2015 Legislative Session Update: Week One
The 2015 Legislative Session has begun; for the next 60 days FAA will be working with lawmakers to advocate for the multifamily industry and to fight proposed legislation that could be harmful to our industry.
FAA is pursuing two main legislative priorities in 2015: full funding for affordable housing and expanding the allowable repairs that can be performed by maintenance professionals. The priorities were selected by FAA members at the Legislative Platform meeting in December, and in February more than 150 FAA members from across Florida gathered in Tallahassee to present our issues to legislators and to hear updates on what the 2015 legislative session will look.
In case you were unable to attend the FAA Legislative Conference last month, let me bring you up to speed on the details of these priorities and how they are shaping up in the legislature.
FAA’s first legislative priority is full funding for affordable housing. Since 1992, affordable housing in Florida has been funded by a dedicated revenue source paid by documentary stamp taxes (doc stamps) on all real estate transactions. These funds are given out as loans and all funds go back into the community: 30 percent to initiatives such as the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program, and 70 percent to single-family housing initiatives.
A portion of doc stamp funds goes into the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Sadowski funds are allocated for affordable housing but may be swept into the state’s general fund to pay for other priorities. In November, 75% of voters approved Amendment One, which mandates annual funding for environmental programs such as Everglades restoration. While this is an important issue, FAA believes we can protect Florida’s environment without hurting affordable housing programs.
Two bills regarding funding for Amendment One, SB 586 and HB 1291, could affect housing funding. SB 586 was discussed during our legislative conference and FAA supports SB 586 with Sen. Smith’s amendment 399872. FAA also supports the current HB 1291 to fix Florida’s environment without hurting affordable housing. FAA will keep you posted on he progress of these bills as they are heard in committee. For more detailed information on each bill visit the Sadowski Coalition site here.
Our second industry priority is expanding the allowable repairs maintenance professionals can perform. Apartment communities rely on maintenance professionals to perform a variety of repairs each day, and FAA is seeking a legislative strategy to protect apartment owners/managers and maintenance workers. Currently, maintenance workers in Florida are restricted from performing many basic repairs. Owners and managers risk being fined when work is not performed by a licensed technician or contractor. Many maintenance workers are highly experienced and able to perform repairs beyond the current allowable scope but are not allowed to perform these duties per Florida Statute 489.103. FAA proposes to amend Florida statute to allow maintenance workers holding a Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technicians (CAMT), and those working under the supervision of a CAMT holder, to perform many basic HVAC and water heater repairs. These repairs are often urgently needed on site and hiring a licensed contractor can be costly and time-consuming.
FAA’s lobbyists are currently seeking support and sponsorship for our draft legislation and FAA will keep you posted on details as they develop.
FAA is also monitoring several bills that have the ability to impact our industry. Some of these issues include a bill relating to service animals (HB 071, SB 414), which tightens penalties for those who falsely claim a pet is a service animal; and a bill that would allow apartment communities to state on their lease that the property requires rental insurance (HB 661, SB 666). FAA is researching a proposed playground inspection bill (SB 504) which could impose mandatory annual playground inspections.this bill currently has no House companion. Additionally, FAA is closely monitoring HB 643 which revises procedures and requirements for termination of condominium property (fractured communities). These are just a few examples of the many bills FAA is monitoring. As the session progresses, please stay tuned to these updates to find out what other bills FAA is working to promote or defeat.
As session has only begun this week very few bills and issues have been heard in committee and there is not too much progress to report. Affordable housing funds, taxes, education costs, and medical funding will most likely take center stage in 2015.