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Official Web Site of the State of Florida
STATE OF FLORIDA WEB SITE
Every year, we send an assortment of well-educated men and women to Florida’s State Capitol to represent us. They speak for us, act on our behalf, educate themselves about importatnt issues, learn how to work together and try to execute productive resolutions. If they like the job, they run for re-election. Sometimes, their reasons for being there differ from those given to their constituents prior to Election Day; their actions become inconsistent with their promises while questions about their legislative intentions are buried in a blizzard of platitudes. When this occurs, its usually a good time to consider “changing the guard”.

Official Seal of the State of Florida
STATE OF FLORIDA
To be effective, politicians must master a spectrum of communication skills. The art of defining an issue and exhorting the need for a piece of palliative legislation in the same breath is known as “spin”. Depending on how its utilized, “spin” can be either a tool or a weapon; it can rally support for a good cause or create just enough confusion to allow a fox into the henhouse.

Statehouse Representative George Moraitis
REP. GEORGE MORAITIS
In order to determine whether or not your representatives still speak for you, you must examine their work product. To properly diagnose or “unspin” an issue, simply read the actual legislation. If you don’t have the time or patience to peruse the dry legislative text, review an authoritative summary. Corresponding with your representatives is another alternative to directly examining legislative content. Every year, legislation affecting Galt Mile residents oozes out of Tallahassee, often unnoticed. The issues surrounding that legislation will be explained in this section. Before next year’s legislative session, the articles will be relegated to the site’s Tallahassee Archives, setting the stage for the new session. Email, write, FAX or telephone your Statehouse Representative and your Senator with the specific obstacles that any issue or legislative effort hold for you. To find all the contact information for the Galt Mile’s political representatives in Tallahassee or elsewhere, go to the Report Card.

Florida Senator Gary Farmer
SENATOR GARY FARMER
Georgetown Historian Carroll Quigley
GEORGETOWN HISTORIAN
CARROLL QUIGLEY
Galt Mile Residents are currently represented by George Moraitis in the Florida Statehouse and Gary Farmer in the Florida Senate. Notwithstanding their official “party” affiliations, their primary responsibility is to YOU. They are obligated to exercise their voting power and influence the outcomes of certain issues based upon the feedback they recieve from their constituents - US. If they don't - as exclaimed by Georgetown University Professor Carroll Quigley while considering the virtues of Democracy - we can “Throw the rascals out.”

Florida Senate Florida House After familiarizing ourselves with the legislative land mines planted during the annual session and unifying behind issues that benefit the entire neighborhood, we can send our political representatives in Tallahassee a clear and unconflicted wish list. Furthering their constituents' agenda will have a far greater impact on their future political ascendency than their party affiliations - or ours. This pro-active formula also shields our community from the paralysis of partisan gridlock that might otherwise belabor efforts to enact favorable legislation. By sending a few strategically timed emails, we can thwart bills conceived to abridge our rights, erode home rule and drain association budgets. Not a bad day's work!

Dolphin Sculpture at Entrance to the State Capitol Complex
DOLPHIN SCULPTURE AT ENTRANCE TO THE STATE CAPITOL COMPLEX

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2005

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2005 Articles

Representative Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff

The Ombudsman Question?

Tallahassee Playbill - A Scorecard

Strange Bedfellows

Community Association Day in Tallahassee

Condo Killer - 2005

Legislative History of HB 1229

Staff Analysis of HB 1229

What the Staff Analysis of HB 1229 Means to Galt Mile Residents

Foreclosure Flytrap - SB 2632

Legislative History of SB 2632

Condo Rights Remain Intact

The State is Holding $1 Billion of YOUR Unclaimed Property

Representative Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff - Post 2005

Representative Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff - August 2005

Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo - At Bat

12/2005 Lunch Meeting

12/2005 Special Session - Ellyn Bogdanoff

Other Issues

New Fire Safety Mandate



Beach Renourishment Project



Cleveland Clinic Emergency Room



City of Fort Lauderdale Page



Budget Crisis Page



Broward County Business



AEDs - Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)



32nd Street Alley



Fort Lauderdale/Galt Mile Crime Statistics




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2005 Legislative Session



Update 2005: Representative Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff

Impending 2005 Legislative Session – Term 1, Year 2

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
January 25, 2005 -
Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, the Galt Mile’s Representative in the Florida Statehouse, addressed the January 20th meeting of the Galt Mile Community Association Advisory Board at Nick’s Italian Restaurant. The second year Fort Lauderdale attorney discussed an assortment of issues that impact all District 91 residents. She touched on shore preservation, fire safety statutes, insurance changes, a Barrier Island emergency room, legalized gambling and issues brought into focus by the vicious hurricane season. In response to concerns expressed by Advisory Board members, Representative Bogdanoff also addressed the prospect of a new round of legislation devastating to condo owners resurfacing in the upcoming legislative session.

Ms. Bogdanoff squeaked by with a paper thin margin last January 6th in a hotly contested interim election for former Representative Connie Mack IV’s vacated House seat. She defeated a field of six contenders, including the well-known former Mayor of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Oliver Parker, to secure the District 91 Statehouse seat in her third attempt at elected office. A few days after her victory, she found herself in Tallahassee during what developed into the most contentious session in recent years for a large portion of her constituency… condominium owners. Without the benefit of an acclimation period, the 45 year-old Republican adapted to her Tallahassee environs “on the fly”. Given a full complement of major Committee appointments by former House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (including Appropriations, Commerce, Judiciary, Insurance and Procedures), the rookie lawmaker quickly networked the State Capital while establishing new lines of communication with her Fort Lauderdale constituency. When she last addressed the Advisory Board on May 20, 2004 (within weeks of completing her first legislative session), she recommended organizing a legislative “wish list” in preparation for the following year’s (2005) challenges. During a December 4th meeting with GMCA officials and residents Robert Rozema, Pio Ieraci and Eric Berkowitz, Ms. Bogdanoff reviewed Galt Mile community objectives and obstacles; offering to expand upon them for the benefit of the Association’s more fully representative Advisory Board.

Shore Preservation – Beach Renourishment

GMCA Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci
GMCA PRESIDENTS COUNCIL
CHAIR PIO IERACI
Presidents Council and Broward Beach Coalition Chair Pio Ieraci acknowledged that bids for the beach renourishment were currently being elicited by Broward County in a process that would give rise to selecting a contractor. Once chosen, the winning bidder will commence the Segment II (Hollywood) part of the project. Representative Bogdanoff explained that the severe hurricane season has significantly reordered many of Tallahassee’s priorities. Over the past five years, procrastination by State officials has slowed Beach Renourishment progress to a crawl. The severe tidal erosion suffered by Florida beaches during the 4-event hurricane season served to alert Tallahassee to the dangers adherent to the unprotected shoreline. The immediacy of the threat to life and property has heightened the State’s concern, serendipitously encouraging officials to “pick up” the heretofore dilatory project pace.

Fire Safety – The “Sprinkler Statute”

The reshaping of current fire safety statutes underwent some minor impacts last session. Two bills that ease the way for Associations to opt out of a full sprinkler retrofit were signed into law. Ms. Bogdanoff noted that newer, technologically superior “smart systems” are gaining credibility as preferable alternatives to the extremely expensive and questionably useful installation of sprinklers into apartment foyers (as mandated in the original legislation). However, in view of the substantial stakes on the table for the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union and the National Fire Sprinkler Association, she expects the controversy to continue for several years.

Insurance Changes – The Double Deductible Dilemma

Tallahassee fixes the double deductible problem
Special Session in Tallahassee
Representative Bogdanoff discussed the insurance ramifications of a legislative special session convened on December 13, 2004 by Governor Bush to contend with emergency issues triggered by weather-related disasters. Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher engineered a law passed during the special session that provides reimbursement to policyholders of residential property insurance for multiple deductibles applied by insurers for two or more hurricanes. Condominium Associations are eligible for reimbursements of up to $3000/unit. The statute also provides that insurers restrict their future policies to a single annual deductible. In turn, carriers made clear their intentions to apply substantial premium hikes to affected policies. Ms. Bogdanoff explained that negotiations are underway to present Associations with a choice. Essentially, an Association will be able to opt for either a higher premium with a single annual deductible or multiple deductibles with a lower premium expense. To effect an appropriate response to Hurricane Insurance problems, the House and Senate formed a special committee, the Joint Select Committee on Hurricane Insurance. As per Senate President Tom Lee and House Speaker Allan Bense, the Joint Select Committee’s mandate includes, “Further study of the issue of multiple deductibles; including analysis of the effect on premiums, particularly for condominium associations.”

Barrier Island Emergency Room

When the Cleveland Clinic abandoned their previous North Ocean Boulevard location, it left the Barrier Island without a hospital and, more specifically, an emergency room. Despite the continuous efforts of politicians, civic leaders and various local health care organizations, attempts to replace the “Certificate of Need” (CON) required to authorize another hospital have come up empty. Representative Bogdanoff alluded to what may be another “silver lining” to the catastrophic hurricane season. Officials are considering the consequences of the Barrier Island’s forced isolation from the mainland. If the bridges that span the intracoastal were disabled or rendered impassible from either a weather-related catastrophe or a terrorist threat, no medical stabilization facility would be available for Barrier Island Residents. Ms. Bogdanoff is investigating the feasibility of utilizing this scenario as the basis for securing the elusive CON necessary for either a hospital or a stand-alone emergency room.

Legalized Gambling – “Slots” for Hot Spots

Slots on the Way to Broward Ms. Bogdanoff mentioned that the March 8, 2005 elections will contain only one issue pertinent to Fort Lauderdale residents. The Broward County Commission authorized a Special Referendum Election for the purpose of determining whether slot machines shall be authorized at existing licensed pari-mutuel facilities located within Broward County as provided in Article X, Section 23, of the Florida Constitution. Dania Jai-Alai, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Pompano Park Harness Racing in Pompano Beach, and the Hollywood Greyhound Race Track in Hallandale Beach - should they choose to participate - will each pay Broward County $625,000 by September 30, 2005. The agreement also stipulates that each pari-mutuel facility shall make a monthly payment to Broward County in the amount of 1.5 percent of the gross slot revenue generated by each and every slot machine to defray the cost of local government impacts and expenses incurred as a result of the development and operation of slot machines. In case the gross slot revenue exceeds $250,000,000, the percentage paid to Broward County will increase to 2 percent. Ms. Bogdanoff explained that while the tax revenues must supplement public education statewide, no formula currently exists to guide distribution. While she feels that the issue is a matter of personal preference, Ms. Bogdanoff is concerned that because no Fort Lauderdale races or issues are to be decided in the March 8th election, municipal turnout will be marginal - as will our input!

New Threat to Self-Governance

Advisory Board members exhibited serious concerns about another threatened legislative attempt to dismantle the condominium system and disenfranchise condo owners. In last year’s legislative session, a bill “spun” by sponsors as “empowering to condo owners” was offered in both the House and Senate. When the actual text was examined by condo owners across Florida, an ocean of protest hit the State Capitol. The Condo Killer legislation threatened to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of owners, creating a structure in which a single disgruntled resident could bring all daily condominium operations to a halt and effectively disembowel the entire condominium system. Self-Governance would have been functionally replaced by a new Tallahassee-run bureaucracy. After reading the contradictory and unconstitutional mass abrogation of rights in the bill text, the bill’s Senate sponsor, Evelyn Lynn, withdrew and had to be replaced. Thousands of angry condo owners across the state bitterly complained to their Senators, Representatives and the Governor. Apparently, the only input collected by the bill’s sponsors was anecdotal evidence from a group of disgruntled condo owners. Additionally, it appeared as if some of the bill’s sponsors were using their office to enact a personal agenda. Two lawmakers who hadn’t paid maintenance assessments on their condominiums were liened by their respective Associations. GMCA members postulated that they might have found a more appropriate way to exact revenge on their Associations for expecting them to pay their bills. One by one, the legislation’s damaging provisions were excised by legislators. In summarizing the “Condo Killer” bills’ ultimate fate, Representative Bogdanoff stated, “Fortunately, the provisions of the bill that threatened to confiscate owners’ rights or interfere with an Association’s daily operations were removed.”

Pio Ieraci of Galt Ocean Club affirmed, “The vast majority of Condominium Associations are well run and successfully address their members’ needs and objectives. It is built upon the democratic principle of majority rule while protecting the rights of the minority. To replace self-governance for over a million condominium owners with governmental micro-management is unacceptable.” Ieraci continued, “If a condo board member OR a State legislator behaves inappropriately, they should be disciplined according to the law. You don’t dismantle the entire system or punish every legislator. A substantial part of a condominium unit’s value hinges on the stability of the Condo system. Who would buy a home in which maintenance and security could be thwarted spontaneously by any neighbor for any reason?”

Representative Julio Robaina, Committee Chairman and Speaker
REP. JULIO ROBAINA
When queried about the political motives of the bill’s primary sponsor (Miami Representative Julio Robaina), Representative Bogdanoff opined that “Mr. Robaina may have created the legislation in response to a problem local to his district; he incorrectly assumed that his resolution should be universally applied.” Mr. Ieraci noted that Mr. Robaina had excluded authoritative input into his legislation, restricting it to a small group of disgruntled condo owners based in St. Augustine. “He hasn’t allowed participation by representatives of the 99% of Florida Condominium Associations that operate well,” Ieraci exclaimed. Mr. Ieraci referred to the unpublicized “public meetings” held two years ago by Robaina’s Select Committee on Condominium Association Governance in which any speaker that didn’t belong to Robaina’s exclusive “insider” group was roundly shouted down by group members with the tacit approval of the Committee. Mr. Ieraci regretted that Robaina’s legislation didn’t match its promise. Instead of promoting constructive legislation “to empower condo owners” that would have secured universal support, Mr. Robaina decided to cook up a “straw dog” to seemingly harvest media access stimulated by the controversy.

Regency Tower President Dott Nicholson-Brown
Dott Nicholson-Brown
Dott Nicholson-Brown of Regency Tower exclaimed to Ms. Bogdanoff, “I want to emphasize just how important this issue is to us. Last year, hundreds of my neighbors expressed ‘bi-partisan opposition’ to these arbitrary changes to the Condominium Laws.” Ms. Nicholson-Brown explained that, “Both Republican and Democratic Party leaders contacted the Governor, Broward Senators and Statehouse Representatives to overturn these destructive provisions.” GMCA President Robert Rozema concurred with Ms. Nicholson-Brown’s assessment. Several other Advisory Board members identified with her experience, confirming that large numbers of normally passive residents contacted State officials in angry opposition to this attempted infringement of their rights.

Ms. Bogdanoff assured the assemblage that she would remain vigilant, promising to “fight for her constituents’ right to self-governance” should they again be threatened by governmental micro-management of their homes. She also asserted that Tallahassee would likely be too preoccupied with serious problems resulting from the catastrophic hurricane season to dwell on questionable political agendas such as the “Condo Killer” bills. By way of example, she stated that “measures for streamlining statutory provisions for Condominiums to effectively operate under emergency conditions” are being reviewed, such as “when Board members are scattered and resources for emergency repairs have to be secured and disbursed.” According to Professor William Sklar, Co-Chair of the Governor’s Homeowner Association Task Force, the Florida Bar’s Real Property and Condo Committee intends to propose the legislative measures referred to by Ms. Bogdanoff during a scheduled February meeting in Tallahassee.

Invitation to Greater Community Participation

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff on House Floor
REP. BOGDANOFF ON HOUSE FLOOR
Representative Bogdanoff invited greater participation by constituents in the legislative process. “Because you are often aware of events before we are in Tallahassee, it would be very useful if we could communicate during the course of the session. Last year, with the help of constituents back home - some of you - I was able to address important issues as they emerged. I am accessible during the entire legislative session.” She elaborated, “This is particularly true during the final weeks of the session; situations change quickly and you often learn of these changes before we do. My laptop was always on as the session drew to a conclusion last year.” This is a reasonable request. Our laptops were also on. They will also be on during the upcoming session. It is always comforting to know that someone in Tallahassee is listening.

For the 2005 legislative session, Representative Bogdanoff has been appointed to five new Councils/Committee memberships in the Florida House of Representatives. She is the Chair of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee and the Vice Chair of the State Administration Council. She serves on the Commerce Council. She is also a member of the Ethics & Elections Committee, the PreK-12 Committee and the Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Committee. Not bad for the second year of her first term! I can personally attest to our Representative’s claimed “accessibility”. During the final days of last year’s legislative slugfest, I alerted her to our concerns about quickly morphing legislation. She kept me continuously updated while she was “networking” on the House floor. Questions were generally answered within an hour or two, often late into the evening. Despite her “rookie” status last year, Representative Bogdanoff clearly demonstrated that she knows how to assess developments, form alliances and, when indicated, roll up her sleeves and take care of business! In addition to these required ingredients for success in Tallahassee...SHE LISTENS!

Contact Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff  

  • Tallahassee -
    The Capitol (Room 1102), 402 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300. Her phone# in the Capitol is (850) 488-0635. Her Email is ellyn.bogdanoff@myfloridahouse.gov
  • Legislative Assistant -
    Gerald O’Rourke, Ms. Bogdanoff’s Legislative Assistant, can be Emailed at gerald.orourke@myfloridahouse.gov.
  • Local -
    2601 East Oakland Park Blvd (Suite 204), Fort Lauderdale, FL 33306-1612. Her local phone# is (954) 958-5569.
  • Legislative Assistant -
    Aaron Nevins, Ms. Bogdanoff’s District Aide, can be Emailed at aaron.nevins@myfloridahouse.gov.
  • For complete contact information, go to Report Card.


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    Community Association Day

    February 15, 2005 - The Galt Mile Community Association will be participating in a Community Association Day up in Tallahassee on March 30, 2005. We will be planning meetings with key legislators to afford YOU an opportunity to voice your concerns and wishes to your public-policy makers. Despite all the media hype regarding out-of-control boards and reckless communities, this will be an opportunity for the usually silent majority to give another view of life within community associations to your legislators as they contemplate even more radical proposals impacting community associations this year.

    What are the Issues?

    GMCA and CALL to go to Tallahassee to Address Representatives
    GMCA goes to Tallahassee
    In addition to important local issues, the Galt Mile shares concerns with Condominium Associations across the state. During the
    Florida Legislature’s 2004 Special Session for Hurricane Issues called on December 13th, alarming deficiencies in the Condominium Act became apparent. The $20 billion cost of the catastrophic season is threatening to send insurance costs through the roof and/or insurance companies to pull up stakes and abandon the Florida market. Condominiums devastated by the damage were surprised to find their hands tied when they attempted to effect emergency repairs. The 4-hurricane wake-up call alerted authorities to the critical need to enact statutory guidance for Associations trying to survive disasters.

    In 2002, the legislature passed a law requiring the retrofitting of existing condominiums with a questionably effective and extremely expensive sprrinkler system. In view of the improvements in fire safety technology and the availability of resulting “smart systems”, we will propose this to legislators as a clear improvement over the existing requirements. Alternatively, we'll seek to extend the current 2014 compliance date to install either a full or partial sprinkler retrofit until 2020.

    Every democratic institution constantly struggles to balance the rights of its members with institutional objectives. Every year, legislators consider ways to refine the Condominium Act and the Cooperative Act (Chapters 718 and 719 of the Florida Statutes), the laws that govern this balance. If regulations created to improve the way neighbors treat one another aren’t carefully crafted, they do more harm than good. Any proposal worthy of support requires a balance of everyone’s rights with each individual owner’s rights. Last year, several politically motivated bills damaging to condo owners were cynically “spun” by supporters as “empowering to condo owners”.

    The Galt Mile Community Association carefully monitors those proposals deemed detrimental to the maintenance, operation or administration of community associations and the rights of condo owners. Of concern are proposals which make board service too great a burden or diminish the pool of those eligible to volunteer and serve on the board by unconstitutionally disenfranchising certain owners. We oppose proposals which harm the ability of an association to consistently and effectively collect assessments necessary to fund essential community services and proposals which unnecessarily increase the cost of administering and operating the community - hiking maintenance costs. These types of radical proposals harm community association residents and the real property value of their homes and communities.

    Florida is already nationally recognized as a “debtor’s paradise”. There are proposals being promoted that limit or ban the ability of associations to lien and foreclose to collect delinquent assessments. Since the Associations expenses still have to be paid, every other member’s assessment is increased to cover the scofflaw’s unpaid debt. This is unacceptable. No homeowner should be legally forced to pay their neighbor’s debts!

    The Galt Mile Needs You

    Two years ago, the Galt Mile Community Association sent a contingent of residents to appear at a meeting of the Florida Cabinet to express concern for our disappearing beaches. Their efforts resulted in the Galt Mile’s inclusion in the upcoming beach renourishment. We once again find ourselves at a crossroads. Along with CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby), condominium owners from across the state intend to apprise our officials in Tallahassee of our urgent concerns. The Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL) is the leading organization working to enhance the quality of life and protect property values for Florida’s community association residents. CALL advocates on behalf of more than 4,000 member communities, including condominiums, homeowners’ associations, mobile home communities and cooperatives throughout the state.

    Please contact your building office to learn more about CA Day. All residents and board members are invited to join your neighbors in support of your community, your Association and your way of life. We are asking for your personal participation to insure that our state legislators - Senators and Representatives - understand the gravity of our concerns and the depth of our conviction. Volume discounts will minimize the costs of transportation (flight), lodging and meals. Our intent is to fly to Tallahassee on March 29, 2005 and return in the late evening of the following day. Of course you may arrange your own transportation and lodging. The importance of your presence in Tallahassee cannot be overstated! For additional information, call Donna Berger at 1-800-432-7712 or email her at Dberger@becker-poliakoff.com. Click Here to access the CALL web site. Click Here to review CALL's 2005 legislative goals.

    To impact the legislative process without leaving your home, simply follow the legislative histories of the bills that affect us. Send emails to the members of the various committees that are responsible for reviewing the bills. Tell them your opinion. They will vote according to the input they receive from interested parties...like you! Click Here to follow the legislative history of HB 1229, the Condo Killer Bill. Click Here to follow the legislative history of SB 2632, Senator Siplin’s bill designed to destroy an Association’s operational underpinnings.


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    Condo Owners Invade Tallahassee

    Galt Residents Meet with Legislators

    Over 100 condominium owners from Broward and Palm Beach Counties prepare to join another 200 homeowners from all over Florida in the State Capitol
    GALT MILE RESIDENTS JOIN OTHER BROWARD HOMEOWNERS
    TO APPRISE STATE OFFICIALS OF THEIR CONCERNS
    March 31, 2005 - On Wednesday, March 30th at 6:00 AM, 21 Galt Mile residents met at Fort Lauderdale International Airport to board a flight to Tallahassee. Altogether, over 100 condominium owners from Broward and Palm Beach Counties prepared to join another 200 homeowners from all over Florida in the State Capitol.
    Rose Guttman, Terry Cook and Bob Krevy from the ocean club condominium looked around the ATA counter for familiar faces. Marty and Shelly Glazer from Southpoint and Galleon resident Vini Persiani patiently waited on line as Dott Nicholson-Brown, Louise Collins, Fern McBride and Eric Peter Berkowitz from Regency Tower entered Terminal 3. Regency Tower resident Howard Hirschman shared a taxi to the airport with Ocean Summit residents Dr. Jim Comis, Russell Bailey, and Martha Bruno. Lorraine Alfano from L’Hermitage snapped pictures of the Galt Mile contingent as they waited to clear security. The Galt Ocean Club’s Pio Ieraci discussed the premise for our pre-dawn gathering with residents and board volunteers from Galt Towers, the Riviera, Coral Ridge Towers and other Galt Mile Associations. Along with condo owners from Miramar, Plantation, Margate, Delray and Boca, they all anxiously anticipated participating in the impending Community Association Day event in the State Capitol.

    CALL Executive Director Donna D. Berger en Route to Tallahassee - Galt Mile's Pio Ieraci leans into aisle while on the Phone
    CALL Director DONNA BERGER Accompanies Condo Owners
    (Galt Resident PIO IERACI Discusses Issues Across Aisle)
    Organized with the help of the Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL), Community Association Day promised to be an enlightening albeit exigent experience. Far from a pleasurable trek through the halls of State government, over 300 homeowners journeyed to the Capitol because their way of life is once again being threatened. Residents took time off from their jobs and various commitments to join hundreds of other condominium owners from around the state. Together with homeowners from Naples, Jacksonville, Orlando, the Sun, Space and Gold Coasts, Pensacola, Miami, St. Petersburg and many other areas, they converged on Tallahassee by bus, automobile and plane to communicate their concerns and those of their neighbors to their political representatives.

    The group expected to accomplish multiple objectives. They intended to clarify to their elected officials that claims made by a self-serving political coalition about “condo problems” were creative distortions. The legislative “answers” proposed by this coalition were designed to destabilize Association operations, skyrocket maintenance expense, dismantle the condominium system throughout the state and replace self-governance with government controls. They also went to demonstrate their universal opposition to the recent profusion of skewed legislation by this anti-association lobby and their minions in the Statehouse. They arrived “en masse” to make clear that the purveyors of the “Condo Killer” bills spoke only for themselves, not the “silent majority” of homeowners throughout Florida. Their message was that they were capable of governing their own homes.

    Arrival in the Capitol

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    Upon arriving at the Capitol, the various condo owners sought to visit their respective elected officials. At 10 AM, Galt Mile residents met with Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff to discuss two bills currently filed in the legislature, HB 1229 in the House and SB 2632 in the Senate. Fortunately, our Representative was already familiar with the dangers inherent in the legislation. She described HB 1229’s attempt to mandate onerous reserve requirements, unnecessary costly audits and obstacles designed to deter board participation by homeowners as clearly harmful to her constituents. She opined that every representative with substantial condominium constituencies would share her concerns about the bills. Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners Christine Teel and Carleton Moore joined the group to help underscore their concerns.

    Florida State Senator Jeffrey (Jeff) H. Atwater
    Senator Jeffrey (Jeff) H. Atwater
    Later in the morning, Galt Mile residents met with Senator Jeffrey Atwater to discuss the bills’ consequences. Bob Krevy of Ocean Club gave Senator Atwater documentation taken from the Galt Mile web site (sourced from the House and Senate web sites) to illustrate the group’s trepidations. As described in the House of Representatives Staff Analysis of HB 1229, “The Legislature recognizes that it is not in the best interest of homeowners’ associations or the individual association members thereof to create or impose a bureau or other agency of state government to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations. This bill arguably creates a ‘bureau or other agency... to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations.’” In addition to the faulty premise upon which the bill was constructed, the Senator recognized the devastating consequences ignored by the legislation and the suspicious disconnect between the bill’s actual language and its stated objectives.

    Senator Atwater has had some direct experience with the group behind this bill. He also has a unique insight into the needs of Associations and the real problems facing their members. Senator Atwater sponsored SB 2984, a progressive Homeowner Association bill that passed last year in response to the findings of Governor Bush’s Homeowners Association Task Force. Last year, a few of Mr. Robaina’s “Cybers” joined some pickets provided by SEIU to demonstrate outside the Senator’s Palm Beach office. Financed by Local 11 in Miami, a union trying to organize condominium employees, the demonstrators demanded that the Senator include regulations in his legislation that were overwhelmingly voted down by the Governor’s Task Force. He naturally refused to accept provisions designed to hurt the same people that his bill was created to help. The Senator also exhorted that the tremendous cost being placed on Association members by Representative Julio Robaina’s HB 1229 would further “deter many legislators from supporting the bill.”

    Senator Atwater then focused on Senator Gary Siplin’s SB 2632, a bill seeking to severely limit or eliminate an association’s right to lien or foreclose when members ignore their financial responsibility. Acknowledging that these were the only tools available to Associations to deter delinquencies, he confirmed that the bill’s effect was tantamount to eliminating an Association’s ability to collect the funds required to operate. The subsequent financial “train wreck” would destroy thousands of Associations across the State, hurting millions of homeowners.

    Ocean Summit Residents Martha Bruno, Dr. Jim Comis and Russell Bailey and Regency Tower's Louise Collins Discuss the Bills with Legislators
    Ocean Summit's MARTHA BRUNO, DR. JIM COMIS
    and RUSSELL BAILEY and Regency Tower's
    LOUISE COLLINS Discuss the Bills with Legislators
    Galt Ocean Club resident Pio Ieraci informed the Senator about an article written by a well known banking official that illustrated another danger. In standard mortgage application procedures, the lender sends an inquiry to the condo about its solvency and the number of “unpaid” assessments carried by the Association. If the balance sheet demonstrates that their mortgage loan will be insufficiently collateralized due to the Association’s inability to collect its required resources, the mortgage is refused. Mr. Ieraci repeated the banker’s contention that, “passage of this bill will undermine the current basis for lenders to provide mortgages for condo ownership.” Regency Tower resident Eric Berkowitz added that, “when individual owners don’t pay their obligations, the condo still must pay its bills. The resulting shortfall must then be paid by the delinquent’s neighbors, thereby forcing an “unfunded mandate” on every other homeowner in the Association.” Senator Atwater responded, “A bill designed to protect deadbeats to the detriment of everyone else is clearly unworkable.”

    River Reach Condominium Residents Confront Representative Robaina
    RIVER REACH Condominium Residents Confront
    Representative ROBAINA about his Controversial Bill
    As part of the outreach effort, the homeowners filtered through the Capitol seeking to alert legislators to their concerns. A group of condo owners from River Reach Condominium in Fort Lauderdale sought Representative Robaina to confront the legislator with their objections to his "counterproductive" bills. River Reach is also the home of Condominium Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo. Prior to his appointment as the State's top Condo mediator, he engineered a lawsuit against his Board for "mishandling condominium investments". The Association members rallied around their Board and countered with a libel suit. After Rizzo's appointment, a large contingent of River Reach owners met with reporters to question the wisdom of enstating such a disruptive influence as the State's top "dialogue facilitator". Upon finding Robaina, they took the opportunity to inquire about this suspicious appointment as well as questioning him about contradictions posed by HB 1229.

    Representative Leslie Waters, Speaker pro tempore of the Florida House of Representatives
    Rep. Leslie Waters
    During the afternoon, all 300 residents wearing white tee shirts displaying “Community Association Day” in red letters met in the House chamber to hear several House members explain how the institution operates. Representative Leslie Waters of St. Petersburg, currently the Speaker pro tempore of the Florida House of Representatives, explained that the Speaker pro tempore does “whatever the Speaker wants.” Pointing out the portraits of past Speakers that encircle the chamber, she predicted that, “the day will soon come that a woman will occupy the Speaker’s post.”

    Representative Dudley Goodlette
    Representative Dudley Goodlette
    Representative Dudley Goodlette of Naples followed Ms. Waters. Representative Goodlette addressed last year’s Condo Killer bills. He recounted the demise of the ill-fated legislation as the session drew to a close. Ultimately, he voted for a bill that was heavily favorable to condo owners, despite containing some controversial remnants of the original Condo Killer language. When a Margate condo owner asked why he voted for the bill, he explained that, “bills often contain positive and negative aspects. Any responsible legislator will carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether or not it is deserving of support.” He expanded, “If every legislator voted against every bill that contained something that they didn’t agree with, nothing would ever get passed.” Despite the last-minute inclusion of a few controversial provisions, the final versions of SB 1184 and SB 2984 clearly helped condo owners.
    Representative Frank Farkas Adresses Condo Owners
    REP. FRANK FARKAS
    ADDRESSES CONDO ISSUES
    They protected associations that installed defibrillators from civil liability. They also made it easier for condos wishing to “opt out” of retrofitting their premises with an expensive sprinkler system. When HB 1229 was brought up, Mr. Goodlette respectfully declined to comment on the bill before discussing it with the bill’s sponsors, adhering to “appropriate legislative protocol”. Goodlette also offered valuable insight into how constituents should contact their representatives about their concerns. He strongly advocates using email for this purpose, stating that most legislators check their email often and respond more quickly to emails than to telephone calls. He gives weight to emails that contain personal perspectives of issues. However, when he receives a plethora of identical emails, he simply deletes them! Goodlette has repeatedly proven himself as a valuable ally of condo owners.

    Condo Owners Listen to State Officials in the House Chamber
    Condo Owners Occupy their Representatives Seats
    as State Officials Speak in the House Chamber
    Other legislators and state officials that enlightened the group were Senator Bill Posey, Representative Frank Farkas, CFO Tom Gallagher’s assistant Lisa Miller (introduced by Peter Dunbar, author of the “Condominium Concept” in its 9th Edition) and Advisory Council on Condominiums Chair Joe Adams. Earlier, Senator Walter “Skip” Campbell urged support of SB 2062, a bill that really does help condo owners. The disastrous hurricane season illustrated serious deficiencies in the Condominium Act. Some condominiums that sustained severe damage from the storms were unable to effectively respond to the catastrophe.
    Senator Walter Campbell Adresses Condo Owners
    SENATOR WALTER CAMPBELL
    EXPLAINS SB 2062
    The Associations’ boards weren’t equipt with sufficient authority to protect the premises or effect the emergency repairs required to restore the premises to a safe condition. The “notice” required by law prior to a board meeting would be waived, allowing for an emergency meeting to respond to a declared catastrophe. During the hurricanes, hundreds of balcony doors, windows and hurricane shutters were blown off the buildings along the Galt Mile. The bill would permit entry into the affected units to secure them and/or effect repairs to prevent further damage. The bill would also permit the board to implement a disaster plan prior to, during, or after a catastrophic event, including shutting down elevators, electricity, water, sewer, security systems, or air conditioners. In addition to adequately enlarging board powers and flexibility in the event of a catastrophe, Campbell’s bill would extend the time by which a Condominium Association that has “opted out” of a full sprinkler retrofit must install sprinklers into common areas of a high rise condominium from the current 2014 to 2020. Representative Frank Farkas is sponsoring a companion bill in the House of Representatives, HB 1593, to provide this important relief.

    The Messengers Return

    It Pays to SPEAK UP - GALT MILE MESSENGERS TO TALLAHASSEE MADE A DIFFERENCE
    GALT MILE RESIDENTS MADE
    A DIFFERENCE IN TALLAHASSEE
    Upon returning to Fort Lauderdale, the travelers shared a sense of accomplishment, having expended their time, effort and resources to promote their beliefs. Every resident fought to protect their home and those of their friends and neighbors. While the exigencies of a sixteen-hour ordeal precluded many of our residents from participating in the event, those that went earned the uncontested support, respect and admiration of their neighbors. For defending the rights of homeowners to self-governance, they are nothing less than community heroes. In addition to appreciation by their neighbors, they deserve the gratitude of condo owners throughout the State of Florida!

    Our Voices were Heard

    The travelers were also rewarded with responses from their legislators that were overwhelmingly positive. Senators and Representatives universally expressed gratitude to their visitors from “back home” for providing them with guidance as to how they should apply their votes. After declaring their appreciation, Representative Bogdanoff and Senator Atwater requested that the visitors continue to provide them with similar guidance as the session progresses. In addition to discussing their reservations about the current destructive bills, the condo owners emphasized their opposition to the recent blizzard of irresponsible legislation based solely on anecdotal assertions. Reacting to the unequivocal objections raised by the visiting homeowners, the Condominium Advisory Council voted on March 31st (the following day) to NOT support Representative Robaina’s HB 1229 in its current form! This is a step in the right direction. Apparently, the voices of condo owners are finally being heard!


    Condo Owners discuss issues during a luncheon meeting on CA Day in Tallahassee
    GALT MILE CONDO OWNERS DISCUSS ISSUES AT A LUNCHEON MEETING ON CA DAY IN TALLAHASSEE
    STARTING AT LEFT CIRCLING THE TABLE ARE ROSE GUTTMANN, PIO IERACI, ERIC PETER BERKOWITZ,
    CITY COMMISSIONER CHRISTINE TEEL, LORRAINE ALFANO, MARTY AND SHELLY GLAZER, VINCENT PERSIANI,
    BOB KREVY AND TERRY COOK

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    The Ombudsman Question

    Florida Condominium Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo
    CONDO OMBUDSMAN
    VIRGIL RIZZO
    March 1, 2005 - Dr. Virgil Rizzo is the
    Condominium Ombudsman. The 67 year-old attorney - retired physician was appointed by Governor Bush on December 3, 2004. His responsibility is to mediate conflicts. Specifically, conflicts between condo owners, board members, Associations, Managers, etc. If an owner has a problem with the Board, they can call him. If a Condo Board has a problem with an owner, they can call him. If a Board member has a problem with another Board member, Rizzo is available. He is supposed to be a neutral dialogue facilitator. He is supposed to hear the facts surrounding an issue and apply the law; his mandate is to serve as a fair and impartial mediator. On January 28th, Rizzo attended a meeting in Dania Beach. Unfortunately, Dr. Rizzo has made certain statements implying a lack of conversancy with the real problems facing condominiums. Mr. Ombudsman stated that he will be making a recommendation to the Legislature that every condominium association in the State of Florida needs to have the same set of Bylaws and the same Declaration of Condominium.

    Apparently it is irrelevant if you live in a small 4-unit condominium conversion or a huge 2000-unit condominium community; not important if you live in a timeshare condominium, mobile home condominium, commercial condominium, mixed-use condominium or a basic Chapter 718 (standard) condominium. Obviously, this would also deftly remove a basic right that condo owners now enjoy; the right to set rules pertinent to their unique problems. Rules about parking, rules for appropriate security, rules that maintain the physical premises, elevator use restrictions, rules governing noise - if it’s not in his “standard” set of Condo Documents - it doesn’t exist - even if every owner in the building wants it.

    This isn’t simply a threat to majority rule; it’s an effort to do away with any form of self-governance. The decisions about your home would pass from you to Tallahassee. Instead of being decided by elected representatives, conflicts not addressed in the boilerplate Condo Docs - from security and maintenance issues to late-night construction - will all wind up in the courts. Condominiums would operate like public housing. Enactment of the Ombudsman’s idea would deter any sane person from purchasing a condo unit. The value of existing units would be reduced to the value of their furnishings. A strange proposal from a “fair and impartial mediator.”

    River Reach Condominium
    RIVER REACH CONDOMINIUM
    Ombudsman Rizzo carries some baggage that some feel should have precluded Governor Bush from selecting him to fill the office. Dr. Rizzo lives in a riverfront condominium complex in Southwest Fort Lauderdale called River Reach. A few years ago he filed a suit against the Association’s Board of Directors, claiming that they mishandled condominium investments. Condominium residents coalesced in support of their board and countered by filing a libel suit against the Ombudsman. To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Rizzo stepped aside as the litigation’s main catalyst. Fifteen of Dr. Rizzo’s neighbors met with reporters after his appointment, questioning his qualifications to lead the State’s condominium mediation efforts. Neal Ketcher, a retired airline pilot who has lived in River Reach for 33 years, surmised, “It strikes me that someone who has created such disruption, confusion and distrust in his own condominium . . . should not be allowed to do the same at other condominiums.”

    While the Ombudsman has made some disconcerting remarks that serve to arouse suspicion about his real agenda, opining about that agenda seems premature. He is new to the job. The job itself, at least in its present incarnation, is also new. The resources made available to him to accomplish his uncertain agenda are, in his opinion, inadequate. Additionally, when certain individuals are elevated into a position of power, a strange political phenomenon occurs. As exemplified by the overnight “moderation” sometimes experienced by some newly appointed Judges to the Supreme Court, past behavior ceases to be an indicator of how the individual will treat his/her new responsibility. For these, and other, reasons, it seems only fair to continue observing Dr. Rizzo and reserve judgment about his efficacy. Should you have questions for your new Ombudsman, please email Dr. Rizzo at virgil.rizzo@dbpr.state.fl.us or call at 1-(850)-922-7671, Fax: 1-(850)-921-5446. His address in the State Capitol is 1940 N. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399.


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    Tallahassee Playbill

    “Condo Killer” Returns!

    You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Scorecard

    March 7, 2005 - Last year, condominium owners throughout the State of Florida narrowly dodged a legislative attempt to disabuse them of the right to govern themselves. The legislation was “spun” by proponents as “the people’s bill” and promised “empowerment” to condo owners. Much to the chagrin of those it was supposedly designed to help, it revealed itself as a poorly drawn set of proposals that brazenly punished people living in condominiums. When the legislation’s deficiencies were obviated during its review by various House and Senate Committees, it became known as the Condo Killer bills. Perplexingly, the bills' sponsors flatly refused to fix the damaging provisions, clouding their motives and suggesting an ulterior agenda. The bills’ supporters, after blaming their product’s defeat on the “naïvety” of condo owners, promised to reintroduce the damaging bills “again next year.”

    The lives of condo owners are once again threatened by a political coalition with a specific agenda. The public face of the coalition is a small collection of disgruntled condo owners who weren’t satisfied with decisions made by their respective Boards. In response, the “Cyber Citizens for Justice” adopted a scorched earth policy; if they couldn’t control their condos, nobody would. Their intention is to dismantle the Condominium system in Florida. Their methodology is to regulate it into oblivion. To accomplish this end, they’ve assembled several key ingredients.

    Representative Julio Robaina, Condo Killer Bill Sponsor
    REP. JULIO ROBAINA
    To create “regulations”, they’ve allied themselves with certain legislators in Tallahassee. The St. Augustine-based “Cybers” enlisted the aid of second-year Miami Representative Julio Robaina to compose legislation designed to dismantle Florida’s condo system. During the 2004 legislative session, Robaina and several other Miami legislators sponsored a bill laden with assorted provisions to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of condo owners, stultify self-governance, engender senseless litigation and cripple every Association’s daily operations. Upon being told that she would be “empowering condo owners”, Senator Evelyn Lynn agreed to sponsor the companion bill in the Florida Senate. However, after reviewing the actual wording and realizing that the bill was actually an attack on the rights of condo owners, she withdrew her sponsorship. Left without a Senate supporter, Robaina turned to fellow Miami legislator, Senator Rudy Garcia, to carry the ball. Thousands of condo owners objected to this unconstitutional attack on their rights by contacting their representatives to overturn these damaging provisions. Although the dangerous provisions were excised from the bill, Robaina promised to renew his attack on the rights of condo owners during the next legislative session.

    SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director Hiram Ruiz and State Representative Julio Robaina at a what was billed as an Official State Town Hall Meeting for condo owners that was actually organized by SEIU's Clean Condos
    SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director HIRAM RUIZ and State Rep
    JULIO ROBAINA AT "STATE SPONSORED" Town Hall Meeting
    (ACTUALLY ORGANIZED BY SEIU's CLEANCONDOS.ORG)
    The group also needed financing and media access. For this, they turned to a local union looking for new business opportunities. SEIU (Service Employees International Union) is a national union that represents building service employees and health care workers. The Building Services component represents janitors, doormen, reception personnel, maintenance workers, housekeeping personnel, etc., employed in hotels, apartment buildings, stadiums, private parks, etc. A Miami local of SEIU, Local 11, perceived condominiums as a fertile untapped source of new revenues. For years, the union has unsuccessfully attempted to organize anyone working in private homes. Their campaign to organize Homeowner Associations, Neighborhood Associations and, above all, Condominium Associations, has also yielded disappointing results. Their problem is simple; to organize a condominium, they need to be invited in by disaffected employees. The vast majority of condominiums have good relations with their employees. Quiescent, well-run condominiums are anathema to the union. Without dissention, the union is precluded from the opportunity to add $millions in prospective “dues” to the maintenance assessments of targeted condominium owners.

    Florida State Senator Jeffrey (Jeff) H. Atwater
    Senator Jeffrey (Jeff) H. Atwater
    By way of investment, SEIU made a contribution to the campaign coffers of Julio Robaina on June 27, 2003 to help emplace him into office. They also arranged several “Cyber” demonstrations and meetings. They engineered a demonstration at the office of Senator Jeffrey Atwater, the sponsor of a 2004 Homeowner Association bill (SB 2984) in the Senate. Senator Atwater’s bill was consistent with Governor Bush’s objectives, to make Homeowner Associations more responsive to their membership. The demonstrators, a combination of SEIU members and “Cybers”, picketed the Senator’s office. They protested his bill as inadequate because it didn’t conform to Robaina’s radical notion of placing all Associations under the jurisdiction of a prosecutorial Ombudsman with wartime-style search and seizure powers. Wanting no part of the group’s attempt to disenfranchise condo owners, Senator Atwater refused to comply with their demands. The feudal-style bounty hunter Robaina envisioned was ultimately modified by the legislature into an impartial mediator. Since a “neutral” Ombudsman would be insufficient to foment the dissonant environment that SEIU needed to get their foot in the door, Robaina committed to reviving his assault on condominiums during the 2005 legislative session. Representative Robaina said, “I am accepting what they have given us because that’s how it works in the legislature, but I’m coming back with it next year with a complete rewrite.” As a reward, SEIU made another payment to his campaign on July 16, 2004, eight months AFTER he was elected.

    Several Miami legislators that participated in the group’s machinations had another incentive. Representatives Juan Zapata and Gustavo Barreiro both own condominiums. Apparently, both of them neglected to pay legal assessments due on their units. Their Associations, fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to protect its members from having to “carry” those who don’t pay their obligations, took action. Perhaps the legislators felt that they were entitled to special treatment because they were Florida State Representatives. Their Associations did not. The East Atlantic Gardens Condominium placed a lien against Barreiro’s unit on May 29, 2003 after he was legally notified on April 22nd that his $595 maintenance payment was past due. Barreiro claims that he was away in Tallahassee at the annual legislative session when he missed his maintenance obligation. The session was over on April 30th and he wasn’t liened until May 29th, a month later. Juan C. Zapata neglected to pay monthly maintenance for his unit at Elan at Calusa Condominium from June through October, 1989, in the amount of $181. He claimed that the Association was sending his bills to the wrong address. Is it possible he forgot that he owned a condominium for five months until they filed a lien?

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    The legislators might have found a more appropriate way to exact revenge on their Associations for expecting them to pay their bills. To dismantle the entire Condominium Association system in the State of Florida and place 1.1 million condo owners at risk is a severe response to an embarrassment that they brought on themselves. Enlisting the aid of their friends in the legislature to accomplish payback is an abject abuse of their position and the power that accompanies it.

    Noting that support for the legislation was limited to certain Miami legislators, Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff speculated that their participation was possibly in response to a problem indigenous to some Miami condominiums that may have behaved inappropriately. However, she professed confusion about why they would attempt to perpetrate their punitive “cure” on all condominiums throughout the State. To disallow self-governance for over a million condominium owners to correct a possible local abuse seemed wildly excessive.

    Not surprisingly, SEIU made a “campaign” contribution to Juan Zapata on October 28, 2004 (eleven months after his election), following his support of the ill-fated “Condo Killer” bills. Incidentally, on August 17, 2004, Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo also contributed to Zapata’s campaign. SEIU didn’t overlook Representative Barriero’s help with their agenda, contributing to his campaign on July 16, 2004. As is often the case in Tallahassee, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

    Strange Bedfellows

    The coalition behind the “Condo Killer” efforts, a collection of “strange bedfellows”, has a persistent problem. Their public “call to arms” has been the “empowerment of condo owners”. Their legislative efforts last year ran into crippling grass roots opposition. How could they justify another “bite at the apple” when the “enemy” turns out to be the majority of condo owners throughout the state? This would never do. No sane legislator would “sign on” to seriously damaging 1.1 million homeowners to curry favor with a few hundred disaffected individuals.

    They had to fashion a “straw dog” upon which they could blame their “empowering” legislation’s disappointing result. Since they couldn’t admit that it was the vast majority of condo owners that opposed their legislation, they created an alternative rationale for its unfavorable reception. Representative Robaina stated that, “the owners were misled by their condo board attorneys.” That became their battle cry... a handful of attorneys deliberately confused over a million “naïve” condo owners. The thousands of emails, letters and phone calls to legislators and the governor were “engineered by a small cabal of unscrupulous lawyers.” Whether full-time resident owners or snowbirds visiting a Florida home, condo owners are almost “generically” passive, wanting primarily to get on about their lives. Every year they vote for representative board members to let them worry about running the building. Anyone that lives in a condo knows that the only thing that could have elicited last year’s overwhelmingly negative response was a direct threat to their lifestyle. The fact that the vast majority of condo owners don’t even know who their condo attorney’s name wouldn’t matter. By claiming that their opposition “didn’t know what they were doing”, Robaina found the perfect scapegoat. After all, attorneys already suffer from a curiously suspect public perception. Robaina’s contention that since these average condo owners had been hoodwinked by their lawyers, legislators should ignore their input and pass his damaging legislation over their objections. They should, in effect, protect condo owners from themselves.

    YOU are the Problem!

    This deliberate misrepresentation demonstrates this group’s intention to win at all costs. Their problem is you! They can only “sell” the insulting proposition that condo owners as a class are “incompetent” if we remain silent. The target of this deception is not condominium residents - as they generally consider themselves to be no less rational than any other class of homeowner. The primary audience for their propaganda are fellow legislators. By using a group of disgruntled owners as "props" and feeding the media a few examples of anecdotal abuse, these legislators aspire to mislead their peers into harming a large but generally silent group of homeowners. Tallahassee operates under an adversarial set of rules and constraints. If an offering is uncontested, despite its inherent absurdity, its momentum will often carry it through to enactment. Should it encounter enough obstacles, it will fail. Although Robaina has insinuated that our “uninformed opinions” should be ignored, our legislators will be primarily guided by direction from their constituents - us. If we want to avoid being steamrolled by this year’s version of last year’s “Condo Killer” bills, we will again have to contact our legislators to communicate our objections.

    The reworked agenda currently being proposed contains threats to any Condominium Association’s operational underpinnings. Representative Robaina has indicated that he intends to promote mandatory full reserves every year, removing an Association’s current right to waive full reserve assessments in favor of partial reserve assessments. If an Association has to replace a roof unexpectedly damaged by a hurricane, they might normally consider offsetting the expense of the impending assessment by temporarily lowering their reserves requirement. Until now, this decision has rightfully been left to homeowners - those affected by its consequences. Robaina has stated that he intends to expand the “grandfathering” of rental rights to pets and parking. Currently, condo owners have the right to make rules governing their homes. These rules are constitutionally guaranteed to have universal application. Grandfathering rules that only apply to certain members will create two classes of condo owners with differing rights. These rights are to be determined by when a unit was purchased or the number of months it is annually occupied, disenfranchising snowbirds. The legislation blatantly dispels equal protection under the law!

    The issue is not pets, parking or leasing, but the right of homeowners to govern themselves. Robaina has revived his call for two-year term limits for board members, guaranteeing that board decisions will always suffer from the board’s chronic lack of experience. Ironically, similar term limit proposals for Statehouse Representatives like Robaina, in contrast, were for eight years. Not surprisingly, Robaina also expects to expand the powers of the Ombudsman, changing the office from an even-handed moderator to last year’s originally envisioned bounty hunter with dictatorial powers. Many other provisions that hurt condo owners have been promised, their common denominator being the transition of governance rights from homeowners to Tallahassee.

    Florida State Senator Gary Siplin
    SENATOR GARY SIPLIN
    We had hoped that many of the worrisome issues would have been responsibly reviewed and effectively refined to meet their stated objectives without the disastrous repercussions that plagued last year’s legislative efforts. As this would have likely aligned universal support for the legislation, we incorrectly assumed it to be a “no-brainer”. Unfortunately, our suspicions were recently justified. On February 28th, Representative Robaina filed House Bill
    HB 1229. It is a disorganized attempt to rewrite many of the provisions of Chapters 718 (The Condominium Act), 719 (The Cooperative Act) and 720 (Homeowners Associations). Consistent with last year’s poorly drafted “Condo Killer” products, the new version is 106 pages of ambiguous, confusing provisions. By way of example, the bill states, “Residents with disabilities shall not park in a disabled guest parking space unless their assigned parking space is in use illegally.” As each Association has different parking regulations that vary according to their size, layout, space position and space availability, this provision is unintelligible. The entire bill is laden with provisions that are either incomplete, unworkable, financially onerous or dangerous.

    On March 8th, Senator Gary Siplin filed Senate Bill SB 2632, seeking to severely limit or eliminate an association’s right to lien or foreclose when members ignore their financial responsibility. This will seriously interfere with an Association’s ability to pay its expenses. Florida is already infamously reputed as a debtor’s paradise. When Association members don’t pay their obligations, it acts as an unfunded mandate on every other member. The condo has to pay its bills whether or not the individual members pay theirs - forcing the scofflaw’s neighbors to make up the resulting shortfall. It is unconscionable to legally force homeowners to pay their neighbor’s debts!

    A Suspicious Contradiction

    A strange contradiction surrounds the legislation. Last year, the legislation’s supporters frantically accused the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes of gross inefficiency bordering on criminal neglect. This was the basis for their demanding an Ombudsman to perform the functions already ascribed to the Division. Their rationale for forcing us to fund two entities doing the same job was simple. According to them, the Division was so “inept” and “corrupt” that this duplicate office was absolutely necessary. While the bill contains provisions that hurt homeowners living in condominiums and cooperatives, HB 1229 is primarily devoted to bringing Homeowners’ Associations under the aegis of the same “inept” and “corrupt” Division. If the Division was inadequate to supervise condominiums, why are the bill’s sponsors suddenly demanding that they also oversee thousands of Homeowners’ Associations? Ironically, the legislation also seeks to bring Community Association Managers under the wing of the supposedly “inept” Division. After insisting that condo owners pay for a duplicate office - the Ombudsman - because the Division was incompetent, they now recommend an expansion of the Division’s responsibilities to include Homeowners’ Associations and Community Association Managers. The Division’s name would be changed to the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, Homeowners’ Associations, Community Association Management, and Mobile Homes. This glaring contradiction beclouds the credibility of those supporting the legislation; it implies an agenda inconsistent with their legislation’s claim to “empower condo owners”.

    After a full review of text in Representative Robaina’s HB 1229 (bill text) and Senator Gary Siplin’s SB 2632 (bill text), a comprehensive assessment of the inherent damage to condominium owners will be forthcoming. Hopefully, the sponsors will respond to the input of condo owners and offset the legislation’s flaws. However, in view of their repeated rejection of input other than from their small radical group of disgruntled owners, this appears unlikely. If only life - and politics - were that simple! More to come...


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    Condo Killer Bill – 2005

    First Anti-Condo House Bill HB 1229

    March 26, 2005 - A bill filed on February 28 in the Florida House of Representatives is part of an ongoing assault on the rights of Condominium owners in Florida. A 2005 version of the infamous Condo Killer legislation that was eviscerated in House and Senate committees last year, HB 1229 is a confusing blend of disjointed regulations that seem devoid of purpose, fraught with contradictions, disabling in their effect on Associations and extremely expensive. Miami Representative Julio Robaina, whose “Condo Killer” bills elicited statewide opposition from angry condo owners last year, has fulfilled his promise to “return with a complete rewrite.” Strangely, his rewrite does not prevent or correct any of the “ills” he claims as the grounds for his bill. The bill is a random compilation of expensive regulations supporting the belief that Tallahassee, not resident homeowners, should govern Condominiums, Cooperatives and Homeowner Associations.

    Guests Only - No Residents Allowed
    GUEST PARKING ONLY - NO RESIDENTS ALLOWED
    Many of the bill’s provisions are virtually incomprehensible. The bill states that “Residents with disabilities shall not park in a disabled guest parking space unless their assigned parking space is in use illegally.” Parking regulations and spot assignments are ordinarily constrained by an Association’s size, premises layout, space positions and space availability. Notwithstanding these factors, the bill demands that Associations provide parking spaces for every guest with disabilities. In a cynical twist, disabled residents are specifically precluded from parking in these spaces! The bill also states, “Reserves shall maintain a minimum level of at least 10 percent of the yearly operating budget.” Reserves are determined by the replacement cost of critical building maintenance needs such as painting, replacing the roof, resurfacing the parking deck, etc. over the projected lifespan of these building components. The annual cost of reserves has absolutely no “percentage” relationship to an Association’s annual budget. Condominium Association members currently have the right waive full reserve assessments or opt for partial reserve assessments through a vote of the homeowners. The legislation negates this right - uniquely for condominium owners.

    We have to pay for training 162,500 Board Members EVERY YEAR
    UNDER HB 1229 - ASSOCIATION MEMBERS PAY
    TO TRAIN 162,500 BOARD MEMBERS EVERY YEAR
    The legislation suffers from several damaging contradictions. It demands that Board members undergo unspecified “training”, supposedly to increase their effectiveness as Board members. Concomitantly, it mandates that the newly “trained” board members can only serve for one term, guaranteeing that the Board will always suffer from inexperience, thereby decreasing their effectiveness. Ironically, a term limit proposal restricting Statehouse Representatives such as Mr. Robaina to eight years of service was defeated by the same legislators supporting a single term limit for board members. Last year, the legislation’s supporters frantically accused the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes of gross inefficiency bordering on criminal neglect. Their demand that another entity be created to perform the functions of the Division, the Ombudsman, was based upon the premise that the Division was so inept and corrupt that they couldn't be trusted to fulfill their mandate. As a result, taxpayers now pay for two governmental bureaucracies with identical responsibilities. In HB 1229, these same legislators insist that Homeowner Associations and Community Association Managers be brought under the jurisdiction of the same Division that one year ago they characterized as unable to administer condominiums. Is it possible that the legislators’ “change of heart” inures to some remarkable improvement that the Division underwent during the past year, earning the respect of their detractors of a year ago? Actually, the opposite occurred, the bill’s sponsors engineered an investigation into the Division’s operational shortcomings, contending that they failed to meet their responsibilities. Adding 14,000 Homeowner Associations to the Division’s 18,500 Condominium Associations would effectively double their jurisdictional authority. In a monument to schizophrenia, the sponsoring legislators are simultaneously demanding that the Division’s responsibilities be both reduced and increased!

    This contradiction is further clouded by another provision in the legislation. By mandating an overnight doubling of their responsibilities, the legislation’s sponsors have exhibited a renewed confidence in the Division’s capabilities. Since they created the Ombudsman to duplicate the duties supposedly “neglected” by the Division, their rekindled trust in the Division’s prowess contradicts the need to continue subsidizing two offices with identical responsibilities. However, the bill increases the Ombudsman’s powers to include the monitoring and reviewing of procedures and disputes concerning all types of community associations. They are, in fact, expanding the powers, duties and cost in tax dollars of both entities.

    In addition to expanding the Division’s jurisdiction to include homeowners associations and Community Association Managers, it accords the Division significant new police powers. The Division was originally developed to aid in the seamless transfer of condominium operations from a developer to the homeowners who purchased units. The Division’s responsibility was to insure that the developer turned over control of the new Association to these new owners. To prevent an unscrupulous developer from “packing a board” with “shill” representatives, thereby retaining control over the Association’s operations, regulations governing the behavior of elected board members were included in the Division’s authority. In HB 1229, the Division is mandated extraordinary police powers over individual condominium owners. It seeks to imbue the Division with unprecedented authority over anyone purchasing a condominium. This changes the Division’s purpose from an agency designed to protect the rights of new condominium owners to a bureau empowered to police and prosecute every condominium owner. The bill states, “Any condominium owner found to be in violation of this chapter shall be notified by the department by certified mail, return receipt requested, at which time the condominium owner will have 30 days in which to respond in writing.” Never before has any State agency been used as a punitive organ against a class of homeowner.

    Representative Julio Robaina, Condo Killer Bill Sponsor, Wants to Regulate HOAs Condos, Coops, CAMs and Every Individual Resident Member
    Rep. Julio Robaina - Regulate
    Condos, Coops, HOAs, CAMs
    Until last year, homeowners living in condominiums had the right to set policies governing the leasing of units within the Association. People renting their homes rarely exhibit the same level of commitment to maintaining the premises as owners. When a disproportionate number of transient “neighbors” threatens homeowners with a lowering of their living standards (and unit values), they had the right to prevent or restrain further abuse by voting to adjust their leasing policies. Last year, Mr. Robaina’s legislation eliminated that right - only for condominium owners. In HB 1229, he seeks to eliminate that right for owners of cooperative units as well. Condominium owners currently have other rights enjoyed by all homeowners. They can set policies for parking and pets that meet the needs and wishes of the unit owners. Mr. Robaina has promised additional legislation that will also negate these rights, replacing them with “one size fits all” regulations usually reserved for public housing. HB 1229 also demands that Associations pay for an expensive audit every two years. Because of the cost, audits are usually ordered for some specific purpose. If, for instance, there were cause to doubt the integrity of a budget or a conflict interpreting the budget, people might agree that an audit may clarify the confusion. Smaller Associations will have to postpone necessary repairs or improvements because they have to pay for audits that nobody wants, needs or will ever use.

    This dangerous trend can only continue as long as condo owners fail to speak for themselves. As homeowners began to distinguish the media hype emanating from the bill’s sponsors from the actual legislative text, they decided to reclaim that right. Two events finally brought this shadowy legislation into the light - Community Association Day and an Analysis assembled by the House Staff.


    C. A. Day - The Truth Emerges

    On March 30th, hundreds of homeowners from all parts of Florida converged on the Capitol with a mission. They wanted to disabuse legislators of the spurious claims made by the bill’s sponsors that their legislative efforts were on behalf of condo owners. Despite the sustained masquerade conducted by a political coalition assembled to misdirect legislators and the media, the objection to HB 1229 by hundreds of visiting homeowners during the Community Association Day event upset the sponsor’s plan to slip the bill through committee review. The Condominium Advisory Council voted on March 31st (the following day) to NOT support Representative Robaina’s HB 1229 in its original form!

    Mr. Robaina and the “Cybers” had another problem. An Analysis of HB 1229 performed by the House of Representatives Staff confirmed several serious consequences of the legislation. It pointed out the significant cost of the bill to both homeowners and the State. Since the “per home” cost increase created by the bill’s demand for full reserves depends upon each condo’s documents, they were unable to ascertain the full fiscal impact to homeowners. Similarly, the “per home” fee of the new parking requirements will depend upon the number of spaces each Association may be liable to create. Mandatory audits can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the size and complexity of an Association’s budget. While the estimated costs of these provisions are variable, the Staff Analysis more accurately assessed the expense of training 162,500 board members at almost $18 million annually. They also focused on the expense of imbuing the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes with special police powers over the 1.1 million condo owners living in 18,500 condominiums and the millions more residents in 14,000 Homeowner Associations. By changing the Division’s responsibility from regulating “the creation, sale, and operation of condominiums by developers and associations” to investigating “violations of the statute and rules by individual owners,” the expected cost of the bill could exceed $50 million and require a police resource that would dwarf the State Police.

    The House Staff Analysis also explains HB 1229’s blatant contradiction of existing law as, “(1) Section 720.302(2), F.S., provides, in part: The Legislature recognizes that it is not in the best interest of homeowners’ associations or the individual association members thereof to create or impose a bureau or other agency of state government to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations. This bill arguably creates a ‘bureau or other agency… to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations.’” This objection is consistent with the findings of the Governor’s 15-member strong Homeowners’ Association Task Force, which conducted public hearings across the state in 2004 and recommended reasonable changes that were subsequently implemented. The Task Force voted down a proposal expanding the regulation of HOAs (Issue #12) by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

    Bait and Switch – The Secret “Strike All”

    After a bill is filed in the legislature, it is scheduled for review by an assortment of legislative committees to examine its inherent advantages and disadvantages. HB 1229 was referred to the Civil Justice Committee, the State Administration Appropriations Committee and the Justice Council for review. Because the hidden consequences of his bill were revealed by the House Staff Analysis, Mr. Robaina cancelled the bill’s consideration by the Civil Justice Committee on March 23rd. After the CA Day event, he developed a clandestine plan to navigate the obstacles created when the truth about the bill’s consequences became public. On April 11th at 4:18 PM, he added his bill to the Civil Justice Committee agenda for April 13th. Public notice wasn’t posted until the morning of April 12th, the day before it was scheduled to be heard. This last-minute agenda addition would preclude any condo owner who wasn’t from the Tallahassee area from testifying against the bill at the hearing. Members of the Committee expressed concern about the legislation, in part from the 1000+ emails they received from homeowners protesting the bill.

    On April 13th, Mr. Robaina revealed a secret Committee Substitute to the Civil Justice Committee for consideration. To mute the recent criticism, he offered a Strike-All amendment that removed references to regulating Homeowner Associations, the $18 million “training” extravaganza and the 1-year term limit the bill mandated for condo board volunteers. After hearing from Mr. Robaina that his new version “cured” their concerns and those of homeowners, they passed his last-minute Committee Substitute unanimously. However, the public wasn’t informed that the new Substitute also contained a litany of additional anti-condo provisions - so much for “Government in the Sunshine!”

    State Condo Ombusdman Virgil Rizzo, SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director Hiram Ruiz, State Representative Julio Robaina, and State Condominium Advisory Council Vice-Chair Mark Benson
    Virgil Rizzo, SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director Hiram Ruiz
    State Representative JULIO ROBAINA (at podium)
    The bill retains the provision requiring the collection of full reserves by every Association, eliminating the right of homeowners to either waive funding the reserves or opt for partially funding reserves by a majority vote. It still demands that an Association must provide parking spaces for disabled guests that disabled residents aren’t allowed to use. It persists in mandating expensive audits every two years, whether or not they are needed or wanted by the homeowners. The bill removes the right of people that own coops to decide for themselves the policies that affect the leasing of their units. In exchange for the increased maintenance cost from these provisions, homeowners receive nothing.

    SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director Hiram Ruiz and State Representative Julio Robaina at a what was billed as an Official State Town Hall Meeting for condo owners that was actually organized by SEIU's Clean Condos
    SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director HIRAM RUIZ and State Rep
    JULIO ROBAINA at "STATE SPONSORED" Town Hall Meeting
    (ACTUALLY SPONSORED BY SEIU's CLEANCONDOS.ORG)
    Curiously, after conceding that it was inappropriate to place Homeowner Associations under the regulatory jurisdiction of the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes, Mr. Robaina insisted that it is appropriate for the Division to regulate Community Association Managers. The legislation focuses, in large part, on the licensing of companies that manage Associations. Mr. Robaina has a relationship with SEIU - Local 11 in Miami, a union in the business of organizing the employees of Condominium Associations. When the union organizes a condominium’s employees, the accompanying 20% to 30% jump in maintenance costs goes to fund the union’s dues, none of which goes to the employees. The union provides members to populate Mr. Robaina’s press conferences and has contributed to his campaign. A quick visit to one of their web sites reveals that condominium management companies are obstacles to their objectives. If a Condominium Association hires a management company, the union is functionally precluded from the opportunity to “organize” that condominium. Local 11 has been waging a heated campaign against these management companies and, not surprisingly, is a staunch supporter of Mr. Robaina’s legislation. Quid pro quo - you do the math!

    Accompanying these expensive and irresponsible “holdovers” from Mr. Robaina’s original HB 1229 are additional provisions that endanger an Association’s ability to function. Of these “surprise” additions, the most egregious is a loophole that would spell disaster if enacted. One of the requirements of condo ownership that affects everyone is the obligation to pay assessments on time. When someone doesn’t pay their fair share, the burden falls on everyone else to make up the shortfall. This bill creates a loophole for deadbeats. It requires an association to give 30 days’ notice prior to initiating a court action or levying a fine. Incredibly, as long the scofflaw sends a written response within that time, he can continue shirking the debt, thereby forcing his neighbors to pay his obligation. Under HB 1229, action to collect the delinquent funds can only be initiated if no response is provided AND if the violation continues or is repeated. As long as a response is provided, the violation can be repeated with impunity. If a condominium can’t collect the resources needed to pay its bills, it either goes without necessary services or must increase the financial obligation of every other owner that pays on time. Simply put, this provision provides deadbeats with a license to steal.

    Another new addition to the bill arms abusive owners with an unremitting right to harass their Association. To accommodate an owner’s right to information about pertinent Association issues, the law provides that an Association’s Board must give a “substantive response” to any member’s legitimate inquiry within 30 days. While Democratic institutions rely on their governed constituencies to exercise rights in the spirit for which they were created, occasionally they become vehicles for abuse. By deliberately sending an unrelenting stream of capricious inquiries requiring legal opinions, an unscrupulous owner can tie up Association administrative resources while maliciously skyrocketing legal expenses. After receiving a plethora of inquiries that have little or no relevance to Association business, a reasonable assumption can be made that the intent is not the acquisition of pertinent information but simply harassment. Current law provides a fair and effective solution. It states that, “The association may through its board of administration adopt reasonable rules and regulations regarding the frequency and manner of responding to unit owner inquiries, one of which may be that the association is only obligated to respond to one written inquiry per unit in any given 30-day period. In such a case, any additional inquiry or inquiries must be responded to in the subsequent 30-day period, or periods, as applicable.” The enigmatic removal of this option in HB 1229 serves no purpose other than to encourage the abuse of board volunteers and the waste of Association funds.

    HB 1229 states, “the terms of all members of the board shall expire at the annual meeting” at which point they “may stand for re-election.” Thousands of Associations have bylaws that mandate two-year terms for Board members. In the case of newly elected volunteers, it gives them the opportunity to gain valuable experience. Instituting two-year terms relieves the problem of having to convince five to nine reluctant people to run every year. Two-year terms also cut the expense and anxiety of Board elections in half. The sponsor of this bill is serving a two-year term in the legislature. The sponsors of HB 1229 are continually trying to either punish or limit the terms for condo board volunteers. Ironically, three of the bill’s six co-sponsors (Robaina, Gannon, Taylor) are also sponsors of a bill designed to extend their own term limits in the Florida House from eight to twelve years (HJR 1177). This disconnect between their beliefs and their behavior might lead one to surmise that they believe term limits to be a good idea - for everybody else. This is another arbitrary regulation that serves no purpose, increases maintenance costs, interferes with Association operations and casually overturns the wishes of the homeowners as expressed in their bylaws.

    Dangerous Precedent

    Governor Jeb Bush’s HOA Task Force Votes Against Regulating Homeowner Associations
    Governor’s HOA Task Force:
    "REGULATION BAD FOR HOAs"
    While the bill’s adverse consequences provide reason enough for its defeat, they aren’t the primary cause of the overwhelming opposition it faces from condo owners. This new trend of hyper-regulating the behavior of homeowners and legislating by anecdote flies in the face of the Bush Administration’s contention that society benefits from less government. While recent state-wide election results clearly enshrine the sanctity of “home-rule” and “self-governance” and the
    Governor’s Task Force determined it counterproductive to burden homeowners with additional regulations, this coalition of disgruntled owners, a labor union and their spokespersons in the legislature seeks to expand these unnecessary government controls for Condominiums and extend them to Cooperatives and Homeowner Associations as well. Aside from sporadic anecdotal contentions of abuse in highly charged media-driven forums, there is no evidence that the problems whimsically addressed in the bill are broad based or require legislative action. Since the input forums created by these legislators were designed to solicit indictments instead of balanced information, their stated conclusions concerning Association “problems” are, as expected, hopelessly skewed. Inasmuch, the blizzard of irresponsible legislation cynically mischaracterized as “empowering to condo owners” chronically fails to balance the interests of the individual homeowner with those of the community association as a whole. By creating the illusion that the random imposition of disruptive and punitive regulations on an entire class of homeowners can magically cure their handful of anecdotal abuses, certain legislators hope to realize an undeserved Election Day benefit.

    Homeowners categorically reject the prospect of government controls replacing self-governance within the confines of their homes. Condominium owners carefully evaluate the compromises they face when first deciding upon condominium ownership. The proven popularity of the condominium lifestyle, despite the flaws that affect every democratic institution, speaks to the success of the present system. These bills seek to dismantle that system and replace it with another government bureaucracy - one that controls how you live in your own home. Although a currently fashionable political platform, these ever-increasing reactive regulations are creating dangerous precedents. Does anyone actually believe that the government can better settle squabbles among neighbors than they can amongst themselves?

    As usual, the success or failure of this legislative “dog and pony show” is ultimately in the hands of its prospective victims, the homeowners. When considering legislation governing how people can live in their own homes, every regulation should not only have an excellent rationale, it should effectively cure a real problem. Since the provisions in this bill are derived solely of anecdotal evidence, they do neither. The “one-size-fits-all” regulations contained in this bill are diseases masquerading as “cures”. As long as homeowners don’t convey their opinions to their elected representatives, other’s committed to self-serving agendas can perpetuate the myth that they are speaking on your behalf. They rely on the silent majority of homeowners to remain so. The lawmakers behind this irresponsible legislation have no intention of stopping here. Having found a fertile political landscape, they expect to make this attack on the rights of homeowners an annual event – each step bringing us closer to the “joys” of public housing. Government, as a rule, is a notoriously poor landlord. You have two choices. Either you can call-mail-fax-email your State representatives to tell them that you oppose HB 1229’s expensive and harmful consequences or you can pay for them!


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    HB 1229 Legislative History

    March 27, 2005 - After a bill is filed in the legislature, it is scheduled for review by an assortment of legislative committees to examine its inherent advantages and disadvantages. HB 1229 has been referred to 3 committees for review. They are the Civil Justice Committee, the State Administration Appropriations Committee and the Justice Council. The Galt Mile Community Association will report the legislation’s progress through this process. You can influence the process; simply send an email to the committee members that are considering the bill. Tell them what you think!

    Click Here to locate where bill is currently being considered.

    in addition to the various committee members, it would be beneficial to send emails to Speaker of the House Allan G. Bense, Senate President Tom Lee and Governor Jeb Bush (the “court of last resort”) as well as our elected officials - Florida Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff and Florida Senator Jeffery H. “Jeff” Atwater. Please find their contact information below.

    Civil Justice Committee

    Click on the Committee members’ web pages below to get their addresses and telephone numbers. Click on their email address to send an email. The subject field is already filled in with “HB 1229”, the bill number. The members of the Committee are:

    Representatives:

    Staff:

    Activity

    The bill was placed on the agenda for review by the Civil Justice Committee on March 23rd. It was, however, “not considered” on that date. On April 11th at 4:18 PM it was added to the Civil Justice Committee agenda for April 13th. Public notice wasn’t posted until the morning of April 12th, the day before it was scheduled to be heard. This last-minute agenda addition disallowed any condo owner who wasn’t from the Tallahassee area the opportunity to testify at the hearing. On April 13th, Mr. Robaina revealed a secret Committee Substitute to the Civil Justice Committee for consideration. The Committee unanimously voted this surreptitious legislation favorably, 6 YEAS vs. 0 NAYS. So much for “Government in the Sunshine!” The next committee in the review process is the State Administration Appropriations Committee.

    State Administration Appropriations Committee

    THE BILL DIED HERE!
    The bill died in the State Administration Appropriations Committee on Friday, May 06, 2005 11:59 PM. Rest in Peace

    Click on the Committee members’ web pages below to get their addresses and telephone numbers. Click on their email address to send an email. The subject field is already filled in with “HB 1229”, the bill number. The members of the Committee are:

    Representatives:

    Staff:

    Activity

    The bill was referred to the State Administration Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, April 19, 2005 at 9:24 PM. On April 29th, Representative Anne M. “Annie” Gannon of Delray Beach withdrew as a co-sponsor of HB 1229.

    Justice Council

    Click on the Committee members’ web pages below to get their addresses and telephone numbers. Click on their email address to send an email. The subject field is already filled in with “HB 1229”, the bill number. The members of the Committee are:

    Representatives:

    Staff:

    Activity

    None Yet

    Please find below assorted HB 1229 information links!

    • Click Here to go to the Galt Mile Community Association overview of House Bill 1229.
    • Click Here to go to the HB 1229 web page on the Florida House of Representatives web site.
    • Click Here to read the HB 1229 actual bill text.
    • Click Here to read the House of Representatives Staff Analysis of HB 1229 prepared prior to being reviewed by the Civil Justice Committee.
    • Click Here to go to the Galt Mile Community Association Summary of House Bill 1229 Staff Analysis.
    • Click Here to read what the Staff Ananlysis of HB 1229 means to all Association Members.
    • Click Here to read the bill text of the HB 1229 Committee Substitute (the “Strike-All” amendment).

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    House of Representatives

    Staff Analysis of HB 1229

    March 27, 2005 - Staff attached to the committees assigned to review a bill often analyze the bill to familiarize committee members with the legislation’s relevant impacts. HB 1229 was placed on the agenda for review by the Civil Justice Committee on March 23rd. It was, however, “not considered” on that date. Nevertheless, the House of Representatives Staff performed an analysis of the legislation’s impacts. This is what they found.

    Click Here to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation The substantive analysis classifies the effect of proposed changes as, “This bill creates new regulatory authority for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (department) to regulate homeowners’ associations. The department estimates that there are 14,000 homeowners’ associations in Florida. Currently, the department’s Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes enforces ch. 718, F.S. (condominiums), ch. 719, F.S. (cooperatives), ch. 721, F.S. (vacation plan and timesharing), and ch. 723, F.S. (mobile homes). The Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes does not regulate homeowners’ associations. Section 720.302(2), F.S., provides, in part: The Legislature recognizes that it is not in the best interest of homeowners’ associations or the individual association members thereof to create or impose a bureau or other agency of state government to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations. The Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes is involved in the mediation and arbitration provisions of law.”

    In Section II. FISCAL ANALYSIS & ECONOMIC IMPACT STATEMENT, C. DIRECT ECONOMIC IMPACT ON PRIVATE SECTOR, it points out that, “The Department of Business and Professional Regulation suggests that a ‘per home’ fee will have to be imposed on homeowners to cover the costs of regulation.” it also states, “Section 5 of the bill places requirements on condominium associations relating to guest parking. Condominium associations will have to pay the costs to comply with these requirements. The cost, if any, is unknown.”

    In the same section, letter D speaks to some of the legislation’s fiscal impacts anticipated by the department, Department of Business and Professional Regulation provided the following fiscal comments: The bill imposes regulatory responsibility and mandatory training for homeowners’ and condominium associations without providing appropriation or a revenue source. The department would not be able to implement the requirements of this legislation without adequate resources.” The analysis explains, “There are two areas that will have the greatest fiscal impact. First, the bill requires mandatory training for condominium and homeowners’ association board members. The number of current board members in the state is unknown, but with approximately 18,500 condominium associations and 14,000 homeowners’ associations, each with approximately 5 board members, the mandatory training will need to cover approximately 162,500 board members. The current education program provides education to 3,000 to 4,000 condominium unit owners and board members annually, and is funded at a rate of $100 per attendee, at this rate the mandatory training of condominium and homeowners’ association board members is estimated to cost $16.25 million. With current funding at $500,000, the net additional cost for the first year will be $15,750,000. The department has utilized the same contractor for the current condominium education program for the last three years. It is possible the cost could be less than the current rate per board member, however, the training of all board members statewide will be very labor intensive and the estimated cost has been projected using the current rate.

    The second consideration is that the bill provides that the Division of Land Sales will enforce the provisions of chapter 720, F.S., related to homeowners’ associations and part VIII of chapter 468, Florida Statutes. However, the bill provides no new positions to carry out the required duties, and funding is limited to collection of penalties. In order to carry out the regulatory duties it is estimated that these programs will require 24 new investigative positions, 4 financial examiner/analyst positions, 5 administrative positions and 3 supervisor positions, detailed below. The estimated first year cost for this is $2,186,230. No growth factor has been assumed for future years.

    The total fiscal impact to the department is $17,944,339 in FY 2005-2006, $9,679,843 in FY 2006-2007 and $10,102,968 in FY 2007-2008. The only revenue source the bill provides is from penalties the department may impose. The revenue from civil penalties is estimated to be $111,083 for Fiscal Years 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.”

    The department submitted the following relating to staffing issues raised by this bill. “Based upon the additional duties required by this bill and a projection of at least 14,000 homeowner associations, the department estimates that it could receive approximately 1,911 additional compliance cases, roughly the number of condominium/cooperative complaints received during FY 2003/2004. In order to handle the additional workload created by this bill, the department will require additional staff similar to the current makeup of the condominium compliance program: 22 Investigative Specialist II positions, 2 Investigative Specialist I positions, 4 Financial Examiner/Analyst [FEA] II positions, 3 Administrative Assistant I positions, 1 Administrative Assistant II position, 2 Investigation Specialist Supervisor positions and 1 FEA Supervisor in the Division of Land Sales. There will also be a need for more legal support as follows: 2 Senior Attorneys, 1 Staff Attorney, 1 Administrative Assistant II, and 1 OPS law clerk to handle the increase in case load from the anticipated investigations, complaints, declaratory statements, requests for variance and waiver, rulemaking, legal opinions, and disciplinary actions resulting from this legislation and this new regulatory program.”

    The department goes on, “In addition, up to six positions may be necessary in the department’s Division of Service Operations. Based on the potential workload of this bill - 2 positions may be needed in the Customer Contact Center and 4 positions necessary in the Central In-Take Unit. The estimated expenditures for the Service Operations have not been included in the cost analysis. The investigative positions will travel frequently from their respective office locations; each will need typical office setups including desk, chairs, phone, computer, etc. The legal staff will also need full office setups and travel funds to appear at hearings and council meetings on disciplinary cases.”

    In Section III. COMMENTS, C. DRAFTING ISSUES OR OTHER COMMENTS, the staff analysts expound on assorted contradictions and obstacles. “(1) Section 720.302(2), F.S., provides, in part: The Legislature recognizes that it is not in the best interest of homeowners’ associations or the individual association members thereof to create or impose a bureau or other agency of state government to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations. This bill arguably creates a ‘bureau or other agency… to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations.’

    (2) Section 7 of the bill requires the department to notify condominium unit owners found to be in violation of ch. 718 and gives the owners 30 days to respond. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation submitted the following comment regarding section 7: It is unclear if the intent of this change is to authorize the Division to investigate violations of the statute and rules by individual owners. The Division does not presently investigate violations committed by individual owners except to the extent that the statute allows the Division to personally fine board members and officers of the association who willfully and knowingly violate the statute. If the intent is to authorize the Division to proceed against individual owners, clarifying language should be added, and this analysis must be changed to reflect the significant fiscal impact on the Division. If this is not the intent, the actual intent should be restated. Generally, the Condominium Act regulates the creation, sale, and operation of condominiums by developers and associations, not the conduct of individual unit owners. Unit owner conduct is generally a matter of association action under the governing documents or a matter for condominium arbitration.”

    To ascertain what this means to you, Click Here or read What Does This Mean to Us below!

    What Does This Mean to Us

    House Staff Summary of HB 1229

    The Staff Analysis explains HB 1229’s blatant contradiction of existing law, “The Legislature recognizes that it is not in the best interest of homeowners’ associations or the individual association members thereof to create or impose a bureau or other agency of state government to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations. This bill arguably creates a ‘bureau or other agency… to regulate the affairs of homeowners’ associations.’” This objection is consistent with the findings of the Governor’s Task Force on Homeowner Associations, who voted down a proposal expanding the regulation of HOAs by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

    Click Here to the Florida House of Representatives HB 1229 Staff Analysis
    CLICK FOR STAFF ANALYSIS
    The fiscal impacts of the bill are enormous. The department suggests a “per home” fee be imposed on homeowners to cover the costs of regulation. A partial estimate of training costs for Board Members is $17,944,339 in FY 2005-2006, $9,679,843 in FY 2006-2007 and $10,102,968 in FY 2007-2008. This is based on the current number of 18,500 Condominium Associations and 14,000 Homeowner Associations. However, during the past year, condo ownership increased 24% in South Florida, outstripping the 18% growth for single family homes. This high growth rate is anticipated to continue, as will the proportional number of board members requiring training.

    Staffing requirements for additional duties required of the department by this bill are estimated at 45 new positions. These aren’t ordinary “clerical housekeeping” or secretarial jobs. The “mini-FBI” that the legislation unleashes on Association members will require Attorneys, Investigative Specialists, Financial Examiners/Analysts and other expensive personnel. In addition to salaries are full professional office setups for each of the 45 new hires. As these new employees fly around the state to the 18,500 condos and 14,000 HOAs for hearings and meetings, we will also have to pick up their hotel, airline and ancillary travel expenses. Additional staff salaries and expenses adds tens of $millions to the bottom line. This $30 - $40 million will be paid for in “per home” fees. The bill’s sponsors think it appropriate that we pay for an “association police department” charged with the awesome responsibility of stopping neighbors from squabbling... don’t you?

    The analysis targets fiscal impacts that involve the State. The direct impact on Associations depends upon how they choose to comply with the bill’s arbitrary new “guest” parking regulations, their current “reserves” requirements and “audit” habits. Regarding the new parking mandate, an Association can transfer parking spaces that are currently used by residents, specifically re-designating them for use by disabled guests. If a disabled resident parks in one of the “reassigned” spaces, the department can bring an action against that owner. The alternative requires that an Association assess the owners to build additional parking facilities. If the available space were adequate, this could easily cost an Association tens of $thousands, payable by the Association’s members.

    The new “Reserves” impact depends primarily upon the Association’s condominium documents and their annual budget. Even if a “frugal” Association already has sufficient “reserve” funds to address its statutory needs, the owners will have to cough up an additional 10% of their annual budget for ??? Residents assessed flat amounts in compliance with their condo docs will now have to pay more or less depending on whether their reserve requirements amount to more or less than 10% of their annual budget. Of course, Associations planning on waiving their reserve requirement or opting for partial reserves will have to change their plans. The bill requires the collection of full reserves every year.

    The cost of audits is usually based on the complexity of the financial situation being audited. Generally, due to cost, audits are requested when necessary for some defined purpose. The bill arbitrarily requires that every Association order an audit every year. While a vote of all the members can postpone this expense for a maximum of one year, the Association must pay for an audit every two years. Larger Associations can more easily “spread the pain” of their more expensive audit. However, the fewer “assessable” members in a smaller Association make this mandatory audit extremely onerous. These smaller condos will have to postpone repairing a bathroom or a tripping hazard to pay for an absolutely unnecessary audit. The fiscal impact of the “per home” costs the department will assess every Association member and the additional assessments derived of the bill’s arbitrary regulations passes from the ridiculous to the sublime. Never in history have homeowners been made to pay so much for so little.

    The confusion stemming from the legislation’s poor construction wasn’t lost on staff analysts. Neither was the bill’s intention of changing the Division’s responsibility from regulating “the creation, sale, and operation of condominiums by developers and associations” to investigating “violations of the statute and rules by individual owners.” The Department of Business and Professional Regulation petitions the sponsors for clarification, stating, “If the intent is to authorize the Division to proceed against individual owners, clarifying language should be added, and this analysis must be changed to reflect the significant fiscal impact on the Division.” That’s right - if the “association bureau of investigation” is to be responsible for policing 1.1 million condo owners and millions of other homeowners in coops and homeowner associations, the already huge cost skyrockets. Instead of watching 32,500 associations (18,500 condos & 14,000 HOAs) they’ll be responsible for several million individual homeowners. The new entity should dwarf the State Police!


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    Foreclosure Flytrap

    Anti-Condo Senate Bill SB 2632

    March 31, 2005 - Senator Gary Siplin filed Senate Bill SB 2632 on March 8, 2005. The bill purports to protect people from losing their home over an insignificant debt. Unfortunately, that fails to describe the effects of the bill. It is a license to steal. It allows homeowners to legally take up to $2,499 out of their neighbor’s pockets - indefinitely. A similar bill was defeated in California. Governor Schwarzenegger explained his reason for vetoing the legislation, “This bill makes sweeping changes to the laws that govern Common Interest Developments (CID) and the foreclosure process for failure to pay delinquent homeowners assessments. While the intent of this legislation is laudable and intended to protect homeowners from being foreclosed upon for small sums of delinquent assessments, this bill is overly broad and could negatively impact all homeowners living in CIDs. This bill could unfairly result in increased assessments for other homeowners who pay their assessments in a timely manner and may delay the transfer of real property in CIDs due to the lien procedures set forth in the bill.” That’s putting it mildly.

    Florida State Senator Gary Siplin
    SENATOR GARY SIPLIN
    Foreclosure should always be the means of last resort to collect a debt. Since people’s homes are often their most significant asset, the prospect of losing one’s home over a trivial debt borders on tragedy. Foreclosures and liens are tools to enforce the payment of a debt. In the case of Common Interest Developments such as Condominium Associations, they are the only legal tools available. If you fail to make your car payments, it gets repossessed. Miss a few FP&L bills and the refrigerator becomes a storage chest. If you stiff Bellsouth, your telephone becomes “static art”. Ordinarily, if you don’t pay for services, the services stop... except in Condominiums. To level the risk of depending on many “roommates”, Associations are afforded the right to lien or foreclose on “roommates” that don’t kick in their fair share of the common expenses. When condo owners don't pay their fair share, the burden falls to all the other owners.

    The vast majority of condo owners pay their assessments on time. Of the few who pay late, most pay after the first notice. The extreme minority that remains delinquent falls into two categories - those homeowners undergoing some financial crisis and those that simply refuse to pay. In either case, the resulting shortfall is billed to the delinquent’s neighbors. Some can afford the unexpected expense and some cannot. Condo finance is a zero sum game, when some pay less, others must pay more. The effective result of unpaid assessments is the appropriation of other people’s money without asking their permission - commonly known as stealing. The Association must pay its bills and employees whether or not the individual owners pay theirs. To minimize this unfortunate aspect of common interest ownership, owners protect one another by agreeing to place liens and/or foreclose when assessments aren’t paid. This is their only remedy.

    SB 2632’s language is self-explanatory, “A lien foreclosure action or an action to recover a money judgment brought as a result of unpaid condominium association assessments may only be brought in those instances in which the amount in question equals or exceeds $2,500. The association is not entitled to recover attorney’s fees incurred in either a lien foreclosure action or an action to recover a money judgment for unpaid assessments. No foreclosure judgment may be entered until at least 180 days after the association gives written notice to the unit owner of its intention to foreclose its lien to collect the unpaid assessments.”

    No action is permitted for amounts under $2,500. Those amounts can be appropriated with impunity. Thousands of Florida Associations charge maintenance assessments of $30 to $100. The delinquent’s neighbors will have to “carry” the deadbeat for years before they are permitted to enact a recovery. In the case of an Association with a $30 monthly assessment, for instance, the other owners will have to pay the scofflaw’s bills for almost seven years without any prospect of relief. After the seven years, they must pay for another six months after notice is given. Once the seven and a half years pass, they must pay for an attorney to foreclose on the lien. They are not permitted to recover the attorney’s fees. If the members can’t afford to finance the legal expense of foreclosing on the lien, the delinquent is permitted to continue living off his neighbors - forever. Legal fees for lien foreclosures often surpass the value of the delinquencies - sometimes exceeding the value of the unit. The right to foreclose offers no remedy if the irretrievable cost of foreclosure exceeds the value of the unit. If the other owners decide to spring for the legal fees anyway, a manipulative deadbeat need only limit his debt to $2,499.99 to stave off foreclosure. He can continually owe that amount without risk of being subjected to enforcement actions. Associations will have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to stop each deadbeat from deliberately stealing from the other residents. Even when the delinquent wearies of this caprice and hits the road, the 180-day notification requirement will place the Association squarely at the end of the lien line. The mortgage holder and every debtor listed in a bankruptcy proceeding will take precedence over the Association’s standing.

    The bottom line: No Association can ever be made “whole”. This bill goes way beyond preventing foreclosures. It deliberately and irrationally punishes Associations. The other members must either pay the delinquent’s debt or pay irretrievable legal expenses to enforce collection. The bill doesn’t protect the unfortunate victims of irresponsible foreclosures by applying reasonable guidelines. It prevents an Association from collecting assessments... any assessments. As such, it victimizes every owner except the delinquent. All a scofflaw has to do to escape their debt is to NOT PAY IT! In effect, the first $2,500 assessed by an Association would be a plea to make a voluntary contribution, payable at the member’s discretion. Incomprehensibly, the bill further punishes the residents who pay their assessments on time by forcing them to pay the cost of collecting from those who don’t! It is impossible to cite another example of a lienholder that cannot collect attorney’s fees when enforcing its lien.

    Siplin is also playing a constitutional shell game. His bill states, “The association may bring an action in its name to foreclose a lien for assessments in the manner a mortgage of real property is foreclosed and may also bring an action to recover a money judgment for the unpaid assessments without waiving any claim of lien.” By eliminating an Association’s right to foreclose and their right to act to collect money damages in amounts less than $2,500, Senator Siplin is removing every remedy available to an Association to collect a debt. The Constitution demands that every right have a viable remedy. By definition, a right without a remedy is, in fact, not a right. By removing the Association’s only collection remedy, the Senator is depriving the Association of its right to collect a debt.

    A well-known banker illustrated a more insidious effect of the legislation. The mortgage application process includes an inquiry to the condo about its outstanding receivables. If an Association’s balance sheet demonstrates substantial uncollected and/or uncollectible funds, the lender will classify the collateral as insufficient to secure their investment. The mortgage will be declined. The banker predicts that the bill would portend the end of the condo mortgage market. Only purchasers flush with cash could participate. Given the likelihood for abuse by this bill, the impending fiscal “train wreck” would exclude condominiums from mainstream financing.

    SB 2632 is patently absurd. While protecting homeowners from whimsical foreclosures is laudable, no one understands Senator Siplin’s motivation for allowing Association members the unretributive right to steal thousands of dollars from each other. Siplin has repeatedly stated, “There are a lot of condos not only in South Florida but throughout the state. This will bring relief to the whole state.” In a clear effort to mischaracterize his bill as legislative altruism, he neglects to explain that his bill doesn’t expunge the debt, it functionally transfers it to the other owners! The “relief” that the Senator provides to the delinquent becomes everyone else’s burden. The tenets of this bill were part of Representative Julio Robaina’s Condo Killer legislation that was defeated last year. Not surprisingly, Robaina and Siplin have agreed to work together this year to get it approved. In a meeting with condo owners on Community Association Day (March 30th), Senator Jeffrey Atwater stated, “A bill designed to protect deadbeats to the detriment of everyone else is clearly unworkable.” The voice of reason!


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    SB 2632 Legislative History

    March 31, 2005 - After a bill is filed in the legislature, it is scheduled for review by an assortment of legislative committees to examine its inherent advantages and disadvantages. SB 2632 has been referred to 2 Senate committees for review. They are the Committee on Regulated Industries and the Committee on Judiciary. The Galt Mile Community Association will report the legislation’s progress through this process.

    Committee on Regulated Industries

    Click on the Committee members’ web pages below to get their addresses and telephone numbers. Click on their email address to send an email. The members of the Committee are:

    Activity

    On May 6th, the last day of the legislative session, the bill died in the Committee on Regulated Industries.

    Please find below assorted SB 2632 information links!

    • Click Here to go to the Galt Mile Community Association overview of Senate Bill 2632.
    • Click Here to go to the SB 2632 web page on the Florida Senate web site.
    • Click Here to read the SB 2632 actual bill text.
    • Click Here to read comments regarding SB 2632 made by Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff and Senator Jeffrey Atwater on Community Association Day.

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    Condo Rights Remain Intact

    Galt Mile Helps Defeat Attempt to Burden Associations

    For those of you familiar with the damaging anti-condo legislation that was floating around Tallahassee this year, Good News… it flopped. For those of you unfamiliar with the damaging anti-condo legislation that was floating around in Tallahassee this year, Good News... it flopped. Thousands of condo owners from all over the State contacted Representatives and Senators to oppose the legislation. The two bills, Representative Julio Robaina’s HB 1229 and Senator Gary Siplin’s SB 2632, never got out of committee. Actually, Siplin’s bill never fully made it into committee.

    Representative Julio Robaina, Condo Killer Bill Sponsor
    REP. JULIO ROBAINA
    Condo owners essentially want to get on about their lives. Their objectives and beliefs reflect those of the population at large. The lone factor that binds them, owning a home in a vertical community, is a feeble source of “political” cohesion. Until recently, condominium ownership has never lent itself to persecution or abuse. This marked lack of “political identity”, instead of cloaking condo owners in protective anonymity, has ironically made them a target in Tallahassee. Several legislators decided that people living in condos wouldn’t really care if their rights were savaged as long as they were told it was for their own good. With some self-serving outside help, they scripted a fairy tale that would cost condo owners millions, freshen campaign resources and help to get them repeatedly re-elected.

    Florida State Senator Gary Siplin
    SENATOR GARY SIPLIN
    To their dismay, and the chagrin of their cohorts, they encountered an obstacle that short circuited their scheme. They mistakenly assumed that no one would actually read what they were proposing. From Coral Ridge Towers to Caribé, hundreds of Galt Ocean Mile neighborhood residents joined thousands of other condominium owners throughout the State in notifying a variety of State officials of their opposition to the disruptive provisions embodied in these bills. The residents of Galt Ocean Mile have earned that warm fuzzy feeling that bubbles up when defending one’s rights. This is the second consecutive year that the bills’ sponsors proposed legislation to burden Associations with expensive, senseless and damaging regulations. When last year’s “Condo Killer” bills were defeated by outraged Condo owners, the sponsors blamed their failure on the naivety of those people that they were purportedly protecting. Also, they were no longer able to credibly claim to speak on behalf of the same people that defeated their legislation. Instead, they focused their attention onto their fellow legislators, again masquerading as “spokespersons” for condo owners, and intimated that we would somehow be “empowered” by being regulated and taxed into oblivion.

    Ocean Summit Residents Martha Bruno, Dr. Jim Comis and Russell Bailey and Regency Tower's Louise Collins Discuss the Bills with Legislators
    Ocean Summit's MARTHA BRUNO, DR. JIM COMIS
    and RUSSELL BAILEY and Regency Tower's
    LOUISE COLLINS Discuss the Bills with Legislators
    Despite this tactic’s obvious “common sense” disconnect, it enjoyed some initial success. However, when hundreds of condo owners descended on Tallahassee in heated opposition to the bills, the game was up - the charade was blown. One day after the March 30th Community Association Day demonstration, the Condominium Advisory Council publicly opposed passage of Robaina’s ill-fated bill. During the month of April, Representative Robaina frantically but unsuccessfully tried to fuse his bill onto some other piece of legislation. He couldn’t. Siplin had a different problem. He couldn’t even get a committee to schedule his bill for consideration.

    The problem here is uncomplicated. Too much political capital has been invested in these efforts by their sponsors to simply allow them to pass away peacefully. As such, next year we can expect to see another permutation of the senseless regulations exemplified by these bills. Since these legislators get paid for their time in Tallahassee and we don’t, their strategy anticipates that condo owners will ultimately weary of fighting to preserve their rights. This situation has created a “Groundhog Day” syndrome, wherein the same battle is fought annually in shifting battlefields. Therefore, instead of individual condo owners reacting to each piece of destructive legislation with a blizzard of objections, it would be more effective to develop a comprehensive response and direct it to the source of the problem.

    Every State Legislator and the Governor need to be made aware of three critical facts. Primarily, legislators need to be disabused of the claim by this small self-serving coalition that they “represent” condo owners. They have clearly demonstrated that they are speaking only for themselves. They are the sole beneficiaries of the empowerment that their bills cynically promise to all condo owners. Secondly, the enactment of indiscriminate regulations to cure anecdotal allegations is an irresponsible and unacceptable basis for legislation. The bills’ enigmatic provisions uniformly fail to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the community as a whole. Finally, burdening Associations with onerous, expensive regulations and additional layers of governmental bureaucracy is a poor substitute for democratic self-governance. The success of democracy presupposes that those directly affected by and closest to the issues are best equipped to address them. There is no evidence that the problems anecdotally claimed as the basis for these punishing regulations are wide-spread or require legislative action.

    This multi-year onslaught has served to unite many of its intended victims. A broad diversity of groups throughout Florida is coalescing in defense of their homeowner rights. Members of Condominium Associations, neighborhood associations and Homeowner Associations across the State are going to meet between legislative sessions and formulate a strategy to accomplish their shared objectives. Stay tuned...


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    Come and Get it... Free Money!

    Tallahassee Holding over $1 Billion of Our Money

    June 4, 2005 - “Excuse me, your money is ready. Please pick it up at your earliest convenience.” That’s right; your money is clogging up the wheels of government. The Florida Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property, holds unclaimed accounts currently valued at more than $1 billion, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, safe deposit boxes and trust holdings. In addition to these traditional forms of equity, the State’s holdings include more exotic tangible property such as jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other miscellaneous articles. Included in the almost 55,000 Broward residents that have money coming is a sizable contingent from the Galt Mile.

    Official Seal of the State of Florida
    STATE OF FLORIDA
    In fact, if you’ve ever lived in Florida, you are enrolled in the OOPs lottery. HUD/FHA insured mortgage recipients may be eligible for a refund on part of the insurance premium or a share of the earnings. People who plowed money into bank accounts or safe deposit boxes that they’ve forgotten about, neglected to recieve or cash a tax refund (Florida ranks third nationally in undeliverable refunds - after California and New York - with 8,208), invested in insurance policies that they’ve lost track of or simply forgot to pick up or cash a check can still recover their proceeds. Irresponsible executors who haven’t adequately notified inheritors have contributed to this orphaned mountain of loot. Neglected escrow accounts used to collateralize some long-forgotten financing deal or “direct deposit” arrangements that weren’t severed in a timely manner also serve to feed the phantom fund. Refund-eligible participants in the Florida Prepaid College Program who haven’t claimed benefits also have their contributions mixed into the fund. People who worked for companies that went belly-up may have pension benefits that they aren’t aware of. When the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation isn’t successful in reuniting many people with their pensions, the benefits go to the fund - along with dozens of other sources such as undistributed residuals held by the Screen Actrors Guild. Last year, rightful owners were reunited with about $100 million of their money and property.

    The State has a statutory responsibility to collect unclaimed property from individuals and institutions holding unassigned equity on behalf of absent, unidentifiable or untraceable clients. Unclaimed money is deposited into a state school fund and used exclusively for public education. There is, however, no statute of limitations governing its recovery. When the mood strikes them, the owners can retrieve their resources from the State.

    Florida Department of Financial Services Since 1961, Chapter 717 of the Florida Statutes requires financial institutions and other entities to report intangible personal property they are holding that is considered unclaimed or abandoned. If businesses (holders) are unsuccessful in their required attempts at locating the property’s owner, they must report the property and the owner’s name to the Department of Financial Services. The property must have been inactive for a set period of time, usually between one and five years. These reports are filed prior to May 1st each year, reflecting funds newly classified as “unclaimed” during the previous calendar year. The Department acts as custodian for the State of Florida, holding the unclaimed property in trust until such time the property is claimed. While the state temporarily uses the unclaimed money for public education, Florida never takes legal ownership of the property. It is always available for legal retrieval by the owner at no cost. However, no interest is paid on claims other than that reported and remitted to the Department by the holder. According to the Bureau, they use Internet database searches, driver’s license matches and credit bureau searches to locate and notify an owner or an heir to begin the claim process. This search venue, along with intermittent media alerts, delimits the extent of the State’s efforts to find and make whole the myriad of unidentified owners.

    Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher
    Florida CFO TOM GALLAGHER
    Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is injecting new life into a campaign designed to assist businesses in reporting unclaimed property. He is concerned about the tendency for banks, mortgage holders, insurance institutions and other mass repository vehicles to “overlook” ineffectively tracked funds. To that end, gubernatorial candidate Gallagher has arranged business workshops to facilitate the transfer of these resources to his Bureau of Unclaimed Property. Gallagher’s Department of Financial Services has planned an 8:30 A.M. workshop on June 29th at 1400 W. Commercial Blvd., Suite 135, in Fort Lauderdale. Similar Holder Education Workshops are scheduled in Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville from June 14th through July 12th.

    Given the enormous size of the fund and the voluminous number of potential clients, a cottage industry of private investigators and fund locators has proliferated throughout the State. In one of the Department’s Consumer and Claims FAQs, a question is posed, “What should I do if I am contacted by a private investigator/locator regarding unclaimed property or missing funds?” The Department answers, “Claiming your unclaimed property from the state can be done on your own, free of charge.” They recommend that before signing any contract, those contacted should go to the Bureau’s Unclaimed Property web site to search for unclaimed property and, if successful, to order a claim form. Incidentally, HUD also warns against responding to “Tracers” who promise to secure a promised refund. They've set up a web site to report any contact by unscrupulous characters trying to bilk residents out of their refunds.

    Florida Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property - Click on Graphic to see if You Have Money Coming!
    CLICK HERE TO SEARCH FOR YOUR (OR SOMEBODY ELSE'S) MONEY!
    The Bureau has set up a web site to alert residents about possible windfalls. Appropriately, the web address is http://www.fltreasurehunt.org/ (A mirror site is also available at http://www.fltreasurehunt.com/.) Simply surf to the Treasure Hunt web site and pop in your (or anyone else’s) name and click to see if you (or they) lucked out. If you hit the jackpot, you can order a claim form right on the web site. If, however, you are online-challenged, a technophobe or simply don’t trust computers, you can call the Department’s TOLL FREE Customer Service Hotline at 1-888-258-2253 or their local Tallahassee number at 850-410-9253 for assistance. You need to provide identification and proof of ownership in the claim process. The money is returned within 90 days as per statute!

    Upon contacting the Bureau, I queried the Bureau’s customer service representative as to why the fund had achieved its current colossal proportions. “Don’t people want their money?” After offering the mandatory disclaimer, she reluctantly proposed that, “most people believe that they wouldn’t forget being owed money.” Coupled with misconceptions about the difficulty of verifying and ultimately recovering the property, she opined, “The average owner rationalizes that the funds are OPM – other peoples’ money.”

    Where's the MONEY? Surprisingly, the reactions exhibited by several of my neighbors confirmed the representative’s evaluation of the “syndrome” that prevents hundreds of thousands of residents from retrieving their assets. With one exception, the residents I contacted were all confident that they “would know if someone owed them money.” The single individual conceding the possibility that she was owed money expressed concern about “opening a can of worms” in claiming the property.

    In an effort to verify the relevance of this program to Galt Mile residents, I compiled a random list of unit owners living in five buildings on Galt Ocean Drive and one of the Coral Ridge Towers co-ops to perform consecutive unclaimed property searches. While this was an uncontrolled sample, almost 14% of the searched entries had property sitting in limbo! I personally know some of the unclaimed property owners uncovered in the search. In fact, one of them is a member of GMCA’s Advisory Board and serves on his Association’s Board of Directors. I also know that most of them drive cars and hold mortgages. This clouds the State’s claim that they’ve checked driver’s license matches and credit bureaus to locate owners. I strongly recommend that you visit the Department’s Treasure Hunt web site and check for yourself.

    Auction Site - Wyndham Hotel - 1870 Griffin Road (I-95 & Griffin Road) - Fort Lauderdale International Airport
    WYNDHAM HOTEL - 1870 GRIFFIN ROAD
    Fort Lauderdale International Airport
    Financial institutions lose income through the prolonged disuse of a safe deposit box in default. To limit the loss, the State auctions off the contents of unclaimed safe deposit boxes annually. This year, about 40,000 unclaimed items from these abandoned safe deposit boxes will be sold at public auction; the proceeds of which are deposited in the State School Trust Fund for the benefit of public schools in Florida. The auction is scheduled for Saturday, July 30, 2005, at the Wyndham Hotel - 1870 Griffin Road (I-95 & Griffin Rd.) - Fort Lauderdale International Airport (Phone: 954-920-3300). Auction items are available for preview one day before the actual event - on Friday, July 29, 2005. To be added to the auction mailing list, email Mr. Gallagher at thomas.egler@fldfs.com. Links to the Bureau and the “Treasure Hunt” web site are provided from the Galt Mile Community Association web site (www.galtmile.com) in the “State of Florida” section of “Government” links. Check it out. After all, these are pretty good odds for a bet that costs nothing!


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    Representative Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff

    After the Session - 2005

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    REPRESENTATIVE ELLYN
    SETNOR BOGDANOFF
    June 18, 2005 - District 91 Statehouse Representative
    Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff addressed a June 16th luncheon meeting of the Galt Mile Community Association’s Advisory Board. She imparted that “since the legislative session’s close, I’ve been busier at home than while in the Capitol.” Ellyn is an attorney whose cases and clients must sacrifice a modicum of access during the legislative session in exchange for the “influence” that she brings to the table. “I had to go back to work!” It isn’t unusual for politically involved professionals to feel like they’re experiencing life in a “Cuisinart” when they return to their “day jobs”.

    Florida State Senator Jeffrey (Jeff) H. Atwater
    SENATOR JEFFREY ATWATER
    Representative Bogdanoff described a “spillover” that occurs once the session ends. “We were still tracking legislation, and watching to see what passed and what the Governor would veto. Speaking of which, I just experienced my first veto.” Admittedly disappointed, Ellyn characterized the Governor’s vetoing one of her bills as “a learning experience”. She explained, “My bill passed the House and the Senate. During those frantic last days, members were scurrying about, trying to hook their legislation onto anything that looked as if it may be successful. In the spirit of collegiality, I permitted others to add their language to my bill. When a bill gets too heavy, it tends to sink.” Evidently, it sank in the Governor’s office. “I’ll know better next time!”

    Condominium Residents Confront Representative Robaina on Community Association Day
    Condominium Residents Confront REPRESENTATIVE
    ROBAINA during the Community Association Day Event
    At the meeting’s outset, Ms. Bogdanoff commented on the Community Association Day event in which Galt Mile residents joined hundreds of homeowners across the State to protest legislation damaging to Association members. During the March 30th event, the Galt Mile contingent visited Ellyn, District 25 Senator Jeffrey Atwater and other state officials in Tallahassee to elicit their support. The normally passive homeowners were not only opposed to the bills’ unworkable provisions, they were also outraged by the legislation’s supporters’ spurious claim that they spoke on behalf of the majority of Association members. Bogdanoff ascribed the legislation’s ultimate failure to the C. A. Day event - stating that the Grass Roots demonstration brought the bills’ pitfalls to the attention of legislators. She postulated, “There is nothing more effective than people visiting their legislators to put a face on an issue. The legislator is alerted to the depth of their concerns and the constituents learn about the process. I was delighted that you took the time to visit me in Tallahassee. Fortunately, none of the objectionable provisions were enacted as the bills died in Committee.”

    SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director Hiram Ruiz and State Representative Julio Robaina at a what was billed as an Official State Town Hall Meeting for condo owners that was actually organized by SEIU's Clean Condos
    SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director HIRAM RUIZ and State Rep
    JULIO ROBAINA AT "STATE SPONSORED" Town Hall Meeting
    (ACTUALLY ORGANIZED BY SEIU's CLEANCONDOS.ORG)
    Several members registered surprise when Ms. Bogdanoff stated that Mr. Robaina, the Condo Killer bills’ main proponent, was basically “a nice guy simply trying to represent his constituents”. Regency Tower’s Eric Peter Berkowitz mentioned that Mr. Robaina’s District is in Miami, not St. Augustine - referring to the headquarters of a small, politically vested group that Robaina regularly sources to distort “facts” about condo problems. Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci offered that, “few of Robaina’s Miami constituents have any interest in the workings of Condominium Associations.” Ms. Bogdanoff admitted that her colleague was motivated by other political considerations. By staging an artificial “David and Goliath” scenario, in which he cast himself as David, Mr. Robaina could manufacture a campaign platform for repeated re-election. Additionally, he could repay some campaign contributors, such as SEIU, Local 11 in Miami, who stand to profit handsomely from the regulatory blitzkrieg fomented by Robaina’s coalition - at the expense of homeowners. By setting up this media-friendly “straw dog”, his self-serving legislation could effectively be marketed as a “heroic struggle” to those that haven’t actually read his handiwork. Mr. Ieraci told Ms. Bogdanoff that he “expects the coalition to try passing more disruptive legislation next year.”

    At Ms. Bogdanoff’s invitation, GMCA officials met with our Representative prior to this year’s session to create a legislative wish list embracing a variety of issues ranging from shore protection to self-governance. The meeting produced guidelines designed to trigger communication between Ellyn and the GMCA when any of the considered issues arose in the legislature. Responding to Mr. Ieraci’s admonition, Ms. Bogdanoff recommended that we repeat the procedure in October to re-evaluate how she might best assist in achieving community objectives. She pledged to, “monitor the situation and fight any attempt to undermine the interests of my constituents.”

    Representative Bogdanoff sponsored a bill which authorizes direct shipment of wine for personal consumption into this state
    "FREE THE GRAPE"
    Representative Bogdanoff updated the Advisory Board about the progress of certain issues in which she holds a legislative stake. With Representatives Don Davis, Bruce Kyle and Juan-Carlos Planas, Ellyn sponsored the Beverage Law, HB 975, which authorizes direct shipment of wine for personal consumption into this state. The bill died in the House Business Regulation Committee on Friday, May 6th. Apparently, a federal court in Tampa is considering a case wherein they will likely find our current law unconstitutional, clearing the way for another “bite at the apple” next year.

    On March 8th, a Special Referendum Election for the purpose of determining whether slot machines should be authorized at existing licensed pari-mutuel facilities located within Broward and Miami-Dade Counties was held and, while failing in Miami, the issue was passed by Broward voters. Dania Jai-Alai, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Pompano Park Harness Racing in Pompano Beach, and the Hollywood Greyhound Race Track in Hallandale Beach have stipulated that each pari-mutuel facility shall make a monthly payment to Broward County in the amount of 1.5 percent of the gross slot revenue generated by each and every slot machine. The monies will defray the cost of local government impacts and expenses incurred as a result of the development and operation of the devices. In case the gross slot revenue exceeds $250,000,000, the percentage paid to Broward County will increase to 2 percent. In addition, each of the “home” municipalities of the pari-mutuel facilities will receive 1.7 percent of the establishment’s gross slot revenue. Dania Beach will benefit from their Jai-Alai Fronton; Hallandale Beach will receive their percentage from both Gulfstream Park and their Greyhound Race Track. Pompano Beach will not only receive their 1.7 percent cut, they will also collect a $250,000 annual “kicker” from Pompano Park. Pompano Beach is also entitled to audit the track’s books on demand. Conversely, the harness track will be allowed to sell alcohol 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - subject to legislation restricting the establishment’s hours of operation.

    Senator Steven Geller
    SEN STEVE GELLER
    SELF PROFESSED
    SLOTS GURU
    Ellyn is concerned about the installation of slot machines in Broward County. Despite the passage of slots by the Broward electorate, she professed mixed feelings about the resolution’s implementation. She took the opportunity to clarify some recent confusion surrounding her position. Hollywood Senator Steven Geller publicly disparaged her for “acting contrary to the wishes of her constituency.” In fact, while Broward County voters approved the issue, the measure failed in District 91 - her constituents didn’t support the issue. Ethical concerns aside, she harbors some reservations about the blueprint for distribution of revenues expected from the devices. While they’ve been generally dedicated to education, no provision was made to offset ancillary costs that invariably arise adjunctive to legal gambling. The pari-mutuel locations slated to receive the slots will require additional police and public services to address an anticipated influx of gamblers and the projected expansion of existing facilities. Individuals adversely affected by the increased gambling presence may need access to additional chapters of Gamblers Anonymous or similar social rehabilitation efforts. Even the substantial cost of monitoring the locations’ adherence to the statute, verifying legitimacy of the actual machines and the bookkeeping required to accurately track the resulting proceeds remain unaddressed in the existing guidelines. Various jurisdictions might not be fully reimbursed for these expenses, placing an unfair onus on the taxpayer. The last bill designed to clarify these issues was consigned to legislative limbo in the Senate after being passed by the House. Senators had problems with the exigent terms of HB 1901 (the House product). The bill levied a 55% tax rate (one of the nation’s highest) and restricted the class of acceptable slot machines to the less popular (and less lucrative) bingo-style video devices (Class II). As a result, guidelines that are usually detailed by the legislature will instead be painted with broad strokes in the courts until the issue is revived next year.

    Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA)
    Office of Program
    Policy Analysis and
    GOVERNMENT
    ACCOUNTABILITY
    Pre-slots pari-mutuel wagering hasn’t exactly had a sterling history in the State of Florida. The laws that currently govern the activity are Ch. 550 (pari-mutuel wagering), Florida Statutes and Ch. 849 (gambling), Florida Statutes. Florida pari-mutuel wagering is regulated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Over the last decade, Florida’s pari-mutuel wagering industry has declined steadily, with attendance and associated state revenue falling dramatically. The Legislature has amended pari-mutuel wagering laws several times in an effort to stimulate the industry. The 2000 Legislature enacted legislation that further reduced the tax rates that affect the pari-mutuel industry and the 2003 Legislature revised the operating conditions for cardrooms at pari-mutuel wagering facilities. Revenue collected from pari-mutuel tax, cardroom tax, and fee collections are deposited into the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Trust Fund. Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering In 2004, division expenditures of $9.1 million and the county distribution of $29.9 million ($446,500 per county), when appropriated from the $34.2 million in generated revenue, left a $4.8 million shortfall that was met by a general revenue supplement. However, Industry pundits and State analysts in the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) anticipate that slot machine revenue and enacting recommended legislation will herald a turn-around. OPPAGA’s Report No. 05-28 (April 2005) states, “The expansion of gaming at Broward County pari-mutuel facilities will likely produce substantial tax revenues that could resolve the program’s revenue shortfall.” They add, “The division and Legislature have not yet implemented options for cutting state regulatory costs or revising the distribution of funds to counties.” A blizzard of attempted 2005 legislation addressing how slot machines will be authorized; which state agency will be responsible for regulation; how many state resources (funds and staff) will be necessary to support regulation; what the appropriate tax rate is; and how much state revenue will be generated by the introduction of slot machines was, for the most part, unsuccessful.

    Regency Tower President Dott Nicholson-Brown
    REGENCY TOWER PRESIDENT
    DOTT NICHOLSON-BROWN
    Advisory Board members were hard pressed to understand the concerns expressed about additional jurisdictional costs. The compensation arrangements made by the various municipalities and the County seem more than adequate to offset any additional public services and appropriate social programs attendant to the incremental gambling.
    Ocean Club President Rose Guttman
    OCEAN CLUB PRESIDENT
    ROSE GUTTMAN
    "Shameful Tax Revenue Loss"
    Regency Tower’s Dott Nicholson-Brown voiced her support for the slots, concerned primarily about whether they were the bingo-style video machines (Class II) or the popular Las Vegas-style machines approved by voters (Class III). When told that the slots would probably force gambling junkets like Sun Cruises to tank, she responded, “Good!” Ms. Nicholson-Brown lamented the lack of tax revenues from the “cruise to nowhere” gambling junkets and tax exempt Reservation-based institutions. Ocean Club’s Rose Guttman agreed, stating, “Losing all that money to junkets and places like the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is shameful.”

    Casino Windsor in Windsor, Ontario
    CASINO WINDSOR IN WINDSOR, ONTARIO
    Galt Ocean Club’s Pio Ieraci shared an anecdote about Windsor, Ontario’s experience when the Canadian municipality was considering casino gambling. Recalcitrant residents expressed similar sentiments about crime, traffic and gambling’s anticipated impact on the city’s youth. Ieraci said, “After the measure’s implementation, none of the daunting drawbacks materialized”, although he quickly disclaimed that locations like Atlantic City, N.J. suffered more severe social repercussions. Ms. Bogdanoff suggested that it would be propitious to provide for a statutory “backdoor” to de-authorize the project if, by some chance, her concerns about traffic and crime were realized. While discounting the need for such legal escape mechanisms, many members agreed that it might provide the County with a useful tool. In addition to empowering the County if the project demonstrated unexpected adverse social or financial consequences, it would afford Broward officials leverage to renegotiate more advantageous terms should the actual revenues prove to have been seriously underestimated.

    Casino Windsor in Windsor, Ontario
    REPRESENTATIVE BOGDANOFF Debates
    Inequitable Distribution of School Funds
    The larger issue derived of the slots controversy is school funding. A formula compiled by the State legislature for the distribution of educational funds portends sizable cutbacks for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. The plan fails to distinguish location-based factors that impact schools’ operational costs. For instance, it recognizes no distinction between the cost of living in Miami and a small town in central Florida. This affects everything from school supplies, construction and repair expenses, professional services and teachers’ salaries. The formula heavily favors the north and central Florida counties whose legislators currently control the legislature. Ms. Bogdanoff explained that, “A court challenge to the inequitable system was recently deflected; the court having found that the existing formula is constitutional.” Ms. Bogdanoff continued, “The Republican majority that runs the capitol isn’t predisposed to treat ‘Democratic’ Broward equitably.” Curiously, they visited similar abuse on “Republican” Miami. Bogdanoff exclaimed, “We need to resolve this issue on the merits of adequacy for each district and not on the politics of who is in power. I hope to work toward a solution.” South Florida legislators have neglected to present the united front necessary to mount credible opposition to the purely political formula that punishes millions of South Florida residents. Until they do, northern and rural Florida legislators will continue to take advantage of South Florida’s dysfunctional legislative coalition.

    Representative Bogdanoff briefly touched on affordable housing, stating that she opposed Broward’s legislation because the County lacked a viable master plan. She explained that Broward had 4 tax bills in play during the past session with “little indication of how the resulting funds would be spent.” She said that the issue deserves adequate consideration once the County pencils in the details. Otherwise, “tax monies raised for affordable housing could be redirected to almost anything!”

    Click for Larger View of Broward County Property Appraiser Office Locations Changing speeds, Ms. Bogdanoff focused attention on the difficulties faced by Broward residents when dealing with the local Department of Motor Vehicles. Evidently, alternatives are currently being considered to the historically demotivating experience. One such alternative places DMV under the aegis of the Broward County Property Appraiser, Lori Parrish. Bogdanoff pointed out that, “No other constitutional officer in Broward has the widespread outreach capabilities of the Property Appraiser’s office.” Parrish’s six existing locations provide easy access from virtually anywhere in the county. Lori Parrish also has a demonstrated penchant for organization, an ingredient that the current Department noticeably lacks. Attending Advisory Board members unanimously agreed that this would be a productive change.

    Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Oliver Parker
    MAYOR OLIVER PARKER
    Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff has accrued two years of legislative experience since she narrowly defeated Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Mayor Oliver Parker and 5 other candidates to fill Connie Mack IV’s vacated District 91 House seat. In the interim, she has familiarized herself with community concerns and invited reluctant constituents to participate in the legislative process. Ellyn’s diplomatic skills, conversance with the law and native intelligence had served to compensate for her initial lack of experience. She has proven herself to be a tireless unrelenting fighter for issues she considers important. GMCA President Bob Rozema asked Ellyn where she finds the time and energy to invest in the dozens of projects that simultaneously require her attention. (i.e., Ellyn is presiding over Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s Annual July 4th Parade as Grand Marshal.) The full complement of responsible committee appointments bestowed upon Ellyn by the House leadership speaks to their respect for her capabilities and high expectations for her potential contributions. Her success in forming alliances with legislators that share her objectives and establishing communications with those that don’t will serve to enhance her future effectiveness.

    Her responsibilities require the judicious balancing of her constituents’ needs, the State’s interests and peer-based networking relationships. Legislative challenges rarely arise wherein all three coexist harmoniously. Situations often dictate the strategic sacrifice of one to the advancement of another. Her future efforts will be judged primarily by the attention she gives her constituents’ concerns and secondly by her contributions to the State of Florida. If our Representative continues to demonstrate a capacity to successfully bring fresh perspectives to old problems, she will occupy the seat for years to come.


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    From the Office of Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff

    Summer 2005 Briefing

    August 12, 2005 - The Galt Mile neighborhood is located in Florida Statehouse District 91. The District wends its way up the Broward coast from Fort Lauderdale, penetrating Palm Beach County’s southern border. Our Statehouse Representative is Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff. Upon winning a close race for the open Statehouse seat two years ago, Ellyn hit the ground running. A quality that has distinguished Ellyn from predecessors and most of her current colleagues is an abiding passion to communicate with her constituents. She wields a weighty email list that she uses to keep constituents abreast of issues that affect their lives, homes or families. Those fortunate residents that populate her list find themselves privy to a private pipeline to Tallahassee. This is the latest update from Ellyn to her District 91 constituents...

    *editor

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    REPRESENTATIVE ELLYN
    SETNOR BOGDANOFF
    Although the House is not in session during the summer, we are continually busy wrapping up details from last session, working through both old and new issues, and corresponding with various organizations, as well with you, our constituents. We are anticipating a possible special session in the fall, which is even more reason to stay on task. We deal with many challenging issues, as evidenced by this last session, but the work is very rewarding. Thank you again for this incredible opportunity to serve as your Representative in the Florida House.

    I would like to briefly highlight several important issues that I believe will interest you.

    • On an issue of personal importance to me, we passed legislation known as the Road to Independence. As its name suggests, this legislation aids foster care children in becoming self-sufficient. Whereas the state of Florida already requires that real life training and services be provided to foster care children as they near the age of adulthood, this legislation ensures compliance with the law by giving individual judges personal oversight over each foster care child who files such a request, effective until the child’s 19th birthday.

    Representative Bogdanoff offers a Pipeline to Tallahassee
    REPRESENTATIVE BOGDANOFF
    A PIPELINE TO TALLAHASSEE
    On another note, we took measures to protect Florida residents with regard to the insurance industry and issues relating to hurricane relief.

    • Senate Bill 1486 requires insurers to renew and acknowledge a claim within 14 days and a claim investigation to begin within 10 days after the insurer receives Proof of Loss statements from the policyholder. It also helps homeowners retrofit their homes to reduce hurricane loss by requiring the Department of Community Affairs to establish a low-interest loan program. This could be of particular benefit to the thousands of Galt Mile residents protecting their homes by installing code-compliant impact rated windows. Lastly, this bill attempts to stabilize wind insurance costs by requiring insurers to report loss and exposure data to the Office of Insurance Regulation. This information will then be used to develop and update the Public Hurricane Loss Model.

    • Another important bill, SB 572, also protects residents by providing for special consumer protection during times of emergency and establishing certain punishments for illegal suppliers.

    • Before leaving Tallahassee, we additionally held off any statewide and Broward tax increases and passed a special tax relief package, providing another sales tax holiday and additional tax relief week for hurricane supplies (HB 6001). Hopefully, this encouraged folks to prepare for what has turned out to be a very active season.

    I am pleased with what we accomplished in the 2005 Session, but realize there is so much more to do.

    As always, I will be providing weekly email updates during session, as well as periodic updates from home. If you are not getting my emails and would like to be on the list, please send me a note at ellynb@bellsouth.net.

    If you have any comments or questions, or if our office can be of service to you, please contact us at (954) 762-3757.

    Politicians stereotypically extend empty invitations to contact them as part of a self-serving re-election ritual. That is NOT the case for Ellyn Bogdanoff. She really wants to hear from you. Click Here to request that she add you to her email list. You will receive regular updates (also available on the Galt Mile Community Association web site) between sessions and blow by blow accounts of the legislative upheaval that Tallahassee undergoes during the session. Try it - you’ll like it. - *editor


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    Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo
    AT BAT

    Official Seal of the State of Florida
    STATE OF FLORIDA
    August 27, 2005 -
    Dr. Virgil Rizzo, the Condominium Ombudsman for the State of Florida, has recently added an interesting new dimension to his mandated duties. He is, by definition, a neutral dialogue facilitator. He is supposed to bridge the occasionally wide communications gap that separates a condominium owner from an Association’s governing board. If a conflict arises between the board and a member of the Association, the Ombudsman is a resource available to both sides to ascertain whether an action is appropriate or legal. The Ombudsman’s office was reincarnated two years ago to address the vast majority of conflicts that result from ignorance of either the law or the Association Documents that govern the responsibilities of the various parties. Dr. Rizzo is supposed to listen to complaints, investigate their basis, determine whether one or both parties are laboring under a misconception and “cure” the problem with education. His effectiveness is a function of his neutrality. It immunizes him from accusations by either side that his decisions are “skewed”.

    Florida Condominium Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo
    CONDO OMBUDSMAN
    VIRGIL RIZZO
    Last week, the Ombudsman issued a report stating that he received 4000 “queries”. He also claims to have returned calls to 80% of those people that left him questions. Unfortunately, Ombudsman Rizzo was only able to superficially look into several of the complaints and accusations. The Ombudsman lacks the resources to verify the legitimacy of the complaints; he’s unable to determine whether an offense was committed or if a Board is simply enforcing rules enacted by the Association’s condo owners. In the absence of any proof of wrongdoing, the Ombudsman decided it would be helpful to divide the unsubstantiated “queries” into categories. Apparently, about half of the received messages alleged mismanagement. About a quarter of the messages included accusations by callers who felt that they were being persecuted. 15% of the callers had questions about elections and recalls. Managers and management companies were the subject of 10% of the “queries”. If the Ombudsman had access to the tens of millions of dollars needed to investigate these “queries”, he would be able to ascertain the real basis for each complaint. The reported allegations could either be the result of real inequities, confusion about the rules in an Association’s Documents and the Condo laws, or simply “sour grapes” - agendas by disgruntled owners or directors who consider themselves above those rules.

    Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes Without the mega-millions (as determined by a House of Representatives Staff Analysis of proposed 2005 legislation) required to separate the real problems from cases of inadvertent confusion or self-serving complaints by Association members (including directors), the Ombudsman has no way to compile an accurate proportional analysis of “condo problems”. He has no way of filtering out multiple complaints made by individuals about a single issue or even determining if a caller is who he claims to be. As such, he decided to make certain assumptions to compensate for the fact that his data is admittedly comprised of unsubstantiated allegations. His first assumption was that if a caller dialed his number and left a message, the content of the message must be true...and accurate. That relieves him of the obligation to verify the complaint - or the identity of the caller! If an owner who was fined by his Association for dumping his garbage in the building lobby called to report that he was being persecuted, Dr. Rizzo made a check mark in the “persecution column”. If an owner whose Association refused to fire an employee who he didn’t like reported mismanagement, a check was made in the “mismanagement column”. If a trespasser evicted from the property by the building manager lodged a complaint against the manager, he earned a check in the “manager column”. Regretfully, some very real problems buried in this morass of nonsense will never receive the attention they deserve.

    Sun-Sentinel By magically transmogrifying a bunch of complaints that carry the scientific substance of an MTV call-in poll, Dr. Rizzo created a “phantom” database. The good doctor’s second assumption was that he would be able to convince a major newspaper that his call-in database had sufficient “authority” for use in compiling an official report. The Sun-Sentinel, always cognizant that titillating headlines sell papers, fit the bill. Staff writer Joe Kollin, whose condo articles generally promote the hyper-regulation of homeowners by Tallahassee, experimented with an assortment of exciting titles for an article about the Ombudsman’s “Report”. The first edition headlined his article as “Report Attacks Condo Boards”. The Second edition headline graduated to “Report Blasts Condo Boards”. Disappointed with the uninspired headlines topping his article in the earlier editions, Kollin transformed his final headline into, “Rampant mismanagement plagues condo boards, report finds” - Eureka!

    Readers come away with the impression that the Condo Ombudsman investigated 4000 complaints, sniffed out the basis for each one and compiled an authoritative report summarizing his findings. It never happened! To Mr. Kollin’s credit, he does use phrases like, “about a quarter alleged abuse of ... ” and “10 percent cited abuse by ... ”, indicating that these were claims contained in messages left for the Ombudsman, not incidents that were in any way verified. While the Ombudsman stated that he responded to 80% of the callers, he also clarified that he was only able to “work with several boards during the period.” Inasmuch, the valid raw material available for a legitimate overview is limited to a handful of incidents. However, in our “wag the dog” media climate, the appearance of impropriety carries as much weight as the actual impropriety. Exploiting this modern day media quirk, Dr. Rizzo’s final assumption involves an Olympic-sized leap of faith. Why not masquerade the phantom data as the basis for new legislation?

    State Condo Ombusdman Virgil Rizzo, SEIU Local 11 Deputy Director Hiram Ruiz, State Representative Julio Robaina, and State Condominium Advisory Council Vice-Chair Mark Benson
    PARTNERS
    OMBUDSMAN VIRGIL RIZZO, SEIU LOCAL 11 Deputy Director HIRAM RUIZ
    AND STATE REPRESENTATIVE JULIO ROBAINA (AT PODIUM)
    Consistent with the political agenda he shares with several Miami legislators, Dr. Rizzo is preparing for another legislative attempt to wrest control of Florida condos from the people that own them and transfer it to a cabal in Tallahassee. Mr. Kollin reported Rizzo’s intention to “ask the Florida Advisory Council on Condominiums next month to join him in requesting that the Legislature come up with a solution.” Based on his “call-in complaint poll”, Rizzo stated, “Officer and director abuse is a serious problem that perhaps may only be rectified by legislative intervention.” Dr. Rizzo is so committed to this legislation that he made campaign contributions to legislators who sponsored similar condo killer bills during the past two legislative sessions (some of who were integrally involved with the creation of his office!) As to the Ombudsman’s “new dimension to his mandated duties”, Dr. Rizzo expressed regret at not being able to swing “a baseball bat” to enforce his opinions! This “neutral moderator” might find a lead pipe couched in a newspaper to be more convenient.

    On August 20th, the Sun-Sentinel editorial board attempted to moderate Joe Kollin’s version of the paper’s position on the issue. At a January 28th meeting in Dania, Dr. Rizzo stated that he “will be making a recommendation to the Legislature that every condominium association in the State of Florida needs to have the same set of Bylaws and the same Declaration of Condominium.” The editorial admonishes, “Whatever measures Tallahassee enacts, it must take into account that associations come in all shapes and sizes, and one-size-fits-all policies don’t work.” Our Ombudsman has consistently bemoaned the fact that the Governor failed to infuse his office with a full compliment of martial-law style police powers and a staff that would dwarf the State Police. Dr. Rizzo lamented that “short of swinging a ‘baseball bat’ at malcontents”; he has mostly been “limited to educating folks.” Speaking to Rizzo’s complaint, the editorial exclaims, “Education, however, is not a bad thing. Potential conflicts could be diminished if more people read by-laws and lived up to them.” The editorial board inferred that education is one of the most important tools in Dr. Rizzo’s toolbox. At the end of the editorial, the editors declare as the “Bottom Line” that “Reforms must be effective, and not place unnecessary burdens on association members.” The good doctor (and would-be hit man) might consider suggesting this to his “friends” in the legislature who’ve attempted to create expensive government-controlled bureaucracies to settle squabbles between neighbors – and send the bill to every condo owner!. DOC - Please - Put down the bat...

    Should you have questions for the Ombudsman, please email Dr. Rizzo at ombudsman@dbpr.state.fl.us or call at 1-(850)-922-7671, Fax: 1-(850)-921-5446. His address in the State Capitol is 1940 N. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399. His local office will be located at 1400 W. Commercial Blvd., Tamarac.


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    From the Office of Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff

    October 2005 Briefing

    October 7, 2005 - The Galt Mile neighborhood is located in Florida Statehouse District 91. The District wends its way up the Broward coast from Fort Lauderdale, penetrating Palm Beach County’s southern border. Our Statehouse Representative is Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff. Upon winning a close race for the open Statehouse seat two years ago, Ellyn hit the ground running. A quality that has distinguished Ellyn from predecessors and most of her current colleagues is an abiding passion to communicate with her constituents. She wields a weighty email list that she uses to keep constituents abreast of issues that affect their lives, homes or families. Those fortunate residents that populate her list find themselves privy to a private pipeline to Tallahassee. This is the latest update from Ellyn to her District 91 constituents...

    *editor

    This month, there are a few issues worth noting.

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    REPRESENTATIVE ELLYN
    SETNOR BOGDANOFF
    As you may know, in Kelo v. City of New London, the United States Supreme Court extended the traditional constitutional guidelines concerning eminent domain. As a strong advocate of property rights, I was disappointed in the recent decision.

    Fortunately, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives appointed the Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights to review this issue and make recommendations. As committee members research and discuss the issue, I will keep you posted and make sure your concerns are addressed. It is important that we support strict guidelines as they relate to the governmental confiscation of private property.

    On another note, Governor Bush issued an executive order on August 5, 2005 (05-160), prohibiting the destruction of DNA evidence that would otherwise have been destroyed on October 1st. Additionally, on September 29th, the Supreme Court of Florida extended the testing deadline for inmates until July 2006. Currently, the state provides a 2 year window for those who proclaim their innocence. The backlog of cases for those convicted prior to 2001 necessitated more than one extension of the deadline.

    I am currently co-sponsoring HB 61 (House Bill 61), which would serve to statutorily eliminate this deadline. I do not believe our system of justice should put a time limit on innocence. With the advent of DNA testing, we have convicted many criminals. However, we have an obligation to use this same technology to identify the innocent. Although I have been working to change the law for three years, recent high profile cases have brought this issue to the forefront. I believe our criminal justice system can remain tough on crime, without being tough on justice.

    Representative Bogdanoff will again sponsor a bill which authorizes direct shipment of wine for personal consumption into this state
    "FREE THE GRAPE"
    On the same day as Bush’s executive order, US District Judge James Whittemore concluded that Florida’s current law, criminalizing the shipment of wine to Florida from out-of-state wineries, was unconstitutional. For the third year in a row, I will file a bill to correct this constitutional violation. Allowing for competition among various state wineries is what the free market is all about. This change in the law will serve to benefit Florida consumers and will effectively increase state revenues.

    If you would like to discuss any of these issues in greater detail or if our office can be of service to you, do not hesitate to call us at (954) 762-3757. In addition, if you are not receiving my updates from Tallahassee during session, please email me at ellynb@bellsouth.net.

    Until next time...

    Politicians stereotypically extend empty invitations to contact them as part of a self-serving re-election ritual. That is NOT the case for Ellyn Bogdanoff. She really wants to hear from you. Click Here to request that she add you to her email list. You will receive regular updates (also available on the Galt Mile Community Association web site) between sessions and blow by blow accounts of the legislative upheaval that Tallahassee undergoes during the session. Try it - you’ll like it. - *editor


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    Special Session - December 5 to 9, 2005

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    December 28, 2005 - On December 12th, several Galt Mile Community Association officials enjoyed the company of Representative
    Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff at a luncheon meeting at the Tower Club in Fort Lauderdale. Ellyn is the District 91 Statehouse Representative, which includes the Galt Mile neighborhood. Following a January 2004 victory in a Special Election to fill the House seat vacated by Connie Mack IV, Ellyn has ably represented the shoreline district running from Hollywood in Broward to Boca Raton in southern Palm Beach County. From that first partial term through today, Ellyn has always been appointed to important and influential committee assignments by several House leaderships. Despite a voluminous accumulation of Public Service accolades and a weighty list of active affiliations, Tallahassee presents a unique challenge to new members; a mandatory learning curve the length of which varies with the member’s adaptive abilities. Fortunately, Ellyn is a quick study. During her two years, she has successfully networked the House, forming useful alliances and an impressive access directory.

    State Emergency Response Team - Florida Division of Emergency Management Ellyn spoke to some of the issues whose prominence exploded with the advent of Hurricane Wilma. She agreed that the community’s attention to better protecting itself from the effects of future storms is well placed. The retrofitting of older buildings with code-compliant windows and doors, despite the onerous cost, is necessary for their survival. She discussed some of the efforts pursued by the State to encourage homeowners to protect themselves. The Florida Division of Emergency Management mounted an internet promotion explaining to residents how they should address the vulnerabilities in their homes. The Florida Department of Community Affairs web site describes the premium rebates available to homeowners who lessened their exposure by installing hurricane resistant improvements. This segued to an impending insurance dilemma stemming from the effects of the recent hurricanes.

    Florida Department of Community Affairs The cost of insurance has skyrocketed. The storms undermined market forces that generally moderate insurance costs. Two consecutive years of having their financial bells rung have induced Carriers to abandon the Florida market at an alarming rate. Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci asked Ellyn, “What can be done to stem the exodus or otherwise restrain runaway premiums?”

    Citizens Property Insurance Corp. In 2002, the Florida Legislature passed a law that combined the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association (FRPCJUA) and the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association (FWUA). This resulted in the creation of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. (Citizens) to serve the needs of homeowners in high-risk areas and others who cannot find coverage in the open, private insurance market. A serendipitous success story, this state-run insurer of last resort currently protects 800,000 coastal properties rejected by private insurers for full coverage. In 2004, Citizens incurred more than $2.4 billion in losses, stemming from nearly 120,000 claims. The formula that Citizens depends upon for survival requires that the approximately $516 million (actually $515,490,314) shortfall be recaptured through a one-time assessment on property insurance companies statewide. The companies then file a request with the Office of Insurance Regulation to be able to add a one-time surcharge to their policyholders’ annual premium. As such, the cost was passed to every Florida homeowner as a 6.8 percent premium adjustment.

    Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund Representative Bogdanoff reminded the group that the state has been actively negotiating with the insurance industry since the December 2004 Special Legislative Session called to address Hurricane problems. Backed by an Administration desperately seeking an adequate solution, Senate President Tom Lee and House Speaker Alan Bense formed the Joint Select Committee on Hurricane Insurance to identify the issues and develop recommendations.

    GMCA Presidents Council Chair Pio Ieraci
    GMCA PRESIDENTS COUNCIL
    CHAIR PIO IERACI
    The Insurance industry abates product costs by spreading the insured risk over a greater pool. A healthy balance of high and low risk customers keeps their products affordable. The meteorological adjustment suffered by Florida has served to skyrocket the State’s high risk component. Our Representative suggested expanding the pool, something that could only be accomplished on the federal level. GMCA Secretary Eric Berkowitz said that, “One of the objections to FEMA is the lack of any incentive to control risk on the part of its beneficiaries. Congress is looking at a national model patterned on the Florida template.
    GMCA Secretary Eric Peter Berkowitz
    GMCA SECRETARY
    ERIC PETER BERKOWITZ
    A national Cat Fund (Catastrophe Fund) and a national version of ‘Citizens’ could establish safety standards as prerequisite to being eligible for benefits - cutting the risk and, in turn, the cost.”
    He continued, “While governmental attempts at competing with private industry are usually pathetic, Florida’s Hurricane Cat Fund and Citizens seem to be exemplary.” Pio Ieraci asked Ms. Bogdanoff, “Who can we look to for help with the creation a nationwide insurer of last resort.” She suggested that other states prone to catastrophic events would make natural allies. The States lining the country’s earthquake-prone west coast are no-brainers. Fortunately, they include California, the nation’s largest single repository of electoral votes. Other states occupying the path of the Atlantic Hurricanes that battered Florida, including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, would prove willing participants. Midwestern states along Tornado Alley should also throw in. Out of this potential core group, California, Florida and Texas carry heavy national political muscle. GMCA President Bob Rozema opined that while other states lining the eastern seaboard weren’t affected to the extent of Florida and the Gulf States, they are exposed to the increased hurricane threat.

    Ocean Club President Rose Guttman
    OCEAN CLUB PRESIDENT
    ROSE GUTTMAN
    "Shameful Tax Revenue Loss"
    Rose Guttman, looking to past FEMA activity for direction in a quest for allies, stated that Terrorism has recently been responsible for several catastrophic events. The World Trade Center tragedy in New York and the Oklahoma City bombing evidence the national scope of Terrorist-caused catastrophes. Given the nationwide exposure to these heinous criminal acts, “Every state should share an interest in having available an insurance entity capable of addressing the costly damage,” said Guttman.

    Mr. Ieraci pointed out that “Homeowners and their representative associations aren’t a well organized voice in Congress and State Legislatures.” Pio asked Ms. Bogdanoff which organizations with strong lobbies share our concerns. She responded, “The Real Estate community and supporting industries are also seriously impacted by runaway insurance costs.” In particular, “The resulting depression in mortgage banking activity should stimulate the support of powerful banking interests.” Influential Real Estate and Banking lobbies could effectively align support for a national disaster insurance program.

    While establishment of a Federal program would effectively address the insurance threat, it may take years to achieve enactment. It appears as if we will be forced to face this problem immediately. Currently, there is only one remaining rated carrier available to address windstorm damage aside from Citizens. Should they bolt, we would be forced to consider unconventional alternatives. These could include tailoring Citizens to better address the new threat, formation of Insurance Captives and/or various other self-insurance formats. Ms. Bogdanoff promised to update us as these issues are further considered in Tallahassee.

    Class III Las Vegas Style Slot Machine
    LAS VEGAS STYLE
    CLASS III SLOT OK
    Our Representative also briefly addressed the “slots” issue. Ellyn claims a moral objection to gambling; she’s concerned with potential addiction and the impact that the additional traffic will have on local public and social services. She said, “I’d rather not have my home defined by the type of problems that often accompany legalized gambling.” Her constituents’ reaction to slots has been mixed, with residents and businesses weighing the drawbacks against the potential economic windfall. Rose Guttman answered, “People are going to gamble anyway and currently the State receives no benefit from that activity.” She continued, “Losing all that gambling tax money to junkets and places like the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is shameful.” Ellyn explained, “While everyone is entitled to their personal opinion about the issue, it was important to establish legislative guidelines to regulate the activity. We had to guarantee its continued legitimacy and determine the appropriate and relevant financial distributions. My interests included protecting local taxpayers from having to foot the bill for the additional strain on our public services brought on by an influx of gambling-related traffic.”

    House Business Regulation Chairman Frank Attkisson
    REP FRANK ATTKISSON
    HOUSE SLOTS SPONSOR
    At the December 2005 Special Session, the Florida Legislature finally enacted those guidelines. House Bill HB 1B and the companion Senate Bill SB 4B, sponsored by Frank Attkisson in the House and Bill Posey, Steven Geller and Lee Constantine in the Senate, authorized Class III Las Vegas-style slot machines, limited the number of machines that may be operated at a facility to no more than 1,500 per facility, and imposed a flat tax of 50% on slot machine revenue. Slot machine gaming may be conducted up to 16 hours per day year-round and players must be at least 21 years of age. The bill prohibits the linking of slot machines in one or more facilities to offer higher jackpots as part of a progressive game. The payout rate for each machine must be no less than 85 percent. An independent testing laboratory will ensure slot machines are operated in accordance with the requirements of the statute. The regulatory framework for all entities involved in the operation of slot machine gaming with regulatory responsibility was placed in the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. To mitigate some of the adverse social ramifications for which Representative Bogdanoff expressed concern, the bill requires the division to contract with a private provider for a compulsive gambling prevention program and funds the program through an annual $250,000 fee assessed each slot machine licensee.

    Senator Steven Geller
    SENATOR STEVE GELLER
    SLOTS SPONSOR
    Since no revenue is anticipated for FY 2005-06, a $3.3 million estimated shortfall in local government revenue collections would be temporarily addressed with unencumbered cash from non-slot revenues in the Pari-mutuel Wagering Trust Fund. The money will be repaid from the approximately $209 million expected to be generated in FY 2007-08 (as per the legislation’s Revenue Estimating Conference). Ms. Bogdanoff’s concern about the potential unanticipated costs to local taxpayers has been underscored by actions recently taken by the City of Hollywood. The municipalities that contain authorized facilities (Dania Beach for Dania Jai-Alai, Pompano Beach for Pompano Park Harness Racing and Hallandale Beach for Gulfstream Park and the Hollywood Greyhound Race Track) will receive 1.7 percent of the local pari-mutuel establishment’s gross revenue to offset additional strain on municipal services. Despite the absence of a local facility, Hollywood proceeded with an action to secure similar annual contributions from facilities in neighboring municipalities, claiming that their close proximity to Hollywood would impact the City’s taxpayer funded public services.Hollywood is adjacent to Hallandale and Dania Beach.

    Ms. Bogdanoff works overtime to reach out to district voters. She maintains a “Hot List” of her constituents’ email addresses who’ve requested that she keep them posted about the current session, certain special interest legislation or her overall legislative progress. She reviews every piece of legislation from a variety of perspectives. In part, she was elected to apply her stated personal and political values when evaluating a bill. In addition, she must anticipate how various components of her district will benefit or suffer from the effects of the legislation. Constituents also alert her to bills they have a stake in. This Chinese menu of individual interests requires an intense diagnosis of every session’s legislative offerings.

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    From the Office of Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff

    Special Session - December 2005 Update

    On December 19th, Representative Bogdanoff released her latest “Legislative Update”. She reviews an expanded summary of the 2005 Special Session of the Legislature held from December 5th through December 9th. It reads as follows: - [editor]

    Hi again...

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
    My, my what a week during Special Session. We passed some good legislation that should benefit all Floridians in one way or another. For many of you who have recently been added to may email list, I provide weekly updates from the Capitol during Regular Session and periodic updates from home. Many of you expressed an interest in receiving my correspondence. Your feedback is invaluable and I continue to enjoy our exchange of ideas. Please let me continue to hear from you. If you would like me to remove your name from my address book, let me know that too.

    Representative Bogdanoff offers a Pipeline to Tallahassee
    REPRESENTATIVE BOGDANOFF
    A PIPELINE TO TALLAHASSEE
    We went back to Tallahassee this month to address Medicaid, but as you know, we took on a number of other issues during the frenzied week. In an effort to bring some financial relief to residents whose lives were hit so hard by Wilma, I co-sponsored Rep. Hasner and Senator Atwater’s bill that will allow residents to extend payment of their property taxes to January 31, 2006 and still receive the November discount. Since many fell a bit behind because of the hurricanes, this should provide some help for our neighbors who lost income during this time. This bill only authorized those counties devastated by Wilma to accept this option if they chose, and unfortunately Broward was unable to get their act together and once again refused to provide this tax relief to their citizens. It was good to see Miami Dade and Palm Beach counties take advantage of this. I applaud their support.

    Let’s see... I read the papers the day after the “big” votes and lobby reform and slots got the headlines. We went up there for Medicaid reform... the sweeping reform that passed the Legislature should make a meaningful impact. We needed to do something with a system that was broken, and the Legislature made a good start. Broward is a pilot county, and I think most are pleased with the product that we produced, and any kinks that remain can be addressed in Regular Session. At the rate Medicaid was growing, it would soon have taken up the majority of our budget.

    I have nothing much left to say about slots... because it has all been said at this point, don’t you think? There were a couple of provisions left out of the bill that I will work on for General Session, but other than that it is what it is. Only time will tell if this is a good or bad thing for Broward, but I think when all is said and done, the public will be more informed. These were difficult negotiations and there are still issues to address.

    Representative Bogdanoff Debates Minimum Wage & Medicaid
    REPRESENTATIVE BOGDANOFF Debates
    MINIMUM WAGE & MEDICAID
    Implementation of minimum wage and lobbyist reform were two other items on the agenda. As far as lobbyist reform, I hoped for a different approach. I would prefer complete disclosure. I believe that as the elected official I am the one accountable to the voters. What a lobbyist earns or what he spends on printing material is irrelevant to me (both must be reported under the new bill). If I attend a function to meet with local CPAs, I am happy to declare it. I must receive hundreds of invitations where just every day folks gather to meet and share their opinions with us. Obviously, a legislator doesn't always have time to meet with folks one on one, although I do quite a bit. The fact is… receptions are a great way to meet dozens of every day folks from a particular profession, industry, or advocacy group. Certainly, I can go and not eat or drink... no problem, but if it is at meal time, there might be a perception created so it would be best if the organization puts a cost to it and bills. Unfortunately, now many of my colleagues in the Legislature won’t be able to afford to go to as many events as they probably should.

    Tallahassee in Special Session
    Special Session in Tallahassee
    Everyone wants transparent and honest government, and I’ll continue to fight everyday for just that. But as the bill reads, legislators will need to pay for anything of value. This includes taking anything of value from non profits, chambers, and association. This includes brochures, research, and even holiday greeting cards... If you read the language this could go as far as prohibiting us from taking advantage of a gathering where the cost of the room rental was paid for by an organization that hires lobbyists. We can fix this and make it work, but as it stands now, there are many organizations frozen. In the last week, I have received many emails on legislative gatherings. For instance, Palm Beach was having a Legislative Breakfast gathering of Planners, Engineers, Landscape Architects, Civil Engineers and Architects to discuss legislative issues... it has complicated their process. We cannot go to hear our constituents concerns and not pay, and I feel legislators are finding themselves less able to engage the community already.

    The House and Senate are drafting rules, but as one Association President stated in an email...He starts with “What a mess.” And remember, these Associations represent people and organizations that are part of our community. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.

    Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff on House Floor
    REP. BOGDANOFF ON HOUSE FLOOR
    Some say it will change the culture of politics...I think it may do more than that. Here is the most dangerous pitfall... “anything of value” will or should include all printed material. I receive a tremendous amount of it and actually read it or save it for future reference. I receive industry magazines and statistics... all from “principals” defined in the bill. Principals are also state agencies and local and county governments. Technically, I can no longer take this material. In order for any member to do their job, the public should expect us to make informed decisions, this may become more difficult. I currently receive material on both sides of the issue - that may have to stop. I think the information from varying interest groups is critical to the creation of good public policy, and this legislation will have a huge impact on that.

    One might ask... then why did you vote for it? Well, it is obvious that the public is interested in reform, and we have to start somewhere. I have been assured we will address the concerns - and I believe we can - but I also felt I owed it to you to give you the information. Try as I might, I cannot get the press to engage, and as you can see by this explanation, it makes a lousy sound bite.

    Representative Bogdanoff Debates Lobbyist Reform on House Floor
    REPRESENTATIVE BOGDANOFF
    DEBATES LOBBYIST REFORM
    One legislator stated to the press that the money will just simply flow to the parties... I’m not sure that is what the public intended. In the end, I still like my option of full disclosure. I’d like to hear what you think...

    Okay, one last issue... the Senior Service Tax... gee, if you read the Herald, was that a nasty article or what? 30% increase in property taxes for some, 70% increases in coastal Windstorm insurance, not to forget what happened to gas prices and the approved increase from FPL... we have to help our residents get relief. Besides, we know the county had 20 million to return that the citizens, yet kept it on a 5/4 vote. The County refuses to provide excess funds from their existing budget to assist our seniors, yet some of my fellow legislators in Broward feel it is okay to keep asking the people for more money. This boggles the mind.

    Click Here to the Florida House of Representatives
    CLICK TO FLORIDA HOUSE
    I have addressed the concerns of seniors, and you know I don’t oppose something without trying to find a better solution. I have spoken to several cities about developing a “Senior Advocate” position, and I think that’s the best approach. Lighthouse Point has one and it seems to be working well. It is a local coordinator that assists the local seniors in obtaining services. Several other cities are considering it as well. I think it is a great idea that will catch on. I have also had numerous talks with County Commissioner Lois Wexler. She is aggressively moving forward because I have asked her to work on this issue and it is one that she cares about. She is doing an assessment study to determine where there is additional need for services in the community. She will then take this information to the Commission and ask them to reconfigure the Senior Advisory Board and fund it as they do Children’s Services. In this way, we can address the issue locally, where it can be most efficiently done, before we look at more complicated solutions. There has been a substantial increase in tax revenue to the county... the money is there. The county historically has put over $12-15 million in children’s services, but they have only given about 2 million to seniors. I think both our seniors and children should be priorities, don’t you?

    So, that is my story. Things will heat up after January 1st and we are ready to go with some great issues. My boys are home for 3 weeks and we are looking forward to the Holidays.

    I wish you a very happy and healthy New Year. Stay safe and I will be in touch soon.

    Until next time...

    Ellyn


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