Recap of Week 1 & Preview of Week 2 of Session
Tort reform bills in both chambers of the Florida Legislature are still undergoing negotiation and change in an effort to fix Florida’s “toxic lawsuit environment” by reducing nonessential lawsuits while maintaining civil justice. The Senate’s bill saw changes made last week in premises liability with some legislators – including Republicans – expressing concern about limits on bad faith claims. The House bill saw significant changes made in medical damages, insurance bad faith, and re-inserting one-way attorney fees in limited situations. Details are below in the Civil Remedies bill. A hearing resumes tomorrow in the Senate while the full House could take up its bill later this week.
Week one of the nine-week legislative session kicked-off last Tuesday with Governor DeSantis’ State of the State address. The Governor told a joint session of the legislature that he’d “swing for the fences” on issues of abortion restrictions, immigration, concealed carry of firearms, and further tort reform, beyond reforms passed in the May and December 2022 special sessions. He also highlighted major spending proposals in his previously released “Framework for Freedom” budget for legislative consideration.
House Speaker Paul Renner in his address to the House, expressed support for many of the Governor’s priorities, including tort reform. Renner said he wants to expand school choice and ease the transition from welfare to workforce programs.
“No family should ever have to choose between a pay raise and their children’s health care, so we will make it easier for moms and dads to move from welfare to work and on the way to their American Dream,” he said.
Speaker Renner also said he’ll back Senate President Kathleen Passidomo’s afforable housing plan and expansion of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. President Passidomo, in her address to the Senate, also supported the Governor’s initiatives, including tort reform, urging Senators to “show America how it’s done,” mentioning the affordable housing plan and the wildlife corridor that stretches from the Keys to the Panhandle.
“Expanding access to the corridor will enable Floridians to walk run and bike through it,” she said. “I believe this will be Florida’s Central Park and it will be a legacy we can be proud to leave for future generations of Floridians and visitors.”
Here is a master list of the legislative bills we’re following so far. You can click the bill link in the list below to go directly to the bill and its details farther below. “New” and “Updated” bills are so noted. Updates within each bill are noted in blue font:
Insurance (property) Updated
Surplus Requirements for Residential Property Insurers Updated
Insurance Claims Updated
Financial Services Updated
Property Insurance Updated
Motor Vehicle Liability Policies Updated
Motor Vehicle Insurance
Commercial Vehicle Insurance
Post-lost Benefit Assignments Under Motor Vehicle Insurance Policies Updated
Civil Remedies Updated
Civil Remedies for Unlawful Employment Practices
Litigation Financing Consumer Protection Updated
Consumer Protection Updated
Emergency Residential Property Insurance Assistance Trust Fund Updated
Contacting Consumer Debtors
Home Repairs and Solicitation Sales
Collateral Protection Insurance on Real Property Updated
Natural Emergencies Updated
Causes of Action Based on Improvements to Real Property Updated
Condominium and Cooperative Associations Updated
Flood Damage Prevention Updated
My Safe Florida Home Program Updated
Limitation of Actions Involving Real Estate Appraisers and Appraisal Management Companies Updated
Flood Disclosures for Real Property Sales
Flood Zone Disclosures for Dwelling Units Updated
Implementation of the Recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force Updated
Access to Pharmacies and Prescription Drugs Under Insurance and Pharmacy Benefit Managers Policies
Health Insurance Cost Sharing
Telehealth Practice Standards Updated
Physician Certifications for the Medical Use of Marijuana Updated
- Allows the recovery of extra-contractual damages for common law bad faith;
- Provides that automobile insurance companies also writing homeowners insurance may not continue to write in Florida unless at least 5% of their total policy count in the state is homeowners insurance policies;
- Requires new domestic residential property insurance companies to have a surplus of at least $30 million;
- Requires the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) to conduct market conduct exams after a hurricane under certain conditions;
- Requires the OIR to publish litigation data from 2021, 2022, and 2023 on its website;
- Requires Citizens Insurance to file litigation data with the Legislature each year;
- Removes the requirement that a Citizens Insurance policyholder must prove water damage was not caused by flood;
- Requires the Insurance Consumer Advocate to prepare an annual report analyzing rate filings involving a rate increase request and summarizing the grounds upon which the increase was approved;
- Provides that an admitted or surplus lines insurance company writing homeowners or commercial property insurance may not cancel or nonrenew a policy during a pending claim;
- Requires insurance companies to provide certain adjuster and engineer reports to the policyholder within 10 days after receipt and prohibits companies from imposing an additional premium because of a filed a claim, except under specific circumstances;
- Limits the ability of insurance companies to cancel coverage, require additional repairs, or increase the policy premium for the first contract year once a binder is issued;
- Provides that if a roof deductible is applied, no other deductible may be applied to any other loss caused by the same peril and requires 48 hours’ notice to a homeowner before an inspection of a homeowner’s residential property;
- Provides that repeated violations of the 90-day pay or deny rule is an unfair trade practice and that the claim filing deadlines in 627.70132 are tolled during the period of active duty for a policyholder in active military service; and
- Requires that a policyholder must agree to appraisal, that appraisal must be invoked within 30 days after presentation of a dispute, and that appraisal may not be invoked after the filing of a lawsuit.
SB 1340 has been referred to the Senate Banking and Insurance, Judiciary and Fiscal Policy Committees. HB 1431 is now awaiting its first hearing in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. (Return to Top of List)
Surplus Requirements for Residential Property Insurers – SB 1528 and HB 1431 by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) and Rep. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) increases surplus requirements from the current $15 million to $20 million for new property insurance companies entering the Florida market. Also, beginning July 1, 2030, and every 5 years after, the minimum surplus requirement must be increased by $5 million. SB 1528 has been assigned to the Senate Banking and Insurance and Rules Committees, and its companion HB 1431 is now awaiting its first hearing in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. (Return to Top of List)
Insurance Claims – SB 1662 and newly filed HB 1497 by Senator Erin Grall (R-Fort Pierce) and Representative Jeff Holcomb (R-Spring Hill) requires the Office of Insurance Regulation to consider the recovery of funds under specified provisions in reviewing an insurance company’s rates. The bill also requires insurance companies to report the recovered funds under specified provisions and requires that a policyholder’s payment of a deductible or copayment is not a condition of a carrier’s claim payment. SB 1662 has been referred to the Senate Insurance and Banking, Judiciary, and Rules Committees, and its companion HB 1497 has been referred to the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and Commerce Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Financial Services ̶ HB 487 and SB 1158 by Rep. Michelle Salzman (R-Cantonment) by Senator Nick DiCeglie (R-St. Petersburg) is the Department of Financial Services (DFS) annual omnibus bill which covers a myriad of topics under the jurisdiction of DFS, as well as the inner workings of the department itself. Some highlights include:
- References reinsurance, adjusters, insurance agents, bail bond agencies, and the Workers’ Comp Guaranty Association and the Worker’s Comp Health Care Provider Reimbursement Manual;
- Changes treatment of receiverships;
- Allows the DFS Division of Investigative and Forensic Services to initiate its own investigations (and not just conduct them);
- Gives the CFO (Jimmy Patronis)) several new powers, including the ability to remove members of boards and associations, including a reference to the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, with a focus on ethics;
- Adds a “misdemeanor directly related to the financial services business” for those who pled guilty or no contest as reason now for DFS to deny an application, suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a license or appointment; and
- Adds to the grounds for DFS’s discretionary refusal, suspension, or revocation of license or appointment of sales representatives the “[f]ailure to report to the department within 30 days the final disposition of an administrative action taken against a salesperson by a governmental agency or other regulatory agency in this state or any other state or jurisdiction relating to the business of insurance, the sale of securities, or an activity involving fraud, dishonesty, trustworthiness, or breach of a fiduciary duty. The sales representative must submit a copy of the order, consent to order, or other relevant legal documents to the department.”
The house bill is still awaiting its first hearing in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. The Senate bill awaits its first hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Property Insurance ̶ HB 505 and SB 418 by Rep. Kim Berfield (R-Clearwater) and Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) revises requirements for residential property insurance rate filings. The bill allows a residential property insurer’s rate filing to estimate projected hurricane losses by using a weighted or straight average of two or more models approved by the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology. The bill authorizes insurance companies to file with OIR their personal lines rating plans relating to windstorm mitigation construction standards and allows premium discounts and credits on residential property lines for windstorm mitigation measures. The bill also revises the timeframe for notices from carriers to policyholders of automatic bank withdrawal increases, and revises requirements for notice of certain automobile policies. It also authorizes the state Division of Emergency Management Director to appoint a designee to serve on the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology. HB 505 was passed by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee with no debate or questions as a Committee Substitute on March 9. The amendment that was adopted provided the following changes to the bill:
- Allows the Executive Director of Citizens Property Insurance to designate a person to serve on the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology in the executive director’s place. The designee must be a full-time employee with either actuarial science experience or senior operations management experience,
- Allows the electronic delivery of health insurance policy documents and removes requirements regarding paper insurance policy documents, and
- Allows policyholders to type their intent to decline wind and contents coverage in their property insurance policies, rather than requiring them to write it in their own hand, as currently required.
SB 418 unanimously passed in the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Subcommittee on March 7 with an amendment. Senator Pizzo echoed Senator Torres’ concerns from the bill’s stop in the Senate Banking and Insurance committee, addressing the confirmation process for electronic notices. While Senator Perry still did not have a clear answer on confirmation methods, Senator Pizzo recommended the option for an acknowledgement receipt, button, or docusign on the customer’s portal, noting that he doesn’t always check his emails so there should be something that proves the receipt has at least been opened by the consumer. The adopted amendment made the following changes:
- Provides that if the Director of the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation provides a designee to serve on the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology, the designee must have actuarial science experience; and
- Removes the 10% and 15% policy deductibles for properties valued at $1 million and greater, and provides a policy covering a risk with dwelling limits of:
- $250,000 or more, but less than $1 million, the insurance company need not offer the $500 hurricane deductible;
- $1 million or more, but less than $3 million, the insurance company may, in lieu of offering the $500 and 2% deductible, offer a deductible amount applicable to hurricane losses equal to 3% of the policy dwelling limits; and
- $3 million or more, the insurance company need not offer the $500 or 2% deductibles.
HB 505 is now in the State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, one of two remaining committee stops, and SB 418 is now in the Rules Committee, its last stop before the full Senate. (Return to Top of List)
Motor Vehicle Liability Policies ̶ HB 57 and SB 516 by Rep. Keith Truenow (R-Tavares) and Senator Nick DiCeglie (R-St. Petersburg) revises the definition of “motor vehicle liability policy” to include certain policies issued by specified risk retention groups and further defines those groups as being “A”-rated and providing only commercial coverage for its members. The House bill passed unanimously on Feb. 14 in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. Rep. Stevenson inquired about insolvency measures, but was informed that the companies affected by the bill have an incredibly high capital access and insolvency will likely never happen. The bill is awaiting scheduling in the House Commerce Committee, its last stop before the full House. The Senate bill is scheduled to have its first hearing Wednesday (March 15) at 1pm in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Motor Vehicle Insurance ̶ HB 429 and SB 586 by Rep. Danny Alvarez (R-Brandon) and Senator Erin Grall (R-Fort Pierce) 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. The House bill is still awaiting its first hearing in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. The Senate bill is still awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Commercial Vehicle Insurance ̶ SB 434 by Senator Tom Wright (R-Port Orange) revises liability insurance requirements for movers’ commercial motor vehicles and revises additional liability insurance requirements for commercial motor vehicles, providing an exception and a requirement for wreckers. The bill currently has no House companion and is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Post-lost Benefit Assignments Under Motor Vehicle Insurance Policies ̶ HB 541 and SB 1002 by Rep. Griff Griffitts (R-Panama City) by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) and Senator Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor) bars vehicle insurance policyholders from entering into Assignment of Benefits (AOB) contracts with repair shops. Specifically, it would prohibit policyholders from entering into such agreements starting with policies issued on or after July 1, 2023. “Any attempt by a policy owner to enter into such assignment agreement is void and unenforceable,” the legislation reads. The House bill was converted to a proposed committee substitute this past Friday and is scheduled to have its first hearing tomorrow (March 14) in the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. The Senate bill is scheduled to have its first hearing on Wednesday (March 15) at 1pm before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, its first of three committee stops. (Return to Top of List)
Civil Remedies ̶ HB 837 and SB 236 by Reps. Tommy Gregory (R-Lakewood Ranch) and Tom Fabricio (R-Miami-Dade) and Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast), pick-up where the December 2022 special session on insurance market reforms left off, by eliminating one-way attorney fees in all lines of insurance – not just property insurance. The bill also makes other significant changes to reduce excessive litigation and resulting costs to insurance consumers, including the following:
- Ends contingency fee multipliers and adopts the lodestar method of calculating attorney fees based on reasonable time and rate;
- Establishes a uniform process for the admissibility of evidence and the calculation of medical damages in personal injury or wrongful death actions, and it prohibits damages from including any inflated amount above the amounts actually paid for services rendered, regardless of the source of payment;
- Modifies comparative fault, by requiring that if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, they cannot recover damages in a lawsuit. This adopts the standard used in most states;
- Provides a “safe harbor” for bad faith claims by precluding the filing of suit if the insurer pays damages or rectifies violations within 60 days of being notified; adds sections of law that say “negligence alone is insufficient to constitute bad faith” and that people who are insured and their representatives “have a duty to act in good faith in furnishing information regarding the claim, in making demands of the insurer, in setting deadlines, and in attempting to settle the claim.”; reduces multi-claimant exposures on bad faith by permitting interpleader and arbitration rulings; clarifies that punitive damages will not be awarded unless there is a general business practice of acts that are either willful, wanton, or malicious or in reckless disregard of an insured rights; clarifies there’s no class actions; and clarifies there’s no double recoveries under statute or common law.
- Requires the disclosure of and procedure for use of Letters of Protection from plaintiff attorneys to medical providers, guaranteeing payment of a client’s medical expenses from a future lawsuit settlement or verdict award;
- Ends the attorney-client communication privilege from referrals of clients to treating physicians.
During the House Judiciary Subcommittee meeting of March 8, an amendment was adopted that made the following updates:
- Clarified that the safe harbor applies for any bad faith claim involving a liability insurance claim.
- Changed the 90-day cure period to a 120-day cure period and provide that such cure period runs from the time the insurance carrier receives actual notice of a claim which is accompanied by sufficient evidence to support the amount of the claim.
- Allowed an additional 120 days for a plaintiff to file suit if the carrier does not take advantage of the 120-day safe harbor.
- Provided that the carrier’s failure to offer payment under the safe harbor is not bad faith and is inadmissible as evidence to establish bad faith.
- Removed the application of the comparative negligence section to medical malpractice cases.
- Changed the section of the bill relating to transparency in damages.
- Re-inserted the one-way attorney fee provisions but limited the application of such provisions to situations where the carrier denied coverage and the plaintiff prevailed in a declaratory action; and limited the application of the recovery of fees to fees relating to a declaratory judgment action to determine insurance coverage.
- Provided a safe harbor in a negligent security action for an owner, lessor, operator, or manager of commercial or real property who substantially complies with enumerated security standards.
- Required the Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute within the Department of Legal Affairs to develop a curriculum of best practices for property owners.
- Clarified that a property owner is not liable for negligence when a person who commits a criminal act on the property is injured.
The House Judiciary Committee voted HB 837 favorably on a 16-8 vote, with Republican Rep. Stark joining the 7 Democrats in opposition. This was the bill’s last committee stop before the full House vote. Representative Tramont, citing his experience as a pastor, expressed his support of the bill to his peers and audience saying, “There is not a lack of compassion. This bill is doing as it’s intended. It’s helping the little guy, the paycheck-to-paycheck families like myself,” adding that the bill is long overdue. Some of the bill’s opposition came from Representatives Hinson, Chambliss, and Arrington, as they expressed concerns with the constitutional access to courts, the impact of higher evidentiary standards on indigent plaintiffs, and attorney fees collections, all perceived unjust burdens on injured Floridians. Representative Gregory closed on his bill noting the evolving insurance climate in Florida, in part due to the $40 billion the Florida judiciary awarded in verdicts. He addressed concerns over the striking of certain fees and abilities in the bill, emphasizing that the bill is in progress and will address these concerns with the ultimate goal of balance between business and justice.
The Senate companion, SB 236 was heard the day before on March 7 in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Hutson, said the legislation is intended to reform Florida’s “toxic lawsuit environment” by reducing nonessential lawsuits while maintaining civil justice. It passed as a Committee Substitute on an 8-3 vote along party lines. The strike-all of the Committee Substitute revises the effective date language reducing the statute of limitation for general negligence cases from 4 years to 2 years to clarify that it applies prospectively to causes of action accruing after the effective date of the bill and not retrospectively. The remainder of the bill applies to causes of action filed after the effective date, and the bill shall not be construed to impair any right under an existing insurance contract provision regarding the delivery of a policy.
In removing the comparative negligence standard, Senator Powell asked if these businesses are no longer responsible for proper security measures, “Who are we not protecting if the bill passes?” such as women, children, and senior citizens. Bill sponsor Senator Hutson responded that the bill doesn’t eliminate and is not trying to eliminate the responsibility of businesses to maintain safety, it is only intended to enhance the evidence and efficiency of courts.
Senator Hutson also emphasized the bill is attempting to address the more than doubled increase of lawsuits in Florida from 2019 to 2021 affecting the insurance premiums for 22 million constituents. Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse cited that 173,000 jobs are cost due to gross negligence and frivolous lawsuits in Florida and are in support of the bill. Many organizations opposed to the bill cited their personal experiences with negligence cases and some trauma physicians presented concerns that there would be a loss in funding and a potential 97% drop in employment in the practice if the bill passed. Senators in the committee expressed their concern that the bill is not ready and being continuously amended, so while they may support it now, they will not if it remains this way further into session. Specifically, Senator Torres stated that the bill limited and eliminated rights granted to injured persons by the Florida Constitution, and thus voted against the bill.
SB 236 is scheduled for its second of three hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow (March 14) at 4pm. (Return to Top of List)
Civil Remedies for Unlawful Employment Practices ̶ HB 315 and SB 738 by Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) and Senator Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) amends Section 760.11 of the Florida Statutes to provide limits on a judgment for punitive and compensatory damages for claims brought under the recently enacted Critical Race Theory (CRT) reforms. The bill allows judgment for the total amount of punitive damages awarded to an aggrieved party claiming CRT discrimination to be at least $50,000 and up to $1 million. The judgment for the total amount of compensatory damages awarded to the aggrieved person for mental anguish and loss of dignity must be the amount of the aggrieved person’s actual damages or three times the amount of his or her highest annual salary, whichever is greater. The total amount of recovery against the state and its agencies and subdivisions may not exceed the sovereign immunity limitations in statute. The right to trial by jury is preserved in any such private right of action in which the aggrieved person is seeking compensatory or punitive damages, and any party may demand a trial by jury. The Commission on Human Relations’ determination of reasonable cause is not admissible into evidence in any civil proceeding, including any hearing or trial, except to establish for the court the right to maintain the private right of action. A civil action brought under this section must be commenced no later than one year after the date of determination of reasonable cause by the commission. The commencement of such action divests the commission of jurisdiction of the complaint, except that the commission may intervene in the civil action as a matter of right. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, while the Senate bill has been assigned to Judiciary, one of three committee stops. (Return to Top of List)
Litigation Financing Consumer Protection – SB 1612 and HB 1447 by Senator Clay Yarborough (R- Jacksonville) and Rep. Toby Overdorf (R-Stuart) would regulate litigation finance (also called litigation funding or legal financing), where a third party unrelated to the lawsuit provides capital to a plaintiff involved in litigation in return for a portion of any financial recovery from the lawsuit. The measure would require litigation financiers to register with the Department of State and file a surety bond along with other registration requirements. It would also prohibit certain practices and conduct and establish requirements for such financiers to assess specified interest, fees and charges. A similar effort in the 2021 session failed. SB 1612 has been referred to the Judiciary and Fiscal Policy Committees and its House companion has been referred to the Civil Justice Subcommittee and Judiciary Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Consumer Protection – HB 1185 and SB 1398 by Representative Mike Giallombardo (R-Cape Coral) by Senator Nick Diceglie (R- St. Petersburg) provides additional requirements for distributed energy systems and specifies violations and penalties for licensees. The bill prohibits certain contracts by public adjusters and provides an additional requirement for a public adjuster’s license. The bill revises provisions relating to hurricane deductibles and reduces the time period in which a property insurance company may cancel a policy in certain circumstances. The bill also revises duties of carriers & agents concerning the sale of annuities and provides additional requirements for service agreement policies. HB 1185 has been assigned to three committees and is now in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. The Senate companion will have its first hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, one of three assigned committee stops. (Return to Top of List)
Emergency Residential Property Insurance Assistance Trust Fund – SB 1526 and HB 1415 by Senator Tracie Davis (D-Jacksonville) and Rep. Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) establishes a trust fund within the Department of Financial Services (DFS) that will assist homeowners with annual income under $250,000 acquire homeowners insurance. SB 1526 has been referred to three committees, and its House companion is now in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. (Return to Top of List)
Contacting Consumer Debtors ̶ SB 128 and HB 113 by Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Miami-Dade) and Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) prohibits a creditor from contacting a consumer whose debt arose from documented elder and economic abuse or human trafficking. Those who violate that would be subject to the same sanctions as any other consumer debt collector. The bill also requires the state Office of Financial Regulation to inform and furnish relevant information to the appropriate regulatory body of the state, the Federal Government, or The Florida Bar if a person has been named in a certain consumer complaint alleging specified violations of law. It also authorizes debtors to bring civil actions against creditors who violate the act. We spend a lot of time trying to help the elderly, who are often victims of contractor fraud and/or unscrupulous attorneys. This is a helpful bill in combating additional abuse at the hands of such abusers. The two bills are similar and are awaiting first hearings before their respective insurance committees. (Return to Top of List)
Home Repairs and Solicitation Sales ̶ HB 419 by Rep. John Temple (R-The Villages) requires unlicensed vendors to take certain actions within a specified timeframe after receiving initial payment. The bill provides conditions under which such vendors do not have just cause, provides criminal penalties and guidelines for prosecuting violations, and revises exemption from permitting requirements for certain solicitors, salespersons, and agents. The bill currently has no Senate companion and is awaiting its first hearing in the House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee. (Return to Top of List)
Collateral Protection Insurance on Real Property ̶ SB 410 and HB 793 by Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Miami) and Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin (R-Miami) creates a new section in Chapter 627 of the Florida Statutes, titled “Real Property Collateral Protection Insurance.” It establishes regulations for insurance companies and agents engaging in transactions involving collateral protection insurance (the so-called “lender-placed” or “force-placed” insurance) on real property, including manufactured and mobile homes. It defines terms, outlines the terms of policies, and provides calculations of coverages and premiums. It also prohibits certain practices, such as issuing collateral protection insurance if the insurer or insurance agent owns the real property; compensating a lender, investor, or servicer on collateral protection insurance policies; offering contingent commissions, profit-sharing, or other payments dependent on profitability or loss ratios to any person affiliated with a servicer or the insurer in connection with collateral protection insurance; and providing free or below-cost outsourced services to a lender, investor, or servicer. The bill also specifies the terms of the insurance policy, which must become effective no earlier than the date of lapse of insurance upon mortgaged real property, and must terminate on the earliest of certain dates. It also states that an insurance charge may not be made to a mortgagor for collateral protection insurance before the effective date of the insurance or for a term longer than the scheduled term of the insurance. The Senate bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The House bill will have its first hearing before the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee tomorrow (March 14) at 11:30am. (Return to Top of List)
Disaster Recovery & Construction:
Natural Emergencies – SB 250 by Senator Jonathan Martin (R- Fort Myers) establishes temporary housing for disaster relief workers and makes permanent funding for local-government emergency loans. After both Hurricane Ian and Nicole devastated parts of the state last year, the Florida Legislature is pursuing a series of proposals, including SB 250, aimed at helping communities recover from future storms. Other provisions of the bill include:
- Allowing residents to remain on their property in temporary housing, such as trailers, as they rebuild;
- Requiring faster approval of building permits to streamline the rebuilding effort;
- Retroactively prohibiting local governments from raising building fees until October 2024 in communities impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole;
- Requiring faster removal of damaged derelict boats from state waters by their owners;
- Establishing temporary housing for disaster relief works;
- Establishing permanent funding for local government emergency loans;
- Requiring local governments have uniform pre-storm contracts for debris removal;
- Encouraging local governments and school districts to develop emergency financial plans for disasters; and
- Protecting the identities of people hurt or killed in natural disasters from public records searches to avoid potential fraud.
The bill has been referred to the Community Affairs Committee, one of only two stops. The House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency & Recovery is expected to releases its own proposal soon, which will take the form of a companion House bill to SB 250. (See House in Homestretch of Hurricane Study in this newsletter for the latest on the House effort.)
On March 8 the Senate Select Committee on Resiliency held its last meeting with Chairman Albritton explaining that their handful of meetings produced incredible testimony and public policy, including SB 250. At the meeting, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie presented the details of the Safeguarding Tomorrow Through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act. The premise of the Act is to provide low interest loans to residential and commercial property owners to harden their homes against wind and flood. It is anticipated that STORM Act bill language will be amended into a Senate bill and House bill in the coming weeks. (Return to Top of List)
Causes of Action Based on Improvements to Real Property ̶ HB 85 and SB 360 by Rep. John Snyder (R-Stuart) and Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) revises the timeline for filing lawsuits on design, planning, or construction defects. It shortens the 10-year statute of repose to 7 years and adjusts the trigger date of that 7 year marker by changing the commencement dates to run based on the date the Certificate of Occupancy was issued. The bill also specifies this timeline in regard to temporary certificate of occupancy, certificate of occupancy, and certificate of completion. The Senate Rules Committee on March 8 passed SB 360 on a 16-4 vote. The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
The similar House bill passed 14-1 on February 7 by the House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee. Members engaged in many questions regarding this bill’s relationship to affordable housing and rising insurance costs, with Rep. Casello specifically asking how this bill can help making housing more affordable. Rep. Snyder replied that in addition to the rising costs of materials and inflation, the cost of insurance for builders has also gone up due to frivolous lawsuits, and that by cleaning up the statute, this will lower the cost of insurance and thus lower the cost of housing projects. HB 85 is scheduled to have its final committee hearing in the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow (March 14) at 3pm. (Return to Top of List)
Condominium and Cooperative Associations ̶ SB 154 and HB 1395 by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) and Rep. Vicki Lopez (R-Miami-Dade) makes several clarifying and technical changes to the requirements for Condominium and Cooperative Associations, including revising the circumstances under which community association managers or management firms must comply with the milestone inspection requirement passed in the May 2022 special session in SB 4-D. The bill clarifies that milestone inspections apply to buildings that are three stories tall or higher; revises the definition of the terms “milestone inspection” and “substantial structural deterioration”; authorizes local enforcement agencies to make certain determinations relating to milestone inspections after a building reaches a specified age; authorizes municipal governing bodies to adopt certain ordinances relating to association repairs; revises the types of policyholders not required to purchase flood insurance as a condition for maintaining certain policies issued by the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation; and revises condominium association reserve account requirements for structural integrity improvements.
SB 154 had its first hearing on Feb. 21 before the Senate Regulated Industries committee, passing unanimously. Four amendments were added, which aim to ensure the safety of those living in condos by preventing the waiver of life safety elements of the building, while still allowing for the waiver of other items with a majority vote of all voting interests. Senator Bradley clarified that the bill would not attach personal liability to condo board members. She also confirmed that non-structural items could be waived in both three-story and higher condos and condos that are two stories or less if they have an indeterminate useful life. I testified at the meeting, asking the committee to consider putting inspection data in a central database, available to the insurance industry to assist in underwriting. Such a database would also help consumers considering purchase of a condo unit determine if the building has been re-inspected and the outcome of the inspection and any remediation performed.
SB 154 is awaiting its final hearing before the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee. The House bill is now in the Regulatory Reform and Economic Development Subcommittee, one of three committees assigned. (Return to Top of List)
Flood Damage Prevention ̶ HB 859 and SB 1018 by Rep. Fabian Basabe (R-North Bay Village) and Senator Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) provides legislative findings that public and private investments in communities are important for economic growth, and that protecting structures from flooding is essential to maintaining resilient communities. The bill modifies freeboard requirements for certain buildings. (Freeboard is the additional height, usually expressed as a factor of safety in feet, above the base flood elevation in determining the level at which a structure’s lowest floor or the bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member must be elevated.) The bill also establishes maximum voluntary freeboard requirements for all new construction and substantial improvements to existing construction and prohibits voluntary freeboard from being used in the calculation of the maximum allowable height for certain construction in applicable zoning districts. The bill requires the Florida Building Commission to develop and adopt minimum freeboard requirements by a specified date, and to review the freeboard requirements in the Florida Building Code every 5 years. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee. The Senate bill is scheduled to have its first hearing in the Community Affairs Committee Wednesday (March 15) at 1pm. (Return to Top of List)
My Safe Florida Home Program ̶ HB 881 and SB 748 by Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) and Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) amends the My Safe Florida Home Program by providing that licensed, rather than certified, inspectors are to provide hurricane mitigation inspections on site-built, single-family, residential properties that have been granted a homestead exemption. The bill also revises the information provided to homeowners as part of a hurricane mitigation inspection, revises the hurricane mitigation inspectors that may be selected by the Department of Financial Services to provide hurricane mitigation inspections, and deletes a provision requiring the department to implement a certain quality assurance program. Additionally, the bill revises the criteria for mitigation grant eligibility for homeowners; deletes a provision that subjects mitigation projects to random reinspection for a specified timeframe; revises the improvements for which mitigation grants may be used, including secondary water barriers for roofs; and revises the amount that low-income homeowners may receive from the department under the grant program. HB 881 passed unanimously in the March 9 Insurance and Banking Subcommittee with a Committee Substitute bill that removed a proposed change in eligibility for the program and maintains current law regarding townhomes. The amendment also deletes the authority for the Department of Financial Services to define and apply criteria to prioritize inspection applications for funding and adds the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to the proposed list of entities that may receive program brochures for redistribution.
The House bill will be heard next by the State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. The Senate bill is scheduled to have its first hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Wednesday (March 15) at 1pm. (Return to Top of List)
Limitation of Actions Involving Real Estate Appraisers and Appraisal Management Companies ̶ HB 213 and SB 398 by Rep. David Borrero (R-Miami-Dade) and Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Miami) is another bill aimed at reducing frivolous litigation. With the exception of allegations of fraud, it requires any action against a real estate appraiser or appraisal management company that occurred prior to July 1, 2023 must be filed by July 1, 2024. Subsequent actions would need to similarly be filed within one year after the alleged act is discovered or should have been discovered, but in any event brought no more than four years after services were rendered. The House bill is scheduled to be heard by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee tomorrow (March 14) at 11:30am, while the Senate companion bill awaits its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Flood Disclosures for Real Property Sales ̶ SB 484 & HB 325 by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island) & Rep. Susan Valdes (D-Tampa) would require people selling real estate to provide information to buyers about flooding. Under the bill, sellers would be required to disclose information such as whether the property has sustained flood damage; whether it is located in a designated flood-hazard zone; whether sellers have received federal assistance for flood damage; and whether flood damage insurance claims have been filed. The Senate bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, while the House bill awaits its first hearing in the House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee. (Return to Top of List)
Flood Zone Disclosures for Dwelling Units ̶ SB 716 and HB 1291 by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) by Rep. Bruce Antone (D-Orlando) requires landlords or persons authorized to enter into rental agreements on behalf of landlords to make written disclosures to tenants before the commencement of a tenancy regarding whether the dwelling unit is located within a flood zone established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This disclosure must include the risk designation for the flood zone and definition of the designation. The Senate bill is awaiting its first hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, while the House bill has been assigned to the Civil Justice Subcommittee, Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee, and Judiciary Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Implementation of the Recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force ̶ HB 423 by Rep. Lindsay Cross (D-St. Petersburg) and SB 1538 by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) requires owners of certain onsite sewage treatment & disposal systems to have the systems inspected; requires DEP to administer the program; and requires estimated pollutant load reductions in basin management action plans to meet or exceed specified requirements. The bill revises requirements for allocation of such reductions, requires plans to provide & reevaluate certain mitigation strategies, and requires new or revised plans to list certain spatially focused projects. Finally, this legislation requires DEP to assess certain projects, and requires assessments to be included in plan updates. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee while the Senate bill has been assigned to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee; Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government; and Fiscal Policy Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Governor DeSantis released a legislative proposal of reforms January 12 on Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) that “will enhance transparency and reduce the influence of pharmacy middlemen, which will help consumers as well as our small pharmacies,” he said. This is a subject we have followed for years and picks up where the Florida Legislature left off in March 2022 with passage of HB 357 to increase oversight of PBMs, in part by giving the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) more authority over the companies.
Access to Pharmacies and Prescription Drugs Under Insurance and Pharmacy Benefit Managers Policies ̶ HB 203 by and SB 420 by Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman (R-Hillsborough) and Senator Tom Wright (R-Port Orange) addresses much of the Governor’s proposal requiring OIR to examine PBMs to ascertain compliance with specified laws; requires PBMs to have standard contracts with pharmacies; prohibits PBMs from denying pharmacies & pharmacists the right to participate as contract providers; authorizes persons & entities to bring actions & injunctive relief; prohibits PBMs from engaging in acts against patients; and prohibits health insurers & PBMs from engaging in acts relating to covered clinician-administered drugs. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee. The Senate bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Health Policy Committee. (Return to Top of List)
Health Insurance Cost Sharing ̶ SB 46 and HB 1063 by Senator Tom Wright (R-Volusia) and Rep. Lindsay Cross (D-St. Petersburg) also addresses Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). It requires specified individual health insurers and their PBMs to apply payments by or on behalf of insureds toward the total contributions of the insureds’ cost-sharing requirements. Similar requirements would be made on specified health insurance groups and in contracts with PBMs. The Senate bill is still awaiting its first hearing before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing before the Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee. (Return to Top of List)
Insurance (health) ̶ SB 312 and HB 1111 by Senator Jay Collins (R-Tampa) and by Rep. Webster Barnaby (R- Deland) revises restrictions on the use of genetic information for insurance purposes by life insurance and long-term care insurance companies. The bill specifies a restriction on and an authorized use of genetic information for insurance purposes by disability income carriers. It provides that certain restrictions against unfair discrimination or unlawful rebates do not include value-added products or services offered or provided by insurers or their agents if certain conditions are met. The Senate bill is still awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The House bill is awaiting its first meeting in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, one of three committee stops. (Return to Top of List)
Telehealth Practice Standards ̶ HB 267 and SB 298 by Rep. Tom Fabricio (R-Miramar) and Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) revises the definition of the term “telehealth” to strike the current prohibition on audio-only telephone calls, allowing Medicaid to elect reimbursement. A similar bill reached an impasse in last year’s regular session over whether to strike the prohibition. The Senate bill had its first hearing on Feb. 20 before the Health Policy Committee, passing unanimously. Senators asked questions about the cost for the audio only telehealth bills, if the patient would pay a copay, and if the bill would allow elderly individuals, minorities, and those in urban communities with poor broadband access to communicate with their doctors. Senator Boyd responded to the questions about the bill by stating that the cost for audio only telehealth bills would likely be the same as in-person visits, and that patients would likely pay a copay. He also clarified that if the healthcare practitioner and the patient decide an in-person visit is warranted, they can follow up with that. He said this would help those in rural areas and communities where it is cost effective, convenient, and time saving. Senator Harrell also emphasized that this bill would help those in rural areas who do not have the capability for video conferencing. The bill is scheduled to be heard Wednesday (March 15) at 1pm before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, its second of three committee stops. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee. (Return to Top of List)
Physician Certifications for the Medical Use of Marijuana ̶ SB 344 & HB 387 by Sen. Jason Brodeur, (R-Sanford), and Rep. Spencer Roach, (R-North Fort Myers) would allow physicians to use telehealth to recertify medical-marijuana patients. Patients are required to receive in-person physical exams from physicians to get certified to use medical marijuana. Under current law, they also are required to be evaluated in person at least once every 30 weeks for recertification. This legislation would allow recertification to be done through telehealth, which generally involves using online technology to provide care remotely. The House bill passed unanimously as a Committee Substitute on March 9. The amendment allows DOH to suspend a qualified medical marijuana physician’s license for up to 2 years if the physician advertises its telehealth services prior to July 1, 2023. The bill goes next to the House Health & Human Services Committee, its last stop before the full House. The Senate bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Health Policy Committee. (Return to Top of List)
LMA Newsletter of 3-13-23