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Legislative Update:  Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session’s Impact on the Construction Industry
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Legislative Update: Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session’s Impact on the Construction Industry

June 9, 2014 Construction Industry Legal Blog

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The 2014 Florida Legislative session came to an end on May 2, 2014.  With a $1.2 billion surplus and elections looming in the fall, cuts in state taxes and fees were a priority for Governor Scott and for legislative leaders. Early in the session, the Legislature passed a $395 million roll-back in vehicle and vessel registration fees which may help the construction industry – fees that were increased in 2009 under the watch of former Governor Charlie Crist.

Florida’s largest budget in history, $77.1 billion, was passed to include $650,000 for a Septic Tank Study, $250,000 for Future Builders of America, and $100 Million for the SHIP program under the Sadowski Act.  The SHIP program provides funds to local governments as an incentive to create partnerships that produce and preserve affordable homeownership and multifamily housing.  In addition, the budget included $250,000 to fight unlicensed contractor activity.  We have seen a strong local effort of late to combat against unlicensed contractor activity, including police sting operations.

Of the 1,812 bills, memorials, and resolutions filed, only 232 passed both the House and the Senate. For the most part, the construction industry came out unchanged.  No bills with major impact upon the industry as a whole were passed.  A few bills were passed that had minor impact.  Here is a list of relevant bills that passed and a short summary of their impact:

  • HB 7147 made numerous energy-related changes and the following changes related to the Florida Building Code and the construction industry:
  • Amending § 162.12:  Providing an additional method for local governments to provide notices to alleged code enforcement violators.
  • Amending § 373.323:  Revising the requirements of an applicant to take the water well contractor licensure examination.
  • Amending the Workers’ Compensation statute, § 440.103:  Authorizing an employer to present required workers compensation documents electronically or physically in order to show proof and certify to the permit issuer that it has secured compensation for its employees; authorizing site plans or electronically transferred building permits to be maintained at the worksite in their original form or by electronic copy; and requiring such plans or permits to be open to inspection by the building official or authorized representative.
  • Amending Ch. 514 and § 553.79:  Changing the permit requirements for a public swimming pool.
  • Amending § 553.37:  Specifying inspection criteria for construction or modification of manufactured buildings or modules.
  • Amending § 553.73:  Authorizing an agency or local government to require rooftop equipment to be installed in compliance with the Florida Building Code if the equipment is being replaced or removed during reroofing and is not in compliance with the Code’s roof-mounted mechanical units requirements; and providing that make-up air is not required for certain range hood exhaust systems.
  • Amending § 553.775:  Authorizing building officials, local enforcement agencies, and the Florida Building Commission to interpret the Florida Accessibility Code for Building Construction; specifying procedures for such interpretations; and deleting provisions relating to declaratory statements and interpretations of the Florida Accessibility Code for Building Construction, to conform.
  • Amending § 553.80:  Requiring counties and municipalities to expedite building construction permitting, building plans review, and inspections of projects of certain public schools, rather than certain public school districts.
  • Amending § 553.841:  Revising education and training requirements of the Florida Building Code Compliance and Mitigation Program.
  • Creating § 553.883:  Authorizing use of smoke alarms powered by 10-year nonremovable, nonreplaceable batteries in lieu of hard-wiring when renovating or remodeling a home; requiring use of such alarms by a certain date; providing an exemption.
  • Amending § 553.993:  Redefining the term “building energy-efficiency rating system” to require consistency with certain national standards for new construction and existing construction; providing for oversight.
  • SB 286 creates the Florida Concrete Masonry Education Council, Inc.  Find out more about the Council here.
  • SB 542 authorizes certain insurers to offer flood insurance in Florida and authorizes supplemental flood insurance based on certain requirements.
  • SB 440 limiting the application of certain requirements relating to bylaws to residential condominiums and their associations and boards; exempting nonresidential condominiums from mandatory arbitration unless specifically provided for in their declarations; and authorizing the developer to modify the plot plan as to unit or building types.
  • HB 489 requires seller to provide prospective purchaser with subsurface rights disclosure summary when selling certain residential property.
  • SB 914 requires state agencies to consider the prior relevant experience of a vendor when evaluating the responses to a request for proposal or invitation to negotiate. Currently, agencies may consider such prior relevant experience, but they are not required to do so. Current law requires agencies to utilize a competitive solicitation process for contracts for commodities or services in excess of $35,000 and agencies may utilize a variety of procurement methods, which may include a request for proposal or invitation to negotiate.

Here is a list of bills that failed:

  • SB 460  Specifying a new fee for recording a claim of lien under the Construction Lien Law; providing that recording a claim of lien after a specified time is an act of fraud; requiring certain documents to be provided before a claim of lien is recorded; requiring the clerk of court to attach such document to the claim of lien before recording the claim, etc.
  • SB 1348 would have imposed a full regulatory oversight program on Homeowners’ Associations.  This bill was opposed by the Florida Homebuilders Association.
  • SB 900 regarding Public-Private Partnerships. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are risk and resource sharing contractual arrangements formed between a public agency and a private sector entity that allow for more significant private sector participation in the delivery and financing of public buildings and infrastructure projects. The bill that failed was drafted to address the decrease in available funding for building construction and maintenance at state universities through addressing measures that made PPP’s more available to state universities. Ultimately too many changes were added to the bill to make the PPP process efficient and effective. This bill may be up for revisiting in 2015.
  • SB 1098 sought to revise the law governing the Florida Homeowners Recovery Fund to include Division II contractors within the parameters of the Fund. The bill sought to limit Division II claims to $15,000 per claim with a $150,000 lifetime maximum per licensee. The bill sought to remove the prohibition against paying consumer claims where the damages resulted from payments made in violation of the Florida Construction Lien Law and also revise the notice that contractors must give to homeowners detailing their rights under the Fund.
  • SB 714 and HB 833, which were originally drafted by our firm, would have created an FHBA Specialty License Plate.  Four specialty license plates were created, while bills to add eight other plates failed to pass.

All things considered, it was a pretty uneventful year for construction based legislation, which is always a good thing. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding these new laws and how they may impact your business.

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