Legislative Update - March 2018

Thursday, March 8, 2018

2018 Florida Legislature - Week Eight Feb. 26 - March 3, 2018

Week Eight at the Capitol

Legislators rolled out numerous bills, proposals, and amendments dealing with school safety, gun control, mental health, resource officers and more last week. There were sit ins by anti-gun proponents and hours and hours of tearful testimony from shooting survivors, families of victims, friends, law enforcement and supporters. Decorum was lost in the Senate on February 26 amid shouts, chants, and disregard for normal rules in the Senate Rules Committee. For the first time we can remember, decorum rules were abandoned as legislators allowed the audience to take control of the meeting.

Emotions ran high. The Governor and legislators expressed their total engagement in looking for solutions to gun violence and mass shootings. Legislators' offices were inundated with phone calls calling for action. The shooting violence issues put most everything else on the back burner until March 1 and 2, when in a last push the Senate agendaed 54 bills for their 3-hour committee meeting and the Appropriations Committee scheduled over 30 bills for a hearing on March 2.

Formal budget talks in conference subcommittees between the House and Senate began on February 28 and ended on March 2, with unresolved issues getting bumped up to Chairs of Committees over the weekend. Everything was to be settled by Senate leaders on Sunday, March 4.

We are now in amendment mode. All day every day we are reading amendments to bills to make sure that nothing damaging for you gets amended onto a bill. The field is starting to narrow and only the bills that are on Senate and House Calendars next week have a chance of passing the Legislature this year.

Session is supposed to end on Friday, March 9. To get where they need to be, the Senate met on Saturday, March 3 primarily to discuss the school safety bill.

Workers Compensation

It is looking like the only workers compensation bills that will pass this Session are CS/CS/CS/HB 227 and CS/CS/SB 376 which approves the use of workers comp funds for treatment of PTSD in first responders. Supporters shared statistics on suicides among first responders and they were alarming. CS/CS/CS/HB 227 Workers Comp passed the House Government Accountability Committee on February 26, was considered by the full House on March 2, and was placed on Third Reading in the House for March 5. The Senate bill passed the Senate on March 3, during a rare Saturday Session.

Tax Cut Bills

The corporate income tax bill, that adopts or departs from federal tax laws is SB 502. It also sets up a study to determine impacts of the federal bill on Florida. The bill was on Special Order in the Senate on March 2. HB 7093, the companion, was heard in the House on March 2 and placed on Third Reading.

CS/HB 7087, the House tax cut bill, rolled to third reading in the House on March 2. It still contains a reduction in sales tax on business leases and rents by .3%, sales tax holidays for disaster preparedness and school supplies, and a sales tax exemption for building materials purchased for non-residential agricultural buildings and agricultural fencing materials between certain dates. These sales tax exemptions are available as a refund of sales taxes paid.

In the Senate, CS/CS/SB 620 Disaster Preparedness Tax Exemption, became the Senate "tax package." Amended onto it were provisions that reduce the business rent tax by .1%; establishes sales tax holidays for clothing, school supplies and disaster preparedness; and provides the sales tax exemption for agricultural building and fencing materials.

Permitting

CS/CS/SB 1144 Permit Fees requires counties to post their permit and inspection fees on their websites, and more. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 27.

Construction Defects

CS/CS/SB 536 addresses two issues regarding the timeframes for bringing a lawsuit based on a defect in the design, planning, or construction of a building or other improvement to real property. First, the bill specifies that a person who is served with a pleading may file a related counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim within 1 year, regardless of whether the filing of the claim would otherwise be time barred. Second, the bill causes the timeframes for filing a construction-defect lawsuit to begin and end sooner, in some circumstances, than under current law. Both under the bill and current law, the timeframes in which a property owner may file a construction-defect lawsuit begin to run at the latest of four events set forth in statute. One of these events is the completion of the construction contract.

Recent case law suggests that such a contract is not complete, and thus the timeframes for bringing a lawsuit cannot begin to run, until all punch-list or other follow-up work is complete. The bill substantially counters this case law by effectively providing that a construction contract performed pursuant to a building permit is complete when a final certificate of occupancy or certificate of completion is issued. After that point, the correction or repair of completed work that is within the scope of the building permit and final certificate does not delay the running of the timeframes in which a construction-defect action may be filed.

The Florida Home Builders support this bill. The bill passed Senate Rules on March 1 and is on the Senate Calendar for action.

When Will Session End?

The last scheduled day of the Regular Session is Friday, March 9. We never know if it will end on time and this year is no exception. Stay tuned on that! In the meantime you will find us reading amendments and watching the Senate and House in Session to make sure they don't surprise us!

FBMA Watch List

FBMA has 29 bills on its 2018 Legislative Watch List. You can see a list of the bills and status here.

Nancy Stephens, CAE, DPL 3/8/2018

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