lines. It authorizes regulators to disapprove use of insurance agency names containing words “Medicare” or “Medicaid” and prohibits life insurers from writing new policies of industrial life insurance beginning on a certain date. The State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee last Thursday unanimously passed the bill that now awaits its last hearing before the Commerce Committee. While not identical, a similar bill SB 1598 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) will have first hearing tomorrow at 9:30 am before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
A report released last week by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), which is Florida’s version of the federal GAO, looks at homeowners and automobile insurance fraud and unlicensed activity. The report shows that homeowners insurance fraud referrals to the Department of Financial Services (DFS) more than doubled over a five year period of 2015-2020. Yet few resulted in full investigation and even fewer in prosecution. The DFS Division of Investigative and Forensic Services reported that staffing issues affect its ability to investigate complex cases like insurance fraud. One in five investigator positions are vacant statewide with higher vacancies in metro areas that have higher number of fraud referrals. OPPAGA made a presentation to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 1, which you can read more about here. (Return to Top of Page)
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation – SB 1574 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) seeks to bring a more market-oriented approach to the state’s taxpayer-backed insurer of last resort in the face of reverse migration of policies back into Citizens over the past two years. The bill would revise the method for determining the amounts of potential surcharges to be levied against policyholders under certain circumstances; specify a limit for agent commission rates; and provide that eligible surplus lines insurers may participate, in the same manner and on the same terms as an authorized insurer, in depopulation, take-out, or keep-out programs relating to policies removed from Citizens. It would also authorize information from underwriting files and confidential claims files to be released by the corporation to specified entities considering writing or underwriting risks insured by the corporation under certain circumstances. The bill will have first hearing tomorrow at 9:30 am before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. There is no identical House bill. (Return to Top of Page)
Insurance Policies – SB 742 is an omnibus bill that seeks to fix a number of issues in insurance law and regulation. The bill, sponsored by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) would redefine “covered policy” under the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund in relation to certain collateral protection insurance policies; specify when service of process is valid and binding upon insurers; specify the entities that must receive requests for loss run statements; limit loss run statement requests with respect to group health insurance policies to group policyholders; and authorize, rather than require, rate filings for certain residential property insurance to include certain rate factors.
The bill also touches on mitigation and flood insurance. It authorizes insurers to file rating plans based on windstorm mitigation construction standards and authorizes them to require policyholders provide evidence of compliance with mitigation standards under certain conditions. It authorizes residential property insurers to file rating plans that provide certain windstorm mitigation premium discounts, credits and rate differentials; authorizes surplus lines agents to export flood coverage contracts or endorsements to surplus lines insurers without making certain diligent efforts; and redefines the term “assignment agreement” to include scopes of service & property inspection.
It has an identical bill in the House, HB 815 by Rep. Tommy Gregory (R-Bradenton). Last week both bills were amended with the resulting Committee Substitutes. SB 742 passed the Banking and Insurance Committee last Wednesday on a 9-2 vote and now goes to the Judiciary Committee, its second of three stops. HB 815 unanimously passed the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and now goes to the State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, its second of three stops.
On the property insurance side, the bills clarify that only laws and ordinances enacted on or before the date of a loss are applicable to a particular loss. The trial bar objected to this provision, but a legacy carrier argued it was necessary to make sure any changes in building codes after a hurricane weren’t applied retroactively, forcing insurance companies to pay more for a claim.
Other property insurance changes include:
- Allowing an insurance agent to export a flood insurance policy or endorsement to a surplus lines insurer without first making a diligent effort to seek coverage from three or more authorized insurance companies
- Providing that s. 627.7152 F.S. governing assignment agreements, applies to instruments that assign or transfer post-loss benefits to a service provider that provides scopes of service or inspection services. It also clarifies fees charged by a public adjuster are not included.
- Eliminating mandatory use of the Building Code Effectiveness Scale in residential rate filings
- Authorizing an insurance company to use IBHS or other windstorm construction standards developed by an independent nonprofit scientific research organization when filing premium discounts, credits, and other rate reductions.
- Authorizing an insurance company to require a policyholder who is building or retrofitting a structure to show compliance with windstorm mitigation standards before receiving premium discounts, credits, or rate reductions
- Allowing a rate filing to include a modeling indication that is either a weighted or straight average of two or more models
- Requiring the Florida CAT Fund to reimburse for losses under collateral protection insurance that are equal to the amount of coverage under a lapsed homeowners policy
(Return to Top of Page)
(NEW) Medical Expenses – SB 846 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) is another legal reform bill that would require evidence of medical expenses in personal injury claims be based on the usual and customary charges for such treatment or the amount covered by the claimant’s health insurance and their share of expenses under insurance. Supporters say it will reduce the practice of inflating medical expenses in an attempt to obtain multi-million-dollar payouts for plaintiff attorneys. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last Tuesday on a 7-3 vote and now goes to the Health Policy Committee, its second of three stops. A similar bill, HB 561 by Rep. Randy Maggard (R-Pasco) is awaiting its first hearing before the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee. (Return to Top of Page)
Credit for Reinsurance – SB 728 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola) and the identical bill HB 733 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) adopt provisions of the NAIC Credit for Reinsurance Model Law, which is based on negotiations between U.S, EU, and UK regulators. It eliminates additional collateral requirements for reinsurers if the reinsurer is domiciled in a “reciprocal jurisdiction.” Capital and surplus requirements and solvency or capital ratio requirements would be determined by administrative rule. The bill requires the assuming insurer to notify the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) if it falls below minimum requirements and agree to be bound by the jurisdiction of Florida courts and pay all final judgments. There are also OIR reporting requirements. You can read the bill analysis here. The House bill has been fast-tracked and unanimously passed its second hearing in the State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee last Tuesday and is scheduled to go before the Commerce Committee tomorrow at 3:45 pm, its last stop before going to the House floor. The Senate bill is awaiting a hearing before the Rules Committee, its last stop before going to the Senate floor. (Return to Top of Page)
Civil Liability for COVID-19 Damages ̶ HB 7 by Rep. Lawrence McClure (R-Plant City) and SB 72 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) are meant to provide businesses and institutions civil immunity from lawsuits so long as they acted in good faith to substantially comply in following coronavirus health precautions. The bills provide requirements for a civil action based on a COVID-19-related claim; provide that the plaintiff has the burden of proof in such action; and provide a statute of limitations, severability, and retroactive applicability. The bills also require a finding of gross negligence and apply a tougher clear and convincing evidence standard. Both bills originally excluded healthcare providers, which are addressed instead in SB 74 & HB 7005 (see next Bill Watch item).
Both SB 72 and SB 74 (related to claims against health care providers) went before the Senate Rules Committee last Thursday. The Committee approved Senator Brandes’ request that SB 74 be amended onto SB 72, creating one bill that provides liability protection for both types of businesses and individuals, and then passed the measure on a 10-5 vote. It’s now headed to the full Senate. Brandes, one of the best strategists when it comes to Senate rules and moving bills through the entire legislature, was successful in combining the bills saying, “It’s easier to defend one fortress than to guard two.” Brandes explained that combining the similar bills made sense by streamlining negotiations with the House and would improve the passage probability of both bills. A series of proposed amendments to the combined bill offered by Democratic members failed.
The full House passed HB 7 on March 5 on a bipartisan 83-31 vote. Before the vote, Rep. McClure asked his fellow lawmakers to “help me defend Florida businesses,” while other supporters stressed it was “about protecting jobs,” by inoculating against frivolous lawsuits. Opponents argued there were few lawsuits now and questioned why the bill is needed, saying it creates “blanket immunity” for businesses.
The House and Senate bills were identical when first filed, but are now different. The House bill provides that in cases where existing multiple health guidelines exist, a business would need show only that it substantially complied with one of them. There have been suggestions that this provision be added to the Senate bill. Past efforts on the Senate bill to strike the gross negligence, and the clear and convincing evidence standards have failed, along with the current provision that if a judge determines the defendant made a good-faith effort to comply with health standards, the lawsuit couldn’t proceed. (Return to Top of Page)
COVID-19-related Claims Against Health Care Providers ̶ With Senator Brandes’ SB 74 now part of SB 72 above, only the Florida House, with HB 7005, has a bifurcated approach to COVID litigation protection. The bill does for healthcare workers and facilities what House Bill 7 (see above) does for businesses and organizations: protect them from liability lawsuits relating to the coronavirus so long as government-issued health standards were substantially and properly followed. The bill provides preliminary procedures for civil actions based on COVID-19-related claims; provides the standard of proof required at trial for such claims (gross negligence or intentional misconduct, instead of simply negligence); provides immunity from liability for COVID-19-related claims under certain circumstances, such as unavailability of personnel or supplies; and requires COVID-19-related claims to commence within a specified timeframe, among other things. It’s sponsored by the House Health and Human Services Committee and its Chair Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland)
The House Judiciary Committee this past Wednesday voted 15-5 to pass HB 7005, clearing the way for the bill to go to the House floor. The House and Senate bills regarding health care providers have some key differences. The Senate bill, the newly combined SB 72, covers lawsuits for injuries that occur up to a year after the end of a declared state or federal health emergency and is seen as broader in the types of liability claims that would be limited. It also provides immunity if “supplies, materials, equipment, or personnel necessary to comply with the applicable government-issued health standards or guidance at issue were not readily available or were not available at a reasonable cost.”
The House bill reduces the statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims involving COVID from two years to one year; has an added good faith provision allowing judges to make the call whether defendants were immune from liability; and has a sunset provision one year and a day after becoming effective. Like HB 7 for regular businesses and organizations (see above Bill Watch item), this bill also requires a plaintiff – for non-medical negligence claims against healthcare providers – have a signed affidavit from a physician attesting COVID transmission came from the defendant before filing suit.
An early March poll by Mason-Dixon and Florida TaxWatch found that 74% of those surveyed say healthcare providers that act in good faith during the pandemic should have lawsuit protection (18% opposed) and 72% agreed that same protection should apply to regular businesses and organizations (20% opposed). (Return to Top of Page)
Motor Vehicle Insurance (PIP) ̶ 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. Similar bills failed the last several sessions. SB 54 by Senator Danny Burgess (R- Zephyrhills) would replace the current $10,000 in PIP which covers anyone’s medical bills in an accident and replace it with BI coverage for those other than the driver, with a minimum amount of $25,000 for one injury/death and $50,000 for two or more injuries/deaths. It passed the Banking and Insurance Committee on January 26 where a bad faith amendment was added that would establish standards for third-party claimants. A dispute between the Senate and House about such bad faith provisions sank last year’s effort.
SB 54 went before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 15 which passed the bill with the following changes:
- Low-income motorists and students would be offered reduced coverage of $15,000 for one injury/death and $30,000 for two injuries/deaths.
- Insurance companies would be allowed to offer policies with deductibles up to $200 for windshield repairs, as a disincentive to some auto-glass businesses that offer free gift cards to motorists who agree to questionable repairs and replacements.
This past Thursday the Senate Rules Committee passed the measure on a 12-3 vote, sending it now to the full Senate for consideration.
This year’s House bill HB 719 by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) is similar to SB 54 but like last year’s bill, it has no bad faith provision. It has a bunch of other measures, including revising garage liability insurance requirements, requirements on transportation network companies such as Uber and their drivers and vehicle owners, as well as financial responsibility requirements for owners or lessees of for-hire passenger transportation vehicles. The bill was passed unanimously last Wednesday by the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee, its first of three committee stops. The bill was amended to require that medical payments coverage must be offered with no deductible. Critics contend that without bad faith reform, repealing PIP could lead to higher costs for consumers and increased litigation.
In late February, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation issued a report at the request of the Commerce Committee, noting that auto premiums continue to increase across all coverages in Florida. The report includes additional information on the potential impact that changes to PIP could have on premiums. (Return to Top of Page)
Demand Letters for PIP ̶ HB 237 by Rep. Keith Truenow (R-Tavares) requires written notice of intent to initiate litigation for relief related to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. It also revises requirements for demand letter for PIP benefits and prohibits actions by & prosecutions on behalf of claimants unless certain requirements are met. The bill awaits its first hearing. There is no identical Senate bill. (Return to Top of Page)
Motor Vehicle Insurance Coverage Exclusions ̶ HB 273 by Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) creates a named driver exclusion. It provides private passenger motor vehicle policies may exclude identified individuals from specified coverages and provides exceptions. The bill is awaiting a hearing before the House Commerce Committee, its second and last stop. It has an identical Senate companion in SB 420 by Senator Hooper, which passed unanimously in the Judiciary Committee last Tuesday. It awaits a final stop in the Rules Committee. (Return to Top of Page)
Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program – SB 168 by Senator Ed Hooper (R- Pinellas) continues a controversial program that while on its face appears to “harden” mobile homes from the threat of hurricanes, it has been questioned by many mitigation experts who have said the effectiveness of the $2 million annual program is doubtful. We will keep a close eye on this bill in hopes the legislature will ask for concrete data to show the results of this appropriation post Hurricane Irma. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Community Affairs Committee and now awaits its last stop before the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill, HB 423, by Rep. Kaylee Tuck (R-Sebring) is awaiting a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, its third of four committee stops. (Return to Top of Page)
Resiliency ̶ SB 514 by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Lee) establishes the Statewide Office of Resiliency within the Governor’s Office. It also creates the Statewide Sea-Level Rise Task Force within the resiliency office and authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to contract for specified services, upon request of the task force. It also requires the Environmental Regulation Commission to take certain action on the task force’s recommendations. This bill contains an appropriation of $500,000. A similar proposal passed the Senate in 2020 but failed to get through House committees. The bill passed the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee unanimously on February 15 and awaits its second stop before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government. An identical House companion in HB 315 is awaiting its first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Resilient Florida Grant Program – The House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee last Monday heard its own Proposed Committee Bill PCB EAF 21-01 and unanimously passed it as HB 7019. The committee also unanimously passed PCB EAF 21-02, which is now HB 7021, which provides the funding for HB 7019. Both bills are sponsored by Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera (R-Miami). They are at the heart of House Speaker Chris Sprowls’ commitment to combat sea-level rise that spans several legislative bills he’s named the “Always Ready” plan. It follows the Governor’s previous announcement that he’d like to spend $1 billion over the next four years on resiliency projects. The bill recognizes that Florida “is particularly vulnerable to adverse impacts from flooding resulting from increases in frequency and duration of rainfall events, storm surge, and sea level rise…that pose economic, social, environmental, and public health and safety challenges to the state.”
HB 7019 would establish the Resilient Florida Grant Program within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and set-aside up to $100 million a year by 2022-2023 for local governments to mitigate effects of rising sea levels through community resilience planning. It also requires the DEP to:
- Complete a comprehensive statewide flood vulnerability and sea level rise data set and assessment;
- Develop a three-year Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan and annually submit the plan to the Governor and Legislature;
- Require water management districts to annually submit proposed projects and their requirements to DEP for inclusion in the plan; and
- Require DEP to implement a scoring system for assessing those projects.
The bill also requires the Legislature to review and approve funding for projects, subject to appropriation; authorizes local governments to create regional resilience coalitions to be funded by DEP; and establishes the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation within the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. The hub would be required to submit an annual report to the Governor and Legislature. The Office of Economic and Demographic Research would also be required to include specified information relating to inland and coastal flood control in certain assessments & analysis it performs.
HB 7021 establishes the Resilient Florida Trust Fund within DEP to fund the Resilient Florida Grant Program and the Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan and all of the parts above.
“We are a low-lying state surrounded by water on three sides, and that water is flowing into places it shouldn’t. Flooding is a real threat to people’s homes, businesses and livelihoods,” said Speaker Sprowls in a news release following passage of the two bills. “The success of our state is inextricably connected to the proper management of water.”
Then on Thursday, the two bills received unanimous support from the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. The bills are now headed to their final stop in the State Affairs Committee. Rep. Cabrera explained to the committee that “The effects of flooding are felt all across the state in both coastal and inland communities, and we must address these threats using a coordinated statewide approach, and these bills do just that.” Rep. Cabrera said she’d work with committee members who expressed concern about smaller, budget-constrained communities that may not be able to match the funding bill’s required 50% cost-share threshold.
Governor DeSantis last week suggested that some of the new federal stimulus plan money going to Florida could be used to fund these resiliency proposals. Florida is reportedly set to receive about $8 billion in stimulus money.
On the Senate side, a similar bill, SB 1954 by Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-Ft. Myers) will have its first hearing at 3:30 pm today before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. (Return to Top of Page)
Climate and Resiliency Task Force – HB 1623 by Rep. Ben Diamond (D-Pinellas) establishes a Climate & Resiliency Task Force to be headed by the Florida Insurance Commissioner to consider the impact of climate change on the state’s insurance market. This is an exciting development in furtherance of much-needed flood protection and expanded insurance coverage. The Task Force would identify protection gaps in the state’s insurance market and assess and recommend risk-transfer mechanisms and other approaches for reducing, managing, and mitigating climate-related risk. Per the bill, the Task Force “shall consider mechanisms that improve access to affordable property and flood insurance for all residents of the state; apply technology and innovation to the mitigation of climate-related risks; encourage investment in natural infrastructure to reduce climate-related risks to communities; mitigate the effects of extreme heat on agriculture and other businesses throughout the state; and provide coverage for additional living expenses relating to flood damage.” The Task Force would produce a report every two years to the Governor, Cabinet, & Legislature. The bill was filed March 2 and awaits its first hearing in the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. A similar Senate bill, SB 1872 by Senator Darryl Rouson (D-Hillsborough & Pinellas), was filed two days later and awaits its first hearing before the Banking and Insurance Committee. (Return to Top of Page)
Tourist and Convention Development Taxes – SB 2008 by Senator Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah) would make it easier for local governments to fund flood mitigation projects. It authorizes a county to impose both a tourist development tax and convention development tax to finance flood mitigation projects or improvements, and specifies that certain taxing authority expires 5 years after the date the authority was approved in an election. The bill also expands funding capacity by deleting a provision requiring an extraordinary vote of a governing board for a county or sub-county special taxing district to increase its tourist development taxes. It awaits its first hearing in the Community Affairs Committee. A similar HB 1429 has been filed in the House by Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Miami Springs) and awaits its first hearing before the House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee. (Return to Top of Page)
Telehealth Practice Standards – HB 247 by Rep. Tom Fabricio (R-Hialeah) and Rep. Mike Giallombardo (R-Cape Coral) revises the definition of “telehealth” and would allow providers to prescribe controlled substances during telehealth visits. It and an identical Senate bill, SB 660 by Senator Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah) await their first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Telehealth – SB 700 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) would require the Agency for Health Care Administration to reimburse the use of telehealth services under certain circumstances and with certain limitations; authorize telehealth providers to prescribe specified controlled substances under certain circumstances; authorize out-of-state physician telehealth providers to engage in formal supervisory relationships with certain non-physician health care practitioners in this state; authorize registered pharmacy technicians to compound and dispense medicinal drugs under certain circumstances; and exempt certain registered pharmacy technicians from specified prohibitions. The bill passed unanimously on February 17 in the Senate Health Policy Committee. It now awaits a hearing in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, its second of three stops. House bill HB 247 (above) is considered comparable for requiring similar AHCA reimbursement. (Return to Top of Page)
Construction Defects – SB 270 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) revises and expands the mandatory procedures governing how construction defects disputes are resolved. The bill would define the term “material violation” in a warranty and require that a person submit a construction defect claim to the warranty provider before bringing a cause of action; require that a claimant submit a construction defect claim to the warranty provider before serving a notice of claim; authorize a person served with a copy of a notice of claim to perform a reasonable inspection of the property subject to the claim; require, instead of authorize, a person served with a notice to serve a copy of the notice to specified persons under certain circumstances, among other changes. You can read the bill analysis here. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 15 on a 9-1 vote and awaits a hearing in the Community Affairs Committee, it’s second of three stops.
In the House, a similar bill, HB 21 by Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) would also require a claimant to notify a mortgagee or assignee within a specified timeframe after settlement. You can read the bill analysis here. The bill barely passed the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee last Monday on a 9-8 vote. It had narrowly passed the Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee on a 10-8 vote on February 17. (Return to Top of Page)
Florida Building Code – HB 401 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) exempts assisted living facilities from compliance with rules relating to lifeguard standards; authorizes substantially affected person to file petition with the Florida Building Commission to review local government regulations and provides requirements for such petition; provides requirements for the commission when considering petition; requires the commission to issue nonbinding advisory opinion within a specified timeframe; authorizes the commission to issue errata to code; prohibits local government from requiring certain contracts for issuance of building permit; and requires evaluation entities that meet certain criteria to comply with certain standards. The bill was passed unanimously on March 2 by the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee and awaits its next hearing before the Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. An identical Senate Bill SB 1146 by Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) is awaiting its first committee hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
LMA Newsletter of 3-15-21