The second and final committee week of January was highlighted by Commissioner, and former FHBA President, Bill Truex’s presentation before the Florida House’s Regulatory Reform Subcommittee. Mr. Truex graciously made the trip to Tallahassee to participate in an in-person roundtable on “Streamlining the Building Permit Process”. Florida House of Representative’s staff had previously reached out to FHBA this past summer to collect ideas on how to expedite the building permit process or rather – keep builders building during the pandemic.
Mr. Truex did a fantastic job conveying the importance of moving to electronic permitting, explaining why layering is detrimental to timelines, and stating the need for one-stop permitting. Additionally, Mr. Truex described the frustration with jurisdictions that require builder and owner contracts with building permit applications. The requirement of proprietary information to be submitted to cities and counties who are subject to the Sunshine Law obviously rubbed some legislators the wrong way. FHBA has filed legislation to fix this issue (included in HB 401 by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff); however, we expect to see similar language in the House’s Regulatory Reform Subcommittee bill.
In addition, we were pleasantly surprised by some of the responses from building officials across the state. One official from the City of Orlando stated that one of the biggest friction points is that both the Florida Building Code and the Fire Prevention Code are developed in two separate silos. FHBA agrees with this notion enthusiastically, and we have conveyed our frustration to the State’s Chief Financial Officer. Further, a planning and development official from the City of St. Petersburg stated that a three-year code cycle is too short and not enough time for inspectors to grasp the changes- even going as far as to propose a five-year code cycle.
Please visit House Video Player: House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee – January 27, 2021 (myfloridahouse.gov) to watch the one-hour roundtable with the Florida House’s Regulatory Reform Subcommittee and our very own, Bill Truex.
The committee week was rounded out by the successful passage of the Senate’s COVID-19 Liability Protections legislation by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg) through its first Senate Committee hearing (Judiciary Committee). Senate Bill 72 looks to create civil liability protections for individuals, businesses, and other organizations against COVID-19 related claims.
The bill establishes two requirements:
- The complaint must be pled with particularity (a negligence pleading), &
- the complaint must be submitted with a physician’s affidavit that shows that the physician believes that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s damages, injury, or death.
From there, the court determines whether the defendant made a good faith effort to abide health and safety guidelines. If the court determines a good faith effort was made, the case is dismissed. Conversely, if the court determines the defendant did not make a good faith effort, actions may proceed.
SB 72 “COVID-19 Liability Protection” passed via a partisan vote; 7-4 (vote count attached). We expect the remaining committees to have similar counts. Its house companion, HB 7 by Representative Lawrence McClure (R – Plant City), passed its first committee two weeks ago and is currently scheduled for Wednesday’s (2/3) House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee. If you have any examples of businesses in the construction industry who are already facing COVID-19 lawsuits, please contact Dane Bennett at email@example.com.
Today marks the first day of three consecutive committee weeks in preparation for 2021’s 60-day Legislative Session, beginning March 2nd. We will continue to update you on key legislation making its way through both chambers, including our priorities: Impact Fees (HB 337 and SB 750), Construction Defects Reform (HB 21 and SB 270) and Florida Building Codes (HB 401). Please stay tuned!