COVID-19 Alert: Live events through October 2020 have been postponed. Check the Event Calendar for more information!

Florida Legislative Session Update #4

Posted By: Will Jaycox Advocacy News ,
This is the fourth in a series of several email updates regarding the 2020 Florida legislative session. For more information about the bills FAA is watching in 2020, please click here to see FAA's 2020 Legislation tracker or email amanda@faahq.org.
 
FAA's 2020 Legislative Priorities on the Move:
Protect the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund (SB 306/HB 381)
  • SB 306 passed out of the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee with a favorable recommendation by an 8-0 vote on February 3. The bill now advances to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development for further consideration.
  • This important legislation would prevent the legislature from sweeping monies from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund for other purposes within the state budget.
  • It is unlikely that HB 381 will be scheduled for a hearing in the House.
 
Reduce Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Fraud (HB 209/SB 1084)
  • This important legislation would establish a criminal penalty for falsifying an emotional support animal and codify the right for property owners to ask for reliable documentation from a licensed professional when an individual's disability-related need is not readily apparent.
  • An amended version of HB 209 passed with a favorable recommendation on February 12 from the House Judiciary Committee and is now on the House floor on second reading.
  • The bill was amended to ensure the text of the bill was consistent with HUD's newly released guidelines on assistance animals.
  • The definition of an ESA was updated to reflect the definition used in the new guidelines.
  • Language was added to allow telehealth providers who are licensed or registered within the state of Florida to verify the disability related need for an ESA.
  • Language was added to allow out-of-state providers to verify the disability-related need so long as the practitioner has provided in-person care or services to the tenant on at least one occasion and is acting within the scope of his/her practice.
  • Language was added to ensure an emotional support animal registration of any kind (identification card, patch, certificate) from the internet is not, by itself, sufficient information to reliably establish that a person has a disability or disability-related need for an ESA.
  • On February 26, the Senate voted to adopt two amendments for SB 1084, which mirror the language adopted by the House in HB 209. We are excited to report SB 1084 is now on third reading and is expected to be voted on by the Senate on March 3.
 
Increase Affordable Housing Tax Incentives (HB 1339/SB 998)
  • A committee substitute for HB 1339 passed out of the House Commerce Committee with a favorable recommendation on February 27. HB 1339 now advances to the House Floor for consideration.
  • The Senate companion bill, SB 998, passed out of the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee on February 17 and is now scheduled to be considered by the Appropriations committee on March 3.
  • HB 1339/SB 998 would make a series of changes related to housing. If enacted, the bills would provide local governments with the ability to approve the development of affordable housing on any parcel of land that is zoned for residential, commercial, or industrial use. The bills would also impose additional impact fee reporting requirements on local governments and establish biannual affordable housing workshops, among other changes.
  • An amendment was recently added to SB 998 that would allow counties to grant property tax exemptions at the local level for affordable housing units.
  • FAA looks forward to SB 998 advancing to the floor for a vote before the conclusion of the 2020 session.
 
Clarify Fire Radio System Requirements (SB 1404)
  • Florida statute (633.202) was amended in 2016 to give local governments discretion to regulate fire radio systems for buildings within their jurisdiction. However, the vague language that is currently in statute is creating implementation inconsistencies and unintended consequences for property owners across the state. 
  • Under current statute, local governments have the authority to determine the signal strength needed for existing and new buildings within their jurisdiction. Existing apartment buildings are not required to comply with local signal strength requirements until January 1, 2025. However, apartment buildings are required to apply for the appropriate permit for the required communications installation by December 31, 2022.
  • Sen. Lauren Book introduced an amendment for SB 1404 on February 26 that would remove the language requiring apartment communities to obtain a permit to install this fire radio signal equipment by December 31, 2022. Instead, the amendment requires apartment communities to have completed a minimum radio strength assessment by December 31, 2022. The Senate Appropriations Committee, which is the bill's final committee stop, plans to discuss this bill and potential amendments on March 3.
 
Other Legislation FAA is Watching in 2020
Housing Discrimination Complaints
  • HB 175 recently passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation on February 26. As a result, HB 175 is now on the House floor on second reading. Similarly, SB 374 is currently on the Senate floor on second reading.
  • This legislation would allow someone who believes they are a victim of housing discrimination to bypass the administrative complaint process and proceed straight to legal action, which would increase legal costs for property owners.
  • FAA is once again strongly opposing this legislation. The government affairs team will continue to discuss the negative implications of this policy change with leadership in the House and Senate.
 
E-Verify (SB 664/HB 1265)
  • Governor Ron DeSantis has asked the legislature to pass a bill that would require all employers to participate in the federal E-Verify program. E-Verify is a federal database that was designed to aid employers in identifying undocumented immigrants who are ineligible to work in the U.S. 
  • This policy is highly controversial and, as a result, SB 664 has seen extensive changes during the committee process. The current version of the bill would require all Florida employers with 20 or more employees to register with and use E-Verify or an alternative employment verification system.
  • SB 664 is now awaiting consideration in the Senate Rules Committee on March 2, which is the bill's final stop before moving to the Senate floor.
  • The House companion bill, HB 1265, is taking a different approach. HB 1265 would not require private businesses to use the E-Verify system unless they apply for taxpayer-funded incentives through the state Department of Economic Opportunity. The provision would not apply to public and private employers who have incentive-program contracts signed before July 1, 2020.
  • HB 1265 recently passed out of the House Commerce Committee on February 27 with a favorable recommendation. The bill now advances to the Appropriations Committee for further consideration.
  • This is a developing issue. The FAA government affairs team will continue to monitor this legislation and communicate future updates as they arise.
 
Preemption of Local Licensing
  • HB 3 recently passed by a 78-0 vote on the House floor and is now in the Senate.
  • The Senate companion bill, SB 1336, passed out of the Senate Community Affairs Committee on February 3. The bill was temporarily postponed by the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee on February 17.
  • This bill prohibits local governments from requiring a license for a person whose job scope does not substantially correspond to that of a contractor or journeyman. This would prevent local governments from imposing licensing requirements for painting, flooring, cabinetry, interior remodeling, plastering, stuccoing, caulking or the installation of tile, marble, granite, or terrazzo, to name a few examples.
  • FAA strongly supports this legislation and is hopeful the Senate will also pass HB 3.
 
Subscribing Witness Requirement
  • HB 469 recently passed by a unanimous vote in the House on February 5. The Senate companion bill, SB 1224, is currently on second reading on the Senate floor.
  • HB 469/SB 1224 would remove the subscribing witness requirement for leases that exceed one year. 
  • FAA strongly supports HB 469/SB 1224. This legislation is important for FAA members because lease renewals, which are often completed via an electronic signature, routinely exceed one year. When using an electronic signature the witness requirement that currently exists in state law can be problematic.
 
Evictions During a State of Emergency
  • A committee substitute for HB 321 recently passed out of the House Civil Justice Committee with a favorable recommendation by an 11-0 vote on February 4. HB 321 now advances to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration. The Senate companion bill, SB 480, has not had a committee hearing at this time.
  • As introduced these bills would prohibit a writ, process, warrant, order, or judgment relating to a residential eviction from being served during a state of emergency declared by the president, governor, or governing body of a political subdivision. The legislation as introduced would also impose a 15-day waiting period after the end of a declared state of emergency before an eviction could be served.
  • During HB 321's initial committee hearing, Rep. Michael Grieco (the bill sponsor) introduced a substitute that included drastic changes to the bill language. The substitute Rep. Grieco presented would prohibit a sheriff from serving or executing a writ of possession in a county that is under a hurricane watch or hurricane warning until five days after the termination of the hurricane watch or hurricane warning. The committee voted to advance this revised version of the bill on February 4.
  • There is concern that this legislation could be misused to unjustly delay or complicate the eviction process. The FAA government affairs team is closely monitoring this legislation and will be sharing the industry's concerns with committee leaders in the House and Senate.