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Florida Session Update #5

Advocacy News ,

 Florida Legislative Session Update #5
Emotional Support Animal Legislation Passes the Senate

This is the fifth in a series of 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
This year's session was originally scheduled to end next week but due to budget negotiations that remain ongoing, it is likely that the 2020 session will be extended. No further details regarding affordable housing funding have been released at this time. Please stay tuned for future updates.
FAA's 2020 Legislative Priorities on the Move:.
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.
  • On March 3, the Senate voted unanimously (40-0) to pass SB 1084. FAA is hopeful that the House will vote on SB 1084 early next week.
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 positive changes.
  • An amendment was added to SB 998 that would allow counties to grant property tax exemptions at the local level for affordable housing units. Unfortunately, this amendment was later stripped from the bill. FAA was told that this language was removed, along with other provisions in the bill, because a fiscal impact could not be readily determined at this time.
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, which removes 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 adopted this amendment on March 3.
  • SB 1404 is now on the Senate Special Order calendar for Monday, March 9 and FAA is hopeful this legislation will receive a vote in the Senate early next week.
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.
  • SB 374 was recently placed on the Senate Special Order Calendar for March 6, which means this legislation is likely to be voted on by the Senate.
  • 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 50 or more employees to register with and use E-Verify or an alternative employment verification system.
  • SB 664 is on the Senate Special Order Calendar and could be voted on by the Senate shortly. Based on various news reports, SB 664 has the support of the Governor and Senate President Bill Galvano. This will factor into negotiations with the House related to this issue.
  • The House companion bill, HB 1265, is taking a different approach. HB 1265 would require all public employers to use E-Verify, but would give private employers the option to use an I-9 form to verify employment illegibility. 
  • HB 1265 is now on the House Special Order Calendar, which means it could be voted on by the House chamber shortly.
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 passed by a unanimous vote in the House on February 5. The Senate subsequently passed HB 469 on March 5. FAA is hopeful that this legislation will be signed into law by the Governor.
  • 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.
  • At this time, the House and Senate have concluded committee meetings, which means it is unlikely this legislation will move any further during the 2020 session.