Week #3 of the Legislative Session
As we begin week four of the session, the good news for the Florida Legislature is that it has an unexpected $201.3 million in extra money to spend in this fiscal year which ends on June 30th – or lawmakers can let it carry over to next year. The bad news: they will have an unexpected $208.7 million less to spend in next year’s 2019/2020 budget – all of this due to the latest general revenue estimates. So the net: they’ll have $7.4 million less in general revenue collection for the next state budget than they thought. Not a huge deal in a likely $90+ billion state budget.
Below is the master list of bills that we are following so far this session with updates noted in red font.
There is movement on the following issues:
- Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform bills are moving swimmingly in both chambers.
- A bill to limit pain and suffering awards has temporarily been postponed.
- A written notice requirement prior to a Bad Faith filing wasn’t considered this past week.
- A special recovery fund for inland counties impacted by Hurricane Michael is making progress in the Senate.
- Relaxing surplus lines requirements is scheduled to be heard this week on the House floor.
- Faster payments in public construction projects is ready to be heard by the full House.
- A bill banning the use of genetic test results in insurance coverage will be heard this week.
- The autonomous vehicles bill has passed its second House committee stop.
- A formal Red Tide defense bill is getting its first serious look in both chambers.
- Distracted driving bills will be heard this week in both chambers’ committees after a lull.
- Prohibiting attorney fee awards in certain protective injunction proceedings gets its first hearing this week.
- The flood insurance glitch bill is making progress in both chambers, with a hearing this week.
Assignment of Benefits (AOB) – AOB reform bills continued their advance last week in both the Senate and the House, with no further action expected this week. There are similarities and differences between the two in addressing AOB abuse in homeowners insurance claims and in automobile insurance claims involving windshield replacements.
The Senate’s AOB bill, SB 122 was debated for more than an hour before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Monday. Bill sponsor Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola) thanked the committee’s chairman Sen. David Simmons (R-Orlando) for his help in making additional changes to the bill from the previous week. The bill was originally crafted to simply remove the incentive of one-way attorney fees for anyone other than the named insured or named beneficiary on the policy. The bill faced opposition and was revamped in late February to take a broader approach and passed the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee two weeks ago on March 4.
The newest changes made clarify protections for the consumer and also for the vendor, based on complaints made by some vendors at the previous committee meeting. They argued that they would not be adequately protected from an insurance company’s failure to pay or underpay for work performed. (See the additional bullet points in red added below for specifics.) After debate over additional amendments that were offered and later withdrawn, the Judiciary Committee approved the bill by a 5-1 vote.
“Our constituents are watching, and they want an affordable premium,” Broxson told the committee prior to the vote. The bill now goes to its last stop in the Rules Committee, which is not meeting this week, before being presented to the full Senate.
The newest revised SB 122 prescribes what a post-loss AOB can contain:
- Must be in writing and identify the work to be performed and the applicable charges and the dates by which the work will begin and be completed;
- Maximum payment of $3,000 or 1% of a homeowners coverage limit when the AOB is used for emergency home repairs;
- Agreements under emergency circumstances must be in writing and identify the work to be performed and applicable charges;
- Additional AOBs can be used for permanent repairs;
- Policyholder can rescind the AOB within 14 days or 30 days after the scheduled commencement date if substantial work has not commenced;
- Vendor retains the right to payment for work performed prior to any AOB rescission;
- Policyholder held harmless for signing an AOB with vendor waiving any and all claims against policyholder;
- Vendor must provide the AOB to the insurance company within three business days of execution;
- Communication is allowed between policyholder and insurance company (something current agreements do not allow);
- Third-party vendor taking an AOB is prohibited from adjusting or negotiating a loss.
- Windshield AOBs would be capped at $500 or 1% of coverage limit.
SB 122 also addresses attorney fees, by allowing attorney fees to the prevailing party, defined in the bill as the “party that prevails on significant issues of the case” as so determined by the court. The bill defines the legislature’s intent as addressing the dramatic increase in assignment of benefits litigation by nonparties to property and auto insurance. The intent was included as future guidance to a court of law that may have to rule on its use.
The one-way attorney fee law (627.428 F.S.) requires insurance companies to pay the attorney fees of policyholders who sue their company and prevail – even if the award or settlement is just one-dollar more than a previous payment or offer. It was meant to protect policyholders’ legal rights but has been used and abused by third-party contractors and attorneys to sue carriers with or without a policyholder’s permission. Under SB 122, the vendor is not entitled to attorney fees under 627,428, but instead under Chapter 713 which is the property section.
In determining if there is a prevailing party, SB 122 requires the court to consider (1) the issues litigated; (2) the amount of the claims by the service provider versus the amount recovered; (3) the existence of setoffs and counterclaims, if any; and (4) the amounts offered by either party to resolve the issues prior to or during litigation.
Senator Broxson earlier in the session noted “I asked the Florida Bar about taking a proactive stance on one of their members and I wanted to understand how the Bar handles their members.” CFO Jimmy Patronis sent a letter in early March to the head of the Bar asking her to address the problem with the handful of firms (Citizens Property Insurance has identified 20 law firms that file the bulk of AOB suits in Florida) handling the lion’s share of cases, writing the firms are “weaponizing” the one-way attorney fee statute.
The House’s AOB bill, HB 7065, like the Senate bill, includes restrictions on attorney fees in AOB disputes, but this bill takes a deeper dive. It passed the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee last Tuesday by a vote of 14-1 after lengthy discussion that included testimony from 22 people. The lone dissenting vote was Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-Broward) who said there were bad actors on both sides of the issue – repair vendors and insurance companies. He asked bill sponsor Rep. Bob Rommel (R-Naples) if the bill would not actually encourage insurance companies to underpay claims. Rommel replied that if the company underpays the claim, then the vendor collects attorney fees.
Rep. Rommel said the problem is caused by bad actors filing 11 lawsuits a day. He noted that 95% of claims in Florida don’t get litigated, which doesn’t support the “David and Goliath” syndrome that critics of AOB reform often cite. Rep. Rommel noted that if vendors want to sue first party they still can.
“It’s a negotiation. Hurricane Irma went over my house and it was a negotiation. I hired someone to help me out and negotiate because I was busy here. I don’t believe it’s unfair and if I thought big insurance companies were going to take advantage, I wouldn’t file the bill. Under this bill we deal with almost everyone to get a fair settlement. I have negotiated thousands of contracts and there is fair negotiations and I think it gets a win-win for everyone,” Rep. Rommel said. “We have a problem and by voting no we are continuing the problem. By voting yes, you solve the problem. This gives consumers a free market choice.”
HB 7065 now goes to its last committee stop, the Judiciary Committee, which is not meeting this week, before being presented to the full House.
Under HB 7065, an AOB must provide the following:
- Policyholder can rescind the AOB within 7 days for any reason without penalty or fee but is responsible for payment for work performed to that point;
- Vendor must provide the AOB to the insurance company within three business days of execution or the date work begins, whichever is earlier;
- Contain a written, itemized, per-unit cost estimate of services;
- If services include water restoration, vendor must provide proof of certification by an entity approved by the American National Standards Institute;
- Clear notice of consumer rights and policyholder responsibilities involved in signing an AOB;
- Policyholder held harmless for signing an AOB with vendor waiving any and all fees and claims against policyholder, excepting policy deductible;
- Work performed must conform with current industry standards;
- Vendor must assume assignment of the responsibilities and the duties under the policy – not just the benefits – including filing proof of loss, producing records, and submitting to examinations under oath;
- Likewise, the burden is shifted to the assignee vendor to prove that any failure to carry out such duties has not limited the insurer’s ability to perform under the contract;
- Prior to filing suit, and if required by the insurer, vendor must submit to examinations under oath, participate in appraisal or other dispute resolution methods, and provide notice of intent to sue, with such notice specifying damages, amount claimed, and any pre-suit settlement demand, including a detailed itemized written invoice or estimate; and
- Insurer must respond to the vendor’s notice within 10 days.
HB 7065 also addresses attorney fees. The vendor is not entitled to attorney fees under 627.428 F.S., but instead under 57.105 F.S. The bill prescribes a formula for awarding fees, based on the difference between the judgment obtained by the assignee vendor and the insurer’s pre-suit settlement offer. If the difference between the judgment and the settlement offer is:
- Less than 25% of the disputed amount, then the insurer is entitled to reasonable attorney fees;
- At least 25% but less than 50% of the disputed amount, no party is entitled to an award of fees;
- At least 50% of the disputed amount, the assignee vendor is entitled to reasonable attorney fees.
If the insurer fails either to inspect the property or to provide written or verbal authorization for repairs within seven calendar days after the first notice of loss, the insurer waives its right to an award of attorney fees, except under certain circumstances beyond its control.
Under HB 7065, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is required to conduct a data call with insurers to report specified data on claims paid in the prior year under AOBs by January 30, 2022, and each year afterward.
The bill also allows an insurer to offer a policy prohibiting assignment, in whole or in part, provided the insurer gives specific notice. This is significant – the House version would allow insurers to offer policies that prohibit AOBs. House Civil Justice Chairman Bob Rommel (R-Naples) has noted that doing so is a “free market option” by insurance companies that could lead to lower policy premiums.
Insurance interests stress that an effective AOB reform bill should have both the “Examination Under Oath” requirement that currently only the House Bill has, as well as the prohibition against third-party vendors taking an AOB from adjusting or negotiating the loss that currently only the Senate bill has.
HB 7065 also addresses automobile insurance claims involving windshield replacements, using most of the same criteria, with the following differences:
- Windshield AOBs can be rescinded within two calendar days without penalty or fee but is responsible for payment for work performed to that point; and
- Vendor must provide the AOB to the insurance company within one calendar days of execution or the date work begins, whichever is earlier.
The bill does not address the reported problem of some auto repair shops offering enticements to policyholders to make insurance claims for replacement windshields.
SB 754 by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) would do just that. It prohibits motor vehicle repair shops or their employees from offering anything of value to a customer in exchange for making an insurance claim for motor vehicle glass replacement or repair, including offers made through certain persons. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee last week after doing the same in the Banking & Insurance Committee the previous week. An identical bill in the House HB 323 by Rep. Richard Stark (D-Weston) has seen no action since passing its first committee in mid-February.
Another AOB bill, HB 357 by Rep. Brett Hage (R-The Villages) reduces the time period from 90 to 30 days within which a contractor must begin to perform certain work on residential real property after receiving initial payment; it also reduces from 60 to 30 days the time period for the contractor to perform substantial work on such property – work equal or greater to the amount already paid. It also removes an exemption from permitting requirements for certain solicitors, salespersons, and agents using sample catalogs or brochures. It has a similar bill in the Senate (SB 420) by Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake). Neither bill has seen action.
Also filed is HB 359 by Rep. Javier Fernández (D-Coral Gables) which has a lot in common with some of the AOB consumer safeguard bills of the 2018 session. The bill requires the third-party who was assigned the AOB to send a copy of the AOB to the insurance company within 3 days after being executed “by all named insureds”; maintain records of services provided; cooperate with the insurance company in its investigation of the claim, including providing copies of records within 7 days; and provide a written, itemized, per-unit cost statement of services actually performed. Prior to filing a lawsuit, the third-party must participate in an appraisal or other alternative dispute resolution method in the policy and submit to carrier examinations under oath. They must also agree to hold all named insureds harmless for payment beyond the policy deductible, regardless of whether the AOB is later deemed invalid. The bill also shifts the burden onto the party seeking relief to demonstrate the insurer wasn’t prejudiced in handling the claim. The bill has seen no action.
All of these House and Senate bills are subject to further change depending on stakeholder input/feedback, testimony during committee hearings, and other negotiations. We are following all of these AOB bills and will report on developments as they occur.
For the complete picture of AOB Abuse in Florida and what we’re doing about it, visit our AOB webpage. (Return to top of page)
Tort Damages – HB 17 would limit jury awards to $1 million for “pain and suffering” in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Leek (R-Ormond Beach), also specifies that an individual contract between a healthcare provider and an insurance company or HMO is not subject to discovery or disclosure in certain actions. The bill is still the subject of negotiation among parties and was temporarily postponed last week in the Commerce Committee. A similar Senate bill (SB 1320) by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) has not been heard. (Return to top of page)
During a previous hearing, Rep. Leek noted that Florida has the highest tort system costs among U.S. states, as a percentage of state gross domestic product, at 3.6% vs. the 2.3% U.S. average. But the real nugget? The total paid in costs and compensation amounted to $4,442 per Florida household in 2016.
Omnibus Insurance Bill – This session’s “catch-all” bill for everything else insurance is HB 301 filed by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) and includes some of the previous elements of Senator Broxson’s SB 122 one-way attorney fee bill. The bill is coming in for a landing but is still awaiting a hearing before the House Commerce Committee, which would be its last stop before going to the full House.
Some items in the bill have major policy implications, like lowering the threshold for surplus lines insurers to continue their push into admitted markets, capping Citizens Property Insurance rates in Monroe County to 5% versus the current 10%, and provisions on Personal Injury Protection (PIP) deductibles. There was much discussion among the trial lawyer groups about their disagreement with the bill’s provision providing for the appraisal process to serve as an alternative dispute resolution platform, triggered when a civil remedy notice is filed. The insurance industry has argued that the Civil Remedy process has become an indicator of litigation, not of consumer dissatisfaction, pointing to Insurance Commissioner Altmaier’s discussion of the low complaint ratios post Hurricanes Irma and Michael.
A similar bill in the Senate SB 714, by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas), unanimously passed the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee in mid-March and is awaiting its next hearing. We expect more changes as these bills progress.
Citizens Property Insurance – Lowering Citizens rates in Monroe County and other counties deemed by the Office of Insurance Regulation as lacking a reasonable degree of competition and designated as an area of critical state concern is likewise what SB 1476 by Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) is all about. The bill caps annual rate increases in those counties to 5%. It also extends the 10% cap on rate increases for the rest of Citizens’ policies from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2024, except for sinkhole coverage. An identical bill in the House (HB 1145) has been filed by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo). Neither bill has been heard.
Insurance Proceeds Held by Mortgagees – SB 1392 by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) would limit the amount of time that banks can hold insurance company proceeds in order to take advantage of float in accruing interest. The bill also provides that the policyholder or borrower is entitled to any accrued interest. The bill has not been heard.
Fair Settlement Act – This act, incorporated in SB 1464 by Senator Jeff Brandes would revise the circumstances under which an insurance company and the Department of Financial Services are notified prior to filing litigation. It requires policyholders, claimants, or anyone acting on their behalf to notify the insurance company in writing before filing a Bad Faith action. It also limits an insurance company’s liability to third-party claimants under certain circumstances, if it files an interpleader action within a certain time period. The bill was scheduled to be heard last week before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee but was not considered. (Return to top of page)
Bodily Injury Liability – SB 896 by Senator Jeff Brandes is titled, “Responsible Roadways Act,” and eliminates Personal Injury Protection coverage after a certain date. Bills to repeal PIP passed the Florida House over the past two years only to die in the Senate. A recent study shows Florida drivers pay the third-highest auto insurance premiums in the country. Repealing PIP would save Florida drivers about $81 annually. Florida remains one of two states that do not require bodily injury coverage, under our current nearly 50 year-old “no-fault” auto insurance system. (See LMA Backgrounder: Personal Injury Protection for more details on the history of PIP reform and the failed 2018 bills, the latest data, and past committee and stakeholder discussions.) SB 896 has not been heard.
Hurricane Michael Reimbursement – Panhandle Senators Bill Montford, George Gainer, and Doug Broxson in early March premiered SB 1610 which would provide $300 million in loans to local governments for debris cleanup and infrastructure rebuilding and $15 million in loans to the area’s devastated timber industry. It also establishes a Hurricane Housing Recovery Program to provide incentive funding to local governments to create partnerships to preserve and build affordable housing. Similar to the state’s existing State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP), the program targets very low, low, and moderate income families with much needed single and multifamily housing.
SB 1610 also establishes a task force under the direction of the state Division of Emergency Management to report back by December 15 with additional recommendations on long-term recovery needs. Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley has said state spending on Michael will likely reach $2.7 billion. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.
Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) whose district includes some of the worst hit areas of the storm, previously filed SB 376 that would allot up to $50 million a year from the state Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the 14 counties that suffered damage. The trust is funded by doc stamp taxes for land and water conservation and last year brought in $870 million. The bill was passed unanimously on March 5 by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and is awaiting its next committee stop. A similar bill in the House has seen no movement.
In the House, Rep. Brad Drake (R-DeFuniak Springs) filed HB 191, to create the Northwest Florida Rural Inland Affected Counties Recovery Fund. The fund would provide grants in the inland counties of Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty and Washington counties using 5% of the $2 billion BP Oil Spill Deep Horizon settlement, which is $100 million. The bill got a boost in January from Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, who expressed willingness to consider a broader use of oil spill funding. HB 191 has not been heard. But a similar bill SB 1162 by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) which has the same title, passed unanimously last week in the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee and has two more committee stops.
Rep. Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) filed his 44th bill in late February relating to Hurricane Michael recovery. HB 1101 requires that certain sales & use taxes be transferred to a trust fund devoted to recovery efforts. In all, Trumbull’s bills provide more than $280 million in relief. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.
Property Insurance Coverage for Explosions – Insurance companies writing or renewing property insurance policies in Florida would have to provide explosion coverage under SB 1288 by Senator Oscar Braynon (D-Miami). The bill defines the term “explosion” for purposes of the Florida Insurance Code, including “an intense ground vibration caused by drilling or blasting for mining or quarrying. The bill also provides options for exclusions of coverage. The bill has not been heard.
Non-admitted Insurance Markets – HB 387 sponsored by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland) relates to the non-admitted insurance markets (surplus lines). It removes the price cap on per policy fees that surplus lines agents may charge for certain policies; requires such fees to be itemized and enumerated in a policy; deletes the requirement that surplus line agents file an affidavit with the State Surplus Lines Service Office; and revises the requirements for surplus lines agents tax remittance. The bill passed the House Commerce Committee on March 5 and is on the special order calendar to be heard this Wednesday on the House Floor. It appears this bill’s provisions will pass the legislature but for the most part, it is bad public policy to delete the affidavit that has a section indicating that the surplus lines agents is accepting business that should be placed in the admitted market. We are working with legislators on ideas to continue to hold surplus lines agents accountable. A similar Senate bill, SB 538 passed its first committee stop is awaiting its next hearing. (Return to top of page)
Public Construction – SB 246 sponsored by several committees and Senator Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor), relates to public construction and revises the requirements for the Department of Management Services rules governing certain contracts. It also revises the amount of funds that certain public entities, especially banks and contractors, may withhold from progress payments for any construction services contract. Complaints have abounded that banks are slow to release authorized funds in order to take advantage of interest on the money. SB 246 is on the fast track having already passed two of its three committees and is heading next to the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill in the House, HB 101, sponsored by a subcommittee and Reps. Andrade, McClure, and Sabatini, passed it’s the Commerce Committee last Thursday, its last stop before going to the House floor for a vote. (Return to top of page)
Genetic Information Used for Insurance Purposes – As interest in commercially available genetic testing kits continues to rise, Florida senators are considering a proposal that would ban genetic test results from being used to deny or limit someone’s life, disability or long-term care insurance coverage. SB 258 by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) would do just that. But the bill, which narrowly passed its first Senate committee stop on March 11, faces an uphill climb as some lawmakers and insurance lobbyists say the potential ban would hurt the industry’s ability to anticipate and calculate future risk. Supporters say the bill protects people’s privacy and falls in line with the federal government’s ban on health insurers using that information to make a decision about someone’s health coverage. An identical bill in the House, HB 879 by Rep. Jayer Williamson (R-Pace), will be heard tomorrow before the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee at 3:30pm, its second of three committees. (Return to top of page)
Tiny Homes – The Florida Building Commission would have to adopt certain regulations and standards for Florida’s newest craze of homes under SB 1268 by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation). The bill provides for the incorporation of certain codes into the Florida Building Code as well. The bill has not been heard nor has its identical bill in the House, HB 801.
Courts – SB 328 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) seeks to shift court cases that are now heard in county court to be heard in the circuit court. The bill made it through its first committee stop in early March. Reactions are mixed with some saying that circuit court dockets are more jammed than county court dockets so it will take longer to get cases resolved; others say it will force more settlements because of the delay. The bill was unanimously passed by the Judiciary Committee in February and awaits a hearing in the Infrastructure and Security Committee. HB 337 by Rep. Tom Leek (R-Daytona Beach) is similar, with both bills looking to shift the docket makeup of county and circuit courts with the aim to redistribute caseload to purportedly make the court system more efficient. HB 337 passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee last Wednesday, its first of three committees.
Autonomous Vehicles – HB 311 represents the on-going quest to balance proper regulation with encouraging Florida’s developing autonomous vehicle (AV) market. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville), himself an engineer, covers a lot of ground. It allows fully AVs to operate regardless of the presence of a human operator; provides that the automated driving system is deemed the operator when the system is engaged; authorizes the Florida Turnpike Enterprise to fund & operate test facilities; provides requirements for on-demand AV networks to operate; and revises registration requirements for AVs. The bill passed unanimously last Tuesday in the Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, its second stop. SB 660 in the Senate by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) is comparable but has not been heard. (Return to top of page)
Red Tide – Taking on Red Tide in Florida in a more organized and dedicated fashion is the purpose behind SB 1552 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota). The bill establishes the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative. The bill was passed unanimously last Wednesday by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, its first of three committee stops. An identical bill (HB 1135) has been filed in the House by Rep. Michael Grant (R-Port Charlotte) and will have its first hearing tomorrow at noon before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. (Return to top of page)
Driving While Distracted (formerly Communications While Driving) – Where efforts failed last year to make texting while driving a primary offense (from the current secondary offense, where you can be ticketed only during a traffic stop made for another reason), this year’s efforts are concentrated on the much broader distracted driving problem beyond just smart phones. (Return to top of page)
SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and HB 107 by Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa), originally proposed to bar any hand-held devices while driving. The revamped bills take out that specificity, making it a noncriminal violation for “Driving While Distracted” – defined as the inattentive operation of a motor vehicle. Inattentive or distracted driving includes reading, writing, performing personal grooming, applying a beauty aid or similar products, interacting with pets or unsecured cargo, using a personal wireless communications device, or engaging in any other activity, conduct, task, or matter that is considered distracting the driver’s attention from the road. Hands free use of cellphones would be allowed.
SB 76 will be heard today by the Judiciary Committee, its second of four committee stops. It now calls for verbal warnings for violators during the last three months of 2019, with citations issued to violators beginning January 1, 2020. A revamped HB 107 will be heard tomorrow at noon by the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, its first of three committee stops.
Concealed Weapons Licenses – SB 108 by Senator Lauren Book (R-Plantation) transfers the concealed weapons licensing program of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The bill has not had a hearing and has no House companion bill.
Property-Assessed Clean Energy – HB 63 by Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers), would allow the use of Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funds to get folks off septic tanks and connected to municipal sanitary sewer systems or to retrofit to an advanced onsite treatment system. An identical bill, SB 282, has been sponsored in the Senate by Senators Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) and Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota). Neither bill has had a hearing.
Smoking on Beaches – Smoking on public beaches would be prohibited under SB 218 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) who hails from an area consistently on the Top 10 list of beaches in the country. Doing so would be a civil infraction with a maximum penalty of $25 or 10 hours of community service. The bill has not had a hearing.
Attorney Fees in Injunctions – HB 297 by Rep. Chuck Brannan III (R-Lake City) would prohibit attorney fee awards in certain protective injunction proceedings, including domestic violence cases. It has its first hearing today at 3pm before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. Its Senate companion, SB 768 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) has not had a hearing. (Return to top of page)
Homeowners Insurance Policies – SB 380 by Senator Brandes is a “glitch bill” that fixes an oversight in last year’s HB 1011 which said that property insurance policies must prominently display that they don’t provide flood or other coverages. HB 1011, however, didn’t contemplate “endorsement” of coverages onto property insurance policies, so SB 380 fixes this, as would its House companion bill, HB 617 by Rep. Wengay Newton (D-St. Petersburg). SB 380 passed unanimously last Wednesday before the Senate Community Affairs Committee, its second stop. HB 617 will be heard tomorrow before the House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, its second committee stop. (Return to top of page)
Disclosure of Sinkhole Activity – Landlords would have to disclose sinkhole activity to renters under SB 392 by Senator Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale). This includes suspected, known, or reported activity. The bill has not had a hearing.
Red Light Cameras – Efforts resume in the Florida legislature this year to ban the use of red-light cameras by local law enforcement in Florida’s 67 counties and 435 municipalities. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year, clarifying the right of municipalities to use third-party contractors to assist in the traffic infraction process. The Court found that local governments have the right “to contract with a private third-party vendor to review and sort information from red light cameras… before sending that information to a trained traffic enforcement officer, who determines whether probable cause exists and a citation should be issued.”
HB 6003 by Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) would do away with the equipment and the trained officers currently allowed under the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program. The bill was passed on January 23 by the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee and is still awaiting a hearing in the Appropriations Committee. There’s a similar bill (SB 622) in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Brandes, that is awaiting its first hearing. Last July, a federal judge sided with more than 70 cities and counties in dismissing a class action seeking refunds for motorists who had been ticketed after the cameras photographed those running red lights.
Possession of Firearms on School Property – People, presumably including students, would be allowed to carry a gun in a vehicle on school property under HB 6005 by Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) and Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont). This includes any preschool, elementary, middle, junior high, secondary school, career center, or postsecondary school, whether public or nonpublic. The bill passed the House Criminal Justice Committee on March 12 but has not been scheduled for its next stop.
Rep. Sabatini is also sponsoring HB 6007 which would remove the current prohibition against those with concealed carry permits from taking their gun to school. The bill would allow such licensed college and university students to carry guns into the classroom. Sabatini has been quoted as saying “it’s a natural corollary to begin allowing good people to arm themselves on college campuses to prevent the next mass shooter,” following the state’s effort to allow trained teachers to carry guns in the classroom in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day 2018 mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The bill is opposed by some parents, administrators, and the union representing faculty, which has fought efforts to repeal the campus gun-free zone law. The bill has not had a hearing and there is no Senate companion bill. Senate President Bill Galvano was quoted in early March as saying “I’m not sure that it will make it through” the Senate.
Pet Leasing – Calling it a predatory and deceptive practice, Senator Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) last week filed SB 316 which would regulate the contracts for the sale or lease of pets. Just as with expensive cars, a lease-to-own practice allows people to make payments on pets, usually expensive pure breeds, until they own them. The ASPCA says all but six of the roughly 65 puppy-selling stores in Florida offering leasing options. The bill has not had a hearing.
LMA Newsletter of 3-25-19