Recap of Week 2 & Preview of Week 3 of Session
This past week in the legislature saw one of the first “marathon” committee meetings of this session regarding high-rise condominium inspections and tort reform. The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Thursday was scheduled to meet for three hours and instead met for seven hours to allow all the public testimony and debate among its members.
Then on Friday, the House was in session for one of the most spirited debates I’ve witnessed in quite a while – again, on tort reform – with some gut-wrenching oratory on both sides of the policy debate. Representative Dean Black (R-Jacksonville) made a compassionate plea for reform, based on his own personal experience as an accident victim and a small business owner. “We’re trying to restore balance to an un-balanced civil justice system,” he said. “Don’t demonize us.” The House erupted in applause and a standing ovation for Rep. Black. You can watch in the viewer below by going to the 3:29:00 timecode mark.
He was followed a few seconds later by Representative Michele Rayner-Goolsby (D-St. Petersburg) who provided the counterpoint against the reform bill. She, too, drew on her personal experience as a trial lawyer, saying that “justice delayed is justice denied” and the fault for the huge volume of lawsuits is with the insurance companies “who hold all the cards.” She, too, received hardy applause. It is very worthwhile to watch both sides and I hope you’ll do so. We anticipate the full Senate to debate tort reform later this week for potential final passage and delivery to the Governor.
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:
Surplus Requirements for Residential Property Insurers
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
Consumer Protection Updated
Emergency Residential Property Insurance Assistance Trust Fund
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
Implementation of the Recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force
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
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 most lines of insurance – not just property insurance. The House bill makes other significant changes to reduce excessive litigation and resulting costs to insurance consumers, including the following:
- Provides that a contingency fee multiplier is appropriate only in exceptional circumstances and otherwise adopts the lodestar method of calculating attorney fees based on reasonable time and rate;
- Repeals the one-way attorney fee statute for admitted and surplus lines with one exception: The insurer will pay attorney fees relating to a declaratory action that can only result when there is a total coverage denial and the plaintiff prevails; in addition, a reservation of rights is not a claim denial;
- One-way fees are not allowed for property insurance suits as passed in December 2022 or for declaratory judgment actions on total claim denials;
- General negligence cases now have a 2 year statute of limitation, down from 4 years;
- Provides a “safe harbor” for bad faith claims by precluding the filing of suit if the carrier pays damages or rectifies violations within 90 days of receiving notice; failure to tender is inadmissible as evidence of bad faith; 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”; that failure to act in good faith can be considered by the judge to reduce damages against the insurance carrier; reduces multi-claimant exposures on bad faith by permitting interpleader and arbitration rulings with claims exceeding policy limits; and requires that all parties must agree to arbitration and the arbitrator used, with the carrier paying for arbitration;
- Specifies an Offer of Judgment applies to any civil action involving an insurance contract;
- Provides personal injury and wrongful death uniform standards to assist juries in calculating the accurate value of medical damages;
- Allows the defense to present in court information about referral relationships between plaintiff’s counsel and treating providers;
- With respect to premises liability cases, the trier of fact in certain negligent security actions (premises liability) will now consider the fault of all persons (criminals included) who contributed to the injury; and
- Changes Florida’s comparative negligence system from a “pure” to a “modified” comparative negligence system. Going forward, a plaintiff who is more at fault for his or her own injuries than the defendant may not recover damages from the defendant (excepting medical malpractice cases).
On Friday, March 17, the full House passed HB 837 on an 80-31 vote, along mostly party lines and sent it to the Florida Senate for consideration.
The Senate’s own bill, SB 236, was heard twice last week, an unusual legislative maneuver, signaling the Senate’s intent to fast-track the bill. At its first hearing of the week on March 14 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a notable point of discussion was the addition of an exception to the contributory negligence language in the bill which holds healthcare providers accountable even if they are found less than 50% liable. Senator Hutson, commenting on this provision stated, “I think a doctor that commits 49% damages should still be on the hook, as it relates to the patient receiving the full benefits of a suit.”
Later on Thursday, in the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee, Senator Hutson explained the amendments to the bill from the Senate Judiciary meeting earlier in the week, and further delineated that the new amendments, which were largely technical, represent the final agreement between the Senate and the House. Senators Osgood and Torres also filed amendments to the bill, which were not accepted.
Public testimony took the lion’s share of the time on the bill, with a long list of speakers that ranged from trial attorneys to insurance providers to concerned constituents. As public testimony wrapped up, Senators engaged in a heated debate on the bill, with Senator Wright, notably, indicating that he felt this bill was not in the best interest of his constituents. Senator Trumbull, who had voted against the bill earlier in the week, noted that his concerns had been addressed, saying “I’ve expressed concerns over how the first party bad faith provisions of this bill would impact small businesses in our state. And when given the choice between insurance companies and business owners, I will always side with those businesses.” He noted that these concerns were addressed in conversations with the Office of Insurance Regulation, stating “they’ve assured me that they have sufficient regulatory power to protect our businesses from the risk of abuse that I’ve identified, and that their authority is in no way diminished by the statutory language.”
In his closing remarks on the bill, Senator Hutson said it was crafted in partnership with the House, and based on best practices from around the nation. “I can assure you, I looked state-by-state on every single issue that’s in this bill to try and find best practices to make Florida number one on the issue in terms of protecting our constituents, but at the same time, making sure that we don’t have outrageous costs that’s passed on to the consumer.” With that, the bill passed out of its final committee on a 13-6 vote, with Senator Wright the lone Republican no vote.
Both SB 236 and HB 837 are expected to be considered on the Senate floor this week for potential final passage. (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)
- 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 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 awaiting its first hearing in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. (Return to Top of List)
Insurance Claims – SB 1662 and 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. 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 on the agenda for the State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee tomorrow (March 21) at 2pm. SB 418 is 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 bill is awaiting scheduling in the House Commerce Committee, its last stop before the full House. The Senate bill was temporarily postponed on March 15 in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and is now re-scheduled for this Wednesday (March 22) at 11am. HB 57 unanimously passed the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee in February 14 after withdrawing an amendment and is now in the House Commerce Committee, its last stop before the full House. (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) and 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.
On March 14, 2023, the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee adopted an amendment that made the following changes to the House bill:
- Provides that a motor vehicle repair shop may not offer a customer a rebate, gift, gift card, cash, coupon, or other thing of value in exchange for making an insurance claim for motor vehicle glass replacement or repair;
- Prohibits an employee of a motor vehicle repair shop from offering gifts;
- Establishes that it is a violation of law for a motor vehicle repair shop to fail to provide electronic or written notice to a customer whether the calibration or recalibration of an ADAS is required;
- Defines ADAS as any motor vehicle electronic safety system associated with motor vehicle glass and designed to support the driver and motor vehicle in a manner intended to:
- Increase motor vehicle safety; and
- Reduce losses associated with motor vehicle crashes;
- Allows an insurance company, when issuing or renewing a policy providing comprehensive coverage or combined additional coverage, to offer a policyholder or applicant a deductible of $250 for claims of damage to the windshield of a motor vehicle, which they may decline; and
- Establishes that, if a deductible for comprehensive coverage or combined additional coverage is applied to a loss that includes other damage in addition to windshield damage, no windshield damage deductible may apply.
In presenting HB 541, Rep. Griffitts noted that claims on auto glass have led to over 33,000 lawsuits being filed in Florida in 2022 alone, with 22 attorneys accounting for 79% of those lawsuits. It was passed unanimously by the Subcommittee and is now in the Civil Justice Subcommittee.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee heard SB 1002 on March 15. The Senate bill revises definitions under the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act to ensure that businesses that calibrate or recalibrate advanced driver assistance systems associated with windshields are regulated under the bill. The bill also prohibits any employees of motor vehicle repair shops from offering an inducement to a customer in exchange for making an insurance claim for motor vehicle glass replacement or repair. It also prohibits an assignment agreement of post-loss benefits for motor vehicle glass replacement or repair.
While much of the discussion of the bill was similar to that heard on the House side, the Senate committee discussed a trend in insurance companies steering consumers to Safelite and away from local glass companies, with Senator Burgess noting that he had a personal experience where this had happened to him. Senator Stewart closed on the bill noting that auto glass litigation has gone up by 4,000% in the last 10 years. The committee unanimously passed SB 1002 which is now scheduled to be heard next in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee today (March 20) at 3:30pm. (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. SB 1398 is scheduled to be heard Wednesday (March 22) at 11am before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. (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 was heard in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and was passed unanimously without any amendments. It now goes to the State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, its second of three committee stops. The Senate companion, SB 410 is scheduled to be heard Wednesday (March 22) at 11am before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. (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.
On March 15, Senate Bill 250 was heard in the Senate Community Affairs Committee and two amendments were adopted that clarified changes as it relates to temporary residential structures, tolling and extension of permits, expedited approval of certain permits, registered contractors, and the prohibition on adopting procedures to comprehensive plans and land development regulations. SB 250 was unanimously approved and is now goes to its last committee stop: Fiscal Policy.
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. . (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. On March 15, the full Senate passed SB 360 on a 31-8 vote. The bill was immediately certified and is now awaiting action in the House.
HB 85 had its final committee hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on March 14 where an amendment was adopted that aligns the bill with the Senate bill. The Committee approved it unanimously and sent it to the full House for consideration. (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 and much discussion ensued, including my testimony. (You can read more here.)
On March 16, SB 154 was passed unanimously by the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee with an amendment that:
- Clarifies that in a mixed-use building the condominium or cooperative associations and the other owners of the building are equally responsible for arranging the milestone inspection;
- Revises the types of documents the developer must give prospective buyers of a unit;
- Specifies the number of days before execution of the contract that the documents must be provided to the prospective purchaser; and
- Replaces the rulemaking provision in the bill with a reenacting of the existing rulemaking authority of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes.
This and previous amendments clarified concerns that had been brought up in previous committees around inspection requirements and the types of professionals tasked with those inspections. Much of the committee’s discussion consisted of members thanking Senator Bradley for her work on the bill and for addressing the concerns of constituents. In closing, Senator Bradley remarked “what we’re trying to do was strike a very delicate balance between making sure that the condos have both financial health and structural integrity and structural health so that they’re safe.” The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
The House bill is still in its first committee, 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 had its first hearing in the Community Affairs Committee on March 15 and passed unanimously. It now goes to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, its second of three committees. (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.
The House bill is on the State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee agenda tomorrow (March 21) at 2pm, its second of three committee stops.
On March 15, the Senate bill was heard in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and an amendment was adopted that:
- Removes the proposed change to include townhomes in the program;
- Deletes proposed authority for the Department of Financial Services to create criteria prioritizing inspection applications; and
- Adds the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to the list of entities that may receive Program brochures for redistribution.
SB 748 was unanimously approved and is now in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government. (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 was heard on March 14 in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. An amendment was adopted that deleted a provision that would have lowered the statute of limitations to bring an action against an appraiser or appraiser management company from 4 years to 1 year. As amended, the bill only provides a 7 year cap on the statute of repose, so that an appraiser or appraiser management company cannot be sued for an appraisal past that period. The amendment also deleted an original provision specifying that all actions for damages or other relief brought against an appraiser or appraisal management company would be governed exclusively by this bill. HB 213 was unanimously passed and is now in the House Regulatory Reform and Economic Development Subcommittee.
The Senate companion bill still 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 Senate Bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on March 15 and now goes to the Rules Committee. 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.
HB 387 was heard in the Health & Human Services Committee on March 17 and an amendment adopted that authorizes a qualified physician who performs an in-person examination of a patient for the initial physician certification to use telehealth to conduct subsequent examinations of that patient for renewal physician certifications. HB 837 was passed unanimously and now goes to the full House for consideration. The Senate bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Health Policy Committee. (Return to Top of List)
LMA Newsletter of 3-20-23