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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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2017 Articles

ELSS Retrofit Bills

ELSS Progress Update

April ELSS Update

ELSS Endgame

Gov Vetoes ELSS

Stop ELSS Round 2

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2017 Legislative Session



December 12, 2017 Update

Click Here to Office of State Fire Marshal December 27, 2017 - Six years after Ellyn Bogdanoff's 2010 Opt-Out legislation enabled thousands of high-rise associations to forgo retrofitting a $multi-million fire sprinkler system, angry Fire Sprinkler association lobbyists hell bent on recovering the lost windfall dispatched an official from the Fire Marshal’s union to solicit the Office of State Fire Marshal for a “friendly” interpretation of the Florida Fire Prevention Code (FFPC).

 


Looking Back: 2017 Session

 

Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff
ELLYN SETNOR BOGDANOFF
Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS The resulting May 4, 2016, Declaratory Statement authorized local Fire Marshalls to demand that thousands of Florida high-rise associations retrofit a $multi-million Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) - an arbitrary stew of fire safety features that invariably includes a sprinkler system. Vested with broad Statutory discretion, many local Fire Marshals began rejecting any ELSS permit application that didn’t include a sprinkler system. Brazenly exceeding their authority, others simply ordered associations to install a sprinkler system, arrogantly specifying a hand-picked engineer and/or contractor for these installations.

Moraitis Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
MORAITIS EXPLAINS BILL TO COMMITTEE
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
Angered by this mercenary scam to circumvent the intent of the legislature for the sole purpose of bloodletting $billions from association homeowners, Statehouse Representative George Moraitis (R – Fort Lauderdale) teamed with Association Advocate Ellyn Bogdanoff and State Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples) to file legislation providing associations with the right to opt-out of the costly ELSS. As Bogdanoff tenaciously battled with sprinkler lobbyists throughout the session, Moraitis told vetting committees that House Bill 653 would protect thousands of elderly retirees on fixed incomes who might otherwise be forced from their homes by the astronomical assessment. The legislators concurred. With one exception, every lawmaker in both chambers approved the bills.

Governor Rick Scott
GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT
Fire in Marco Polo Complex in Grenfell, London
FIRE IN GRENFELL, LONDON
In exchange for Governor Rick Scott's promise to approve the legislation, the bills were amended to require approval by 2/3 of the association’s voting interests to forgo an ELSS. Without extending a standard courtesy of first informing the bill’s sponsors, on June 26, 2017, the Governor broke his promise and vetoed the legislation, citing the June 14 fire at Grenfell Tower in London for his decision. Ironically, since the London fire was attributed to combustible aluminum cladding affixed to the building’s exterior, an ELSS wouldn’t have altered the outcome.

 


Round 2: Planning the 2018 Rematch

 

The next day, Bogdanoff notified the legislation's supporters “Our opposition seized the moment and in an abundance of political caution, Governor Scott vetoed the bill.” Concluding that the tragedy should not have impacted the ELSS opt-out, she remarked “We lost the battle but we have not lost the war. We will regroup and press on.” On July 18, 2017 Galt Mile officials met with Moraitis and Bogdanoff to discuss refiling the bill during the 2018 legislative session.

George Moraitis, Pio Ieraci and Ellyn Bogdanoff
REP. GEORGE MORAITIS, PIO IERACI AND ELLYN BOGDANOFF
Bogdanoff opened with a rundown about how the veto changed the playing field. The legislative strategy would have to be reconfigured to preclude a replay of the 2017 aborted endgame. Bogdanoff said she would explore alternative new fire suppression technologies and harvest authoritative substantiation for the legislation, specifying recent contractor bids to additionally document the mind-boggling financial burden. She was also considering certain legal actions - possibly targeting local fire marshals who overstepped their authority or demonstrating that the ELSS is a blind for retrofitting fire sprinklers – thereby violating the 2010 opt-out statute.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron
HOUSE SPEAKER RICHARD CORCORAN AND SEN. PRES. JOE NEGRON
Moraitis and Bogdanoff detailed the procedural requirements for a veto override, exhorting its dependence on advocacy by the legislative leadership. They planned to discuss the legislation with Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, as their cooperation would also help facilitate an understanding with the Governor's office. Moraitis and Bogdanoff favored cloistering their preparations until they could coalesce the key elements of the strategy.

Citing “political complications” inherent in an election year session and a tragic July 14 fire in a Honolulu high-rise, Bogdanoff later suggested altering the near-term objective. In late August she proposed legislation to extend the December 31, 2019 ELSS installation deadline while convening a task force to study the cost and explore other options. In short – a holding action until she and Moraitis could cultivate traction with the legislative leadership – or after Governor Scott is term limited into another line of work on January 7, 2019. In early December, fate smiled – as House Speaker Richard Corcoran gave Mortaitis his blessing to refile the unadulterated ELSS Opt-Out bill. On December 12, Bogdanoff sent supporters a “First Update”, signaling that Round 2 of this struggle is underway. See for yourself. Read on... - [editor]

 

 

“First Update”
December 12, 2017

Hi members:

Bogdanoff in Tallahassee
BOGDANOFF IN TALLAHASSEE
I just wanted to give you a quick update before the holiday season takes over our lives. I met with Rep. Moraitis last week and he has decided that he will file the exact opt out bill from last year. He was encouraged to do so by the Speaker. I also spoke with Senator Farmer and he is filing the Senate companion bill. They have until 12PM on the first day of session to file but I suspect both will file before then so staff has time to do the analysis and we can get on the committee agenda. If the bills are filed, I will let you know the numbers so that you can track them if you want. I will be sending out regular updates as I did last year. This will be an interesting ride since it is an election year. I am sure I will have plenty of material to keep you entertained.

CALL Alert - Join ELSS 2018 Opt Out Group If I don’t write to you before the season kicks in, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a happy and healthy New Year. Let your fellow associations know it is not too late to add their names to the list, and I don’t mean Santa’s list. The more associations we have the more power in our message. Please encourage them to join the ELSS 2018 Opt Out Group.

Until next time...


Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Association Advocate
Government Law and Lobbying, Becker & Poliakoff
Email: ebogdanoff@bplegal.com

 



 

Senator Gary Farmer
SENATOR GARY FARMER
Following the Governor’s veto, State Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples), who had previously filed the companion bill in the other chamber (Senate Bill 744), exclaimed her intention to withdraw from the 2018 effort. Later, she said she would participate. To dispel further confusion, Bogdanoff recruited Senator Gary Farmer (D – Broward), who won the Senate seat vacated by former State Senator Jeremy Ring. Since the recently redrawn Senate District 34 boundaries now include the entire Broward coast, Farmer represents the Galt Mile in the Florida Senate, as does Moraitis in the Statehouse. Ironically, when Bogdanoff filed her Fire Sprinkler Opt-Out legislation in 2010, Ring filed the companion bill in the Senate.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran
HOUSE SPEAKER RICHARD CORCORAN
House Speaker Richard Corcoran is a fearless political force of nature. Providing Moraitis with a green light to refile in 2018 will help rebuild credibility undermined by the 2017 gubernatorial flip-flop. Moraitis apparently considers Corcoran’s support sufficiently influential to set aside a legislative delay pending Scott’s departure or the threatened “political complications” of an election year session. Instead, he will dust off last year’s successful package and jump in with both feet.

The bill’s supporters face another challenge. Given the rigors of an election year playing field, the new team will need sufficient resources to effectively engage fire sprinkler association lobbyists with daunting deep pockets (and fire marshals on their payroll). While Moraitis and Farmer are paid by the state, Bogdanoff has to rely on contributions from those in the fiscal crosshairs of this ELSS mandate. As thousands of high-rise association homeowners threatened with a crippling assessment are apprised of the struggle’s resumption, their associations are asking the lawmakers about how they can help – an issue that Bogdanoff addresses in her “First Update”.

In high-rise associations across the state – including those on the Galt Mile, unit owners conversant with this issue have been pressuring association boards to increase their modest contributions to this effort – given the $multi-million alternative. However, time is short. Although the 60-day legislative session ordinarily begins on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, lawmakers seeking an extended post-session electioneering window voted to commence the 2018 session on January 9. Mirroring last year’s strategy, the team plans to hit the ground running and stay one step ahead of the opposition More to come... - [editor]

 

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July 24, 2017 Update

Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS July 24, 2017 - In furtherance of a scheme hatched by Fire Sprinkler Association lobbyists to circumvent the statutory protection afforded to associations that opted out of a sprinkler retrofit, on May 4, 2016, a state bureaucrat issued a Declaratory Statement authorizing local Fire Marshalls to demand that thousands of Florida high-rise associations retrofit a $multi-million Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) - an arbitrary collection of fire safety features that includes a sprinkler system.

Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
Angered by a mercenary ploy to relegate the intent of the legislature, District 93 Statehouse Representative George Moraitis met with association officials last year to plan a response. On February 6, 2017 Moraitis issued a press release announcing his intention to file legislation “to protect condominium residents from overreaching regulation.”

Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
Later that day, Moraitis filed House Bill 653, which would allow association homeowners to decide whether or not they should install a $multi-million ELSS (which contains sprinklers) in high-rise association buildings that were code compliant when constructed and annually subjected to rigorous fire-safety inspections. The next day, Senator Kathleen Passidomo filed Senate Bill 744, a companion bill in the other chamber.

Bogdanoff fights for relief
BOGDANOFF FIGHTS FOR RETROFIT RELIEF
The lawmakers were joined by former Statehouse Representative and Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff. Since members of the Fire Marshall's union openly employed by the Fire Sprinkler associations were fighting to preserve their anticipated windfall, Bogdanoff's unique experience in this arena would prove invaluable, having authored the original 2010 Sprinkler opt-out legislation. Throughout the committee review process, Bogdanoff turned potential opponents into supporters and repeatedly adapted the bills as required to insure their survival.

Despite relentless efforts to defeat the legislation by powerful Sprinkler Association lobbyists, the bills were passed favorably by three vetting committees in the Senate and four in the House. Ultimately, the legislation was approved unanimously in the House and overwhelmingly in the Senate (only one Senator opposed the bill). Moraitis, Passidomo and Bogdanoff delivered on their promise.

Governor Rick Scott
GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT
When Senator Kathleen Passidomo met with Governor Rick Scott in early April, the Governor promised to withhold a veto if the bills were amended to require approval by 2/3 of the association’s voting interests to forego an ELSS retrofit - in lieu of a simple majority. The Governor’s approval criteria were immediately incorporated into the legislation. Unfortunately, he didn’t keep his word.

Association Advocate Donna Berger
ASSOCIATION ADVOCATE DONNA BERGER
On June 26, 2017, without informing Moraitis, Passidomo or Bogdanoff of his intention, the Governor vetoed the legislation, citing the June 14 fire at Grenfell Tower in London for his decision. Ironically, proliferation of the London fire was attributed to combustible aluminum cladding affixed to the building’s exterior (which is not protected by the features that comprise an ELSS). As observed by association advocate Donna Berger, “...it struck me as a failure to recognize the differences between the building codes in London, England and the very stringent building codes we have in Florida which are the strongest in our nation.”

Throughout the 2017 legislative session, Bogdanoff regularly updated associations across the State about the legislation’s progress, detailing the obstacles, recounting how they were overcome and warning about those that remained. The next day (June 27, 2017), Bogdanoff sent the following message to the legislation’s supporters (including Galt Mile officials): - [editor]

 

 

ELSS Retrofit: Round 2
June 27, 2017

Hi members:

Bogdanoff in Tallahassee
BOGDANOFF IN TALLAHASSEE
I received a call last night from Rep. George Moraitis to let me know that Governor Scott vetoed the bill. The London fire clearly played a role in this decision. The loss of life there was a tragedy that gave all of us pause but it should not have had an impact on the opt-out for ELSS. Our opposition seized the moment and in an abundance of political caution, Governor Scott vetoed the bill. We lost the battle but we have not lost the war. We will regroup and press on.

Until next time...


Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Association Advocate
Government Law and Lobbying, Becker & Poliakoff
Email: ebogdanoff@bplegal.com

 



 

Few bills ever attract the overwhelming legislative support achieved by HB 653 in 2017. Its success was primarily due to quick thinking by Moraitis and Bogdanoff during the session and impeccable planning beforehand. Within days of the veto, Galt Mile officials received a blizzard of statewide inquiries from concerned association officials and residents, often laboring under the mistaken impression that HB 653 was their last chance to reverse this regulatory rip-off.

Bogdanoff plans 2018 strategy
BOGDANOFF PLANS 2018 STRATEGY
Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
At a July 18, 2017 meeting with Galt Mile officials, Moraitis and Bogdanoff discussed refiling the bill for the 2018 legislative session. Although the Gubernatorial veto was a political knee-jerk reaction to the world-wide coverage of the London fire, Moraitis and Bogdanoff outlined several strategies to preclude a potential replay in 2018, including – if need be – a veto override. Although it will require additional resources, Moraitis and Bogdanoff also plan to equip themselves with authoritative substantiation for the legislation (more on this later).

Mirroring last year’s successful preparation protocols, after researching the options discussed at the meeting, those measures deemed most effective will be incorporated into the 2018 legislative strategy. To avoid tipping off the opposition, participants agreed to keep the specific meeting details confidential until that strategy is finalized (over the summer).

Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas
FORT LAUDERDALE FIRE MARSHAL JEFF LUCAS
Although the statutory deadline for initiating an ELSS permit application passed on December 31, 2016, local Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas agreed to temporarily suspend enforcing the measure through the legislative session. Since the deadline for installing the ELSS is December 31, 2019, there are two more opportunities to cure this mercenary scam - the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions.

Until then, associations can only be required to initiate an ELSS permit application. Although this enigmatic regulatory figment is structurally undefined, some engineers have charged associations roughly $15,000 to $25,000 to craft plans for an ELSS. Each impacted association will also have to decide the extent to which it will help fight this questionable mandate – considering its members’ $multi-million alternative. More to come... - [editor]

 

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ELSS - Final Chapter

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
REP. ELLYN BOGDANOFF FILES
2010 OPT-OUT BILL - HB 561
May 12, 2017 - Last May, an official from the Fire Marshals union played out a charade choreographed six years earlier, when the
2010 fire sprinkler opt-out legislation filed by then Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff was on the verge of approval by the legislature. Unable to block Bogdanoff’s bill, Fire Marshals employed by the Fire Sprinkler Associations offered to withdraw opposition to the legislation if she agreed to remove an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) from the opt-out bill. Since an ELSS is an undefined stew of fire safety elements, the Fire Marshals told Bogdanoff that it would help associations and their fire safety engineers to frugally comply with local fire codes. Of course, that was just smoke.

Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS Six years later, Fire Sprinkler Association lobbyists cashed in on the slop they sold to Bogdanoff. After dispatching an official from the Fire Marshals union to solicit a “friendly” interpretation of the Florida Fire Prevention Code (FFPC), they would leverage the resulting Declaratory Statement to demand the installation of an Emergency Life Safety System (ELSS) in thousands of Florida high-rise associations. Since local Fire Marshals enjoy sole statutory approval authority over any ELSS in their jurisdiction, the stage was set for a statewide $multi-billion bait and switch. Although barred from officially requiring sprinklers in associations that opted out, local Fire Marshals could reject any ELSS that didn’t include a $multi-million sprinkler system. Brazenly exceeding their authority, local Fire Marshals began ordering associations to immediately install sprinkler systems; others arrogantly specified an engineer and contractor for these installations.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas
FORT LAUDERDALE FIRE MARSHAL JEFF LUCAS
At a meeting with Galt Mile officials, Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas disagreed with the basis for the Declaratory Statement, observing “I would think if you opt out, then you opt out of all,” and suggested that associations “pursue this issue with the State”. Lucas admonished that an ELSS would be more expensive than a sprinkler system, and most Galt Mile associations would have to cough up $millions. To provide the neighborhood association with an opportunity to legislatively address the Declaratory Statement during the upcoming session, he agreed to temporarily refrain from enforcing the measure.

Association Advocate Donna Berger
ASSOCIATION ADVOCATE DONNA BERGER
Taking his advice, Galt Mile officials met with Statehouse Representative George Moraitis (R – Fort Lauderdale) and association advocate Donna Berger, who helped Ellyn Bogdanoff draft her 2010 fire sprinkler opt-out bill. Angered by a conspiracy to circumvent the intent of the legislature and bloodlet $billions from association homeowners,
Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
Moraitis and State Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples) filed legislation that would provide associations with the right to opt-out of the costly ELSS. Given her intimate familiarity with the legislative process, the specific issues at stake and the slippery tactics of the same opponents she faced in 2010, former Representative and State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff also headed to Tallahassee.

Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
Last month Bogdanoff updated Galt Mile officials about the legislation’s progress through the first half of the session, which was forwarded to thousands of Galt Mile residents facing $multi-million assessments. By mid-April, Moraitis’ House Bill 653 had been vetted in two committees, and scheduled for two more. Passidomo’s Senate Bill 744 survived its first committee, with two to go. Bogdanoff’s reports covering the frenetic second half of the session follow next, including an endgame that proved a double-edged sword. As Week 7 was beginning on April 18, 2017, Bogdanoff sent the following snapshot. – [editor]

 

 

WEEK 7 OF SESSION
April 18, 2017

Hi members:

Bogdanoff in Tallahassee
BOGDANOFF IN TALLAHASSEE
It was a slow week last week. Between the holidays and budget, the legislature was only in Tallahassee 1½ days. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I would have written to you on Friday but I would have nothing to say and that would be boring. However, we are making great progress this week. The House bill was up in committee yesterday. It seemed touch and go by the panicked text messages I was receiving. I ran to the committee room, heels and all, to testify, only to enter the room noticing a calm. It was relatively empty and there was George Moraitis, smiling and perfectly content with how the bill was moving. I looked at my fellow lobbyist who represents another interest on the bill and asked why he hit the alarm bell. He shrugged. Ugh. I called leadership to TP the bill. This bill can’t die in committee, I declared. I was assured it was fine. Not only was it fine, it only got 2 no votes. I wanted to smack my fellow lobbyist upside the head. Setting their hair on fire is a well-known pastime of many lobbyists. Session fatigue starts to set in around the 7th week and every small gesture, comment, or text sets them off and the issue seems insurmountable. Having been on the inside has helped me recognize the warning signs of lobbyists who are about to set their hair on fire. How I missed this one I will never know. I just hope that I have not been infected with the syndrome. Maybe it is like the Pod people in that movie... I digress...

House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee
HOUSE GOVT OPERATIONS & TECH APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE
Anyway, you have to love George, he laughed it off and is ready to push the bill to its next committee and then on to the floor. The Senate version is up Wednesday at 1PM. There is a strike-all and the goal appears to be to match up the Senate and House bills. The strike-all draft I read will require a sign on the building advising the firefighters that the building does not have sprinklers in the common areas. It will be up to the Fire Marshall to choose where the sign goes and how big it will be. I will be speaking to the Senate sponsor to make sure that it is not a neon, flashing sign. There are no limitations in the bill and at the very least it should be placed in a reasonably visible location but not obstruct the aesthetics of a building. The Fire Marshalls have been testifying against the bill... you know what they say about payback.

Moraitis Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
MORAITIS TESTIFIES ABOUT ELSS
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
After this week, we will have 2 weeks to go. The bills are in a good place and should hit the House or Senate floor by next week. I may ask you to start emailing your legislators to encourage them to get the bill up and out. I will keep you posted if we need all hands on deck. The good news is we only have 2½ weeks to go but that is also the bad news. As my law professor used to say “Nothing is safe when the legislature is in session.”

Until next time...


Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Association Advocate
Government Law and Lobbying, Becker & Poliakoff
Email: ebogdanoff@bplegal.com

 



 

Click Here to DPBR Condominium Retrofit Report
House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee
HOUSE CIVIL JUSTICE & CLAIMS SUBCOMMITTEE
On March 28, 2017, just before the bill was approved by the House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee (10 Yeas vs. 4 Nays), Fire Sprinkler Association lobbyists Buddy Dewar and William Stander advised the committee to kill the bill and force homeowners to buy fire sprinklers (dropping any pretense that the bill was about an ELSS). Arguing that the cost was reasonable, they cited a 2009 DBPR study in which one of six retrofit projects was estimated at $8633 per unit. Warning that retrofit proposals often include other improvements, they explained that unnecessary aesthetic upgrades were not required by code, but because “homeowners don’t like exposed pipes in the lobby and along their hallways.”

Upon returning to the podium, Moraitis told the Committee that walls and ceilings must be demolished when retrofitting a structure, and after the equipment is installed, restoring these walls and ceilings is neither optional, nor an “aesthetic upgrade”. Waving a document he submitted earlier, Moraitis declared “This is a current vendor proposal for $15,000 per unit.”

Condo Termination
Community Associations Institute Lobbyist Travis Moore
COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS INSTITUTE
LOBBYIST TRAVIS MOORE
The panicking lobbyist mentioned by Bogdanoff was Travis Moore, who has ably supported the bill on behalf of the Community Associations Institute (CAI). Bogdanoff’s encounter with Moore took place on April 17, 2017, in the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, where a fiscal review had been mandated to address the controversial Condominium Termination issue discussed last month. As expected, Committee members explored the huge retrofit costs mandated by the fire code.

Rick Butcher from the Fire Marshals Union
RICK BUTCHER OF THE FIRE MARSHALS UNION
 Committee Vice Chair Rep. Neil Combee
COMMITTEE VICE CHAIR REP. NEIL COMBEE
Exclaiming that the cost was irrelevant, Rick Butcher from the Fire Marshals Union told the committee “If they didn’t think it was important, they wouldn't have put it in the code.” Committee Vice Chair Rep. Neil Combee (R – Polk County) asked Butcher, “Who are ‘they’ – these folks who write the code?” Butcher explained, “It’s a technical committee. It’s done by a group of equipment experts in their field, and it’s passed to the national NFPA, which puts it into the fire code every 3 years.” Combee then asked “And these experts are people in the fire equipment business?” “Yes,” said Butcher, “Manufacturers and installers who want to make their equipment safer.” Combee retorted, “So, the people that make this stuff also make the rules about what goes into these buildings.” Butcher went mute. The Committee approved the bill by a vote of 11 Yeas vs. 2 Nays.

Bogdanoff to Firefighters
BOGDANOFF WITH FIREFIGHTERS
Earlier, Bogdanoff met with firefighters to elicit their concerns about the legislation. In contrast with the Fire Marshals who were paid lobbyists, they assured her that they had no problem with the bill, but asked if a sign could be placed on an association property indicating whether the common areas were sprinklered. Bogdanoff agreed to let the State Fire Marshall determine the location and size of the sign - although it wouldn’t be ostentatious. On April 29, with one week left in the session, Bogdanoff sent the following update about accelerating events - [editor]

 

 

WEEK 8 OF SESSION
April 29, 2017

Hi members:

Bogdanoff in Tallahassee
BOGDANOFF PUSHES ELSS LEGISLATION
You will have to forgive me for my short emails but things are happening fast and if you blink up here, you could lose your bills and any money you may have in the budget. Last week we were sweating it. The bill was possibly dead. The Senate bill was stuck in its last committee of reference and the Chair of that committee said she was likely done with meetings. The bill would never get to the Senate floor. On to plan B. Rep. Moraitis asked another member if he could amend his bill on the floor and hitch a ride with a bill that was likely to pass. Not one we are thrilled with but it was going to pass whether we hitched a ride or not. It is hard enough to find a bill that is germane to our issues, let alone a member willing to take the chance that his/her bill will suffer because of our issues.

House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee
HOUSE GOVT OPERATIONS & TECH APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE
Our House bill was on the floor on Friday. We were told that we could amend our bill onto the other member’s bill but needed to get permission from the Senate sponsor. I ran over to the Senate and met with staff. They said the Senator would be happy to take the House bill up with our language so we were safe. Late Thursday night, as we are on a 1 hour notice for meetings, our Senate Committee Chair noticed another meeting for Friday and our Senate bill was on the agenda... whew. Back to plan A, which was a good thing because Friday morning the other bill sponsor decided that our bill could sink his and he was not comfortable putting our language on his bill. Plan B was dead.

Moraitis Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
MORAITIS EXPLAINS BILL TO COMMITTEE
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
Our bill passed out of its last committee of reference in the Senate on Friday and is headed to the Senate floor. Rep. Moraitis’ bill was heard and rolled over to third reading. We have a tight time line because the Senate or House will not be on the floor Monday. Assuming the bill is passes out of the House on Tuesday, it heads to the Senate and Senator Passidomo is free to pick it up in messages and BOOM, we are done. But it ain’t over until it is over. With fingers and toes crossed, you may get a one sentence or one word response from me when and if it passes because the last week of session is nuts. All in all, we are in good shape heading into the last week of session.

The moral of the story: A bill is dead until it is not or it is alive until it is dead.

Until next time...


Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Association Advocate
Government Law and Lobbying, Becker & Poliakoff
Email: ebogdanoff@bplegal.com

 



 

Time
House Commerce Committee
HOUSE COMMERCE COMMITTEE
Moraitis’ House bill was approved in the House Commerce Committee – its final committee stop – on April 24 (23 Yeas vs. 3 Nays) and sent to the House floor. Thanks to a fortunate scheduling quirk, on April 28, the Senate Bill finally cleared its last stop in the Senate Rules Committee (12 Yeas vs. 0 Nays). Although Ellyn was pleased that both bills were out of committee and parked on the floor, in the few remaining days, the legislation still had to be approved in both chambers. Tick Tock. On May 2, Ellyn squeezed out the following frenzied message - [editor]

 

 

FINAL DAYS OF THE SESSION
May 2, 2017

Hi members:

Moraitis Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
MORAITIS MOVES BILL IN COMMITTEE
I am writing you from the 4th floor of the Capitol waiting for the Senate to go back in after a lunch break. The House is busy working and Rep. Moraitis passed his bill out and it is on its way to the Senate with a few fleas

Rep. J José Félix Díaz
REP. J JOSÉ FÉLIX DÍAZ
Rep. Diaz was amended onto the ELSS bill, to avoid conflicting statutory language.

Governor Rick Scott
GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT - NO VETO
The Governor signed off on our language, in particular, because we upped the voting to two-thirds. The Governor's office expressed some concerns about the Diaz bill, which creates criminal penalties for some acts (that are quite frankly, criminal) and other provision that carry some costs.

However, none of those provisions are anywhere near the cost of an ELSS system. Eating Fleas I’ve attached the bill for your review (link below), and I don’t want to set off any alarm bells, but this just made my job 100 times harder. I may need to solicit your help in letting the Governor’s office know we will eat the fleas for the greater good.

Let me know your thoughts on the bill. I may update you if the Senate passes it out today. It hasn’t been received yet but it’s only 2PM.

Until next time...


Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Association Advocate
Government Law and Lobbying, Becker & Poliakoff
Email: ebogdanoff@bplegal.com

 



 

Eating Fleas While bouncing between the House, Senate and the Governor’s office, Moraitis and Bogdanoff had to quickly and convincingly resolve obstacles that commonly sink bills in the home stretch, by negotiating problematic concessions on the fly. Agreeing to sacrifices required for the legislation’s survival is colorfully characterized as “eating fleas”

Bogdanoff’s Flea Market

Former Governor Jeb Bush - Veto 1
FORMER GOVERNOR JEB BUSH - VETO 1
Former Governor Charlie Crist - Veto 2
FORMER GOVERNOR CHARLIE CRIST - VETO 2
In 2006 and 2009, shortly after Fire Sprinkler opt out bills were overwhelmingly approved in the House and Senate, a contingent of fire marshals employed by the Fire Sprinkler Associations convinced Governors Jeb Bush (in 2006) and Charlie Crist (in 2009) to veto the bills. This time, when the Fire Marshalls took a run at Governor Rick Scott during Week 5 of the session, Senator Passidomo was hot on their heels, and toughened the voting standard to deter a veto. To placate Scott, the bills would be amended to require that associations opt out of an ELSS by a two-thirds vote of the full membership, not a simple majority.

Not surprisingly, thousands of associations that voted to opt out of the sprinkler retrofit did so with the approval of 95% - 100% of the membership. As such, resetting the ELSS opt-out standard at two thirds of the voting interests shouldn’t adversely impact the outcome, given how a $multi-million assessment looms as the alternative.

Rep. J José Félix Díaz
REPRESENTATIVE J JOSÉ FÉLIX DÍAZ
Florida Senator René Garcia
FLORIDA SENATOR RENÉ GARCIA
In noting that “Rep. Diaz was amended onto the ELSS bill,” Bogdanoff is referring to legislation sponsored by Florida Senator René Garcia (R - Hialeah), Florida Senator José Javier Rodríguez (D - Miami) and Statehouse Representative J José Félix Díaz (R - Miami-Dade). In the House, Diaz filed House Bill 1237 (HB 1237) while Garcia and Rodriguez co-sponsored companion Senate Bill 1682 (SB 1682) in the other chamber. According to the DBPR, condos in Miami-Dade recorded the highest number of complaints of any Florida county for forged ballots, financial fraud, election irregularities, missing records, and disappearing funds. Of the 1,908 complaints received statewide, 566 were filed in Miami-Dade.

Click Here to Miami-Dade Grand Jury Report on Condominiums Armed with a scathing report by a Miami-Dade Grand Jury, the three Miami lawmakers hoped to rein in the criminal abuses by rogue boards and shady management companies that chronically proliferate in their districts. In short, Board members who are convicted of committing crimes will be subject to Felony charges. These include forging election ballot envelopes or voting certificates, the theft or embezzlement of association funds and destroying or concealing official records in furtherance of a crime. The bill also term limits board members after eight consecutive years, unless there are an insufficient number of candidates or if they are elected by a two-thirds supermajority of the full membership.

Although aware that certain provisions were problematic, Moraitis hesitantly agreed to incorporate the “Diaz” language to guarantee survival of the ELSS opt-out bill. If Moraitis’ Bill hadn’t passed its final review in the House Commerce Committee – which Diaz chaired – it wouldn’t have reached the House floor. Additionally, the stand-alone version of the Miami condo bill (HB 1237) had already been unanimously approved in the House and Senate and enrolled by 2 p.m. on May 1, almost 2 hours before Moraitis agreed to add the language to his bill at 3:49 p.m. Unless it was vetoed by the Governor, the Miami condo legislation would be enacted whether or not it was included in the ELSS opt-out bill.

After noting Scott’s concern about criminal penalties for board members, Bogdanoff mentions other provisions that “carry some costs.” Since the bill will require condo associations with 150 or more units to publish a litany of association documents on a password protected web page, most associations will have to fund changes to their websites by the July 1, 2018 deadline. Shortly before Bogdanoff sent the above message on May 2, Moraitis’ bill was unanimously approved by the full House (119 Yeas vs. 0 Nays).

Stepping into the Sunshine

Despite daunting odds, the next day brought the silver linings that Moraitis and Bogdanoff hunted for months. On May 3, 2017, Passidomo’s Senate Bill 744 was swapped out for the House Bill and laid on the table (euthanized). After Moraitis’ House Bill 653 was approved by the full Senate (36 Yeas vs. 1 Nay), it was ordered enrolled at 12:09 p.m. – and packed off to the Governor’s desk.

If the bill survives the Governor’s veto pen - which it should - battalions of high rise association homeowners throughout the State will recover a right to forgo the huge special assessment that’s been hanging over our heads since last May (A detailed analysis of the legislation’s impact is forthcoming). Once armed with the Statutory ELSS Opt-Out, two issues remain central to avoiding a $multi-million assessment.

First, a minimum of two-thirds (2/3) of a high-rise association’s unit owners must cast a vote to opt-out of retrofitting an ELSS. Since this vote carries a “zero-sum” impact, owners who fail to cast a vote will be considered to have voted against the opt-out (and for an assessment). Second – and equally important – the vote must be conducted and subsequently registered according to the terms specified in the amended Statute. Since one regulatory misstep will void the vote’s impact – and trigger an assessment – the association’s attorney should organize and oversee the entire process.

Gov Charlie Crist signs 2010 Sprinkler Opt-Out Bill at Beach Community Center
FORMER GOV CHARLIE CRIST SIGNS 2010 SPRINKLER
OPT-OUT BILL AT BEACH COMMUNITY CENTER
It’s also worth noting that a $multi-billion ambush by the deep-pocketed sprinkler associations – seemingly conceived and executed over the past six years – was thwarted by some sleepy retirees in Northeast Fort Lauderdale (fueled by contributions from association homeowners across the State). Not too shabby!

To punctuate the successful Statutory slugfest undertaken to reinstate our rights as homeowners, GMCA President Pio Ieraci has invited Governor Rick Scott to sign the bill into law at the Beach Community Center, mirroring a similar ceremonial bill-signing by Charlie Crist when Bogdanoff’s 2010 sprinkler retrofit opt-out legislation was enacted. Whether or not Scott will show up is currently running 6-5 and pick ‘em. More to come – [editor]

 

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April 8, 2017 Update

Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS April 15, 2017 - When a skewed interpretation of the Florida Fire Prevention Code (FFPC) was implanted in a May 4, 2016 Declaratory Statement, it authorized local Fire Marshalls to demand that thousands of Florida high-rise associations retrofit a $multi-million Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS). Since an ELSS is an arbitrary collection of fire safety features that includes a sprinkler system, Sprinkler association lobbyists used the Declaratory Statement to circumvent the statutory sprinkler opt-out and realize a $multi-billion payday - at our expense.

Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
Angered by a mercenary ploy to relegate the intent of the legislature, Representative George Moraitis filed House Bill 653,
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
which would provide associations with the right to opt-out of the costly ELSS. Since members of the Fire Marshall's union openly employed by the Sprinkler associations are fighting to preserve their anticipated windfall, Association Advocate Ellyn Bogdanoff - who sponsored the 2010 Sprinkler opt-out legislation - is lobbying on behalf of Moraitis’ bill. Florida Senator Kathleen Passidomo filed Senate Bill 744, a companion bill in the other chamber.

A former State Senator, Bogdanoff regularly updates associations across the State about the legislation’s progress, recounting the obstacles that were overcome and those that remain. On April 8, 2017, she sent the following message to GMCA officials to help update thousands of Galt Mile residents threatened with this questionable $multi-million assessment - [editor]

 

 

WEEK 5 OF SESSION
April 8, 2017

Hi members:

Bogdanoff in Tallahassee
BOGDANOFF IN TALLAHASSEE
This was an exhausting week in Tallahassee. Leadership in the House has its eyes on the Moraitis bill and amended the “association termination” language on to the bill in the last committee. There is a separate bill moving through the process on this issue but as session progresses, members look for all moving legislation to make sure their issue has the best opportunity of passing. The termination language increases the threshold associations need in order to terminate the association. This seems to be a Hillsborough/Pinellas issue. I have spoken to a couple of the House and Senate members from that area and they are very concerned about people losing their homes because of the will of others in the association. What does this have to do with ELSS? Nothing and everything!!

House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee
HOUSE CIVIL JUSTICE & CLAIMS SUBCOMMITTEE
Once the bill was amended, it was referenced to a fiscal committee, which added another committee stop to the bill.. ugh!!! This slows down the process and we are fast approaching the end of committee meetings in the House. Next week, because of the holidays, the House is only on the floor to pass out the budget. There will be no committee meetings. It is hard to lobby against this issue (displacing elderly people for progress) but what I can do and did do is address with Senator Passidomo that accepting this language places a fiscal on the bill and doing that this late in the game will kill it. She agreed and has asked me to work with her to move the bill through. She does not have a dog in the hunt on the termination language... yet. Both Senators Young and Latvala are very supportive of the termination language. As mentioned, the stand alone version of this bill appears poised to pass so there may be no reason for them to approach Senator Passidomo and ask for a courtesy amendment. Let’s hope. Fingers and toes crossed please.

Moraitis Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
MORAITIS TESTIFIES ABOUT ELSS
I will be working on moving the Senate bill through the process clean. We have two committees to go in the Senate. Judiciary, which will meet in week 7, and then Rules, which meets until the end so we are alive and well. The goal is to pass out the Senate bill without the termination language and send it over to the House. It gets a bit complicated because even if Moraitis wanted to amend the termination language out of his bill, which he appears willing to do, he still needs to go to the fiscal committee to do that. However, I have been advised that they will not allow amendments in that committee, which means we still need to go through the fourth committee and amend it there. It just appears that we may run out of time on the House side to get the bill to the floor first, but we still need to get it to the floor. Either way, if we can send the Senate bill over to the House, our goal is for the House to accept the Senate version and send it on to the Governor, which brings me to the last issue.

Governor Rick Scott
GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
Senator Passidomo met with the Governor’s office, which now has an interest in the bill. I am sure they have been visited by the Fire Marshalls and the Fire Sprinkler folks. We will need to amend the bill for a 2/3 vote in lieu of simple majority to opt out of ELSS to avoid a veto. I know that is not the preferred position but I suspected that we might need to go there, especially after speaking to several members to gain their support for the bill. I am happy to hear your thoughts, but again, unless I have a strong argument to say that a simple majority is good enough, we will need to support the Senator’s amendment to make this change in the Judiciary committee. I am all ears. Convince me so I can convince the Governor. Thoughts?

Anyway, this is a typical week in Tallahassee. I can assure you that we will have several more twists and turns with 4 weeks to go in the 2017 Session, but I remain confident that are on track for passage. The good news is that we have two very committed sponsors, a path to avoid a veto, and did I mention a pit bull for a lobbyist.

Until next time...


Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Association Advocate
Government Law and Lobbying, Becker & Poliakoff
Email: ebogdanoff@bplegal.com

 



 

Floridians Against Condo Takeover The “association termination” provision mentioned by Bogsdanoff refers to the unintended consequences of a glitch in Condominium law. As of 2007, an investor who buys 80 percent of the condos in a complex can vote to convert the complex into apartments and force the remaining individual owners to sell and get out, unless the condo’s governing documents state otherwise. .

Floridians Against Condo Takeover Before 2007, converting a condominium required the consent of every unit owner. Hurricane-damaged, insolvent and obsolete properties often sat vacant because developers had trouble getting consent from elderly and out-of-state owners who abandoned an uninhabitable property. Unit owners in Condominiums that were no longer functional were stuck with properties they could neither sell nor use, creating a terrible hardship. All it took was one unreachable owner to thwart a much-needed condo termination.

Broward Commissioner and Former Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller
BROWARD COMM. & FORMER FLA. SEN. STEVE GELLER
Former Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller (D-Cooper City), currently District 5 Broward Commissioner, began working with the Florida Bar to draft legislation that would lower the threshold for condominium terminations to 80 percent owner approval, unless 10% of the owners objected. When it passed both chambers in 2006, it was vetoed by former Governor Jeb Bush, whose veto message insightfully admonished that it may cloak “unintended consequences.” Tweaked and refiled in 2007, after Senate Bill 314 was overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers (only one “Nay” in the House), the measure was signed into law by former Governor Charlie Crist.

Senator Jack Latvala
SENATOR JACK LATVALA
The termination provision discussed by Bogdanoff seeks to protect unit owners (and their tenants) from predatory bulk buyers by reducing the percentage of association members required to reject a termination plan from 10% to 5%. If rejected, the legislation also extends how long a bulk buyer must wait before submitting another termination plan – from 18 months to 24 months. Since the termination language is patterned after provisions in Senate Bill 1520 by Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) – which should easily be approved – its inclusion in Moraitis’ bill is extraneous.

As observed by Bogdanoff, it was originally anticipated that Moraitis’ House Bill 653 would precede its Senate companion (SB 744) to the floor, and hopefully to the Governor’s desk. However, following its approval by the House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee on March 28 (10 Yeas vs. 4 Nays), instead of heading to its final stop in the House Commerce Committee, HB 653 was diverted on March 31 to the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee for a fiscal review mandated by the termination issue. This unforeseen detour prompted Bogdanoff’s plan to facilitate the Senate Bill through its remaining committee stops, so if the House Bill runs out of time, the approved Senate version (without the redundant termination language) can be bundled off to the House for a vote, and then to the Governor’s desk. More to come... - [editor]

 

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Some Background

Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS March 27, 2017 - In 2002, Florida lawmakers passed a clandestine bill crafted by Fire Sprinkler Association lobbyists that required every Florida Community Association housed in a structure 75 feet above grade – without an exterior exit access from every dwelling unit – to install a full fire sprinkler system. In 2010, former Statehouse Representative (and later State Senator) Ellyn Bogdanoff filed House Bill 561. Unanimously approved in the House and Senate, the statute empowered association unit owners to decide by a full membership vote whether or not it was in their best interests to retrofit their home with a $multimillion fire sprinkler system. Unit owners in tens of thousands of Florida Associations voted to opt-out of the retrofit requirement.

Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS On May 4, 2016, a State official issued a questionable interpretation of the Florida Fire Code (AKA: a Declaratory Statement) that would require associations to alternatively install an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS). An undefined blend of fire safety elements (which once again includes fire sprinklers), Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas characterized an ELSS as “more expensive than the sprinklers”. Upon learning how a bureaucrat circumvented State Law, Statehouse Representative George Moraitis filed House Bill 653 on February 6, 2017. The bill will empower association unit owners to decide - by a full membership vote - whether their association should fund a $multimillion ELSS. On February 7, 2017, Senator Kathleen Passidomo filed companion Senate Bill 744 in the other chamber.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas
FORT LAUDERDALE FIRE MARSHAL JEFF LUCAS
Having authored the original sprinkler opt-out legislation, associations across the State – including the Galt Mile – contacted Bogdanoff to help address a regulatory ambush launched on behalf of Fire Sprinkler Association lobbyists. Before heading to Tallahassee in support of Moraitis’ ELSS opt-out legislation, Bogdanoff warned “This will be a huge fight against the special interests that profit from this requirement and those that have little evidence that installing an ELSS is necessary for the safety of residents.”

Click Here to Community Association Leadership Lobby Working with Association Advocates Donna Berger and Executive Director Yeline Goin of the Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL), Bogdanoff updates thousands of concerned unit owners across the State with a weekly legislative progress report, while interactively harvesting current information relevant to this issue. The following two summaries were received on March 17 and March 24, 2017, and cover the bill's journey during the second and third weeks in the session. - [editor]

 

Ellyn Bogdanoff ELSS Legislative Updates

 

WEEK 2 OF SESSION
March 17, 2017

House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
HOUSE CAREERS & COMPETITION SUBCOMMITTEE
Last week I reported that the ELSS bill would be up in committee. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I contacted Rep. Moraitis’ office and they advised me the bill was not ready and would be up this week. I have confirmed that it is on the agenda on 3/21 at 8AM in the Careers & Competition Subcommittee. I will be there to listen to the comments and concerns so we are prepared to respond. I will also testify if needed.

Moraitis Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
MORAITIS TESTIFIES ABOUT ELSS
Second, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with CFO Atwater on Thursday to talk about the associations that are being pressured to hire consultants immediately. If you could give me brief feedback on whether you are experiencing this with your Fire Marshall, that would be helpful. I suggested a statement from the CFO that would allow us a delay until May 5, close of session, in the hope that we pass this bill. He asked me to follow up, but if I have specific examples that will assist with this endeavor. Feel free to include the cost of the consultant if you received a proposal.

Bogdanoff Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
BOGDANOFF ADDRESSES SUBCOMMITTEE
Last, I have attached the bill that will be heard in committee and as of 6:20 on Friday evening, no amendments have been filed YET. I will give you an update after the meeting on Tuesday with a vote sheet so we can talk to those that do not support the bill, if any, and thank those that did. Perhaps you may know some of the legislators. I have attached the link that provides the list of committee members. If you know any of them personally or if they represent your association, please reach out to them before Tuesday morning and ask them to support Rep. Moraitis’ good bill.

Have a great weekend. Until next time...


Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Association Advocate
Government Law and Lobbying, Becker & Poliakoff
Email: ebogdanoff@bplegal.com

 



 

WEEK 3 OF SESSION
March 24, 2017

Representative Randy Fine
REPRESENTATIVE RANDY FINE
Members:

We have lots of good news this week. House Bill 653, by Representative Moraitis, passed its first committee of reference this week and is on to the next. It was a bit touch and go because a provision in the bill set off several members. We are not quite sure how it got in there. Sometimes it is a drafting error. It was a current provision in statute that was removed that requires notice to new owners that the building they are buying in does not have sprinklers. I guess it looked like we were hiding something, which is not the case. Representative Moraitis quickly agreed to remove that provision. Kudos to Representative Randy Fine who pulled me over in committee to inquire about this provision and advised me that we did not have the votes to pass the bill. I told him we would be fine with its removal and that was not a priority of any of the associations. He assisted us in obtaining the votes necessary to pass it out of committee, whew!!!

Lobbyist Buddy Dewar, FFSA
LOBBYIST BUDDY DEWAR
FLORIDA FIRE SPRINKLER ASSOCIATION
We did not address that issue because quite frankly, no one realized it was removed. Nor did we ask for it to be removed.

Lobbyist William Stander, AFSA
LOBBYIST WILLIAM STANDER
AMERICAN FIRE SPRINKLER ASSOCIATION
We knew we would have the fire sprinkler industry and the Fire Marshalls on hand to testify against the bill. They always come in uniform, which is a huge disadvantage for us. Most think the fire fighters oppose this bill but they do not. They met with Rep. Moraitis and he addressed their concerns because all associations currently have signs advising fire fighters when a building does not contain sprinklers. It assists with their strategy. That’s all they need. They seemed fine and I passed a group of Fire Fighters yesterday on Adams Street, they told me that they had no dog in the hunt whew!!!

Attorney Eric Glazer Supports Bill
ATTORNEY ERIC GLAZER SUPPORTS BILL
During committee, I carefully placed my speaking card last in line. Somehow I went to the top of the list and was called first to testify. Probably as a courtesy but darn, they should know I like the last word . I didn’t want to testify unless I had to dispute any of the other testimony but I had no choice. I anticipated what they would say, which was easy considering it was the same argument in 2010. I told the committee, opponents of the bill will say this, but these are the facts. I could talk confidently on legislative intent because I sponsored the first opt out. Anyway, I hit most of the points but some speakers misrepresented costs. I didn’t talk specifics on cost, I just broadly stated that it could cost millions in some buildings and actually costs have been hard to pin down. I also explained that the ELSS system for many condos would have to include a sprinkler system to meet the “score,” and that defeated the purpose of the legislation passed in 2010. I will now go to the members of the next committee to dispel any inaccuracies in the costs given to the members by the Fire Sprinkler Association. The guy who testified said it would only cost around $350 to $500 per unit for an ELSS system. I have documentation to the contrary that I will be sharing with all of the members.

Representative Heather Fitzenhagen
REPRESENTATIVE HEATHER FITZENHAGEN
The next committee in the House is Civil Justice and Claims, chaired by Rep. Fitzenhagen. It is critical that the bill is heard because next week is the last week for committees in the House. I was just advised that it WILL be on the agenda... whew!

Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
We will be filing amendments in the next committee to address the issues in the first committee. I am in touch with Rep. Moriatis’ office on a regular basis. Charles has been great to work with. Rep. Moraitis has been very attentive to this issue. We chat on a regular basis. For those who know him well, he is laser focused on this bill passing.

Community Associations Institute Lobbyist Travis Moore
COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS INSTITUTE
LOBBYIST TRAVIS MOORE
I met with Senator Passidomo. Although she is taking the House’s lead, she indicated to me that it will likely be up this week. The Senate has a very different approach to committee weeks so we are safe there. As soon as the agendas are out, I will advise you.

Bogdanoff Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
BOGDANOFF ADDRESSES SUBCOMMITTEE
We have a busy week ahead and a long way to go. Please review the committee members and if you have any personal relationships, a call or personal email would be great. Rep. Moraitis is on the committee, which is helpful.

I will keep you posted on our progress. Feel free to email me with any questions.

Until next time...


Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff, Association Advocate
Government Law and Lobbying, Becker & Poliakoff
Email: ebogdanoff@bplegal.com

 



Capitol Building in Tallahassee
ELSS LEGISLATION IN TALLAHASSEE
On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, Rep. Moraitis’ House Bill 653 was voted favorably (8 Yeas vs. 5 Nays) in the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee. The bill is scheduled for review by the House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 3:30 PM in Summer Hall at 404 House Office Building, the second of ten bills on the agenda. As observed by Bogdanoff, Moraitis is one of 15 lawmakers who serve on the Committee. Once approved, the legislation will be vetted by the House Commerce Committee before moving to the House floor for a vote by the entire House of Representatives.

Also on Tuesday, March 28, 2017, Senator Passidomo's companion bill in the upper chamber, Senate Bill 744, will be reviewed in the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries at 11 a.m. The first of three Senate Committee stops, the legislation will also be vetted by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Rules before the measure is placed on the Calendar for a vote by the full Senate. More to come... - [editor]

 

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Switching Scams

February 21, 2017 - Last May, Fire Sprinkler Associations successfully engineered a regulatory loophole to circumvent a 2010 State Law that enables high rise association homeowners to decide whether or not they should spend $millions to fully retrofit their home with fire sprinklers. Since then, associations that legally opted out of the retrofit requirement have been contacted by local Fire Marshals about installing an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS). Some associations have been threatened with violations unless they immediately install a full sprinkler system. Although barred by a statutory prohibition against enforcing such a requirement, some local Fire Marshals have also specified an engineer and contractor for these installations.

On February 6, 2017, former Statehouse Representative and Florida State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, who sponsored the 2010 sprinkler opt-out legislation, defined this dilemma in an editorial opinion published in the Sun Sentinel and the Florida Condo & HOA Law Blog. For her take on this scam, read on:

 

Why the Florida Legislature needs to fix condo sprinkler-system problem

Opinion

by Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff

Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff
ELLYN SETNOR BOGDANOFF
For more than a decade older high-rise condominiums throughout Florida have been discussing, debating, and exercising their legal rights with regard to sprinkler system retrofitting requirements. In 2003, the Florida Legislature responded by allowing each community to vote to opt out of sprinklers inside their units and the right to opt out of installing an engineered life safety system (ELSS). Many communities missed the opportunity to exercise this right because they were pressured by their local fire marshals to hire life safety engineers and commence installation of a full sprinkler system at a significant cost to the residents.

In 2010, responding to the outcry from the condominium community, as a member of the Florida House I sponsored House Bill 561 to allow associations the right to opt-out of sprinklers in the common areas and reduced the vote requirement from 2/3 to a simple majority. However, as a compromise, the words “engineered life safety system” were removed from the statute because we were assured that an ELSS system was cost effective, and much less intrusive than the installation of a fire sprinkler system. As a result, associations taking an opt-out vote after July 1, 2010 could not opt out of an ELSS.

Now, fast forward to January 2017. Scores of local fire marshals throughout the Sunshine State are knocking on the doors of high-rise condominiums that previously opted out of sprinklers (and some who opted out of both sprinkler systems AND ELSS) and advising them that they must immediately hire life safety engineers and begin to pull permits to install an ELSS. Many of these same officials are telling high-rise condominiums that an ELSS will actually be MORE expensive and more intrusive to install than a full sprinkler system.

Moreover, there is no clear description of what an ELSS system looks like and some are being told that they will need to install a comprehensive fire sprinkler system to “pass the test” so to speak.

In 2010, I responded to the requests of the condominium communities across this state. It was our intent to avoid the exact scenarios we are faced with today. The cost to install an ELSS could be in the millions and the impact to elderly residents living on fixed incomes could be devastating.

Where do we go from here?

Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
The 2017 Legislative Session begins on Tuesday, March 7. Representative George Moraitis (R-Fort Lauderdale) has sponsored HB 653 (Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) will sponsor the Senate version) which seeks to address the ELSS problem. This bill would allow older high-rises to opt out of an ELSS and, for those who do not or cannot, provides more time for installation of an ELSS beyond the current 2019 deadline. HB 653 also addresses the confusion that erupted in mid-2016 concerning whether low and mid-rise buildings are required to retrofit and clarifies that they do not. This will be a huge fight against the special interests that profit from this requirement and those that have little evidence that installing an ELSS is necessary for the safety of residents.

It is imperative that our elected officials understand that a promise made must be kept. We promised more than a million Floridians living in older multifamily buildings that were code-compliant at the time they were constructed that they would not have to undergo the financial or operational rigors of retrofitting their buildings. Call it a full sprinkler system, an ELSS, or something else entirely, the fact remains that our condominium residents should not be facing a deadline they thought was in their rear view mirror.

Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff

Former State Sen. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff is a shareholder with Becker Poliakoff, a Fort Lauderdale headquartered law firm, and represents a number of condominium associations throughout Florida on the ELSS issue in Tallahassee.




Click Here to National Fire Protection Association Although the Florida Fire Prevention Code encompasses thousands of provisional code snippets transferred annually from the National Fire Protection Association's Fire Code (NFPA 1) and Life Safety Code (NFPA 101), only one of them (FFPC 101:31.3.5.11.4) loosely describes an ELSS. It must be "developed by a registered professional engineer experienced in fire and life safety system design, approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), and include some or all of the following: partial automatic sprinkler protection, smoke detection systems, smoke control systems, compartmentation, and other approved systems.

As the "Authority Having Jurisdiction" local Fire Marshals are equipped with virtually unlimited approval authority. Since an ELSS is an undefined blend of fire safety elements, ethically challenged local Fire Marshals can reject offhand any system that doesn't contain their personal wish list of features, or isn't installed by their hand-picked engineer and contractor. God Bless the Sunshine State.

 


Moraitis Press Release

 

On February 6, 2017, District 93 Statehouse Representative George Moraitis issued a press release (see below) - announcing his sponsorship of a bill that will allow high rise association homeowners to decide whether or not they should spend $millions to retrofit their home with sprinklers or an ELSS.

Press Release

February 6, 2017

Representative George Moraitis Files Legislation to Save Condominium Residents Millions by Eliminating Overreaching Regulation

Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
Tallahassee, Florida - Today, Representative Moraitis announced that he filed legislation to protect condominium residents from overreaching regulation.

Representative Moraitis said, “Several years ago the legislature authorized condominium associations to opt-out of costly sprinkler retrofits and we are completing that work by also allowing condominium associations to opt out of emergency life safety system renovations. In many cases, the only practical method for an existing building to adopt a compliant ELSS is to pay for sprinkler retrofits which is contrary to the intent of the 2010 legislation. I want to emphasize that every building in the state of Florida must be built to meet the fire code safety requirements at the time of construction, that every building in the state is subject to an annual fire safety inspection and that the imposition of a mandate to adopt ELSS cannot be justified as a necessary safety measure. This legislation simply allows the owners in a condominium association to make their own choice of whether to incur the substantial expense needed to adopt a compliant ELSS.”

GMCA President Pio Ieraci
GMCA PRESIDENT PIO IERACI
“We are grateful to Representative George Moraitis for his unwavering support of this important legislation. The installation of an ELSS in a condominium high rise could cost millions of dollars and is an unnecessary burden that would be placed on already financially stressed retirees, elderly, and individuals on fixed incomes.” Said Pio Ieraci, President of the Galt Mile Community Association in Fort Lauderdale.

House bill 653 allows each association to choose whether to participate in installing an ELSS. Armed with data on its necessity and costs, residents by a majority vote, will be able to opt in or out.




State Representative - District 93



Commentary

Slicing up the Pie

Make no mistake; sprinkler lobbyists are playing political hardball. They had no intention of leaving $billions in projected revenues on the table following passage of the 2010 sprinkler retrofit relief amendment. After six years of failing to convince lawmakers to mandate another mass purchase of sprinkler systems, the Sprinkler Associations devised a plan to circumvent the statutory relief. Once the 2016 legislative session ended on March 11, 2016, a high-ranking official in the Fire Marshals union put the plan in motion.

Boca Raton Fire Marshal David Woodside
BOCA RATON FIRE MARSHAL DAVID WOODSIDE
On March 17, 2016, Boca Raton Fire Marshal David Woodside – current President of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association (FFMIA) – petitioned the Florida Office of State Fire Marshal for a response to 3 questions about how high-rise buildings are affected by the Florida Fire Prevention Code (FFPC). As per state law, the responses comprise an official opinion, also known as a Declaratory Statement.

Florida Deputy Chief Financial Officer Jay Etheridge
FLORIDA DEPUTY CHIEF FINANCIAL
OFFICER JAY ETHERIDGE
The questions were channeled to Deputy Chief Financial Officer Jay Etheridge. Ironically, the Florida Fire Prevention code doesn't require high rise associations to install an ELSS. It simply provides that associations with an ELSS or an exterior exit access from every dwelling unit needn’t install an automatic sprinkler system. Woodside and the sprinkler lobbyists needed Etheridge to officially twist this exemption into a mandate.

Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS Etheridge obligingly crafted an answer that would authorize local fire marshals to deliver $billions in association funds to the sprinkler industry, despite a glaring lack of any documented safety benefit. In 2010, when Sprinkler lobbyists toured the House floor to ply lawmakers with hypothetical Towering Inferno scenarios, Former Statehouse Representative (and later State Senator) Ellyn Bogdanoff rebutted the melodramatic assaults with official data from State records, imparting, “In 30 years, not one injury resulted from an association’s failure to perform a sprinkler retrofit.”

Florida Fire Marshals Association
Chuck Akers - Former Executive Director of of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association & American Fire Sprinkler Association
CHUCK AKERS - FORMER FFMIA
& AFSA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Since Fire Marshals are supposed to be public advocates, why are local Fire Marshals in certain jurisdictions ordering associations to immediately retrofit $multi-million sprinkler systems (as confirmed by Bogdanoffl), when the ELSS installation deadline is December 31, 2019? In short, key Fire Marshals are paid by the Sprinkler Associations to move industry product. Consider this:

FFMIA Past President and lifetime member Steven Randall was also the Florida Regional Manager of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (AKA Florida Fire Sprinkler Association)
THE LATE STEVEN RANDALL
FORMER FFMIA PRESIDENT &
NFSA SOUTH REG. DIRECTOR
When Bogdanoff filed her retrofit relief bill in 2010 - House Bill 561 - the Executive Director of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association (FFMIA) was veteran Fire Marshal Chuck Akers. Simultaneously, Akers served as Executive Director of the American Fire Sprinkler Association, an industry trade group charged with boosting sprinkler sales.

FFMIA lifetime member Buddy Dewar NFSA’s Director of Regional Operations
FFMIA's & NFSA's BUDDY DEWAR
An FFMIA past President, the late Steven Randall, was also the South Central Regional Manager of the National Fire Sprinkler Association until he retired. FFMIA lifetime member Buddy Dewar is the National Fire Sprinkler Association’s Vice President of Regional Operations, and the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association’s Lobbyist and Legislative Liaison. In a nutshell, these icons in the Fire Marshal Union make a bundle selling sprinklers. To exploit the respect naturally afforded the uniform, others serve as window dressing for Sprinkler Association lobbyists “working the floor” in the House or Senate. You do the math.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas
FORT LAUDERDALE FIRE MARSHAL JEFF LUCAS
In contrast with many of his peers, Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas appears fair-minded and forthright. At a meeting with Galt Mile officials, Lucas disagreed with Etheridge’s slippery interpretation of the Fire code, observing “I would think if you opt out, then you opt out of all,” and suggested that associations “pursue this with the State”.

Unless this scam is blocked by our lawmakers in Tallahassee, one of the costliest rip-offs in Florida history will parboil the family budgets of association homeowners across the State, including those of more than a million elderly retirees on fixed incomes. On February 6, Statehouse Representative George Moraitis filed House Bill 653 (HB 653), which would enable associations to opt-out of an ELSS retrofit. Florida Senator Kathleen Passidomo filed companion Senate Bill 744 (SB 744) in the other chamber on February 16, 2017. They are working with Ellyn Bogdanoff and Association Advocate Donna Berger to beat back this ambush. On the bright side, this isn’t their first time at the dance. More to come...

 

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