GMCA HOME MAIN PAGE Associations Directors Governance Laws & Statutes Issues
Newsletters Calendar Market Page Vendors Forum Report Card Archives Site Map Contact
LINKS PAGE Finance News Weather Government Directions Travel Dining Entertainment Search

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!

Galt Mile Residents meet with Former Senator (now CFO) Jeffrey Atwater
GALT MILERS AND FLORIDA CFO JEFFREY ATWATER IN TALLAHASSEE

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

Click To Top of Page


iSSUES MENU
Click on buttons below to review an issue.





Issues Home Page



Politics & Parlor Tricks in Tallahassee

Tallahassee Archives

Tallahassee Archives - 2016

Tallahassee Archives - 2015

Tallahassee Archives - 2014

Tallahassee Archives - 2013

Tallahassee Archives - 2012

Tallahassee Archives - 2011

Tallahassee Archives - 2010

Tallahassee Archives - 2009

Tallahassee Archives - 2008

Tallahassee Archives - 2007

Tallahassee Archives - 2006

Tallahassee Archives - 2005

Tallahassee Archives - 2004

Tallahassee Archives - 2003

2017 Articles

ELSS Retrofit Bills

ELSS Progress Update

April ELSS Update

ELSS Endgame

Gov Vetoes ELSS

Stop ELSS Round 2

2016 Articles

Bogus Estoppel Bills are Back

Tallahassee Update

Sine Die 2016 - Surviving Association Bills

Gerrymander - Tallahassee Team Sport

Moraitis on the Homeless

Servicemember Association Rentals

Moraitis 2016 Post-Session Update

Sprinkler Retrofit Roulette

Constitutional Flotsom

2015 Articles

Developers OK Construction Defects

Bogus Estoppel Bills

Rusty Governing Documents

Other Issues

New Fire Safety Mandate



Beach Renourishment Project



Cleveland Clinic Emergency Room



City of Fort Lauderdale Page



Budget Crisis Page



Broward County Business



Broward County Property Appraiser



AEDs - Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)



Calypso Deepwater Port and Pipeline



32nd Street Alley



Fort Lauderdale/Galt Mile Crime Statistics




Search GMCA or the web
powered by FreeFind



Search GMCA Site
Search the Internet



 

 


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]

 

Click To Top of Page


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]

 

Click To Top of Page


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]

 

Click To Top of Page


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]

 

Click To Top of Page


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]

 

Click To Top of Page


 


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...

 

Click To Top of Page



Utilities Sting Florida Electorate

Click Here to Proposed 2016 Florida Constutional Amendments October 12, 2016 - Given the political fireworks launched during Presidential elections, most voters would rather flip a coin than self-educate about Ballot questions or proposed Constitutional Amendments. As a result, unscrupulous politicians and industrial juggernauts religiously use them as vehicles for realizing outrageous measures that would otherwise wither under marginal scrutiny.

Click to Florida Constitution Of the five methodologies available to amend the Florida Constitution, citizen initiative petitions and legislative Joint Resolutions (SJR, HJR) are the most common. When stonewalled by lawmakers in the majority party (who control the legislative spigot), citizens or business interests can place an amendment on the ballot by collecting petition signatures equal in number to 8% of the votes cast in the last Presidential election and sourced from at least one-half of the State’s Congressional Districts.

Click Here to Proposed 2016 Florida Constutional Amendments To place a proposed Constitutional Amendment on the November 8, 2016 Ballot, a Citizen’s initiative had to petition the signatures of 683,149 registered Florida voters by the February 1, 2016 filing deadline. In contrast with the rigorous eligibility burden mandated for citizens, for lawmakers in the majority party, bagging the 60% approval in both chambers required for a joint resolution is often easier than breathing.

Click to Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Although five (5) Proposed Amendments were certified for the ballot, one of them – Amendment 4 - was approved by more than 72% of voters participating in the August 30 Primaries. The proposed amendment was added to the August 30 ballot by the Legislature, ostensibly to avoid voter confusion between Amendment 4 and Amendment 1, which both address solar energy issues. Amendment 4 is extremely useful – while Amendment 1 is a devious attempt to hoodwink voters.

Before the approval of Amendment 4 on the August ballot, the Florida Constitution exempted renewable energy source installations on residential properties from ad valorem taxation. Business and commercial properties were not included. Amendment 4 not only exempted solar energy devices from property tax valuation for homes, but for commercial and industrial properties that fall under the tangible personal property tax bracket. The exemptions granted by Amendment 4 would begin in 2018 and continue for 20 years. Good stuff.

The other four (4) proposed Constitutional Amendments will appear on the November 8, 2016 general election ballot. The penny sales tax Broward Ballot Question that is also placed on the Broward Ballot was covered in the September Newsletter. For another look, check the Galt Mile website for Commissioner Bruce Roberts September Newsletter commentary. For insight into the three legitimate prospective statewide constitutional amendments and a fourth hop-toad created for the sole purpose of draining your wallet, read on:


Proposed Amendment #1

Florida Solar Installation
CONSTITUTIONALIZING BAD LAWS WILL BLOCK SOLAR EXPANSION
Ballot Title: Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice

Reference: Amendment #1 would add Section 29 to Article X of the Florida Constitution; Sponsored by Consumers for Smart Solar; Citizen Initiative

Official Ballot Summary: This amendment establishes a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.


What you need to know

Click to Solar Energy Industries Association Whatever else you do with your ballot - you need to kick this one to the curb. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, “Florida - the sunshine state - ranks third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, but all the way down at 14th for cumulative solar capacity installed. Florida’s solar policies lag behind many other states in the nation: it has no renewable portfolio standard and does not allow power purchase agreements, two policies that have driven investments in solar in other states.”

Click to Floridians for Solar Choice It’s no accident that Florida lumbers behind largely overcast states like New Jersey (#4), Massachusetts (#6) and New York (#7) for the amount of solar panels installed in the state as of December 2015. Anti-solar laws crafted by Florida utility lobbyists and their minions in the PSC have throttled solar energy expansion. For example, Florida is one of a handful of states that ban the third-party sale of electricity. Floridians must purchase their power from the utilities that drafted this anti-consumer law. Seeking to ensure their monopoly on the sale of power to Floridians, the utilities sponsored Proposed Amendment #1 to constitutionalize these anathematic laws. Hoping to slow the growth of inexpensive solar power – which will cost them hundreds of $billions – utilities have waged a nationwide campaign to block productive solar laws in every state.

Click to Solar Energy Industries Association Unlike the Legislature, where industry lobbyists have been purchasing statutory impairments for decades, slipping them into the Florida Constitution would require a massive flimflam of voters across the state. Since voters naturally crave cheaper power, the industry hires local think-tanks to strategically undermine the spread of solar power by cloaking anti-solar measures in pro-solar rhetoric - especially in states like Arizona, New Mexico, California - and Florida.

James Madison Institute vice president and policy director Sal Nuzzo
JMI V.P. AND POLICY DIRECTOR SAL NUZZO
On October 18, the Miami Herald reported that vice president and policy director Sal Nuzzo at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee admitted complicity in crafting a utility industry effort to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar “by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.” While addressing a State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville on October 2, Nuzzo called the amendment, “an incredibly savvy maneuver.” As per an audio recording of the event supplied to the Herald/Times, Nuzzo observed how it would cripple pro-solar interests, saying the plan “would completely negate anything they would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.”

Pariente
DAVID POMERANTZ
Upon hearing the tape, executive director DAVID POMERANTZ of the Energy and Policy Institute said the Amendment’s supporters “were very clear about the utilities’ plan when they thought the public wasn’t listening: They’re trying to confuse voters into believing their utility-backed ballot initiative is pro-solar. It’s a dirty trick, and Floridians should show them that they’re too smart to let them get away with it.”

Click to Florida Supreme Court 2016 Amendment 1 DecisionIn a March 31 opinion, Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente admonished “Let pro-solar energy consumers beware. Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida's major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.” After considering arguments by industry lawyers, the High Court Justice characterized the amendment as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT JUSTICE BARBARA PARIENTE
Amendment #1 asserts three actions. It opens by claiming to establish “a right under Florida's constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use.” First - consumers already have the right to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property. They also have the right to share the solar energy or sell it back to the grid. Decentralized rooftop solar electricity provides net benefits by reducing the stress on the grid during the daytime, cutting expenditures on fossil fuels, and making privately funded clean energy available to all. By adding the words, “to generate electricity for their own use,” the amendment seeks to remove the right to sell or share the cheaper electricity – quashing a strong incentive to install solar while eliminating threatened competition and preserving industry profits. Secondly, in declaring that “State and local governments shall retain their abilities to protect consumer rights and public health, safety and welfare...,” the measure adds nothing, since that is what governments already do.

2016 Amendment 1 is a FRAUD Third and last is the payoff“ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.” In short, there are no subsidies or inequities created by the installation or use of solar power. Consumers who use alternative energy sources like wind or solar also plug into the grid. At night, solar users pay their local utility for power; during the day, they sell it back. This provision would clear the way for the utility industry to charge a fee for using the grid. Implementing a capricious fee will drive up the cost of using solar energy, and impair its proliferation. Of course, if approved, such a fee could be levied on anyone who uses the grid - every energy customer in the state.

Although virtually every environmental agency, conservation organization, energy watchdog and consumer advocate strongly opposes this utility-backed Amendment, along with State lawmakers, Mayors, City Commissioners, and local Chambers of Commerce, it may pass because voters have been hoodwinked into mistakenly believing that it promotes solar energy. Needless to say, Sergeant Bilko would be proud.


Proposed Amendment #2

Click to Medical Marijuana Amendment Ballot Title: Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions

Reference: Amendment #2 would add a Section 29 to Article X of the Florida Constitution; Sponsored primarily by Yes on 2 (AKA People United for Medical Marijuana); Citizen Initiative

Official Ballot Summary: Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.


What you need to know

Governor Endorses Pot Bill On January 24, 2014, when a petition supporting proposed constitutional amendment #2 exceeded the 683,149 voter signatures required for ballot placement, the ballot language was challenged by the Governor and Republican Legislative leaders. Three days later, on January 27, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court issued a divided, 4-3 opinion approving language used in the Amendment’s ballot title and summary.

Click to Florida Supreme Court 2014 Amendment 2 Decision The Ballot Summary clarified its authorizing “the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.” The language differed slightly from that used in the Amendment’s actual text, in which “Debilitating Medical Condition” was defined as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

Florida Supreme Court
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT
To quash the amendment, Governor Rick Scott sent Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to spearhead a legal team which insisted that using the term “diseases” instead of “conditions” in the ballot summary would confound the average voter. Disparaging the summary’s failure to sufficiently detail possible Federal repercussions, dissenting Justices Charles Canady, Ricky Polston and Jorge Labarga argued that the ballot title and summary inadequately specify the conditions required for physician approval, and “obscure the breadth of medical issues that would qualify for medical marijuana.” The Majority disagreed, stating “We conclude that the use of ‘diseases’ instead of ‘conditions’ in the ballot summary will not reasonably mislead the voters.” The measure failed, receiving 58% voter approval instead of the 60% required for passage.

United for Care Campaign manager Ben Pollara
UNITED FOR CARE - BEN POLLARA
Key proponent and largest donor Attorney John Morgan teamed with initiative sponsor United for Care to rehabilitate any confusing language and close loopholes that alienated opponents. United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara explained, “We've changed some things based on perception and what our opponents and the Florida Supreme Court said.” Since 2014, the Legislature has legalized some strains of marijuana for patients with seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms. Later, lawmakers legalized full-scale medical marijuana for the terminally ill. By the February 1, 2016 deadline, the secretary of state verified the collection of 716,270 signatures (683,149 were required) and certified the proposed amendment for the ballot.

Click to United For Care Medical Marijuana Proponent The revised 2016 proposal clarifies requirements for parental consent when prescribed for minors, further defines what is meant by “debilitating” illnesses that qualify for marijuana as a treatment option, specifying glaucoma, cancer and chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Parkinson's disease. It adds that doctors who are negligent in prescribing marijuana would be subject to malpractice claims and limits how many patients a caregiver can treat with marijuana. Also, the Florida Department of Health will issue ID cards to patients and caregivers. Unlike 2014, both Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have remained mute.

Click to Vote No on 2 Producing videos comparing the measure to a failed California experiment and predicting the creation of 2000 marijuana shops statewide, staunch opponent “Drug Free Florida” (AKA Vote No on 2) once again resorted to specious claims about the measure’s impact – seemingly sourced from cult film “Reefer Madness” – intimating how using marijuana will transform seriously ill medical patients into rabid junkies and bright-eyed preschoolers into pot candy fiends.

Click to Drug Free Florida The bogus indictments had been systematically debunked by physicians and medical researchers. In fact, since medical marijuana is an alternative therapy to the heavily addictive opioids that are currently prescribed for debilitating diseases (i.e. Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Percocet, etc.), the exact opposite is true. Among the safest known therapeutically active substances, no one ever died from an overdose of marijuana.

Click to Medical Benefits of Marijuana Marijuana provides relief from nausea and appetite loss for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, AIDs victims ingesting anti-AIDs medications as well as patients undergoing treatments for hepatitis C. By reducing intraocular (within the eye) pressure, marijuana alleviates the pain and slows – and sometimes stops – damage to the eyes from Glaucoma (the leading cause of blindness in the United States). Marijuana can limit the muscle pain and spasticity as well as relieve tremors and unsteadiness of gait in victims of multiple sclerosis (the leading cause of neurological disability among young and middle-aged adults in the United States). Marijuana can prevent seizures in some patients suffering from epilepsy. Marijuana can alleviate chronic, often debilitating pain caused by myriad disorders. Since 2007, three published clinical trials concluded that marijuana effectively relieves neuropathic pain.

Click to United For Care Medical Marijuana Proponent A few opponents offered an objection that actually had merit, arguing that legalizing marijuana is a function more appropriate to the state Legislature, as a Statute can be readily improved if necessitated by actual experience, while comparable adaptations to the constitution are far more difficult. Supported by most medical associations throughout the U.S. and Florida, the America Medical Association stated, “Effective patient care requires the free and unfettered exchange of information on treatment alternatives and that discussion of these alternatives between physicians and patients should not subject either party to criminal sanctions.” Voters can make Florida the 26th State – along with the District of Columbia - that allows physicians to treat seriously ill patients with Medical Marijuana.


Proposed Amendment #3

First Responders Tax Break
TAX EXEMPTION FOR PERMANENTLY DISABLED FIRST RESPONDERS
Ballot Title: TAX EXEMPTION FOR TOTALLY AND PERMANENTLY DISABLED FIRST RESPONDERS

Reference: Amendment #3 would amend Section 6(f) of Article VII and add a new section to Article XII of the Florida Constitution; Referred by the Florida Legislature.

Official Ballot Summary: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize a first responder, who is totally and permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty, to receive relief from ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property, if authorized by general law. If approved by voters, the amendment takes effect January 1, 2017.


What you need to know

Click to First Responders Tax Break This amendment recognizes the sacrifices regularly made by our first responders in the line of duty while protecting our liberties and way of life. The State of Florida and its citizens are, by the very nature of the services performed by these men and women, forever in their debt. Our state can collectively express appreciation by approving Amendment 3, offering these permanently afflicted heroes property tax relief.

Representative Larry Metz
REPRESENTATIVE LARRY METZ
Florida’s Constitution already grants a property-tax exemption to the spouses of first responders who die in the line of duty. Amendment 3 authorizes the Legislature to extend that exemption to first responders who are “totally and permanently disabled” from injuries received in the line of duty. Existing law defines first responders as police and correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics. State officials did not estimate how much the new exemption might cost local governments from lost property tax revenue.

Amendment #3 was introduced by Representative Larry Metz in the Florida House of Representatives on December 18, 2015. House Joint Resolution 1009 passed the House unanimously on February 11, 2016, and the Senate unanimously on March 9, 2016. If approved by voters, the Legislature must still decide whether the exemption should provide full or partial relief from property taxes and approve the measure to become law (effective on Jan. 1, 2017). This should be a cakewalk.


Proposed Amendment #5

Ballot Title: HOMESTEAD TAX EXEMPTION FOR CERTAIN SENIOR, LOW-INCOME, LONG-TERM RESIDENTS; DETERMINATION OF JUST VALUE

Reference: Amendment #5 would amend Sections 6 of Article VII of the Florida Constitution; Referred by the Florida Legislature.

Official Ballot Summary: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to revise the homestead tax exemption that may be granted by counties or municipalities for property with just value less than $250,000 owned by certain senior, low-income, long-term residents to specify that just value is determined in the first tax year the owner applies and is eligible for the exemption. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2017, and applies retroactively to exemptions granted before January 1, 2017


What you need to know

In 2012, voters approved a Constitutional Amendment allowing cities and counties to grant a full property-tax exemption for Floridians 65 and older living in a home with a just (market) value of less than $250,000 for at least 25 years, with an annual household income of $28,448 in 2015 (income limits are adjusted annually for inflation). The exemptions were also made available to permanently disabled veterans aged 65 or older and surviving spouses of veterans or first responders who died in the line of duty.

Statehouse Representative Bryan Avila
STATEHOUSE REPRESENTATIVE BRYAN AVILA
However, if the value of the home increases above $250,000, eligibility would be lost, and the taxes would have to be paid as assessed – a catastrophic impact for a senior on a fixed income. By clarifying that the home value is set when residents first apply, Proposed Amendment #5 locks in the exemption permanently once a senior qualifies, correcting the troubling pitfall.

Amendment 5 was introduced by Representative Bryan Avila in the Florida House of Representatives on October 1, 2015. House Joint Resolution 275 passed the House unanimously on February 11, 2016, and the Senate unanimously on March 9, 2016 (effective January 1, 2017). Since the amendment is retroactive to 2013, a senior who qualified for the exemption in 2013, but lost it, would regain the exemption. Like Amendment #3, it’s a no-brainer.

Click To Top of Page



August 3, 2016 - In the past few months, Florida community association homeowners have been perplexed by an unexpected regulatory bear trap. A requirement to retrofit condominiums and cooperatives with a budget-busting automatic sprinkler system, which has plagued high-rise associations for fourteen years, has suddenly evolved into a mandate for every association in the State, regardless of size.

DBPR Press Secretary Travis Keels
DBPR PRESS SECRETARY TRAVIS KEELS
Travis Keels, deputy director of communications for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), recently announced “Generally speaking, the fire sprinkler requirement applies to all residential condominiums.” Six years after the 2010 Florida legislature amended Chapters 718 and 719, F.S. (the Condominium and Cooperative Acts), empowering cash-strapped unit owners in high-rise associations to forego a sprinkler retrofit by a majority vote, DBPR suddenly awoke to another 2010 statutory tweak – removal of a provision that limited the sprinkler mandate to high-rise buildings.

Click Here to Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation The Office of Florida Fire Marshal disagrees with the DBPR’s knee-jerk policy. However, since the DBPR’s Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes is charged with enforcing the common interest community statutes, tens of thousands of Florida associations peppered with fixed-income retirees are scrambling to determine if they must vote to forego a sprinkler retrofit before the December 31, 2016 opt-out deadline.

Broward Senator Jeremy Ring
BROWARD SENATOR JEREMY RING
Hoping to quell the growing confusion, association advocate Donna Berger recruited assistance from Broward Senator Jeremy Ring, Senate sponsor of the 2010 legislation. In a July 28, 2016 letter to DBPR Director Kevin Stansfield, Ring clarified that his removal of the reference to high-rise buildings wasn’t meant to expand the retrofit requirement to every Florida association, explaining, “It was not my intent, nor the intent of the Legislature, to obliquely impose a substantial economic burden on a large segment of condominium owners.”

Association Advocate Donna Berger
ASSOCIATION ADVOCATE DONNA BERGER
Questioning why DBPR waited six years before using a newspaper article to reveal their enigmatic interpretation “a mere 5 months before the opt out deadline expires,” Ring requested “that the Division issue a press release consistent with the intent of the Legislature.” In other words – back off. The Florida Bar has also notified DBPR that the agency is about to enforce a law that doesn’t exist. Fortunately, Galt Mile associations that already completed the opt-out process won’t be affected. Unfortunately, we have another problem.

Stalking a $Billion Payday

American Fire Sprinkler Association
AMERICAN FIRE SPRINKLER ASSN
In 2002, the Florida Legislature quietly passed a clandestine bill requiring every Florida Association housed in a structure 75 feet above grade to install a Full Sprinkler System or, alternatively, establish an acceptable Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS). An Engineered Life Safety System is a fire protection plan customized by a registered professional fire safety engineer that variably combines partial sprinkler protection, smoke detection, smoke control, compartmentation, and other approved life safety systems.

National Fire Sprinkler Association Scrutiny of the new law revealed it to be a $multi-billion payday for certain vested interests instead of effective fire protection. Drafted by the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) and the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) with input from the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, glaringly absent from this “midnight legislation” were any studies or research clarifying its impact on community associations and their unit owners.

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
To infuse a bill designed by industry lobbyists with credibility, certain representatives from the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association (FFMIA) (FFMIA) called on legislators to “pass this bill as a testament to our heroic firefighters.” Instead of presenting authoritative documentation demonstrating that a variety of different fire safety solutions should be tailored to a structure’s material composition; size; occupancy and use; structural elements; proximity to the fire station; the number and type of egresses, adjacent structures and existing fire safety features (as recommended by Fire Safety Engineers), the impressively uniformed lobbyists convinced key lawmakers that sprinkler retrofits were a one-size-fits-all fire safety panacea for every high-rise condominium.

FFMIA lifetime member Buddy Dewar NFSA’s Director of Regional Operations
FFMIA's & NFSA's
BUDDY DEWAR
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
The Fire Marshals who lobbied the lawmakers weren’t motivated by altruism and public spirit. Those who directed this strategy had been pulling private sector paychecks for years - and were financially vested in the outcome of this legislation. Chuck Akers, the former Executive Director of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association was also the Executive Director of the American Fire Sprinkler Association, an industry trade group responsible for boosting sprinkler sales. Other high-ranking officials in the Fire Marshals union were employed by the National Fire Sprinkler Association, another nationwide sprinkler trade organization behind the original legislation. An FFMIA past President, the late Steven Randall, was also the South Central Regional Manager of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (locally AKA Florida Fire Sprinkler Association) until he retired on July 16, 2009. 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, they make a bundle selling sprinklers.

Retrofit Relief: Opting Out of a Bad Law

Former Representative Connie Mack IV
FORMER REPRESENTATIVE
CONNIE MACK IV
Florida CFO and former Senator Jeffrey Atwater
FL CFO & FORMER SENATOR
JEFFREY ATWATER
Following a State-wide outcry against the suspect expenditure, in 2003, the Galt Mile Community Association contacted former District 91 Statehouse Representative Connie Mack IV and sophomore Senator Jeffrey Atwater, requesting legislative relief. The original legislation was subsequently modified to allow condo owners to “Opt Out” of retrofitting their associations with either a full automatic sprinkler system or an Engineered Life Safety System “by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all voting interests”. The opt-out provision was added to Mack’s House Bill 165 and Atwater’s Senate Bill 592, co-filed with former Hollywood Senator Steven Geller over the virulent objections of lobbyists for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union and the Fire Sprinkler Associations.

Common Area Sprinklers ??? As a concession to the powerful sprinkler lobby, the legislation still required sprinkler retrofits in the association’s common areas, including any enclosed hallway, corridor, lobby, stairwell, or entryway. Sprinkler lobbyists successfully preserved the most important aspect of their corporate clients’ agenda, the $billion windfall sale of sprinklers, standpipes, etc. - and the costly connective plumbing. The sprinkler retrofits were mandated by the end of 2014.

Representative Carl Domino
REPRESENTATIVE CARL DOMINO
In 2006, House Bill 391 by Representative Carl Domino aspired to extend the sprinkler retrofit deadline for high rise projects from 2014 to 2025. The extra decade would have afforded unit owners an opportunity to recover from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane repair assessments, mega-deductibles and huge windstorm insurance increases that often required long and/or short term financing. Unit owners in these leveraged associations sought to first amortize their bloated debt service before paying an enormous retrofit assessment.

Former Governor Bush Vetoes HB 391
FORMER GOVERNOR JEB
BUSH VETOES HB 391
HB 391 was unanimously approved in the House and Senate. Having failed to convince lawmakers that investing scarce association resources in limited sprinklers would yield a more productive safety benefit than a comparable investment in hurricane protection, retrofit lobbyists turned up the political pressure on lame duck Governor Jeb Bush, who vetoed the bill.

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
REP. ELLYN BOGDANOFF FILES HB 419
Responding to persistent entreaties by angry homeowners in tens of thousands of Florida community associations, including her Galt Mile constituents, on January 16, 2009, former Statehouse Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff filed House Bill 419. Its sister bill, Senate Bill 714 filed by Senator Dennis Jones, was ultimately substituted for HB 419 as the session wound down. Filed to correct a host of poorly drafted, contradictory or unworkable association regulations governing insurance, board elections, Timeshare Condominiums and back-up generators for elevators, this association “glitch” bill would also postpone the multi $million fire sprinkler retrofit from 2014 to 2025 - similar to the bill vetoed in 2006. On April 27, 2009, SB 714 passed a vote in the Senate by 38 Yeas vs. 0 Nays. On April 29th, the bill passed a House vote by 114 Yeas vs. 2 Nays.

Florida Senator Dennis L. Jones
SENATOR DENNIS L. JONES
To thwart a delay to their windfall, Sprinkler Association lobbyists threw a carrot to Governor Crist’s handlers, who coveted a juicy campaign contribution and an endorsement by the Fire Marshals to jump-start his ill-fated run for the US Senate seat vacated by Mel Martinez. Bartering the welfare of cash-strapped association homeowners for political capital, Crist vetoed the bill.

Crist for Senate The Fire Sprinkler Associations concede that retrofit costs can be enormous. A DBPR study also affirmed that costs can range to $8,633 / unit. Retrofit bids solicited in 2008 by associations with 200 – 300 units ranged from $1.4 million to $4.76 million, depending primarily on whether demolished floors, walls and ceilings were seamlessly restored or emulated installations in public housing, with hundreds of yards of exposed steel, copper and CPVC permeating the structure.

Bogdanoff vs. Sprinkler Lobby

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff
REP. ELLYN BOGDANOFF FILES HB 561
On January 4, 2010, Representative Bogdanoff filed House Bill 561 (HB 561), which not only revived the insurance fixes and other glitch repairs napalmed by the Governor, it improved on the fire sprinkler retrofit relief proposed in the previous year’s vetoed Senate Bill 714. Instead of postponing the retrofit deadline, HB 561 would amend the opt-out provisions enacted in 2003, enabling associations to forego a sprinkler retrofit. Bogdanoff’s HB 561 and Senate Bill 1222 (SB 1222) – a companion bill filed in the other chamber by Broward Senator Jeremy Ring – were later merged into Senator Mike Fasano’s Senate Bill 1196 (SB 1196).

Eric Berkowitz, Pio Ieraci, Governor Crist and Donna Berger
ERIC BERKOWITZ, PIO IERACI, GOV CRIST & DONNA BERGER
GOVERNOR REFUTES BOGUS 'INTENT TO VETO' REPORT
The bill eliminated the 2003 exemption of common areas from an opt-out vote, reduced the percentage of voting interests required to approve an opt-out from two-thirds to a simple majority, and extended the retrofit deadline from 2014 to 2019. Additionally, by December 31, 2016, associations that lacked a fire sprinkler system and hadn’t voted to forego a sprinkler retrofit must initiate a building permit to install a sprinkler system by December 31, 2019.

In vetting committees, Association Attorneys Donna Berger and Yeline Goin explained that when every other state incorporated the NFPA life safety code provisions into State law, they exempted existing structures from retrofit compliance. Berger testified, “Florida is the only State that didn’t grandfather compliance for existing high rise buildings when the statute was implemented.” When sprinkler lobbyists echoed a litany of “towering Inferno” style anecdotal horror stories in both chambers, Representative Bogdanoff rebutted “In 30 years, not one injury resulted from an association’s failure to perform a sprinkler retrofit.”

Governor Crist signs SB 1196 at Beach Community Center
GOVERNOR SIGNS OMNIBUS ASSOCIATION BILL
Click Here to Tyco Fire web site On April 16, the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 38 Yeas vs. 0 Nays. On April 28th, the bill passed a vote in the House by 107 Yeas vs. 4 Nays. On June 1, 2010, Crist signed the legislation into law at the Beach Community Center. Over the next few years, thousands of Florida associations voted to opt-out of the sprinkler retrofit, as their unit owners breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Click Here to Allied Signal-Honeywell Fire web site The deep-pocketed Sprinkler Associations, whose membership includes corporate juggernauts Tyco and Allied Signal-Honeywell, had successfully kept their $multi-billion self-styled stimulus package alive for eight years and hoodwinked two Governors to vetoing relief bills that were overwhelmingly passed by the legislature. Former Governor Charlie Crist admitted to having mistakenly believed lobbyist assurances that insurance savings would offset installation costs. A DBPR insurance study ordered by the Governor in his veto message later revealed the claim as without merit.

Circumventing a Statute

Click Here to Florida Department of Financial Services Click Here to Florida Fire Marshal web site Make no mistake; sprinkler lobbyists know how to play political hardball. They also had no intention of leaving $billions in projected revenues on the table. After biding their time for six years, 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 Fire Marshal David Woodside – current President of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association – 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.

Click Here to National Fire Protection Association web site To enable better understanding of Woodside’s questions - and the subsequent responses – NFPA 1, NFPA 101 and FFPC code provisions that are commonly characterized by long strings of numbers and letters (i.e. FFPC/NFPA 101 section 31.3.5.11.3 or FFPC 101:31.3.5.11.1) are instead expressed in plain English.

As shown below, four provisions in the Florida Fire Prevention Code (Chapter 101, section 31 or FFPC 101.31) govern the sprinkler system requirements for high-rise buildings:

  1. FFPC 101:31.3.5.11.1 All high-rise buildings shall be protected throughout by an approved automatic sprinkler system unless alternatively equipped with an Engineered Life Safety System or an exterior exit access (a second means of egress) in every dwelling unit

  2. FFPC 101:31.3.5.11.2 An automatic sprinkler system shall not be required where every dwelling unit has exterior exit access

  3. FFPC 101:31.3.5.11.3 An automatic sprinkler system shall not be required in buildings having an approved, engineered life safety system

  4. FFPC 101:31.3.5.11.4 If required by provision #3 (31.3.5.11.3), an engineered life safety system shall be developed by a registered professional engineer experienced in fire and life safety system design, shall be approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), and shall include some or all of the following: partial automatic sprinkler protection, smoke detection systems, smoke control systems, compartmentation, and other approved systems.

Declaratory Statement 189152-16-DS

  1. Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS In his first question, Woodside asks if an Engineered Life Safety System is required in existing high-rise buildings that aren’t protected throughout by an approved automatic fire sprinkler system or an exterior exit access from each dwelling unit.

    Answering Woodside, Deputy Chief Financial Officer Jay Etheridge said, “Yes. Existing high-rise apartment occupancies, including residential condominiums and cooperatives, that are not protected throughout by an approved automatic fire sprinkler..., or that do not have an exterior exit access..., must complete an engineered life safety system approved by the AHJ...”

  2. Woodside also asked if a high-rise building is not protected throughout with an approved automatic sprinkler system pursuant to the statutory opt-out in Chapter 718.112, is it exempt from providing an Engineered Life Safety System as required in provision #3?

    Florida Deputy Chief Financial Officer Jay Etheridge
    FLORIDA DEPUTY CHIEF FINANCIAL
    OFFICER JAY ETHERIDGE
    Etheridge responded, “No.” The statutory opt-out “expressly restricts the requirements of automatic fire sprinkler systems to high-rise buildings utilized as residential condominiums or cooperatives pursuant to sections 718.111 and 718.112, Florida Statutes, and specifically supersedes the NFPA base code. However,” provision #3... “clarifies that, if the entire building is not protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system, it must comply with the” FFPC provisions for sprinklers in high-rise buildings, which “requires that… the existing high-rise building have either an exterior exit access for every dwelling unit… or have an engineered life safety system approved by the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction)...”

  3. Finally, Woodside asked, “If the answer to questions #1 is yes, what is the deadline for an existing high-rise occupancy...” to install an engineered life safety system?

    Etheridge answered "The deadline for an existing high-rise occupancy to comply with the provision of… the engineered life safety system is December 31, 2019...”

Having functionally neutered the statutory opt-out, Etheridge concluded, "Based on the foregoing, apartment occupancy, specifically a condominium and cooperative, are exempt from installing an approved automatic fire sprinkler system if every dwelling in the occupancy has FFPC compliant exterior exit access, or if the occupancy has an engineered life safety system that is approved by the AHJ. The building is required to be protected by an approved automatic fire sprinkler system by December 31, 2019, or it must comply with the requirements of FFPC 101:31."

The Statute provides that “Notwithstanding chapter 633 or of any other code, statute, ordinance, administrative rule, or regulation, or any interpretation of the foregoing, an association, condominium, or unit owner is not obligated to retrofit the common elements, association property, or units of a residential condominium with a fire sprinkler system in a building that has been certified for occupancy by the applicable governmental entity if the unit owners have voted to forego such retrofitting by the affirmative vote of a majority of all voting interests in the affected condominium.”

Despite recognizing that the statute supersedes Florida-specific code, Etheridge concludes that the statutory prohibition against enforcing “any other code, statute, ordinance, administrative rule, or regulation, or any interpretation of the foregoing” that requires the installation of sprinklers does not apply to FFPC 101:31.3.5.11.3. While conceding that it is a Florida-specific code, he believes it exempt because it requires fewer sprinklers – and a piñata stuffed with detection, alarm and suppression goodies.

Although we may disagree with Etheridge's questionable interpretation - it will provide local fire marshals with a basis for ignoring the statutory opt-out, and mandating the installation of sprinklers in conjunction with an ELSS. Instead of using their best judgment to assess the adequacy of each association’s fire safety protection, many of our less scrupulous Fire Marshals will simply enforce the purchase of $multi-million sprinkler retrofits, cementing some post-retirement private sector benefits – on your dime.

Back to Square One

Here’s the problem. In the 2003, 2006 and 2009 retrofit relief bills, it plainly states that the legislation applies to a full sprinkler retrofit and the ELSS. In Bogdanoff's successful 2010 statutory amendment, although the language describes how an association that votes to opt-out “is not obligated to retrofit the common elements, association property, or units of a residential condominium with a fire sprinkler system,” it fails to specify that the opt-out also applies to an engineered life safety system - leaving just enough wiggle room for the slippery interpretive gymnastics performed by Etheridge.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas
FORT LAUDERDALE FIRE MARSHAL JEFF LUCAS
On Thursday, May 5, Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas forwarded a copy of Woodside’s Declaratory Statement to the Neighborhood Association, and informed GMCA President Pio Ieraci “As this DEC statement reads, the (ELSS) Engineered Life Safety System would be required if the condos do not have any fire sprinklers.” A few weeks later several Galt Mile officials met with Lucas to solicit his input and discuss the huge toll this will take on homeowners. Fair minded and forthright, after suggesting that a full sprinkler retrofit may be less expensive than an ELSS (debunking a common misconception), Lucas cast doubt on the official interpretation embodied in the Declaratory Statement, observing “I would think if you opt out, then you opt out of all.” Aware of how the skewed interpretation conflicts with the legislative intent, Lucas clarified his expectation that associations will “pursue this issue with the State.”

When contacted about this backdoor relegation of State Law, Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater regretfully admitted that his hands were tied. Although this is a rank attempt to rip off association homeowners for $billions, it appears that the only recourse is a return trip to Tallahassee. Although we are back at square one, it isn’t our first time at the dance. Stay tuned...

 

Click To Top of Page


Commentary

Representative George Moraitis on Port Everglades
REPRESENTATIVE MORAITIS - PORT UPGRADES
July 12, 2016 - In his June 2016 Newsletter, District 93 Statehouse Representative George Moraitis reviews how the 2016 State Budget will impact constituents. Moraitis takes pride in a State contribution to
planned improvements in Port Everglades, asserts that legislative leaders are conversant with the importance of Beach Renourishment, outlines a sizable appropriation to Everglades Restoration, cites a controversial tax cut package – capped by a “Back to School” sales tax holiday, describes a “historic investment” in Florida schools and applauds a $500,000 award benefitting Homeless participants in the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Rapid Rehousing Program.

Blending a Bipartisan Budget

Click to Florida First budget Our District 93 Representative apparently drew his data from a mid-session iteration of a Statehouse Budget – one of three circulated during the legislative session. While Budget bills were also filed in The Florida Senate, Governor Scott’s handlers spent $millions promoting his “Florida First” budget. After consigning Governor Scott’s fiscal handiwork to an organic landfill, a conference Committee comprised of House and Senate appointees crunched their respective spending plans - vaporized a $billion discrepancy - and cobbled together the final 2016 Florida Budget.

Click Here to Conference Report on HB 5001 FY 2016/2017 For insight into our elected officials plan to burn through your money, the Florida Senate website provides links to the budget documents, appropriation bills and Conference Reports relating to House Bill 5001 (HB 5001), the FY 2016-17 General Appropriations Act. Along with implementing and conforming companion bills, HB 5001 houses the $82.3 billion state budget [$30.3 billion placed in General Revenues (GR) and $52.1 billion socked into Trust Funds (TF)].

Representative John Tobia votes NO
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN TOBIA VOTES NO
In contrast with last year’s dysfunctional session, when feuding lawmakers who prematurely bolted from the State Capital were forced to return and complete the controversial budget in a 3-week special session, this year was a Love-In. In part, lawmakers sought to avoid the puerile histrionics that anger the home folks – since all 160 seats in the House and Senate are up for grabs in November. Featuring a $4 billion increase over the 2015 budget, this year’s spending plan garnered unanimous Senate approval and only one “no” vote in the house - cast by Statehouse Representative John Tobia (R - Melbourne), who nurtures a reputation for spitting into the wind.

Governor Rick Scott
GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT
The 2016 budget benchmarked an unprecedented political phenomenon – a Republican spending plan approved by every Democrat in both houses. Worthy of a three-episode Twilight Zone, this cosmic inconsistency was largely provoked by Governor Scott, whose heavy-handed fiscal intentions for education, health care and the environment fueled a heated battle with House and Senate Republican leaders – which bubbled across the aisle.

Click to Enterprise Florida Having spent $millions on TV and print ads promoting the $1 billion tax cut promised for the first two years of his second term, Scott was furious when lawmakers capped tax cuts at $129.1 million in House Bill 7099 (HB 7099). Scott was further enraged by Republican leaders’ refusal to fund nearly $800 million in business tax cuts for manufacturers and retailers. They also ignored the Governor’s top legislative priority, a proposed $250 million corporate feedbag for the Florida Enterprise Fund.

House Budget Chair Richard Corcroan
HOUSE BUDGET CHAIR RICHARD CORCROAN
To help fortify the legislature against gubernatorial retribution, House budget chief (and incoming House Speaker) Richard Corcroan (R-Land O’Lakes) actively included the Democratic minority in the budget process. Corcoran later told celebrating Democrats, “We listened to what you said.”

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner
SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER ARTHENIA JOYNER
Observing how the Governor’s regressive public policies served to unify angry lawmakers, Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner (D - Tampa) jumped on a rare opportunity to applaud how Democrats impacted an ordinarily partisan Republican budget process, commenting, “We reclaimed our place in the checks and balances of our democracy by reining in a governor who’s out of touch with the people.” Corny - but on point.

Recalling how Scott struck $461 million from last year’s budget, lawmakers promised a Special Session veto override if Scott used line item vetoes to strip funding for education and/or the environment. It worked. Instead of widening the breach, Scott offered an olive branch - and expressed support for the new budget.

Lawmakers were also pleased when Scott intimated that he would restrict his vetoes to the elimination of redundant appropriations, although their relief wasn’t limited to budgetary concerns about education or the environment. To help campaigning lawmakers in their home districts, the new budget was packed with “Member Projects” – legislative spin for pork. Since many of last year’s vetoes eviscerated similar pork projects, when Scott renounced a heavy veto pen this year, electioneering lawmakers had a clear field to deliver dozens of museums, aquariums, parks and festivals, along with improvements to courthouses, town halls and water & drainage projects.

To avoid rekindling a conflict with irate lawmakers, Scott circulated a list of his planned vetoes before signing the budget a week later on March 17. Far more modest than anticipated, the $256 million in redacted appropriations affected none of the legislature’s budget priorities. Among the projects defunded by Scott were programs for after-school mentoring, youth crime-prevention, inmate re-entry and family counseling, along with a smattering of local pork – such as a cattlemen’s arena in Hardee County, a Masonic Lodge in Rosewood and a livestock pavilion for the Central Florida Fair. For Representative Moraitis’ June 2016 Newsletter, read on... - [editor]

 

Moraitis June 2016 Post-Session Newsletter

 

June 2016
Post-Session Newsletter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
I consider it a great honor to represent you in the Florida House of Representatives, and am very proud of the results we accomplished this Session. I would like to share with you some of our accomplishments during the 2016 Legislative Session, which just concluded in Tallahassee. Perhaps more than in any other year, we involved our local constituents in the process to bring more accountability to Tallahassee. I remained focused on advancing the economic engines and job creators in our region, funding education, cutting taxes, and keeping our communities and citizens safe.

This year the Legislature passed a fiscally responsible, bipartisan budget that prioritizes our state’s greatest needs. This balanced budget provides meaningful tax relief, invests in our students’ success, and supports greater achievement in local schools with record education funding. We tackled the critical tasks of spurring economic development and made Florida #1 in job creation. Our fiscally sound, long-term approach will keep our state on a path to continued economic prosperity.

With all the competing interests in Tallahassee, I continue to take the lead in the legislature on behalf of the Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, and Broward County beach renourishment. At the same time, I have championed initiatives to protect our fragile Florida environment, create new jobs, improve our economy, and improve our quality of life. It is hard work - but rewarding, and I appreciate the opportunity to serve you every single day.

As always, my door is open to you. Our office is very active in helping our constituents with a variety of needs on a daily basis, and I welcome your feedback as we consider legislation to improve our great state. It is an honor to be your advocate in the Florida House of Representatives, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

In the issue:

Port Everglades

Port Everglades
PORT EVERGLADES
Port Everglades is among the busiest cruise ports in the world, and one of Florida’s leading container ports. It is also South Florida's main seaport for receiving petroleum products including gasoline, jet fuel, and alternative fuels. As one of South Florida's leading economic engines, Port Everglades indirectly supports
202,700 Florida jobs, including 11,433 people who work for companies that provide direct services to the Port.

Panama Canal expansion
PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION
As we commemorate the completion of the Panama Canal expansion this year, the Florida Legislature understands the vital importance our region plays in international trade and the stability of South Florida’s economy, and is committed to doing what is necessary to improve Port Everglades. I am proud to announce that working with the Florida Department of Transportation, Broward County and Port Everglades, our House 2016 Budget includes over $12 million towards the crucial expansion projects currently underway at the Port. Congratulations to Broward County, Port Everglades and the Port Everglades Action Team as together we made a great case for the further allocation of state resources in support of these goals.

Click to Florida First budget This widespread support of this project will ensure Port Everglades remains an international trade center that attracts thousands of long-term private sector jobs to the area. The deepening and widening of the Port Everglades, together with the development of additional piers, is estimated to create 7,000 new jobs and support an additional 135,000 jobs statewide over the next 15 years. Port Everglades anticipates $653 million in new infrastructure investment upgrades between 2015 - 2019 as part of this initiative. I am making sure the Legislature understands the key role it must play in making this investment a reality, and we anticipate funding a total of $122 million for Port expansion between now and 2021 to complete this historic project, bring more jobs to our area, and maintain the Port Everglades as a world class port.

Beach Restoration

Segment II Beach Renourishment
SEGMENT II BEACH RENOURISHMENT
Our state leadership understands how vitally important the beaches are to our economy and this commitment is reflected in this year’s budget. Tourism remains a substantial part of our local and state economies, and studies have shown that the majority of tourists come to enjoy our world class beaches. For this reason, and to protect the property values in our coastal community, I have made funding for the renourishment of our beaches a top priority, and as a result over just the past three years the state has dedicated over seven million dollars to Broward County beach renourishment efforts. The result? We are making tremendous progress, with over
600,000 cubic yards of sand being added to nearly four miles of the beaches in Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, and Pompano Beach.

Everglades’ Restoration

Everglades’ Restoration
EVERGLADES’ RESTORATION
Your Florida Legislature has made great progress during this session to protect Florida’s delicate environmental resources and preserve them for future generations. Florida is blessed with over
51,000 miles of rivers and streams, 7,700 lakes, and over 900 springs. The rare and beautiful Florida Everglades is a unique treasure to our ecosystem, and its protection is of the utmost importance to our state’s environmental and economic wellbeing. This year, the Florida House budget put into action the desire of Floridians to continue Everglades’ restoration and improve our environment. We passed a comprehensive water policy bill and a dedicated funding source for Everglades’ restoration and preservation, and under the House Legacy Florida proposal, $198 million will be provided for Everglades’ restoration to preserve its beauty and protect this vital environmental resource for future generations. This responsible plan allocates $100 million for comprehensive restoration, $32 million for the regional water quality plan, and $66 million for Northern Everglades and estuaries protection. Contained within the proposal is funding to help restore the Indian River Lagoon. High levels of toxic algae blooms as well as harmful bacteria that have been detected are poising a crucial threat to several species of fish, birds, and mammals dwelling in the rich habitat. Flourishing natural environments are vital to Florida’s ecosystem, economy, the tourism industry, and the sustainable development of each region.

Tax Relief Package

We are providing meaningful tax relief for individuals and small businesses while also infusing more money directly into our economy, and this year’s tax package will not only help Florida’s businesses create jobs, but make Florida a more affordable state to live and raise a family. This Session, the Florida Legislature passed over half a billion dollars in tax cuts in order to help Florida’s families and job creators. In fact, over the last two years, we have brought a total of $1 billion in common sense tax relief. Major tax cut initiatives in the package include $428 million in property tax relief for Florida homeowners, removal of sales tax on purchasing of manufacturing equipment, “Back to School” sales tax holiday from August 5-7, and removing the sales tax on food and drinks sold to members of veteran organizations.

“Back to School” Tax Holiday

Click Here to Back to School Tax HolidayYour state legislature also approved the popular “Back to School” sales tax holiday to give Florida’s families the opportunity to save more of their hard-earned money, while ensuring our students have the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. The three-day sales tax holiday will take place on August 5-7, 2016. Sales tax will not be applied to clothing and shoes priced $60 or less per item, and school supplies priced $15 or less per item. Improving the education of our children is very important to our state’s legislature, and helping families spend less on school supplies is a great way to start the school year!

Education

Together we have shown our commitment to the promise of an outstanding public education for our students and a better future for the children of our state. During this session, the Legislature worked on several important bills with respect to education. The Florida House showed its commitment to providing a quality education for Florida’s students by making historic investments in our state’s education system in this year’s budget. The PreK- 12 Education budget contains the highest amount of state funds ever, totaling $14.2 billion, which is a total of $7,231.57 per student. The House budget also includes $20 million for Preeminent State Universities and $10 million for Emerging Preeminent State Universities to encourage our universities to strive for academic and research excellence, and offer more high-quality educational opportunities to Floridians. We have also included $75 million in additional State University Performance to reward our universities that prepare students to get good jobs after graduation, not just framed degrees. I am thankful for my colleagues in the House who passed this bill favorably with significant bipartisan support.

Rapid Rehousing Appropriation

Click to Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program On any given day there are hundreds of men, women, and children that call the streets of Fort Lauderdale home. This is both heartbreaking and unacceptable. This legislative session, I had the honor to support the fight to end homelessness by requesting state funding for the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Rapid Rehousing Program. The program provides financial assistance and services to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless. In addition to this, the program helps those who are experiencing homelessness to be quickly re-housed and stabilized. Not only is rapid rehousing more cost-effective than other programs, it also produces long-term results from one-time costs since it is effective at keeping rehoused individuals from returning to homelessness. Directly funding the Rapid Rehousing Program strengthens and supports the Broward County Continuum of Care Plan to End Homelessness. This initiative is one of the single most important interventions in the fight to end homelessness, and I am pleased to announce our Florida Legislature awarded $500,000 from this year’s budget to the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Rapid Re-Housing Program. It is my hope that these funds will both prevent people from becoming homeless, and help the hundreds who are experiencing homelessness move quickly into their own stable housing.

Sincerely,




State Representative - District 93



 

Click To Top of Page


Senator Aaron Bean
SENATOR AARON BEAN
June 26, 2016 - On June 14, 2016, Executive Director
Yeline Goin of the Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL) alerted the Galt Mile Community Association to a legislative change that impacts how associations must process certain prospective lessees - specifically - the men and women who defend our country with their lives. On August 8, 2015, Florida Senator Aaron Bean (R - Jacksonville) filed Senate Bill 184 – a piñata of eclectic benefits for veterans and active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Click Here to Community Association Leadership Lobby website Waltzing through vetting committees to unanimous approvals in both houses, the legislation was enacted on April 15, 2016 (Chapter 2016-242). After its July 1, 2016 effective date, the new law will expedite a servicemember’s consideration for tenancy in a Florida Condominium, Cooperative or Homeowner Association.

Click Here to Armed Forces website As defined in Section 250.01, Florida Statutes, a “servicemember” is “Any person serving as a member of the United States Armed Forces on active duty or state active duty (sic - when ordered by the Governor or Adjutant General) and all members of the Florida National Guard and United States Reserve Forces.”

Click Here to Community Association Leadership Lobby website Among other provisions, the Bill created Section 83.683, Florida Statutes., three brief paragraphs that detail how Florida landlords must process tenancy applications submitted by servicemembers. The first paragraph provides that the application must be approved or denied in writing within 7 days - and denials must be accompanied by a reason. If the servicemember meets all other terms of the application and lease, landlords who blow the deadline must approve the rental.

CALL Executive Director Yeline Goin
CALL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR YELINE GOIN
Superseding time frames delimited by an association’s rules or governing documents, the second paragraph extends the mandate to Florida associations that screen prospective tenants. Unless servicemember rental applications for association units or parcels are approved or denied in writing within 7 days of submission - along with reason(s) for denial - the tenant must be approved “if all other terms of the application and lease are complied with.”

Leery of loopholes engineered by larcenous landlords or associations, the Statute’s closing paragraph admonishes “The provisions of this section may not be waived or modified by the agreement of the parties under any circumstances.”

To avoid risking a troublesome violation due to an inadvertent oversight, Goin recommends a minor modification to the association’s eligibility application. Simply ask if the prospective tenant is a servicemember – as defined in Section 250.01, Florida Statutes. Three minutes on the word processor should do the trick.

 

Click To Top of Page


Commentary

City Commissioner Bruce Roberts
CITY COMMISSIONER BRUCE ROBERTS
Representative George Moraitis on Homeless in Fort Lauderdale
REPRESENTATIVE MORAITIS - THE HOMELESS
June 6, 2016 - Despite Florida’s fetid reputation as a mine field for the homeless, Fort Lauderdale maintains one of the State’s most effective homeless safety nets, as roving teams of Homeless Advocates and FLPD officers annually make
roughly 8,000 referrals to critical services for anyone who stumbles over the question “Where did you sleep last night?” Initially developed by District 1 City Commissioner Bruce Roberts during his tenure as Fort Lauderdale Chief of Police, the City’s inaugural homeless policy funneled resources into voluntary programs that offer medical assistance, food and housing. A cornerstone of the Broward Partnership for the Homeless, the City also subsidizes comprehensive recovery resources for homeless men, women and families at the Partnership’s Homeless Assistance Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Police Homeless Outreach
POLICE HOMELESS OUTREACH
Working with Homeless Advocates, Police Officers participating in the outreach effort encourage bench dwellers to avail themselves of government-funded or privately subsidized charitable programs that additionally provide counseling, employment preparation, family reunification, transportation, emergency financial assistance and other resources designed to address the causes and consequences of homelessness. Connecting “street people” to this battery of critical services is often the first step in a complex and highly customized course of recovery. If arrested, a referral to the Broward County Homeless Initiative Partnership (BCHIP) triggers a post release contact by a social worker to formulate an appropriate assistance regimen. Launched as a partnership between the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Broward Coalition for the Homeless, the formula evolved into a national prototype.

Click to Broward Partnership for the Homeless Every Fort Lauderdale Police officer knows that the success of this homeless program hinges on the willingness of participants to trade a dangerous lifestyle for a stable home and steady employment – and their ability to achieve that objective. Since the homeless community’s experience with local governments in Florida is less than inspiring, assistance is often declined. Citing a 2015 HUD assessment, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 15% of the homeless population is chronic – unable or unwilling to leave the streets. In 2009, the U.S. Congress provided local governments with a less daunting option for the chronic homeless.

Click to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act web page On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, which includes $1.5 billion for a Homelessness Prevention Fund. Funding for this program, called the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), is provided to state housing authorities & related agencies, and then distributed to cities, counties, local charities and non-profits. Local grantee jurisdictions include Broward County and the Cities of Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Sunrise and Hollywood.

Broward Partnership Homeless Assistance Center
BROWARD PARTNERSHIP HOMELESS ASSISTANCE CENTER
HPRP offers a new slant on how jurisdictions might address the litany of root causes traditionally responsible for a shared symptom - homelessness. Instead of linking eligibility for housing candidates to their prospects for a successful recovery, this program reserves eligibility for those candidates most “at risk” for dying on the street. The new protocol cuts to the chase - and places homeless people in homes - a safe environment - prior to helping them reassert control over their lives. Surprisingly, it appears to work. Leery Homeless Advocates who initially disparaged the program have since become staunch supporters.

Click to Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program Grantees may use HPRP funds for any combination of four primary eligible activities: (1) Financial Assistance; (2) Housing Relocation and Stabilization Services; (3) Data Collection and Evaluation; and (4) Administrative Costs. To become an eligible beneficiary, a household must be vetted by a case manager to ascertain the type of assistance required; be at or below 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI); be either homeless or at risk of losing its housing; lack alternative housing options and; lack the financial resources and support networks needed to obtain immediate housing or remain in existing housing.

Rehoused Family in New Home
REHOUSED FAMILY IN NEW HOME
Using Federal Recovery Act (ARRA) resources to house the homeless, the Fort Lauderdale Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program also assists individuals and families facing eviction, foreclosure, or otherwise at risk for becoming homeless. Intended to target “individuals and families who would be homeless but for this assistance,” program funds are applicable to short-term (up to 3 months) or medium-term (up to 18 months) rental deficits, vouchers for motels or hotels, housing relocation and stabilization services. Once a beneficiary is off the street, the program mitigates traditional recovery pitfalls - offering assistance with mediation & legal representation, credit counseling, security or utility deposits, utility payments, moving costs, and case management. If a beneficiary finds work or receives benefits, 30 percent of the income feeds the kitty.

President Nan Roman of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
HOMELESS ADVOCATE NAN ROMAN
Click to 100,000 Homes Campaign In 2014, Fort Lauderdale used a $440,000 federal grant to permanently house 22 chronic homeless persons. Participating in a nationwide effort called the “100,000 Homes Campaign”, after screening disabled homeless applicants for those most at risk, program beneficiaries were permanently housed in one of the City Housing Authority’s apartments. They are provided furnishings, amenities and regular visits by case workers. As observed by Nan Roman, president of the Washington-based National Alliance to End Homelessness, Research shows that over 85 percent who receive permanent supported housing stay housed - and numerous published studies indicate the savings in health care and corrections costs.” In November of 2014, Mayor Jack Seiler announced that the City’s “Housing First initiative was re-funded for a second year,” providing another $455,000 to house the City’s most at risk chronic homeless in 2015. As per Representative Moraitis, in 2016, the legislature again funded the program, approving a $500,000 appropriation from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Click to Housing First Program
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler
FORT LAUDERDALE MAYOR JACK SEILER
With more than 105,000 people already housed in 186 participating communities nationwide, a buzz phrase in the organization’s manifesto - “Housing First” - speaks to how it differs from traditional homeless programs, since eligibility isn’t contingent on prior graduation from substance abuse counseling or job training. It’s also a win for taxpayers. The housing cost is far less than the cost of incarceration, or the endless cycle of emergency room medical care that consequences life on the street.

The HPRP financial aid is meant to be immediate. In noting how program beneficiaries are “quickly re-housed and stabilized,” Moraitis references inherent program deadlines. Once the grant agreement is signed by HUD, grantees must minimally disburse 60 percent of the stimulus funds within the first two years and the entire allocation within three years. Although Senate Bill 1534 (enacted as Chapter 2016 – 210, Laws of Florida), A.K.A. The Homeless Bill, states that the expedited spending timetable precludes beneficiaries from developing “a dependency on the assistance,” Congress had another motive. While the Recovery Act was gathering momentum on the Hill, supporters and opponents debated how to best deter local governments from warehousing grant money in budgetary slush funds, until reallocated to a local Slime Mold festival, or a wireless entertainment center in the Town Hall executive washroom. For Representative Moraitis’ take on how the City’s homeless housing policy is developing, peruse his May 2016 constituent message - [editor]

 


Rep. George Moraitis May 2016 Constituent Update

 

May 2016
Post Session Newsletter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
One of the things I love about being a state representative is getting to represent the people of my home town. From the world-class beaches, to Port Everglades, to the myriad of canals that have earned our city the nickname of the “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale is the place to be! Fort Lauderdale is the eighth largest city in Florida, and the largest city in Broward county, boasting a wide range of booming industries that strengthen our economy and provide residents with a great quality of life.

Homeless in Fort Lauderdale
HOMELESS IN FORT LAUDERDALE
Just as we are diverse in our industries, we are also a diverse people. On any given day a visitor to our city can hear conversations being spoken in different languages, and at the same time they can view people from all walks of life: from those who are affluent to those who live in the midst of poverty. While we are a city of world class beauty, it remains a sad fact that on any given night there are hundreds upon hundreds of men, women, and children who call the streets of Fort Lauderdale home. While this is disappointing it also provides an opportunity for us to show compassion and work together to help the homeless.

Click to Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program This legislative session, I had the privilege to work with leaders of the City of Fort Lauderdale fighting our homeless problem through my support of the City's Rapid Re-Housing Program. This program is not merely a temporary shelter or soup kitchen, but rather it is a comprehensive homeless strategy that leverages resources and unifies efforts for ending homelessness. This project provides financial assistance and services to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless, and it also helps those who are experiencing homelessness to be quickly re-housed and stabilized.

James Montgomery Rondalyn Harden in New Home
JAMES MONTGOMERY RONDALYN HARDEN IN NEW HOME
The cost of homelessness can be very high. Hospitalization, medical treatment, incarceration, police intervention and emergency shelter expenses can add up very quickly, making homelessness surprisingly expensive for municipalities and taxpayers. The Rapid Rehousing Program demonstrates that a housing-based approach to homelessness is not only more cost-effective than a shelter-based approach, but more effective in the long term.

Click to Housing First Program This initiative is one of the single most important interventions in the fight to end homelessness in our area, and I am pleased to announce our Florida Legislature awarded $500,000 from this year’s budget as a grant to the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Rapid Re-Housing Program. It is my hope that these funds will assist the program in preventing people from becoming homeless, as well as help the hundreds who are experiencing homelessness move quickly into their own stable housing. Through these efforts I believe we will build a better future for our community and improve the quality of life for all who call Fort Lauderdale home.

Sincerely,




State Representative - District 93



 

Click To Top of Page


Redistricting in Tallahassee
REDISTRICTING IN TALLAHASSEE
April 17, 2016 - After four trials, three special sessions and eight rulings from the Florida Supreme Court, the lines delimiting Florida’s State Senate districts and Congressional districts
were finally redrawn. Although the new district boundaries may minimally impact many jurisdictions, not so for the Galt Mile.

A congressional district map and state Senate map used to define political boundaries since 2012 were both struck down by the courts this year when a coalition of voting rights groups spearheaded by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause provided evidence that districts were designed to protect either the Republican majority or incumbent Democrats.

Fair Districts: Reclaiming Florida Elections

Click to Fair Districts Florida web site In early 2010, a redistricting reform advocacy group called “Fair Districts Florida” (AKA “Fair Districts Now”) populated petitions with more than a million signatures to insure that Constitutional Amendments 5 and 6 were placed on the November 2010 Florida ballot. Subsequent approval by at least 60% of the electorate would amend the State Constitution and change the way state legislative districts (Amendment 5) and congressional districts (Amendment 6) were drawn. Among other criteria, the amendments would require that districts be contiguous, compact, roughly equal in population size and use existing city/country boundaries when possible.

Click to Gerrymandering Angry Republican Legislative leaders cobbled together a third amendment (HJR 7231) which they planned to group with the other two on the November 2010 ballot. Although HJR 7231 (Amendment 7) contained many of the same provisions included in the two grass roots reforms, sponsoring lawmakers sought to conceal a critical omission. The Florida Supreme Court voted to boot Amendment 7 from the ballot, declaring its ballot summary “confusing and lacking critical information,” since it failed to disclose omitting the requirement that districts be contiguous, enabling lawmakers to stitch together geographically disparate voter blocks friendly to a particular party or incumbent, or dilute communities considered a political obstacle. The Galt Mile could have conceivably been pasted into a district in downtown Jacksonville, the Big Cypress Indian Reservation... or the Krome Detention Center. The court also rejected a last ditch Statehouse maneuver to excise Amendments 5 and 6 from the ballot.

Click to Fair Districts Now web site Despite legislator attempts to subvert the citizens’ ballot initiative, 63% of the voters in the November 2010 election successfully fitted the Florida Constitution with redistricting standards based on factors unrelated to party and/or incumbency, replacing nearly two centuries of cultural reassignment, racial & ethnic gerrymandering and partisan vote dilution.

Click to Florida Supreme Court Decision to remove Amendment 7 from November 2010 ballot The Florida Constitution had long viewed gerrymandering as a legal enterprise – like iron man paintball, Karaoke or racial profiling (see Patriot Act) – prior to approval of the amendments, and it was practiced with impunity by generations of “good old boys” from the majority party in Tallahassee, Democrat and Republican. Since many Florida Legislators treat constitutional dictums as irrelevant decorative accessories, the reforms in Amendments 5 and 6 were accompanied by a unique enforcement strategy.

Mills: Constitutional Cop

Professor Jon Mills
PROFESSOR JON MILLS
Jon Mills [Dean Emeritus, University of Florida Levin College of Law; Florida House of Representatives (1978-1988); Speaker (1987-88); Founding Director, Center for Government Responsibility (1973-80) (1988-present); Professor of Florida Constitutional Law; Style and Drafting Chair of the 1998 Florida Constitution Revision Commission; Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Committee (2009); American Bar Association-Advisory Commission to the World Justice Project (2007-08); etc.], an impeccably credentialed constitutional authority and principal author of the amendments – sought to preclude backsliding lawmakers from circumventing the new criteria by installing a legal mechanism that would enable a court to determine when district boundaries were manipulated for personal and/or political purposes.

Click to the League of Women Voters of Florida web site In the past, the official redistricting public record was limited to comments that preceded creation of new district maps. Therefore, nothing in the redistricting paper trail indicated when lawmakers failed to correct deficiencies about which they were unquestionably aware (and often helped to create). Mills armed the amendments with language insuring that “The public, the press and non-governmental organizations will have an opportunity to comment before and after the Legislature draws the initial maps.”

Click to the Common Cause of Florida web site This simple protocol provided process watchdogs with an opportunity to officially document evidence of a district’s constitutional inadequacy. In other words, any failure by the Legislature to comply with constitutional standards would become part of the public record. Within 15 days of a plan’s legislative approval (by joint resolution), the Attorney General must petition the Florida Supreme Court for a declaratory judgment confirming the plan’s validity. This is where it gets interesting.

Gerrymandering fo a buck If the legislature corrects shortcomings identified in the public record, the amendment’s purpose is served. However, if the legislature ignores the warnings and creates districts that are constitutionally deficient, the public record would contain evidence that the non-compliant districts were created by lawmakers who were fully aware of their deficiencies, thereby demonstrating intent to favor a party or incumbent, a key threshold for disqualification. The gambit worked. In 2015, attorneys representing the coalition of voter rights groups used Mill’s legal slip knot to demonstrate that the House and Senate maps all favored incumbents.

Congressional Mapping Mockery

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis
CIRCUIT JUDGE TERRY LEWIS
After three years of bouncing around the courts, coalition suits filed in the Second Judicial Circuit began coming to fruition in 2015, beginning with a challenge to the State’s Congressional district map for violating Florida’s Constitutional Fair District provisions. When Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis declared Florida’s Congressional Districts unconstitutional on July 10, 2014, he accused Republican operatives of “conducting a secret, organized campaign that made a mockery of the Legislature’s transparent and open process of redistricting.” Opening his scathing ruling with a quote from George Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796, an incredulous Lewis warned that “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Click Here to Large 2016 Florida Congressional District Map Having sent the legislative leadership back to the drawing board, Lewis later examined maps reconfigured by lawmakers in the House and the Senate as well as three maps provided by the coalition. On October 9, 2015, Lewis’ selected a map entitled “Coalition CP1”, which trampled the fewest city and county borders. In a December 2, 2015 split opinion, the Florida Supreme Court upheld Lewis’ decision by a vote of 5-2.

Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel
TED DEUTCH AND LOIS FRANKEL
In an opinion brief, the State high court wrote, “Our opinion today – the eighth concerning legislative or congressional apportionment during this decade since the adoption of the landmark Fair Districts Amendment – should bring much needed finality to litigation concerning this state’s congressional redistricting that has now spanned nearly four years in state courts.” The new voter boundaries will shake up Congressional representation in jurisdictions across the State, including Broward County. Some of the communities in District 22 – where the Galt Mile will remain – were relocated to adjacent districts, and replaced by other neighborhoods.

Click Here to NOAA Fisheries The two parallel congressional districts running north-south through Broward and Palm Beach counties, District 22 along the beach represented by Lois Frankel (D-West Palm Beach), and the inland District 21 served by Ted Deutch (D-West Boca), are turned on their side. District 21 will be entirely in Palm Beach County, while District 22 will run from Coral Springs east to the coast, then south to Fort Lauderdale, but also includes Boca Raton. During her tenure, Frankel has worked with the Galt Mile’s neighborhood association and Broward officials to achieve local objectives. When NOAA Fisheries blocked the long-delayed Segment II beach renourishment, Frankel helped rattle the dilatory Commerce Department agency. She also lobbied the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Committee to green light Port Everglades infrastructure improvements.

Click Here to Port Everglades
Boca Raton Republican Joseph Bensmihen
BOCA REPUBLICAN JOSEPH BENSMIHEN
Although Deutch and Frankel both live in the newly drawn District 21, they have been slow to indicate who will run in the district or whether either will seek election in Broward District 22 where neither resides. They have both agreed to avoid running against one another. Deutch was expected to stay in Palm Beach and Frankel in Broward. After the Supreme Court ruling, they turned the tables. Deutch announced his intention to run in District 22, explaining “My connections to Broward are long and they are deep, and I’m proud of them.” Frankel said she would serve her Palm Beach constituency in District 21.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
DNC CHAIR DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ
Realtor Andrea McGee
REALTOR ANDREA MCGEE
In District 21, Automotive Repair Instructor Sean David Standard, a West Palm Beach Republican, filed papers with the FEC on January 28, 2016, indicating his intent to run. Boca Raton Republican Joseph Bensmihen, proprietor of geriatric management companies Boca Home Care and United Elder Care Services, announced his candidacy in District 22. He’ll face Fort Lauderdale realtor Andrea McGee in the Republican primary.

Joe Kaufman
JOE KAUFMAN
Professor Tim Canova
PROFESSOR TIM CANOVA
In District 23, embattled DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz faces a Primary challenge from Democrat Wall Street reformer Tim Canova, an attorney and Professor of Law and Public Finance at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law. In the general election, investigative journalist and 5-time Congressional candidate Republican Joe Kaufman plans a 6th reach for the brass ring. Completing a crowded field are Independent David Mendenhall and Stephanie Anderson (NPA).

Court Dumps Scam Senate Maps

Circuit Judge George Reynolds
CIRCUIT JUDGE GEORGE REYNOLDS
Click Here to Large 2016 Florida Senate District Map After ruling against a Senate District map submitted by Senate leaders in December, on January 5, 2016, Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds (Tallahassee) also selected Senate District map version 2012–CA–2842 submitted by the coalition (named for the Case Number of League of Women Voters of Florida, et.al. vs. Kenneth Detzner, et.al.), citing its compliance with the same Constitutional Fair Districts directive. On January 20, Majority Leader and future Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), who drafted the rejected Senate map, convinced current Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) that the Legislature shouldn’t oppose the court-sanctioned maps, despite prospective legal issues open to appeal. The new Senate map was etched in stone on February 8, when the door closed on the appeals process - at least until the 10-year redistricting cycle is once again triggered by completion of the census.

Senator Bill Galvano on Redistricting
SENATOR BILL GALVANO ON REDISTRICTING
In 2016, Floridians will vote for State Senators in every district. To stagger the four-year Senate terms going forward, candidates who successfully run in even-numbered districts will only serve two years, while those in odd-numbered districts will serve full four year terms.

Statehouse Representative George Moraitis
STATEHOUSE REP. GEORGE MORAITIS
Since the Galt Mile’s District 34 State Senator, Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach), has essentially been a “No-Show” for her Broward constituents, Galt Mile officials relied primarily on District 93 Statehouse Representative George Moraitis (R-Fort Lauderdale) to further the neighborhood’s legislative agenda - occasionally turning to District 29 Senator Jeremy Ring (D-Parkland) – as well as other pro-association State Senators – for help with companion legislation in the other house.

Bogdanoff vs. Sachs

former District 25 Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff
FORMER DISTRICT 25 SEN. ELLYN BOGDANOFF
When egregiously gerrymandered Florida Senate voting maps enraged Senate Democrats in 2012, they were offered an olive branch – the demise of former District 25 Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff. A two-step political decapitation, after erasing incumbent Bogdanoff’s marginally Democratic-leaning District 25, her Broward coastal constituents were lumped into incumbent Maria Sachs’ heavily Democratic District 34 in Palm Beach – setting the stage for the sole Florida Senate race in 2012 that faced off two incumbents.

Florida Senator Maria Sachs
FLORIDA SENATOR MARIA SACHS
Bogdanoff's Broward support crossed party lines. While her Democrat constituents may have disagreed with her conservative political agenda, they appreciated the bills she sponsored to protect their associations and benefit their neighborhoods, including legislation that enabled associations fully compliant with the fire code to "opt out" of a mandated fire sprinkler retrofit costing $millions, and a series of omnibus association bills that enhanced unit owner rights and home values while eliminating costly glitches in the Condominium and Cooperative Acts. Bogdanoff also sponsored bills that expanded the use of exculpatory DNA testing, delivered economic measures that helped restore the Florida maritime industry while drafting anti-bullying legislation that evolved into a nationwide template.

Click Here to Bully Police In contrast, Sachs sponsored legislation to regulate the parasailing industry, added Mandarin and Farsi to the language curriculum in Florida Public Schools and co-sponsored an anti-texting while driving bill. Not surprisingly, Bogdanoff's strong bi-partisan showing by Broward voters wasn’t enough to offset Sachs’ overwhelmingly Democratic South Palm Beach constituency. Bogdanoff lost her seat by a 5% margin. In a second bite at the apple two years later, she lost by a margin of 4%.

legislation to regulate the parasailing industry
SACHS - PARASAILING BILL
Fears by Broward voters that Sachs would favor the interests of her Palm Beach base were soon realized. Despite opening a second District office in Broward Government Center, Sachs was slow to harvest constituent input below the county line. On September 11, 2013, she traveled to the Beach Community Center to participate in a community discussion about Citizens Property Insurance while occasionally gracing a few civic groups or associations with a luncheon appearance. In the four years since 2012, she attended two meetings with the Galt Mile Community Association. During the last one, when members expressed concern about the seemingly interminable obstacles to beach renourishment, Sachs mummified the room by describing her longstanding support for keeping our beaches clean. When other attending officials quietly explained that they were discussing the need to protect coastal communities from storm surge by reclaiming fast disappearing beaches, Sachs scrambled, adding “I support that, too.”

South Florida Senate Bingo

Senator Joseph Abruzzo
SENATOR JOSEPH ABRUZZO
Senator Jeff Clemens
SENATOR JEFF CLEMENS
The revised Senate maps will place Sachs in a newly crafted District 31 with two other Democrat Palm Beach Senate incumbents, Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington) and Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth). Since Clemens has long represented the central Palm Beach coast, he will likely run in District 31, which includes the northern part of Sachs’ current district and the eastern part of Abbruzzo’s. Since the adjacent District 29 contains Sachs’ Boca Raton power base, and most of Abbruzzo’s current district, it appears that the two Democrat incumbents will soon slug it out. The district also dips into Broward, encompassing Parkland and Coconut Creek.

Senator Chris Smith
SENATOR CHRIS SMITH
Senator Eleanor Sobel
SENATOR ELEANOR SOBEL
Since Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale), Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), and Jeremy Ring (D-Parkland) will all fall prey to term limits, except for a small strip of south Broward in Minority Leader Oscar Braynon’s (D-Miami Gardens) north Dade district, the rest of Broward County is up for grabs. Smith hopes to win the District 9 seat on the Broward Commission from Dale Holness in November. With the announced departure of Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober, Sobel plans to take on Hollywood City Commissioner Patty Asseff for the job. Having just accepted a bid of more than $2 million for his 8900 sq. ft. Parkland palace, it is unclear where popular Yahoo! millionaire Jeremy Ring will resurface.

Former State Representative Jim Waldman
FORMER STATE REPRESENTATIVE JIM WALDMAN
Senator Jeremy Ring
SENATOR JEREMY RING
There is no shortage of applicants for the open Broward Senate seats. Founder of Lauren’s Kids, child sex abuse activist Lauren Book hopes to inherit Sobel’s constituents. Although they had both originally coveted the seat that will soon be vacated by Jeremy Ring, the homes of Former State Representative Jim Waldman of Coconut Creek and attorney Gary Farmer of Parkland are now located in the small clump of inland north Broward attached to the expansive Palm Beach District 29, where Sachs and Abbruzzo are preparing for battle. Looking to fill Chris Smith’s shoes in the redrawn District 33 are Statehouse Representative Gwen Clarke-Reed (D-Deerfield Beach) and former State Representative Perry Thurston. To date, no Republicans have expressed their intention to venture candidacy in a county knocked by Tallahassee Republicans as “The Killing Fields”.

Lauren Book
ACTIVIST LAUREN BOOK
Attorney Gary Farmer
ATTORNEY GARY FARMER
Having initially signed on to serve a Broward constituency, Waldman and Farmer want no part of the imminent political crossfire by Palm Beach Senators in District 29. After engineering expedited relocations to comply with residency requirements, they plan to move their contest to District 40, which will house Broward’s coastal communities from Deerfield Beach to Hollywood - including the Galt Mile.

Click Here to Lauren's KidsSince the district falls entirely within Broward County, district residents will no longer be treated as red-headed stepchildren - and the Galt Mile will once again have a voice in the State Senate, someone conversant with County and local agendas. If Lauren Book wants to avoid a three-way dogfight, the 30 year-old daughter of megabucks lobbyist Ron Book will consider launching her political career in District 32, which includes all of West Broward.

Lawmakers vs. Voters: Purging a Rats’ Nest

Until now, legislative leaders have successfully dodged the intent of the Fair Districts Constitutional reforms, preserving political protocols that allow lawmakers to choose their voters by pasting together blocks friendly to a particular party or incumbent. Using the courts to equip the 2010 constitutional mandate with teeth, the voter groups hope to flip the script, enabling Floridians to explore the novel prospect of voters choosing their lawmakers. Who knows? If it catches on, it may spread to other States.

 

Click To Top of Page


Representative James Grant
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES GRANT
Senator Jeffrey Brandes
SENATOR JEFFREY BRANDES
March 26, 2016 - With a handful of exceptions, dozens of association bills filed during the 2016 Legislative Session were finally exiled to the ever-expanding Tallahassee boneyard. In the last week of the session, a set of companion bills in the House and Senate were poised to become
legislative trains, repositories for bits and pieces of stalled legislation whose sponsors hoped to rescue from death on the calendar. Senate Bill 1050 filed by Senator Jeffrey Brandes (R - St. Petersburg) and House Bill 1187, sponsored by Representative James W. “J.W.” Grant (R - Tampa), relating to the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR), were besieged by lawmakers with bills destined for oblivion.

Tallahassee Train Time

Tallahassee Train Wreck
TALLAHASSEE TRAIN WRECK
Essentially deregulation bills, they were suddenly bloated by an eclectic collection of unrelated provisions including (HB 1357/SB 1716) a mandate that large associations upload association documents (i.e. association financial records, contracts, unit owner accounts, insurance policies, etc.) to a new or expanded website (hackable by the average tech savvy eighth grader), (HB 1405/SB 1292) the removal of an exemption for associations with fewer than 50 units which currently allows them to prepare a report of cash receipts and expenditures in lieu of an audit, review, or compilation based on annual revenues, (HB 203/SB 722) a requirement that estoppel certificate fees must be paid from the proceeds at closing (sound familiar?), and dozens more last ditch maneuvers by lawmakers desperately attempting to salvage fast-fading bills.

The association-related provisions were subsequently dumped from HB 1187 when deemed irrelevant to a DBPR deregulation bill. Also burdened with a laundry list of orphaned bill provisions was Senate companion bill SB 1040, which remained on the Senate’s Special Order Calendar from March 4 through March 11, but was never heard. In short, the trains never left the station.

Estoppel Endgame

Smash Home Tax In early February, association advocates lamented how legislation widely known as “The Home Tax” would adversely impact association homeowners. Fueled by Title Company lobbyists and the powerful Realtors Association, House Bill 203 filed by Rep. John Wood (R - Winter Haven) and Senate Bill 722 filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R – Lakeland) threaten to dump the cost of preparing estoppel certificates on an association’s unit owners. Since Wood is a Realtor and Stargel owns and operates several Real Estate companies, the legislation would line their pockets.

Estoppel Certificate Of the bills’ prospective statutory changes, the most damaging is a prohibition against the association being paid upon delivering the estoppel certificate. Instead, the bill would require that estoppel costs and fees be paid to the association from the proceeds at closing. If the unit doesn’t close, and the association is unable to collect from the seller – as often occurs when distressed properties are being sold by owners already delinquent on their association obligations – the association is left holding the bag.

Debt The bill also initially capped how much an association could charge for preparing an estoppel certificate. The legislation set the fee at $200 if the unit is free of delinquencies, or $400 if not. When a unit is swimming in debt, burdened with multiple liens or entangled in litigation, such complex estoppels would typically cost the association more than the bills’ maximum amount recoverable at closing. Any difference was also hung on the necks of unit owners.

While codifying a confusing procedure and precluding unjustifiable fees are useful and productive objectives, Statute shouldn’t force an association's unit owners to subsidize every prospective homebuyer’s closing costs. This is the second consecutive year that these lawmakers are carrying the water for the trade organizations that drafted and lobbied for their respective bills. As of early March, they appear headed to the same endgame.

Senate Committee on Regulated Industries
SENATE COMMITTEE ON REGULATED INDUSTRIES
On January 13th, when Stargel's SB 722 marginally squeezed by the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries by a vote of 6 Yeas vs. 4 Nays, it had a sobering effect on Wood, who suddenly became more amenable to enhancing his bill’s palatability. Armed with angry emails from thousands of unit & parcel owners from across the State (including the Galt Mile), association advocates negotiated some significant changes to HB 203.

Rejected In addition to removing the “pay at close” bear trap, Wood raised the estoppel preparation fee for a unit with no delinquencies from $200 to $250. These concessions paved the way for unanimous approval on February 18th by the House Judiciary Committee, the bill’s final Committee stop before hitting the House Floor. Ultimately, these maneuvers proved futile, as Stargel’s companion bill in the Senate was never scheduled in the Senate Committees on Judiciary or Fiscal Policy, two of its three committee stops. The death of her bill on the calendar buys a one-way ticket to the cornfield for Wood's HB 203. When Wood and Stargel whip out the same turnip at next year’s session, if they excise the provisions that unnecessarily stick it to unit owners, it may be enacted. Don’t bet on it.

Some Survivors

A few of the surviving bills that impact Community associations include:

  • Senator Aaron Bean
    SENATOR AARON BEAN
    Senate Bill 184 by Senator Aaron Bean (R - Jacksonville) relating to military and veterans affairs provides that a landlord, Condominium Association, Cooperative Association or HOA requiring a prospective tenant to complete a rental application before residing in a rental unit must process such a rental application from a military service member within seven days of submission. Approval or denial of the military service member’s application must be in writing and if denied, include the reason for denial. If the landlord, Condo, Co-op or HOA fails to timely deny a rental application that complies with all the other terms of the application and lease, the rental unit must be leased to the service member.

  • Representative Dane Eagle
    REPRESENTATIVE DANE EAGLE
    House Bill 535 by Representative Dane Eagle (R - Cape Coral) relates to Building Codes. Buried in sixty-six pages of other code updates, the bill amends Chapter 633.202, F.S., requiring all new and existing high rise buildings to maintain a minimum radio signal strength for fire department communications. Currently non-compliant apartment buildings are required to comply by January 1, 2025. The bill also amends Chapter 633.208 F.S., relating to Fire Safety Standards. The amendments provide that the local fire official may consider the fire safety evaluation systems found in NFPA 101A, Guide on Alternative Solutions to Life Safety, adopted by State Fire Marshal, as acceptable systems for the identification of low-cost reasonable alternatives.

  • Representative Kathleen Passidomo
    REPRESENTATIVE KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
    House Bill 931 by Representative Kathleen Passidomo (R - Naples) is entitled Operations of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. In her end-of-session summary of the legislation, Association Advocate Yeline Goin states, “Among other things, the bill changes the current depopulation procedures for personal lines residential policies (i.e., individual homeowner policies) by requiring that take-out offers be communicated by Citizens and not the take-out company. Notice of a take-out offer must include standardized information that compares the coverage and estimated premium of each take-out offer to the coverage and premium provided by Citizens and must advise policyholders that they may accept or reject any offer. In some cases, policyholders who accepted a take-out offer in the past 36 months may return to Citizens. The reforms must be in place by January 1, 2017.”

DBPR Tragicomic Relief

Click Here to Alhambra Village No. 1 Association, Inc.
Soupy on the Job
SOUPY CONSULTS WITH DBPR
Stirring suspicions that the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes in the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) solicits legal guidance from Soupy Sales, it punctuated the legislative session with an enigmatic January 27, 2016 Declaratory Statement. Responding to a query about board eligibility petitioned by the Alhambra Village No. 1 Association, Inc., Division Director Kevin Stanfield parsed the Condominium Act and the association’s governing documents to determine “whether a husband and wife, as co-tenants who do not own a condominium unit” can simultaneously serve on a condominium board.

Click Here to Community Association Leadership Lobby website The Florida Condominium Act – specifically Chapter 718.112(2)(d)2, F.S. - states, “In a residential condominium association of more than 10 units, or in a residential condominium association that does not include timeshare units or timeshare interests, co-owners of a unit may not serve as members of the board of directors at the same time unless they own more than one unit or unless there are not enough eligible candidates to fill the vacancies on the board at the time of the vacancy.”

Sunrise Lakes Condminium Apartments Phase III Inc.
SUNRISE LAKES CONDMINIUM APARTMENTS PHASE III INC.
Director Stanfield cites a previous Declaratory Statement issued to Sunrise Lakes on February 9, 2009, in which the Division upheld the statutory prohibition against co-owners simultaneously serving on a board. Stanfield notes how the Division deems the prohibition reasonable “because of the inherent propensity for the persons with joint financial interests to pursue common goals.” He included this quote because it’s followed by “This is particularly so where spouses serve on the board simultaneously.” Characterizing the practice as “an evil to be corrected,” the 2009 Statement continues “Alignment of financial interests creates an inherent risk of disproportionately affecting the balance of a board’s voting power and its ability for robust and independent debate.”

Married Tenants It’s unclear why Stanfield dwells on this decision, since he follows it with “If the drafters intended to restrict co-tenants from serving on the board, such language would have been included in the Statute,” and declares “the Division will not look to the intent behind the statute,” As if delivering a punch line, Stanfield lets fly: “Ordered that absent a provision in the governing documents, husband and wife co-tenants may simultaneously serve on the board of directors of the Association. Done and ordered this 25th day of January, 2016, at Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida.” As a parting shot, gubernatorial appointee Stanfield sees no ambiguity in his decision to provide rights to husband and wife co-tenants that are denied to husband and wife co-owners.

And the hits just keep on coming.

 

Click To Top of Page


Commentary

Representative Matt Gaetz
REPRESENTATIVE MATT GAETZ
Representative George Moraitis on Port Everglades
REPRESENTATIVE MORAITIS - PORT UPGRADES
March 8, 2016 - In his 2016 Mid-session Legislative Update, District 93 Statehouse Representative
George Moraitis reaffirms his commitment to competitively enhancing Port Everglades, applauds Statehouse efforts to bolster education, reviews appropriations to Everglades Restoration and looks at the House version of a complex $1 billion targeted tax cut nested in House Bill 7099 filed by Representative Matt Gaetz (R – Fort Walton Beach), who Chairs the House Finance and Tax Committee. Seated on the House Appropriations Committee and Vice Chair of the House Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, Moraitis is uniquely placed to help develop Broward’s Transportation infrastructure.

Moraitis Meets Port Everglades Advocates

Click to Panama Canal Authority web site Moraitis opens his message by focusing on a critically important financial opportunity that, if managed properly, will inject $billions into the local economy, funnel truckloads of tax revenue into state and regional coffers, and pluck thousands of local residents from unemployment rolls. As the reconfigured Panama Canal increasingly accommodates supersized transports, tankers and cruise ships, plummeting shipping costs will significantly alter international patterns of commerce. Port Everglades will have to compete with other East Coast and Gulf ports for an impending trade windfall projected to inflate the State treasury and enhance the local economy.

Click to Turning Notch Info While most of the required funding is generated by the Port (a highly profitable Broward Enterprise Fund), Moraitis has been instrumental in bagging incremental State financing to help implement the $1.6 Billion Port Everglades Master Plan - a short list of improvements that will enable the Port to compete for this bonanza. The three “Master Plan” projects referenced by Moraitis are the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, which has been providing Port patrons with seamless ship-to-rail cargo capability since its completion last year; deepening and widening the entrance channel to accommodate post-Panamax oceangoing monsters; and lengthening the 900-foot deepwater Southport Turning Notch to 2400 feet, allowing for the addition of five new cargo berths along its expanded perimeter. After 16 years of Federal “Kick the Can” and Congressional gridlock, the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Committee finally gave the projects a green light last year.

Port Everglades Advocacy Team
PORT EVERGLADES ADVOCACY TEAM
Empaneled with Broward officials and local business leaders, the Port Everglades Advocacy Team (PEAT) travelled to Tallahassee to promote the Port’s legislative agenda on February 1 and 2, 2016. Led by District 4 Broward Commissioner Chip LaMarca, the team included Gail Bulfin (Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance); Sam Stephenson (Port Everglades Pilots Association); Eric Roth (Premier Beverage); Bob Ledoux (FECI); Nancy Leikauf (Port Everglades Association); along with staffers from Port Everglades and the Broward Intergovernmental Affairs Division.

Rep. Ray Lake & Port Everglades Advocacy Team
REP. RAY LAKE & PORT EVERGLADES ADVOCACY TEAM
Accompanied by representatives from other Florida Ports, PEAT lobbied to increase the state’s funding allocation to the Florida Seaport and Transportation Economic Development Council (FSTED) from $15 million to $25 million. FSTED is a resource wallet for Florida Seaports. To underwrite other County infrastructure projects (like improvements to the Galt Mile stretch of A1A), they also advocated to fully fund the Florida Department of Transportation’s 5-year Work Program.

Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold
TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY JIM BOXOLD
In addition to visiting Moraitis, team members met with Senate President Andy Gardiner, Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor, Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold, Frank Collins (Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Rick Scott), Statehouse Representatives Lake Ray and Frank Artiles, and several members of the Broward Legislative Delegation (Senators Chris Smith, Eleanor Sobel and Jeremy Ring and Representative Richard Stark). This legislative outreach appears to be coordinated each year with the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) annual “Legislative Day” event, which followed on February 2 - 4. Last year, during a similar expedition with identical objectives, former Broward Mayor Tim Ryan and LaMarca faced a more vigorous one-day schedule, orchestrating 36 meetings with Committee Chairs, key legislators and executive branch officials. For Moraitis’ mid-session message to constituents, read on... - [editor]

 

Moraitis 2016 Mid-Session Newsletter

 

February 2016
Mid-Session Newsletter

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Representative George Moraitis
REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
As we pass the midpoint of the 2016 Florida Legislative Session, I am writing to give you an update on the progress of several important items to our area. This Session we are working diligently to invest in education, to improve our region's infrastructure in order to stimulate job growth, to cut taxes to return money to hard working families, and to implement a comprehensive water and conservation policy for the State.

Port Everglades Expansion

Port Everglades is working on three crucial expansion projects that will create jobs and improve the regional economy as we anticipate the completion of the Panama Canal expansion within the next year. These expansion projects will deepen and widen the channel to accommodate larger ships, add up to five berths, and create an estimated 7,000 new jobs locally and an additional 135,000 jobs statewide over the next 15 years.

Rep. George Moraitis & Port Everglades Advocacy Team
REP. GEORGE MORAITIS & PORT EVERGLADES ADVOCACY TEAM
In connection with this initiative, we were honored to host the Port Everglades Action Team in Tallahassee earlier this month. Composed of leaders of the greater Fort Lauderdale business, government, and education community, the Team did an outstanding job advocating for the improvement of our Port and made an excellent impression in our state capitol.

I am proud to announce that working with the Florida Department of Transportation, Broward County, and Port Everglades, the Florida House Budget passed last week will appropriate over $12 million for these projects in this coming year. We anticipate funding a total of $122 million for Port expansion between now and 2021.

Education Budget

The Florida House showed its commitment to providing a quality education for Florida's students by proposing to increase K-12 per student funding to its highest level ever. The proposed K-12 Education budget passed by the House last week totals $14.2 billion which is a total of $7,231.57 per student. The House budget also includes $20 million for Preeminent State Universities and $10 million for Emerging Preeminent State Universities to encourage our universities to strive for academic and research excellence and offer more high-quality educational opportunities to Floridians.

Education remains a cornerstone to a better future for the children of our state, and the Florida House budget demonstrates our commitment to the promise of an outstanding public education for our students.

Everglades Restoration

Our state is home to many beautiful and critical natural resources that must be protected, foremost of which is the Everglades. Under the House Legacy Florida proposal, $198 million will be provided for Everglades Restoration to preserve its beauty and protect this vital environmental resource for future generations. The proposal allocates $100 million for comprehensive restoration, $32 million for the regional water quality plan and $66 million for Northern Everglades and estuaries protection. The Florida House budget puts into action the expressed desire of many Floridians to restore the Everglades and improve our environment.

Florida House Passes $1 Billion Tax Cut

The proposed House Budget includes a proposed $1 billion tax cut through a reduction in the commercial sales tax on leases to help small businesses, a repeal of the sales tax on manufacturing equipment to help diversify our economy, and a back-to-school sales tax holiday on books, clothing and school supplies. We are proposing relief for individuals and small businesses, while also infusing more money directly into our economy. This tax package will not only help Florida's businesses create jobs, but make Florida a more affordable state to live and raise a family.

It is important that I hear from you as we prepare to finish the legislative session next month and address initiatives to benefit the citizens of our state and local community. Please contact me by phone at 954-762-3757 or by email at george.moraitis@myfloridahouse.gov. It remains my privilege to represent you in our state capitol. God bless you and the great state of Florida.

Sincerely,




State Representative - District 93



 

Click To Top of Page



State Capital
STATE LEGISLATURE
Smash Home Tax February 10, 2016 - During last year’s legislative session in Tallahassee, two Florida Lawmakers proposed bills in the House and Senate that would enhance the profitability of their “day jobs”.
HB 611 was filed by Rep. John Wood (R - Winter Haven) while companion Senate Bill 736 was filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R – Lakeland). Although described by Realtors as the “estoppel certificate” bills, homeowners in more than 46,000 Florida community associations knew the legislation as “The Home Tax”.

Statehouse Representative John Wood
STATEHOUSE REPRESENTATIVE JOHN WOOD
Owners of community association properties must provide buyers or lenders with a statement of their financial status with the association prior to selling or refinancing their homes. The statements prepared for buyers and lenders differ substantially, as lenders additionally solicit information about the association’s financial stability (i.e. insurance coverage, FHA certification status, delinquency levels, funded reserves, rental restrictions, etc.).

Senator Kelli Stargel
SENATOR KELLI STARGEL
In Florida, unit owners are jointly and severally liable with the previous owner for debts on a condominium property. To comply with State law (s. 718.116(8), F.S.), a prospective condo buyer (usually through a realtor or title company) will request the association to verify the property’s status as of a certain date by disclosing assessments or fees due to the association, liens against the property and other outstanding debts. The resulting document is known as an estoppel certificate. Its primary purpose is to protect the association’s other members by insuring that monies due to the association are accounted for in a sale or loan agreement. Florida law allows community associations to charge a “reasonable” fee to prepare an estoppel certificate.

Estoppel Cost Since the estoppel certificate also protects prospective buyers against owner or realtor misrepresentations about legal claims against the property (inadvertent or deliberate), “overly aggressive” realtors view the process as a burdensome sales impediment. Drafted by realtors and financially supported by title companies (more than $2 million helped grease vetting committees), the legislation was designed to flip the script, and shift the cost of preparing estoppel letters from the realtors’ paying customers (homebuyers) to the association’s members (that’s us). A statute created to protect an association’s members would now be used to bleed them.

Lawmaking for the Family Business

Click Here to John Wood Realty website Not surprisingly, Wood is a Winter Haven realtor (John Wood Realty, Inc.) and Stargel operates WWJD Properties and Rustic Properties, Polk County real estate firms she owns with her husband – Broward Circuit Court Judge John Stargel – a manager or managing member in several other real estate companies, including Green Star Properties and Polk Premier Properties.

Click Here to WWJD Corporate Info Although marginally enforced, lawmakers are prohibited from filing legislation from which they, or their family members, derive a financial benefit. After filing 4 bills in 2013 that would have bolstered her income by altering the state’s property laws, when the associated press questioned Stargel about her highly publicized conflict of interest, she denied having violated the ethics rule, claiming that the bills didn’t specifically benefit her“Nothing in this bill is specific to just me, or narrowly drafted in a way that could be construed to just me.” Notwithstanding her somewhat transparent rationalization, the State of Florida would remain oblivious to her conflict, since she omitted her real estate business interests from the financial disclosure form she submitted to the ethics commission. OOPs!

Bad Bill is Back Unit Owners get Bilked Fortunately, the bills were abandoned on April 28, 2015, when a budgetary impasse with the Senate over Medicaid expansion prompted the House to adjourn on the 57th day of the 60-day session. Unfortunately, they’re back. Five months after the bills died on the Calendar, Wood filed House Bill 203 on September 18, 2015. Two months later, on November 3, 2015, Stargel filed a companion bill, Senate Bill 722.

Adulterating a Statute

Estoppel Sign Despite diligent opposition by association advocates from the Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL), the Community Advocacy Network (CAN) and the Community Association Institute (CAI), the bills revive a wish list for Title Company lobbyists and the powerful Realtors Association – and threaten the following association bear traps:

  1. The legislation will prohibit the association from being paid as a condition of delivering the estoppel certificate. Instead, the bill will require that the estoppel fee be paid to the association from the proceeds at closing.

     

    Estoppel Sign The current procedure, which has efficiently protected buyers, lenders and associations, is that the fee is paid at the time the work is done. If the bills become law, when a Realtor orders an estoppel certificate on behalf of a buyer who doesn’t close, the association would be barred from billing the Realtor or the title company that ordered the certificate. Since the legislation mandates that the cost should instead be assessed to the seller, associations will be forced to wait for a sale of the unit to close before they get paid for the work and fees incurred preparing estoppels. If the unit doesn’t close, and the association is unable to collect from the seller – as often occurs when distressed properties are being sold by owners already delinquent on their association obligations – the association is left holding the bag.

    In other words, as title companies solicit numerous estoppels without paying for them, the costs would be shifted to the association, the seller, and ultimately to the association’s members. Even if the sale closes, the bill’s restrictions would require associations to chase down and assess the former owner (good luck with that), and absorb any resulting collection costs as well..

     

  2. Estoppel Sign The bill provides that “An association waives any right to collect any moneys owed in excess of the amounts specified in the estoppel certificate from any person who in good faith relies on the certificate.” As currently worded, this could include the seller.

     

    Current law allows the association to collect delinquent fees from a unit owner, whether or not the debt is recorded in an estoppel certificate. If an assessment or fee is inadvertently omitted from a complex estoppel certificate, this unintentional error would magically wipe out the seller’s debt – which would then be absorbed by the association’s members.

    Unit Owners get Bilked While buyers must rely on the estoppel letter to ascertain the fiscal condition of a unit, that’s not true for a selling unit owner, who by law, is certifiably and independently notified by the association about every maintenance assessment, unpaid fee, outstanding lien, or other association obligations. Since the unit owner does not “in good faith” rely on an estoppel certificate for information about his or her debt to the association, there is no justification for applying the bill’s dogmatic waiver language to a delinquent seller. The estoppel process was conceived as a vehicle for protecting the association’s interest in the property. Capriciously forcing a seller’s neighbors to subsidize his or her debt undermines the existing legislation’s intent.

     

  3. The bill reduces the time that the association must comply with a request for an estoppel certificate from 15 days to 10 days. If the association fails to deliver the completed document within 10 days, the association is barred from collecting a fee for preparing the estoppel certificate.

     

    Estoppel Sign Preparing a complex estoppel often requires more than 10 days, especially when processing multiple past-due assessments, verifying a recently filed lien, determining the debt position of a delinquent property in default of a mortgage, or projecting expenses for a unit in litigation. If the association is even one day late in issuing the certificate, the costs and fees of generating a document to facilitate the Realtor’s closing would be borne by the association’s unit owners.

    Also, since the size and sophistication of community associations varies greatly, small associations with antiquated bookkeeping will find these difficult cases virtually impossible to complete within the abbreviated response time. As such, they will be more vulnerable to the abuse legalized by the legislation.

     

  4. Estoppel Promises The bill caps the amount that can be charged to prepare an estoppel certificate. If no delinquent amounts are owed to the association for the applicable unit, the fee is set at $200 - or $400 if delinquencies must be defined and confirmed. If asked to execute an expedited certificate in less than 3 days, another $100 can be added to the fee.

     

    Fashioning an estoppel letter for a unit that isn’t awash in debt will typically cost less than $400. However, when the unit is rife with delinquencies, burdened with multiple liens or entangled in litigation, the complex estoppels will not only take longer to prepare than allowed by the 10-day deadline, they will cost the association more than the bills’ maximum amount recoverable at closing. When the cost of preparing an estoppel is greater than the amount provided for in the bill, the difference will be force-fed to the association’s unit owners.

 

Blasting the Home Tax

House members demonstrate against bills outside the Capitol
HOUSE MEMBERS DEMONSTRATE AGAINST BILLS OUTSIDE THE CAPITOL
The sponsors had an opportunity to file legislation to help codify a confusing process for their home buying clients. Instead, realtors crafted a vehicle for transferring a business expense to community association homeowners. If a realtor’s client chooses not to close on an association property or an association delivers an estoppel one hour after the deadline, the bill mandates the same consequence. The association must provide the Title Company with a freebie. Not exactly a beacon of consumer protection.

On November 2, 2015, a group of House members and community association officials staged a demonstration outside the Capitol to register their opposition to the bills, and proceeded to smash a brick adorned with the words “Home Tax” Joined by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Rep. Debbie Mayfield, and Rep. Ray Pilon (a Realtor and HOA resident), Rep. Dennis Baxley said, “Any time you are taking money from homeowners, it’s a tax hike.”

Estoppel Cost
SCCA President Roger Kesselbach Smashes Home Tax
KESSELBACH HITS HOME TAX
Calling the bills a ripoff, President Roger Kesselbach of the Space Coast Communities Association – which represents more than 20,000 residential units and their owners in Indian River, St. Lucie, Brevard, Volusia and Orange counties – refuted contentions by realtor lobbyists that associations unnecessarily increase closing costs, explaining “Title companies and real estate agents, who together already make up nearly 80 percent of all real estate closing costs, while estoppel fees account for just 1 percent.” Kesselbach added “And if this Home Tax passes, they will take even more of our hard-earned money.”

Manager’s Association official Mark Anderson
CEOMC DIRECTOR MARK ANDERSON
Click Here to Space Coast Communities Association website Title Association lobbyists also claim the bills were filed in response to consumer complaints. Manager’s Association Executive Director Mark Anderson observed, “Out of 340,000 real estate transactions last year in Florida, there was a grand total of ZERO complaints to the state regulatory body in charge of addressing these types of issues (The Department of Business and Professional Regulation). Doesn’t mean there aren’t bad actors out there, but price-fixing and punishing already struggling homeowners is clearly not the answer and that’s what this bill does.”

Navigating a Tallahassee Tar Pit

Travis Moore
TRAVIS MOORE
Yeline Goin
YELINE GOIN
The House Committees chosen to review Wood’s HB 203 are the Civil Justice Subcommittee, the Business & Professions Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee. It flew through Civil Justice by a vote of 11 Yeas vs. 2 Nays on November 3, 2015. After some modifications, it aced Business & Professions Subcommittee on February 2nd by a vote of 13 Yeas vs. 0 Nays before being referred to Judiciary. In the Senate, Stargel’s SB 722 was referred to the Committee on Regulated Industries, the Committee on Judiciary and the Committee on Fiscal Policy. After squeezing past Regulated Industries on January 13th by a vote of 6 Yeas vs. 4 Nays, the bill was sent to Judiciary.

Click Here to Florida Realtors website Click Here to Florida Land Title Association website While testifying against the bills, Travis Moore of the Community Association Institute (CAI), Yeline Goin of the Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL), and other community association advocates are bumping heads with Title Company lobbyists and the powerful Realtors Association. Although the advocates are chipping away at the legislation’s most egregious provisions, they need help neutralizing the cash liberally distributed to key committee members by their opponents. It’s no coincidence that Stargel is a member of all three Senate Committees “chosen” to review her bill, while Wood sits on two of the three House Committees vetting HB 203.

Click Here to Community Association Leadership Lobby website Click Here to Community Association Institute website A petition opposing the bills is being circulated by the Community Advocacy Network (CAN) and the Community Association Institute (CAI). Entitled “Smash the Home Tax”, it enumerates the bills’ potentially adverse impacts on community associations. Decrying how the legislation would force homeowners to subsidize someone else’s new home purchase in their community; CAN association advocates estimate that the bills would “raise association fees across the state anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent – and in some cases upwards of 30 percent.”

Click Here to Community Association Leadership Lobby website Unless you don’t mind subsidizing realtors’ income with a new line item in the association budget, you might consider weighing in against the bills’ skewed provisions and their sponsors’ nest-feathering agenda. Click Here for information about the CAN Petition and Click Here to the signing page. Altogether, it will take you roughly thirty seconds to help squash this wallet virus – and it’s easier than sending dozens of emails to lawmakers. TRY IT, you'll sleep better!!!

That said, if you prefer getting into this up to your knuckles, below find the email addresses for the Officers and members of the House Judiciary Committee, the next and last stop in the House of Representatives before its sent to the floor. Also available is the contact info for the Senate Committee on Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Fiscal Policy - the two remaining vetting committees in the Senate. Association advocates have informed us that we may soon see some improvement in the House Bill. You can help with that!

Contact Info

Click To Top of Page


To GMCA HOME

To ISSUES INDEX

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2016

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2015

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2014

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2013

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2012

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2011

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2010

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2009

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2008

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2007

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2006

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2005

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2004

To TALLAHASSEE ARCHIVE - 2003

To FIRE SAFETY PAGE

To SHORE PROTECTION PAGE

To EMERGENCY ROOM PAGE

To CITY OF FORT LAUDERDALE PAGE

To FORT LAUDERDALE BUDGET CRISIS PAGE

To BROWARD COUNTY PAGE

To BROWARD COUNTY PROPERTY APPRAISER PAGE

To AUTOMATED EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATOR PAGE

To CALYPSO GASWORKS PAGE

To 32nd STREET ALLEY PAGE

To FLPD CRIME STATISTICS

To MAIN PAGE

To GOVERNANCE

To REPORT CARD

To LAWS & STATUTES

To GOVERNMENT LINKS

Click To Top of Page


GMCA HOME MAIN PAGE Associations Directors Governance Laws & Statutes Issues
Newsletters Calendar Market Page Vendors Forum Report Card Archives Site Map Contact
LINKS PAGE Finance News Weather Government Directions Travel Dining Entertainment Search
Webmaster EPB