Florida Session Update #7

Advocacy News ,
 Florida Legislative Session Update #7:

FAA's 2020 Priorities and COVID-19

State Budget/Affordable Housing Funding Update
  • In early March, the House and Senate appropriators made an agreement to fully fund the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust fund.
  • The state legislature went into overtime over the weekend to finalize a budget bill for the legislature to vote on later this week. There was concern that the Sadowski fund could become a target as legislators sought to counteract the state's expected reduction in general tax revenue as a result of COVID-19.
  • FAA is pleased to report that the latest budget bill released on March 15 still includes full funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  • Please know FAA will continue to monitor all developments related to the budget in the final days of the 2020 Session.
FAA's 2020 Legislative Priorities Update
Reduce Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Fraud (HB 209/SB 1084)
  • The House and Senate voted to pass SB 1084, which is now on its way to the Governor. FAA is hopeful this important legislation will be signed into law.
  • SB 1084 will add Florida to a growing list of states that are working to prevent fraudulent ESAs in housing.
  • This bill states that when someone’s disability-related need is not readily apparent, a housing provider can ask the resident to provide information from a licensed provider who is acting within his/her scope of practice to attest to the resident’s disability-related need. 
  • In the event the resident has more than one ESA, a housing provider can request reliable documentation for the disability-related need associated with each ESA. 
  • The bill also provides a strong deterrent by making it a misdemeanor crime to falsify documentation or otherwise misrepresent information relating to using or being qualified to use an ESA.
Increase Affordable Housing Tax Incentives (HB 1339/SB 998)
  • HB 1339 was passed by both the House and Senate. The bill is now awaiting the Governor's signature.
  • HB 1339 will make a series of changes related to housing. If signed into law, the bill will 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 bill also imposes additional annual impact fee reporting requirements on local governments and establishes biannual affordable housing workshops, among other positive changes.
  • The bill was amended late in the legislative session to allow local governments to institute what are commonly referred to as linkage fees. Under the bill, local governments will be required to offset the developer's costs associated with a linkage fee by offering incentives (similar to the requirements under FAA's 2019 priority bill HB 7103).
  • Linkage fees are used by local governments to collect funds from commercial development and/or market rate residential development to be placed in a trust fund for affordable housing.
  • An amendment was added to the Senate companion bill, SB 998, that would have allowed counties to grant property tax exemptions at the local level for affordable housing units, which was one of FAA's priorities for the 2020 session. 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.
  • Unfortunately, SB 1404 was indefinitely postponed and therefore, will not receive a vote on the Senate floor during the remainder of the 2020 Session.
Other Legislation FAA is Watching in 2020
Housing Discrimination Complaints (SB 374)
  • FAA regrets to inform members that after successfully fighting similar legislation for several years, SB 374 was passed by the House and Senate by a unanimous vote.
  • This legislation will allow someone who believes they are a victim of housing discrimination to bypass the administrative complaint process and proceed straight to legal action, which could increase legal costs for property owners.
  • FAA strongly opposed this legislation. However, this bill had significantly more momentum than in years past.
  • That is likely because the Florida Commission on Human Relations was strongly advocating in favor of this legislation and claimed HUD funding could be cut if this bill was not passed during the 2020 session.
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. 
  • SB 664 was passed by both the House and Senate. If this legislation is signed into law by the Governor, all government employers will be required to use the federal E-Verify system. Private employers who decide not to use E-Verify will be required to keep a three-year record of the documents used by workers to complete an I-9 form to verify employment eligibility.
Preemption of Local Licensing (HB 3)
  • HB 3 passed by a 78-0 vote in the House but was later withdrawn from consideration by the Senate, which means it will not receive a vote before the conclusion of the 2020 Session.
  • 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.
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 (HB 321)
  • We are pleased to report HB 321 did not advance during the 2020 legislative session.
  • 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.
COVID-19 Update
As concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak continue to rise, we want to make sure you and your team members are aware of these valuable resources provided by the National Apartment Association (NAA):
  • Click here to access NAA's COVID-19 guidance, which includes: a free webinar with industry policies related to coronavirus and other FAQ's.
  • If a resident at your property is confirmed to have or is believed to have COVID-19, NAA recommends that members do not direct facilities management or maintenance staff to the apartment. Immediately notify the local health department and contact CDC for guidance regarding appropriate measures to take. 
It is also important to note, that local governments across the county, including some here in Florida are considering or have enacted eviction bans in response to COVID-19 concerns. At this time, Miami-Dade and Orange County have issued a notice that they are "temporarily suspending all eviction activities until further notice." We expect to see other county governments in Florida take similar action in the coming days. As these updates are made available, FAA will continue to update members with new developments.