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Official Web Site of the State of Florida
STATE OF FLORIDA WEB SITE
Every year, we send an assortment of well-educated men and women to Florida’s State Capitol to represent us. They speak for us, act on our behalf, educate themselves about importatnt issues, learn how to work together and try to execute productive resolutions. If they like the job, they run for re-election. Sometimes, their reasons for being there differ from those given to their constituents prior to Election Day; their actions become inconsistent with their promises while questions about their legislative intentions are buried in a blizzard of platitudes. When this occurs, its usually a good time to consider “changing the guard”.

Official Seal of the State of Florida
STATE OF FLORIDA
To be effective, politicians must master a spectrum of communication skills. The art of defining an issue and exhorting the need for a piece of palliative legislation in the same breath is known as “spin”. Depending on how its utilized, “spin” can be either a tool or a weapon; it can rally support for a good cause or create just enough confusion to allow a fox into the henhouse.

Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca
REP. CHIP LaMARCA
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 FORMER FLORIDA CFO JEFFREY ATWATER IN TALLAHASSEE

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

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2019 Articles

Decmber 2018 LaMarca Letter

ELSS 2019 - A New Plan

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ELSS Update

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ELSS: Bumps in the Road

April & May 2019 LaMarca Letters

ELSS: Chasing the Wolf

August 2019 LaMarca Legislative Update

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ELSS Retrofit Bills

ELSS Progress Update

April ELSS Update

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Florida Politics


2019 Legislative Session



Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca

Vacation Rental Scam; Beach Funding Plan; ELSS Deadline Dodge

Commentary

Click to January 2018 LaMarca Letter
District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip Lamarca
DISTRICT 93 REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
August 25, 2019 - In his August 2019 Legislative update, District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca reviews 9 bills with local high-profile impacts, including 3 that specifically resonate with his Galt Mile constituents. These include a long-delayed Coastal Management bill, bogus Vacation Rental legislation and a bill that staves off the huge cost of an ELSS retrofit.

Beach Bankbook

Broward Natural Resource Administrator Nicole Sharp
BROWARD NATURAL RESOURCE
ADMINISTRATOR NICOLE SHARP
Former Broward Beach Administrator Eric Myers
FORMER BROWARD BEACH
ADMINISTRATOR ERIC MYERS
While representing his District 4 beachfront constituency on the Broward Board, Chip LaMarca was annually recruited by his Democrat Commission peers to carry the County’s Legislative wish list to Republican Tallahassee. Since Broward’s tourism economy is largely dependent on the health of its beaches, the Legislative agenda annually coveted a reliable State vehicle for funding coastal maintenance.

For eight years, LaMarca bounced back and forth between Tallahassee and Washington DC with Beach Gurus Eric Myers and Nicole Sharp, unraveling State and Federal beach renourishment obstacles. As a rookie lawmaker, LaMarca co-sponsored House Bill 325, Coastal Management legislation that replaces a skewed pork-driven ranking system with a long-term beach and inlet management plan based on measurable tidal damage.

Vacation Rental Bingo

Former Statehouse Representative Michael Horner
FORMER REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL HORNER
Click to Airbnb HELL To fatten its bottom line, in 2011, the $38 billion vacation rental goliath Airbnb paid former Statehouse Representative Michael Horner (R - Kissimmee) - and key vetting committee chairs - to enact House Bill 883, which preempted cities and counties from prohibiting or regulating short term rentals. Since the ill-conceived prohibition was absolute, speculating landlords drawn to an unregulated operating environment seeded scores of residential neighborhoods with short-stay flop houses. Horner later resigned when police discovered his name in the client list of an Orange County brothel. Since a revolving door of transients in homes functioning as commercial properties creates a security risk that slashes neighborhood home values, the Airbnb statute essentially authorized otherwise illegal blockbusting tactics.

Statehouse Representative James “J.W.” Grant
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES “J.W.” GRANT
Two vacation rental bills were filed in 2019. Rejected by every Florida City and County and scores of neighborhood associations, House Bill 987 by James "J.W." Grant (R - Tampa) would further strip local governments and community associations of the right to regulate vacation rentals. It would serve as a prelude to overturning community association rental rules.

Tenants from Hell Trash Rental
TENANTS FROM HELL TRASH RENTAL
Opposed to the Airbnb-supported House Bill 987, LaMarca filed competing House Bill 1129, which would create licensing requirements for vacation rentals, and empower the DBPR's Division of Hotels and Restaurants to refuse, revoke, or block license renewals for non-compliant short-term rental venues. However, since both bills failed to reverse the local government regulatory preemption, they were left stranded on the Calendar.

ELSS Retrofit Relief

Click to ELSS Update Aware of its status as a hot-button issue on the Galt Mile, LaMarca applauds language in House Bill 7103 that eliminates a December 31, 2019 ELSS installation deadline and provides high-rise association homeowners with 4 legislative opportunities to quash a $multi-billion ELSS retrofit requirement. He notes how a data pull provision will dramatically refute claims by sprinkler lobbyists that the ELSS mandate only impacts a handful of Florida homeowners. It will also anchor a Declaratory Statement that clarifies whether bureaucrats can leverage an Administrative Code to violate State Law. For Representative Chip LaMarca’s August 2019 Legislative Update, read on... – [editor]

 

Best Wishes,


Representative Chip LaMarca
Florida House District 93

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Ellyn Bogdanoff to House Commerce Committee
ELLYN BOGDANOFF TO COMMERCE COMMITTEE
Governor Ron DeSantis signs HB 7103
GOVERNOR RON DeSANTIS SIGNS HB 7103
July 15, 2019 - The latest chapter of a seventeen-year scam to extort $billions from high-rise association homeowners was closed on June 28, 2019, when Governor
Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 7103. Florida associations facing a December 31, 2019 ELSS retrofit deadline can take a deep breath. Despite the massive resources committed in 2019 by the Fire Sprinkler Associations seeking to realize their planned jackpot, association advocate Ellyn Bogdanoff, Miami Beach Representative Michael Grieco, Miami Senator Jason Pizzo and St. Petersburg Senator Jeff Brandes managed to chase the wolf from the door.

Click Here to Florida Association of Condominiums to Support Self-Determination
GMCA President Pio Ieraci addresses House Commerce Committee
PIO IERACI TO HOUSE COMMERCE COMMITTEE
Galt Mile officials and residents repeatedly flew to Tallahassee and testified in vetting committees while tens of thousands of supportive emails, letters, phone calls and faxes from Florida association homeowners (members of the statewide FACTSS advocacy organization) swamped legislative committee members and other key lawmakers. This unfunded mandate tramples the right of association homeowners to most productively allocate collective resources for the protection of their home and families. This issue isn’t about Fire Safety, although it should be.

Former Fire Chief & Fire Marshal Jim Van Drunen Supports ELSS Opt-Out Legislation
FORMER FIRE CHIEF & FIRE PREVENTION OFFICER
JIM VAN DRUNEN SUPPORTS ELSS OPT-OUT LEGISLATION
Click Here to National Fire Protection Association Refuting self-serving lobbyist fairy tales in his vetting committee testimony, Point of Americas resident Jim Van Drunen observed that the fire safety features in targeted steel-reinforced concrete structures are continuously upgraded and have been approved every year by the local Fire Marshal after stringent annual fire-safety inspections. A former Fire Chief, Fire Prevention Officer and former member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), (Van Drunen exclaimed “The ELSS law is not about safety, it’s about money, in my opinion, and it is huge overkill for massive profits for unions and contractors. I see it as a solution in search of a problem.”

Fort Lauderdale Fire & Safety Museum
FORT LAUDERDALE FIRE & SAFETY MUSEUM
Complementing his top-down experience with every facet of fire safety, Van Drunen taught the subject in two colleges, served as a fire codes consultant in several municipalities and is a founder of the Fort Lauderdale Fire & Safety Museum. Every committee in which Van Drunen deflated lobbying dogma with hard facts and common sense overwhelmingly approved the opt-out legislation.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas
FORT LAUDERDALE FIRE MARSHAL JEFF LUCAS
Remarking that an ELSS will not save any resident trapped in a fire at a meeting with Regency Tower officials, Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas noted that Engineered Life Safety Systems were conceived to benefit visiting firefighters, and afford little protection for homeowners in otherwise code compliant buildings. The following update is summary and epilogue to the more detailed Galt Mile ELSS reports in February, April and May, 2019.

ELSS 2019: Preparing for 2020 Endgame

Representative Michael Grieco
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIECO
Senator Jason Pizzo
STATE SENATOR JASON PIZZO
Seeking to lock down a $multi-billion windfall in the 2019 legislative session, the Fire Sprinkler Associations cracked open their bottomless wallet and took the offensive. While recruiting legislative ringers (State Senator Ed Hooper and Representative Byron Donalds) to file opposing bills, lobbyists prepared to block ELSS opt-out legislation in the Senate by leveraging political capital to buy several vetting committee chairs. Their skewed bills, which threatened non-compliant association homeowners with $500 daily penalties, were both DOA by April 25.

Senator Ed Hooper
STATE SENATOR ED HOOPER
Representative Byron Donalds
REPRESENTATIVE BYRON DONALDS
Once Statehouse Representative Michael Grieco's ELSS opt-out bill (HB 647) was overwhelmingly approved in the full House by a vote of 103 Yeas vs. 7 Nays and forwarded to the Senate on April 26, leery Fire Sprinkler Associations expanded their lobbying team with high-priced Tallahassee powerhouse Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting (CCC), whose specialties include manipulating legislation.

Click to Capital City Consulting
Super Lobbyist Nick Iarossi
SUPER LOBBYIST NICK IAROSSI
Using Iarossi’s playbook, Hooper filed a “Strike-All Amendment” in the Senate, replacing the opt-out language in HB 647 with the predatory demands of his ill-fated bill (SB 908), including the $500 per day levy on non-compliant associations. Abandoning the now-tainted HB 647, Bogdanoff, Grieco and Senator Jeff Brandes - a bill supporter - amended the opt-out text into controversial House Bill 7103 (HB 7103), which primarily addressed Community Development & Housing. (See May 2019 Galt Mile ELSS Update).

Red and Yellow Tags
Florida Senator Jeff Brandes
FLORIDA SENATOR JEFF BRANDES
To prevent Hooper from using "Points of Order" to block approval of HB 7103, Bogdanoff, Grieco and Brandes negotiated a compromise with Hooper as the legislative session concluded. They agreed to drop the opt-out language in exchange for extending the December 31, 2019 ELSS installation deadline to January 1, 2024, thereby stopping overzealous local Fire Marshals from threatening to “red tag” associations that miss the December deadline while providing association homeowners with 4 additional legislative opportunities to approve an ELSS opt-out bill.

Click Here to Office of State Fire Marshal To debunk contrived claims by Fire Sprinkler Association lobbyists that the retrofit mandate only impacts a few associations, Bogdanoff included a provision that requires the Division of State Fire Marshal to collect data on the 4,037 Florida Associations that legally opted out of a full fire sprinkler retrofit, and submit those findings to the Governor, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House. Bogdanoff’s team also helped kill two opposing bills, and thwarted a roadblock staged by two Senate Committee Chairs who refused to schedule a hearing for Senator Jason Pizzo’s companion opt-out bill (SB 1152).

Click to ELSS Update
Florida Senate
FLORIDA SENATE
Approved by the full Senate on May 3 by a vote of 26 Yeas vs. 13 Nays, the newly amended HB 7103 was then passed in the House by a floor vote of 66 Yeas vs. 42 Nays, engrossed, enrolled and forwarded to the Governor's desk. For two months after the 2019 legislative session ended on May 3, Governor DeSantis signed hundreds of bills into law. HB 7103 was among the final seven bills approved by the Governor.

Although the data pull may generate a sterling opportunity to quash this rip-off in court, preparations are underway to bring an end to this threat during the 2020 legislative session, the first of four possible bites at the apple.

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Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca

Vacation Rentals; Sales Tax; Environment Bill; Firefighter Health

Commentary

Click to January 2018 LaMarca Letter
District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip Lamarca
DISTRICT 93 REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
May 27, 2019 - In his late-session legislative updates, District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca’s April message distinguishes between Vacation Rental bills that empower local governments to protect home values and those that destroy residential communities. In his May report, LaMarca announces the approval of Sales Tax Holiday events that offer tax-free hurricane preparedness supplies, school supplies and clothing; notes new funding for tighter clean water standards, Everglades Restoration, Beach Renourishment and other critical environmental priorities long neglected by the previous administration; and applauds passage of a comprehensive firefighter cancer benefits program that will help plug a gap in the nationwide safety net for afflicted firefighters.

Vacation Rentals Dilemma

Click Here to Airbnb While short-term vacation rentals can be a win-win for visiting tourists and local landlords, if they aren’t properly regulated, they can undermine the security (and home values) in a Condominium, Cooperative, Homeowner Association or entire nrighborhood, increase the tax burden on their residents, and endanger prospective tenants. While few homeowners will complain if a nice family rents the property next door for the season, they will understandably object if the same property is used by a slime ball to set up a Meth Lab.

Tallahassee Regulatory Tug-of-War
TALLAHASSEE REGULATORY TUG-OF-WAR
The vacation rental market has long contributed to the State's tourism economy, although sea changes during the past decade triggered a growing controversy. When upside down mortgages left families insolvent during the recession, speculators who swooped in to graze on hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes either quickly flipped selected properties or funded carrying costs with short-stay rental income. It was no coincidence that these rentals expanded epidemically near popular vacation sites like Orlando and along coastal tourism Meccas like Miami and Fort Lauderdale. This overnight proliferation of homes in residential neighborhoods that functionally serve as commercial flop houses set the stage for a regulatory tug-of-war in Tallahassee.

Tenants from Hell Trash Rental
TENANTS FROM HELL TRASH RENTAL
Some of the new landlords applied for state and local lodging licenses although many did not. Local taxes collected from tourists by hotels, bed & breakfasts or vacation rentals support the maintenance of roads & infrastructure - and help fund local public services (i.e. police, fire, EMS, etc.) - which are used by millions of visiting tourists each year. Since these expenses are otherwise funded with taxpayer dollars, when landlords who operate functionally commercial properties fail to collect sales and “tourism” taxes (or pocket those revenues), you pay the resulting shortfall. Also, stringent building code and fire-safety standards mandated for licensed venues don’t protect “customers” in these unregulated overnight flops. Dozens of people are allowed to reside in rooms legally zoned for 2 people, with turnover allowed on a daily basis.

Erasing Local Laws

Zoning laws ordinarily protect home values by preserving the character of residential neighborhoods; and prohibiting homeowners from turning adjacent properties - or condominium / cooperative units - into industrial or commercial venues. In contrast, vacation rental advocates claim that homeowners have the right to use their properties as they see fit, even if it morphs thriving neighborhoods into ghost towns. By operating transient motels as vacation rentals, speculators dodge compliance with these zoning laws to make a fast buck - at the expense of nearby home values.

Click Here to Airbnb Click Here to HomeAway While Florida lawmakers struggled to balance the right of investors to turn a profit, the right of association homeowners to protect their home values and residential character, and the right of local governments to regulate local businesses - the playing field was turned on its head by the emergence of Airbnb, HomeAway and other “sharing” services that enable any homeowner to list a property, a spare bedroom - or a damp mattress on the garage floor - on the internet (HomeAway was acquired by Expedia for $3.9 billion in December of 2015). Since the listing companies’ online rental transactions are nearly impossible to track, speculators that operate “below the radar” often ignore licensing requirements and community association rental rules while dodging compliance with local laws - frustrating local governments - and taxpayers forced to pick up the fiscal slack.

Buying Blockbusting Lawmakers

Former Statehouse Representative Michael Horner
FORMER REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL HORNER
The $38 billion vacation rental goliath Airbnb dispatched lobbyists to purchase lawmakers in key markets and charged them with shielding its business model from meddlesome local regulations. Amid a blizzard of Airbnb legal actions against Florida jurisdictions perceived as “uncooperative”, former Statehouse Representative Michael Horner (R - Kissimmee) spearheaded company plans to mute local governments, filing House Bill 883.

Enacted on June 2, 2011, the law preempted cities and counties from prohibiting or regulating short term rentals. As a concession to millions of angry homeowners, municipal officials and and the Florida League of Cities, Horner agreed to grandfather local regulations adopted prior to June 1, 2011. Horner later resigned following discovery of his name on the client list of an Orange County brothel.

Following a statewide outcry by local governments, in 2014, the legislature passed Senate Bill 356, which eased the broad state preemption on regulation of vacation rentals, allowing local governments to regulate short-term rentals through life safety and building codes, but Section 509.032(7), Florida Statutes, preserved the prohibition on local governments against regulating the duration and frequency of these rentals, or enforcing zoning laws that bar the commercialization of residential neighborhoods - and community associations.

2019 Bad Bills

Senator Manny Diaz, Jr.
SENATOR MANNY DIAZ, JR.
Statehouse Representative James “J.W.” Grant
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES “J.W.” GRANT
Focused on obliterating any threat to its bottom line, AirBNB spends 100s of $millions in Florida jurisdictions to quash local laws that protect the rights of its residents. Early each year, AirBNB goes shopping in Tallahassee. In 2019, they bought Statehouse Representative James “J.W.” Grant (R - Port Charlotte) and Florida Senator Manny Diaz, Jr. (R - Hialeah), who filed bills to eliminate the limited rights of local governments to regulate vacation rentals. Grant filed House Bill 987 and Diaz sponsored Senate Bill 824.

Since randomly turning homes into unregulated flop joints would also endanger lawmakers’ families, enlighted self-interest doomed these bills to death on the calendar. Less encouraging is the fact that AirBNB will once again go shopping in December for more lawmakers willing to disenfranchise their constituents for a quick buck - and refile a 2020 version of their mercenary legislation. Read on for Representative Chip LaMarca’s April and May 2019 constituent updates. – [editor]

 

The LaMarca Letter

April 19, 2019 Update

Vacation Rentals

District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca
DISTRICT 93 STATEHOUSE
REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
I filed HB 1129 in order to provide greater accountability and transparency for the short-term rentals industry, by expanding the definition of “hosting platform”. It would require the license number to be displayed in all advertising rentals, and list information in regards to the short-term rental property. This bill will combat the unlicensed commercial operators from developing in the community. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation to would collect information relating to booking short-term rentals, along with informing the city where the property resides, in order to protect our communities from commercial interests.

However HB 987, in regards to vacation rentals, does not hold the same level of accountability that the State of Florida needs. I am not in support of this bill.


Click to Executive Office of Management Companies (EOMC) Executive Director Mark Anderson and Representative Chip LaMarca


Please CLICK HERE to watch my Legislative Update with Chief Executive Office of Management Companies.


May 17, 2019 Update

Sales Tax Holidays

The 2019 Legislative Session had concluded, and my first as your State Representative, I wanted to update you on several important legislative items.

Once again, the Florida House delivered for Florida’s families by passing over $121 million in broad-based tax cuts. Working closely with our Senate partners, we fulfilled our commitment to bring meaningful tax relief to Florida’s families and small businesses.

The Legislature approved another Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday from August 2-6, 2019 where clothing priced $60 or less, school supplies $15 or less, and computers and accessories priced $1,000 or less per item and purchased for personal use will be exempt from state and local sales tax. The tax package also called for another 7-day Hurricane Sales Tax Holiday where sales taxes will be waived for many disaster preparedness supplies including flashlights, portable generators, and batteries from May 31 – June 6, 2019.

Environmental Priorities

I am proud of the House’s commitment, along with the Governor, to provide real environmental funding. Our balanced state budget funds a number of critical environmental priorities, including $686.8 million dedicated to water quality and protection. $50 million is dedicated for water storage and treatment projects North of Lake Okeechobee, along with funded research that will help prevent harmful algae and red tide by creating the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative. Also, we were successful in receiving $40 million in reoccurring annual statewide beach nourishment funding.

Firefighter Benefits Bill

Representative Chip LaMarca Applauds Bill Protecting Firefighters
REP. CHIP LAMARCA APPLAUDS FIREFIGHTERS BILL
This Legislature was able to accomplish what none other was able since 2004 – pass a comprehensive firefighter cancer benefits program. Nationwide, 70% of firefighter line-of-duty deaths in 2016, was cancer-related. This bill grants certain benefits to a firefighter upon receiving a diagnosis of cancer. This is a great victory for our brave men and women who protect and serve our communities every day and I was proud to be a cosponsor and vocal advocate of this great legislation.

Governor signs Firefighter Benefits Bill
GOVERNOR SIGNS FIREFIGHTER BENEFITS BILL
Last week, I had the honor of attending the Firefighter Benefits Bill signing in Palm Beach with the Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. As the Statewide Fire Marshall, CFO Patronis was the biggest advocate for getting this important bill passed. Also in attendance, was former CFO Jeff Atwater who originally filled this bill in 2004 as a state Senator from Palm Beach.

As always, it is an honor to serve you as your State Representative in Tallahassee.

Best Wishes,


Representative Chip LaMarca
Florida House District 93

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Representative Michael Grieco
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIECO
GMCA President Pio Ieraci addresses House Commerce Committee
PIO IERACI TO HOUSE COMMERCE COMMITTEE
May 16, 2019 - On April 18, 2019, testimony from bill sponsor Representative
Michael Grieco (D - Miami Beach), Galt Mile President Pio Ieraci and Association Advocate Ellyn Bogdanoff convinced the House Commerce Committee to approve opt-out House Bill 647 (HB 647) by a vote of 19 Yeas vs. 1 Nay, after which it was sent to the full House for a floor vote.

Senator Ed Hooper
STATE SENATOR ED HOOPER
Community Affairs Committee Chair Senator Anitere Flores
COMMUNITY AFFAIRS CHAIR ANITERE FLORES
By April 25, Senator Ed Hooper’s (R - Palm Harbor) punitive Senate Bill 908 (SB 908) was DOA, as its companion House Bill 723 (HB 723) was frozen on the calendar in the other chamber. These skewed bills sought to levy a $500 per day penalty for high-rise associations that fail to install an Engineered Life-Safety System (ELSS) by the statutory deadline.

The full House approved HB 647 by a vote of 103 Yeas vs. 7 Nays on April 26. While our opt-out bill was overwhelmingly supported in the House, Hooper leveraged the Senate’s “Old Boy Network”, bartering political capital to buy two of the three vetting committee chairs in the Senate, who stalled our companion Senate Bill 1152 (SB 1152) in their respective committees (Community Affairs; Rules). To circumvent this roadblock, Rep. Grieco sent his successful House Bill 647 directly to the Senate for its approval, obviating the legislation’s reliance on the frozen companion Senate Bill.

Hooper Runs a Shell Game

Super Lobbyist Nick Iarossi
SUPER LOBBYIST NICK IAROSSI
Fearful of the opt-out bill’s growing momentum, Hooper colluded with Fire Sprinkler Association lobbyists to derail HB 647 if it passed in the House. Dipping into the Fire Sprinkler Association’s bottomless wallet, they retained high-powered Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting (CCC) - among the State’s most powerful lobbying juggernauts (along with Southern Strategy Group (SSG), Ballard Partners and Ron Book). By manipulating rules and purchasing lawmakers, CCC specializes in capsizing legislation. For an astronomical fee, CCC built Hooper a protocol trap door with a set of instructions.

Click to Capital City Consulting When the “House-approved” opt-out bill was sent to the Senate, Hooper countered by filing what’s called a “Strike-All Amendment”, which substitutes new language for the bill’s existing text. Hooper’s amendment replaced the opt-out language with the predatory demands of his ill-fated SB 908, including the $500 per day non-compliance penalty.

Click to ELSS Update He additionally salted in a few land mines. Hooper sought to functionally neuter an existing statutory provision that had empowered association homeowners to legally forgo a full fire sprinkler retrofit, a maneuver that could cripple future efforts to enact an ELSS opt-out and shield abusive local fire marshals who exceed their authority.

As the session winds down each year, scores of scrambling lawmakers with legislation stranded on committee calendars desperately try to amend their otherwise doomed provisions into any surviving bill. One consequence is the formation of “trains” - huge eclectic bills that blend productive provisions with half-baked measures and pork-pie rip-offs. Each issue added to a train requires another approval in both chambers. These questionably vetted mega-bills are added to the hundreds of last-minute votes already scheduled on the House or Senate floor. As a result, frenzied lawmakers often rubber-stamp scores of bills they know nothing about. Exploiting the attendant confusion, Hooper solicited Senate approval for the hijacked opt-out bill as Friday afternoon came to a close – too late for a challenge.

Bogdanoff Battles Back

Florida Senator Jeff Brandes
FLORIDA SENATOR JEFF BRANDES
Since Hooper morphed HB 647 into swill, Bogdanoff met with lawmakers and bill proponents to craft a salvage plan. After futile discussions with a recalcitrant Hooper, they decided to ditch the mutated HB 647 and recruit an alternative vehicle for its key provisions. On May 2, Senator Jeff Brandes (R - St. Petersburg) twice attempted to amend the opt-out language into House Bill 7103 (HB 7103), a Housing and Development bill that was passed by the full House and poised for Senate approval.

Click Here to Florida Fire Prevention Code When a Point of Order raised by Hooper forced Brandes to withdraw his amendments, Bogdanoff brokered a compromise. Although another amendment offered by Brandes on May 3 lacked the opt-out language, it extended the installation deadline from December 31, 2019 to January 1, 2024. Bogdanoff’s response would stop certain local Fire Marshals from threatening to “red tag” associations that missed the approaching installation deadline, add four additional opportunities to enact an ELSS opt-out, debunk bogus testimony by fire sprinkler lobbyists that the mandate only affects a handful of Floridians, and refute the legal basis for the State Fire Marshal’s current policy.

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis
FLORIDA CFO JIMMY PATRONIS
The amendment requires the Office of State Fire Marshal to collect data on the 4,037 Florida Associations that legally opted out of a full fire sprinkler retrofit, and submit those findings to the Governor, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House. Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS The data would be predicate to a request for a Declaratory Statement by Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis (AKA - State Fire Marshal). Specifically, it would ask whether local Fire Marshals have the right to require the installation of fire sprinklers in associations that opted out in compliance with State law

As questionably interpreted in a May 4, 2016 Declaratory Statement, the office of State Fire Marshal contends that although demanding fire sprinklers in associations that opted out violates State law, mandating sprinklers under the guise of an ELSS complies with the Florida Fire Prevention Code. A legally accurate response by the State Fire Marshal to this new inquiry should demonstrate that the current policy is based on the mistaken premise that an Administrative Code trumps State Law. It doesn’t.

Sweating it Out

Florida Senate
FLORIDA SENATE
Approved by the full Senate on May 3 by a vote of 26 Yeas vs. 13 Nays, the newly amended HB 7103 was then passed in the House by a floor vote of 66 Yeas vs. 42 Nays, engrossed, enrolled and lined up for the Governor's desk. Unfortunately, there is a downside to hitching a ride on another lawmaker's bill. Since other provisions in HB 7103 promote the interests of developers, some proponents expressed concern about how a controversy surrounding those measures could impact the bill’s enactment.

Governor Ron DeSantis
GOVERNOR RON DeSANTIS
To avoid overwhelming the Governor's office, literally hundreds of engrossed bills are sent to his desk a few at a time. As of May 17, HB 7103 was still awaiting Gubernatorial review. Nine years ago, Bogdanoff admonished, “Until an approved bill survives a veto, there are no guarantees.” That said, on May 17, she popped off a brief update “Here with Brandes and the Gov. I was told by Brandes we are good.” Always cautious, she later added “The bill has not yet been presented to the Governor.
Ellyn Bogdanoff
ELLYN BOGDANOFF
I know they are analyzing it but he cannot do anything until he receives it.”

In navigating a litany of bear-traps conceived by Hooper and an army of well-funded lobbyists, Senators Jason Pizzo and Jeff Brandes, Representatives Michael Grieco, Bob Rommel, Chip LaMarca – and especially Ellyn Bogdanoff – stretched a seven-month ELSS installation deadline to 2024, providing several million threatened Florida residents with a variety of regulatory and legislative opportunities to beat back this $multi-billion scam (unless the bill is drop-kicked by the Governor). We are lucky to have them. More to come...

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Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca

Broward Days; CRA Bill; Good Govt; Education Bill; Penguin; ELSS

Commentary

Click to January 2018 LaMarca Letter
District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip Lamarca
DISTRICT 93 REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
April 15, 2019 - In his two March updates, District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca opens on March 18, 2019 with an affirmation of support for the right of association homeowners to decide how to best protect their homes and families, a right afforded to every other Florida homeowner. LaMarca explains that Association homeowners should be empowered to vote for or against the installation of a costly Engineered Life-Safety System (ELSS); applauds the Broward Days event in Tallahassee for promoting County interests; supports legislation that enables counties and municipalities to create community redevelopment agencies with dedicated funding constraints; advocates a bill that requires fiscal tranparency and accountability by local governments and approves legislation that enhances oversight over spending by state higher education institutions.

Click to University of Central Florida Spending violations Click to University of South Florida violation LaMarca’s referenced CRA and local government funding accountability bills respond to a longstanding Florida tradition by local politicians to fraudulently barter, pilfer and otherwise misuse taxpayer dollars. The higher education oversight legislation was prompted by more recent developments.

Click to University of  Florida Spending violations Click to ELSS Update Late last year, House investigators discovered that the University of Central Florida (UCF) misused $48 million in State funds allocated to educational operations to complete on-campus building projects. The floodgates then opened. Months later, the University of South Florida (USF) announced having misspent $6.4 million in state funds on the construction of a new building. When the University of Florida (UF) was also implicated, lawmakers viewed the violations as systemic – triggering legislation to enforce spending constraints and tighten State oversight.

Click to ELSS Update In a March 29, 2019, follow-up message, LaMarca summarizes constituent feedback about the questionable ELSS retrofit mandate, and details his rationale for supporting Opt-out bills in the House and Senate. Read the below March 2019 LaMarca Letters, followed by a progress report about the campaign to oppose the ELSS mandate – and defend the right of association homeowners to self-determination. – [editor]

 

The LaMarca Letter

March 18, 2019 - Session Kicked-off

District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca
DISTRICT 93 STATEHOUSE
REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
There are many important issues moving through the legislature, which I have not had an opportunity to vote on yet, one being HB 647 in regards to emergency life safety systems, or ELSS. I am supportive of giving the residents of ours and other communities the ability to choose how best to keep their homes protected and safe from possible catastrophes, which include natural disasters, fires and events caused by failure of existing mechanical systems. I have always maintained that the safety of our residents comes first, and have committed to working with the professionals tasked with the protection of our people on coming together to find a solution to this important issue.

Broward Days

Click to Broward Days This past week was Broward Days in the Capitol. Broward Days is a two-day event in Tallahassee where Broward residents, non-profit organizations, and locally elected officials come to advocate for important issues and educate legislators from other areas of Florida on all things Broward. Broward Days was capped off with a great evening event that featured Gov. DeSantis’ Chief of Staff and Broward resident Shane Strum, Florida Speaker of the House José Oliva, and another Broward resident, Nikki Fried, Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

Year round, Broward Days is led by Candice Ericks, of Tripp Scott Ericks, and is building a think-tank in different policy areas impacting Broward County and its diverse residents, businesses, and organizations. If you would like more information on this great organization and advocacy group, please visit www.BrowardDays.com.


District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca, Broward Days Chair Candice Ericks and House Speaker José Oliva
REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA, BROWARD DAYS CHAIR CANDICE ERICKS AND HOUSE SPEAKER JOSE OLIVA


Community Redevelopment Agencies

Click to Redevelopment Works I filed the Community Redevelopment Act, which authorizes counties and municipalities to create community redevelopment agencies (CRAs) as a means of redeveloping slums and blighted areas. A county or municipality may create a CRA upon the adoption of a finding of necessity and a finding that a CRA is necessary for carrying out the community redevelopment goals embodied by the Act. The bill requires that money in the redevelopment trust fund may only be used pursuant to an annual budget adopted by the board of commissioners and only for those purposes specified in law.

This bill ensures that CRAs are held accountable for using funds appropriately and has passed favorably in the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, and also the Ways & Means Committee.

In recent years, there have been several reported instances of questionable CRA spending in Florida, and this bill would reign in that wasteful spending of tax payer dollars. Government must be transparent to taxpayers and accountable for decisions affecting the public.

Local Government Fiscal Transparency

Important local government information should be up-to-date and easily accessible to all Floridians, to ensure transparency and accountability.

Click to Redevelopment Works HB 15 aims to ensure local governments are responsible, transparent, and accountable with taxpayer dollars, which will help give Floridians confidence in their government. The bill would promote and enhance local government fiscal transparency. This bill requires easy public access to local government governing boards’ voting records related to tax increases and issuance of tax-supported debt. Requires easy online access to property tax TRIM notices and a four-year history of property tax rates and amounts at the parcel level. HB 15 requires local governments to conduct and consider a debt affordability analysis prior to approving the issuance of new, long-term tax-supported debt.

This bill would also increase local government fiscal transparency by focusing on helping citizens gain access to important information so they can be more engaged on important government decisions. This bill recently passed favorably in the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee.

Higher Education Transparency

Click to Redevelopment Works This bill gives the Chief Financial Officer, Senate president, Speaker of the House, or board members opportunities to investigate allegations of waste, fraud or financial mismanagement by a state university or its board of trustees. The bill increases oversight over state higher education institutions to ensure they are acting in accordance with state law. Public access to records relating to certain university documents would also be required. This legislation passed favorably in the Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee.

“Pebbles the Penguin”

Thanks to the Florida Aquarium, we were honored to have Pebbles the Penguin stop by the HD93 office in the Capitol to meet with the team!


Representative Chip Lamarca, Legislative Assistant Corey Staniscia, District Executive Secretary Samantha Verner Watch Pebbles the Penguin
REP. CHIP LAMARCA, STAFFERS COREY STANISCIA AND SAMANTHA VERNER WATCH PEBBLES THE PENGUIN


March 29, 2019 - ELSS

UPDATE: HB 647 ELSS Engineered Life Safety Systems

You have spoken, and we listened

Click to Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research My office has heard from over 1,000 residents, not only from Broward County, but from all over the state of Florida. I have read hundreds of emails and have taken numerous phone calls from interested Floridians over the last few weeks about this important bill.

I understand that adding these engineered life safety systems (ELSS) could potentially place an extreme financial burden on those of you in certain condominium buildings. While your safety is obviously a priority to me, these regulations could place an undue hardship on the citizens of Broward County and the rest of the state. This bill allows the individual residents of each building to have the freedom to choose, as an association, to opt-out of the requirement for the installation of additional ELSS systems.

Pio Ieraci Addresses Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology
PIO IERACI ADDRESSES SENATE COMMITTEE
For these reasons I was honored to vote in favor of this bill when it came in front of the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday. I believe that residents should be able to make decisions about their own community. This bill is now on its way to its last committee stop here in the Florida House of Representatives. However, the Senate companions still have more to go.

I urge you to call our Senator, Gary Farmer’s office at 850-487-5034, and urge him to support SB 1152 and SB 1732 and request a hearing for these important bills. Without the movement from the Senate bills, we will not be able implement this crucial piece of legislation.

As always, it is an honor to represent you in the Florida House of Representatives.

Best Wishes,


Representative Chip LaMarca
Florida House District 93




Representative Michael Grieco
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIECO
Senator Jason Pizzo
STATE SENATOR JASON PIZZO
April 15, 2019 - Statehouse Representative
Michael Grieco (D - Miami Beach), filed House Bill 647 (HB 647) on February 5, 2019, which empowers high-rise association homeowners to opt-out of any obligation “to retrofit a fire sprinkler system or other engineered life safety system...” by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the owners. Two weeks later, Senator Jason Pizzo (D – Miami) filed Senate Bill 1152 (SB 1152) on February 18, 2019, a companion bill in the other chamber. On March 1, 2019, Senator Gary Farmer (D - Fort Lauderdale) filed Senate Bill 1732 (SB 1732), which also allows association homeowners to forgo installing a $multi-million ELSS with the approval of two-thirds of the voting interests.

Senator Ed Hooper
STATE SENATOR ED HOOPER
Representative Byron Donalds
REPRESENTATIVE BYRON DONALDS
However, the fire sprinkler associations and their hand puppets in the Fire Marshals union rallied to salvage a $multi-billion windfall by recruiting legislative ringers to file opposing bills. Colluding with these “special interests”, Senator Ed Hooper (R - Palm Harbor) filed Senate Bill 908 (SB 908) on February 8, 2019 - 3 days after Grieco filed his opt-out bill. Hooper’s bill not only supports the mandate to retrofit fire sprinklers or an ELSS in Florida high-rise associations, it levies a $500 per day penalty for impacted associations that fail to comply by December 31, 2022. Also, on February 8, 2019, Representative Byron Donalds (R - Hendry County) filed House Bill 723 (HB 723), a companion bill to Hooper’s sell-out legislation.

ELSS Legislative Timeline

Senator Gary Farmer
STATE SENATOR GARY FARMER
On March 6, 2019, HB 647 was approved in the House Business & Professions Subcommittee by a vote of 8 yeas vs. 7 nays. As described by LaMarca, on March 26, 2019, the bill was passed unanimously in the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee - by a vote of 10 yeas vs. 0 nays. HB 647 is awaiting its final review by the House Commerce Committee. On March 19, 2019, Senator Pizzo’s SB 1152 was overwhelmingly found favorable in the Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology by a vote of 8 yeas vs. 1 nay, and forwarded to the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, the second of three vetting Committees in the Senate.

Pio Ieraci Addresses Senate Committee
PIO IERACI ADDRESSES SENATE COMMITTEE
Not surprisingly, Donalds’ bogus House bill is following the same Committee path as Grieco's HB 647. As such, after being approved by the House Business & Professions Subcommittee and the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, Donalds’ HB 723 is awaiting review by the House Commerce Committee - like Grieco’s HB 647. In the Senate, after Hooper's SB 908 was approved by the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, as was Pizzo’s SB 1152 opt-out bill.

Committee Chair Acts to Kill Opt-Out Bill

Senator Anitere Flores
STATE SENATOR ANITERE FLORES
Although the two bills should have been simultaneously vetted by the Senate Community Affairs Committee, on April 2, Committee Chair Senator Anitere Flores (R - Miami) placed Hooper's SB 908 on the agenda while blocking Pizzo’s SB 1152 opt-out bill. After being approved by a vote of 4 Yeas vs. 1 Nay, SB 908 was referred to its final review in Senate Committee on Rules. Ironically, Senator Pizzo also serves on the Community Affairs Committee, and Senator Farmer is Flores’ Vice Chair. Despite their objections, Flores stonewalled the opt-out bill. Evidently, Flores placed a higher priority on securing the ELSS windfall than protecting thousands of cash-strapped Association homeowners who will be forced to relocate to avoid an unnecessary and expensive assessment.

Bogdanoff in Tallahassee
BOGDANOFF IN TALLAHASSEE
Several actions are under consideration if Flores’ subversive freeze can’t be circumvented, and fatally strands the bill on the calendar. The opt-out bills can be refiled again next year, a legal action can be filed against fire marshals (and others) who exceeded their authority, or we can negotiate a compromise. Ellyn Bogdanoff and association officials are currently weighing the impacts of these – and other options.

To provide Ellyn Bogdanoff and supportive lawmakers with broad latitude in formulating a strategic response, this message has largely been restrained and civil - and lacks the invective this issue richly deserves - given what’s at stake – and the scam tactics implemented by the sprinkler associations and their uniformed torpedoes. The path our advocates choose to pursue, including its rationale (pros and cons), prospective pitfalls and the outcome will be detailed next month. Until then, please continue to help beat back this ELSS mandate by heeding the FACTSS updates, which are distributed to every Galt Mile association.

FACTSS

Click Here to Florida Association of Condominiums to Support Self-Determination Associations across Florida threatened with an onerous ELSS assessment coalesced to form the “Florida Association of Condominiums to Support Self-Determination” or FACTSS. Please visit the FACTSS website at https://factss.org/, where you can inform vetting committee members of your support for House Bill 647 and Senate Bill 1152 - and your vehement opposition to Senate Bill 908 and House Bill 723 (bills filed to rip you off). Our choice is simple, either defuse this abrogation of our rights, or submit to regulatory extortion. Vetting Committee members and key lawmakers have received tens of thousands of emails, telephone calls and faxes from angry FACTSS members from all over Florida, including many in the Galt Mile. In short, you are our not-so-secret weapon.

Post Script

Representative Michael Grieco
REP. MICHAEL GRIECO OFFERS BILL INSIGHTS
Ellyn Bogdanoff
ELLYN BOGDANOFF DISCUSSES ISSUE
On April 18, 2019, after being vetted by the House Commerce Committee, HB 647 was approved by a vote of 19 Yeas vs. 1 Nay and sent to the full House, where House Speaker José Oliva can schedule a floor vote. At the hearing, Rep. Grieco characterized the retrofit requirement as “a $4 billion unfunded mandate.” In describing how the demands of certain Fire Marshals to retrofit fire sprinklers in associations that legally opted out violate State law, association advocate Bogdanoff observed “Statute trumps the fire code.” Fortunately, Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Mike LaRosa (R – St. Cloud) omitted Donalds’ skewed HB 723 from the roster, leaving it stranded on the calendar (turnabout is fair play). This war of nerves may end when the session concludes on May 3 (Sine Die), although the Governor has 15 days to alter the fate of enrolled bills sent to his desk. Stay tuned...

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Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca

Priority Bills; Beach Funds; SFRTA; Lodging; Ft Laud DDA; ELSS

Commentary

Click to January 2018 LaMarca Letter
District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip Lamarca
DISTRICT 93 REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
March 21, 2019 - In his February 2019 update, District 93 Florida House Representative Chip LaMarca reviews his inaugural legislative output. Despite the constraints placed on rookie lawmakers and a longstanding tradition of carrying water for the legislative leadership, LaMarca still managed to sponsor House Bill 325 - entitled “Coastal Management”. While fighting to realize the Segment II Beach Renourishment, LaMarca had to circumvent funding roadblocks in Washington DC and Tallahassee. LaMarca also clarifies his position on the controversial mandate forcing associations to retrofit a costly ELSS.

Beach Management Funding Fiasco

Click to Land Acquisition Trust Fund Click to Florida’s Constitutional Amendment 1 in 2014 The Land Acquisition Trust Fund was supported by every Florida Governor since its 1963 inception – until former Governor Rick Scott began gutting appropriations to virtually every State environmental program, and blocked revenues to the LATF. Click to Florida Department of Environmental ProtectionWhen he quashed funding for the enforcement of safe drinking water standards, angry Florida voters approved Constitutional Amendment 1 in 2014, restoring a funding source for the State’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund that the Governor couldn’t molest.

Although Constitutionally charged with crafting an equitable system for distributing beach maintenance resources collected in the Land Acquisition Trust, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) instead devised a politically-driven ranking system from hell.

Senate President Joe Negron
FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT JOE NEGRON
former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli
FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER STEVE CRISAFULLI
From 2012 to 2016, FDEP channeled one-third of Florida’s beach renourishment funds ($52 million of the $149.5 million) to the five counties represented by former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R - Merritt Island) and then Senate President Joe Negron (R - Stuart). This 4-year insider pork fest left less than an average $20 million annually to reverse the effects of tidal erosion along Florida’s entire oceanfront - the nation’s second longest State coastline (after Alaska).

Fixing a Broken Beach Wallet

As the sole Republican on the Broward Board of County Commissioners, Chip LaMarca was annually charged with carrying the County’s legislative wish list to Republican Tallahassee, which typically included a plan to create an equitable funding vehicle for beach projects in Broward and Florida’s other 8,430 miles of eroding coastline.

Chip LaMarca & Statehouse Representatives George Moraitis
CHIP LAMARCA & REP. GEORGE MORAITIS
FSBPA President Debbie Flack
FSBPA PRESIDENT DEBBIE FLACK
To stop FDEP from bartering beach funds for political capital, in 2017, LaMarca teamed with Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association President Debbie Flack, and recruited former Representative George Moraitis (R – Fort Lauderdale) in the House, and former Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), who Chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee in the other chamber.

Senator Jack Latvala
SENATOR JACK LATVALA
Click to Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association In 2017, Latvala sponsored Senate Bill 1590 - Coastal Management, which would revise how Florida prioritizes beach and inlet projects while annually cloistering $50 million to rehabilitate eroded beaches. While Latvala’s bill was unanimously approved in the Senate, George Moraitis’ companion House Bill 1213 died on the calendar while awaiting a hearing in its final vetting committee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran
HOUSE SPEAKER RICHARD CORCORAN
Early in the following year’s 2018 legislative session, an undeterred Latvala refiled his Coastal Management legislation as Senate bill 174, and Moraitis again filed a companion as House Bill 131. Although Latvala’s bill quickly revived the previous year’s unanimous approval in the Senate, when Latvala later became embroiled in a sex scandal that led to his resignation, powerful former House Speaker Richard Corcoran slammed Latvala, and Moraitis’ bill faded into oblivion.

Senator Debbie Mayfield
SENATOR DEBBIE MAYFIELD
Having relentlessly supported this beach funding fix, when LaMarca won the District 93 Statehouse seat vacated by a term-limited Moraitis, he reincarnated the twice-failed Coastal Management bill as House Bill 325 on January 17, 2019. A few days later, Senator Debbie Mayfield (R - Melbourne) filed a companion Senate Bill 446 on January 23, 2019.

LaMarca's objective hasn’t changed - to unlock resources for a series of beach projects planned to stabilize the entire Broward coast - including intermittent emergency fills at storm-damaged Segment II hot spots along the Galt Mile beach.

LaMarca on ELSS

Representative Michael Grieco
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIECO
LaMarca is also aware of a priority legislative concern expressed by his Galt Mile constituents - the Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) opt-out legislation currently navigating the Statehouse and Senate. After Representative Michael Grieco (D - Miami Beach), filed House Bill 647 on February 5, 2019, it was referred to the House Business & Professions Subcommittee, where it was found favorable by a vote of 8 yeas vs. 7 nays on March 6, 2019; and forwarded to the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee for review.

Representative Chip LaMarca
REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
Commenting on the ELSS opt-out legislation and whether association homeowners should have the right to collectively decide for themselves how to most productively expend resources for the protection of their home and loved ones, LaMarca states that he is “supportive of giving the residents of ours and other communities the ability to choose how best to keep their homes protected and safe from possible catastrophes,” and promised to “follow all of the bills that have been filed and see what committees that I have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue.”

Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas
FT LAUD FIRE MARSHAL JEFF LUCAS
LaMarca will realize this opportunity when Grieco’s HB 647 is explored by the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, where LaMarca serves as a member. He can also help debunk “towering Inferno” horror stories by Sprinkler Association lobbyists, as no Florida fire-related death or injury has ever been attributed to the absence of an ELSS, and a single sprinkler head in an apartment foyer will not safeguard residents against a fire. As explained by Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas, an ELSS was never conceived to protect building residents.

Action in the Tallahassee Trenches

Senator Jason Pizzo
STATE SENATOR JASON PIZZO
On February 18, 2019, Senator Jason Pizzo (D – Miami) filed Senate Bill 1152, a companion ELSS opt-out bill in the other chamber. On March 19, 2019, Pizzo's Senate bill is scheduled for a hearing by the Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology - the first of three Committee stops.

Senator Ed Hooper
STATE SENATOR ED HOOPER
Seeking to protect a $multi-billion windfall extorted from association homeowners, fire sprinkler association lobbyists have deployed several strategies to defeat the opt-out bills. One of these required the services of a puppet lawmaker. During last year’s Senate elections, a former Statehouse Representative named Ed Hooper solicited special interest campaign contributions to outspend his opposition, and win the District 16 Senate seat in Pinellas County.

Colluding with the fire sprinkler associations, Senator Hooper filed Senate Bill 908 on their behalf. Hooper’s bill mandates the installation of fire sprinklers or an ELSS in Florida high-rise associations and provides a $500 per day penalty for impacted associations that fail to comply by December 31, 2022.

Click Here to Florida Association of Condominiums to Support Self-Determination You can help our association advocates win this pitched battle in the Florida Legislature. Associations across Florida threatened with an ELSS assessment joined to form the “Florida Association of Condominiums to Support Self-Determination” or FACTSS. At ground zero of this relief effort, FACTSS maintains a website (https://factss.org/) that offers relevant information and critical news. Among these updates are email links to the members of legislative Committees currently vetting the various bills. Since the fate of these bills rests with these lawmakers, they need to know your take on this $multi-billion rip-off.

In addition to the testimony offered at Committee hearings, many of these lawmakers will decide how they should vote based on the feedback they receive from residents affected by this scam mandate. Visit the FACTSS website at https://factss.org/, where you can inform vetting committee members of your support for House Bill 647 and Senate Bill 1152 - and your vehement opposition to Senate Bill 908 (Hooper's attempt to sell you out). Simply put, is it worth a few minutes of your time to avoid a crushing and pointless assessment? Its time to make your voice heard. For Representative Chip LaMarca’s February 2019 Newsletter, read on... – [editor]

 

The LaMarca Letter

February 2019 - First Session Priorities

District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca
DISTRICT 93 STATEHOUSE
REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
I hope that you are doing well. I am continuing to monitor things at the local level dealing with the GMCA (library progress and road issues.)

As you know, as Members we have six bill slots, and with leadership requests many of those end up being used for priority issues. That being said, we have managed to focus a couple of those slots for issues that are important to the district. This chart shows the six bills in yellow, other bills I have decided to cosponsor in white, a local bill in blue and local appropriations in green.

HB 325: Coastal Management:

I have placed a tremendous priority to maintaining that the 700 miles of Florida’s beaches are healthy as ours are in Segment II. You can see that this is a continuation of the work that I have been doing over the past eight years.

HB 9: Community Redevelopment Agencies:

Click to Fort Lauderdale Community Redevelopment Agency This bill is to maintain transparency, oversight and accountability to the CRA’s in Florida so that the people and businesses funding these entities know where their money is going and how it is being spent. It requires a two-thirds vote of all voters in a county to create a new CRA or extend the time of an existing CRA. It also requires that the members of the CRA Board take four-hour of ethics training.

HB 341: Motor Vehicles and Railroad Trains:

Click to SFRTA This bill was brought to us by the SFRTA/Tri-Rail to clarify the existing law that is confusing and groups trains with motor vehicles for the purposes of accident investigations. It currently requires passengers on a train that may not have been a witness to anything (due to the linear nature of the path of trains) and remain on the train for hours during an investigation.

HB 727: Hazing:

This bill is of critical importance to all college and university students, but specifically for the family of Andrew Coffey, after the loss of their son at Florida State University. Andrew was a resident of Lighthouse Point and this bill would offer protections for hazing incidents for students outside of the Greek system, in other collegiate programs. It would also offer fellow students the protection of amnesty should they find it necessary to contact the authorities in the event of a person being in danger of their health or life.

HB 943: Driver License Reinstatement Days:

Click to Downtown Development Authority This bill requires each judicial circuit to establish Driver License Reinstatement Days program for reinstating suspended or revoked driver licenses. It provides event scheduling requirements and authorizes the waiver of certain fees for driver license reinstatement.

HB 1129: Public Lodging Establishments:

This bill defines the term "hosting platform" and requires certain public lodging establishments to display license number in all advertising for rentals. It provides civil penalties and requires the Division of Hotels & Restaurants of DBPR to adopt rules & authorizes division to revoke, or refuse to issue or renew, vacation rental licenses.

HB 1185: Downtown Development Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale:

Click to Downtown Development Authority This is a local bill and would merely extend the term of the existing Fort Lauderdale DDA to enable building and boding of the proposed City/County Government Campus, as well as the new Federal Courthouse. It does not create any additional taxes or expand the existing DDA boundaries.


I am happy to talk about the remaining items, which are mostly appropriations that were submitted to us by many of the local municipalities and non-profit organizations.


Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS)

Specifically, with regard to ELSS and the multiple bills that have been filed by House and Senate Members, I am supportive of giving the residents of ours and other communities the ability to choose how best to keep their homes protected and safe from possible catastrophes, which include natural disasters, fires and events caused by failure of existing mechanical systems. I have always maintained that the safety of our residents comes first, and have committed to working with the professionals tasked with the protection of our people. I have also been working and listening to Ellyn Bogdanoff on this issue. I will follow all of the bills that have been filed and see what committees that I have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue. Please let me know if there are any issues specific to the GMCA as we move forward and thank you for your continued support and friendship.

Best Regards,


Representative Chip LaMarca
Florida House District 93

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Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca

Florida Economy; Springs & the Everglades; PreK - 12; College $$$

Commentary

Click to January 2018 LaMarca Letter
District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip Lamarca
DISTRICT 93 REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
February 27, 2019 - In his January 2019 update, District 93 Florida House Representative Chip LaMarca provides an insider look at the second week of Statehouse Committee activity prior to the 2019 legislative session, citing four informative presentations. He opens with a statewide economic snapshot from the Office of Economic & Demographic Research, reviews improvements to Florida Springs & the Everglades offered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and pulls together several missives from the Florida Department of Education (DOE). One addreses how PreK -12 schools are digging out of an educational black hole. The second DOE message discusses how the College System promotes career readiness through a litany of state-funded financial assistance programs. Dig in.

For Representative Chip LaMarca’s January 2019 Newsletter, read on... – [editor]

 

The LaMarca Letter

January 2019 - Committee Weeks Begin

District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca
DISTRICT 93 STATEHOUSE
REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
This week Florida celebrated the inauguration of Governor DeSantis and Lt. Governor Nunez. The ceremonies shared a vision for a bolder Florida. The Florida House looks forward to working with the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Florida Senate in continuing our steadfast progress of lowering taxes, creating a favorable regulatory climate, providing the best education for our children, and protecting our unique and precious natural resources. By working together to accomplish these goals, I believe Florida will look forward to an even brighter future.

House Commerce Committee receives positive overview of Florida’s Economy

Click to Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research This week, the Commerce Committee received an overview of Florida’s economy from the Office of Economic & Demographic Research.

Click to Office of Economic & Demographic Research Presentation The presentation highlighted many positives for Florida’s economic environment. These highlights include that Florida’s gross domestic product, or GDP, has been on the rise with posted growth of 4.0% in 2015, 3.2% in 2016, and 2.2% in 2017, and 4.5% in the second quarter of 2018. GDP is the sum of all goods and services produced over time and is used to indicate the health and size of an economy. Florida’s GDP also continues to outpace the national average for economic growth. Florida’s unemployment rate has also continued to drop, decreasing to 3.3%, which is lower than the national unemployment rate of 3.7%.

I believe these statistics show why Florida’s total GDP recently hit the $1 trillion mark. In order to put that achievement in perspective, if Florida were a country it would have the 17th ranked economy in the world. In my view, cutting taxes, balancing our budget, and maintaining a strong environment for job creation, will keep Florida on the path of prosperity.

Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee Presents on Water Quality Policies

Click to Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act This week the Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee met to discuss Florida’s current environmental policies related to the Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and the most recent update on Senate Bill 10 (2017), the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir Project.

For the past several years, the frequency and intensity of harmful algae blooms in Florida have been increasing, especially in central and south Florida. Excess nutrients flowing into the state’s water resources have fueled algal bloom. These events have negatively affected coastal estuaries, lakes, creeks, springs, wildlife, economies, health, and tourism. A disruption in Florida’s water quality is a disruption in Florida’s way of life.

Click to Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act We have been fighting to fix our water quality issues. The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act was passed in 2016 to add additional measures to protect our Outstanding Florida Springs by addressing the quality and quantity of water in our springs and aquifers. This act created a systematic process for assessing all Outstanding Florida Springs, delineating priority focus areas, identifying pollution sources, and finally adopting basin management action plans for affected areas. Because of this act, 145 projects have been implemented across our state to protect and maintain our natural springs.

Another way we have fought to combat these issues is through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). CERP is an extensive plan, with 67 projects, that aims to restore, protect, and preserve Florida’s water resources in central and south Florida. A handful of these projects are planned for completion within the next 5 years. In 2017, Senate Bill 10 expedited the EAA Reservoir Project to store water south of Lake Okeechobee. Once these projects are complete, Florida’s water quality will see significant improvement.

Water quality and environmental issues are critical to sustaining Florida’s great way of life. The Florida House is committed to addressing water quality issues and we will work hard to ensure the citizens of this state have pristine water systems for generations to come.

House Committee Receives Overview on School Improvement

Click to Florida Department of Education On Thursday, the PreK-12 Quality subcommittee, to which I have been appointed, received an overview of Florida’s school improvement process from the Florida Department of Education (DOE). The presentation showed that changes to Florida’s Differentiated Accountability system (DA) for low performing schools are working for Florida’s students.

Click to Florida overview of Florida’s school improvement process Education reforms adopted in 2017 require Florida school districts to respond quickly to schools that receive a D or F grade by implementing a turnaround plan in the first year after receiving the grade. Statistics presented to the subcommittee show that 68% of DA schools graded D or F in 2017 improved their grade in 2018, 94% of DA schools graded F in 2017 improved their grade in 2018, and 59% of the first-year turnaround DA schools improved their 2018 school grade to a C or better and exited DA. In the two years after HB 7069 reforms passed, the number of schools in DA have been cut in half.

These encouraging statistics lead me to believe that Florida’s school improvement system is working. I look forward to supporting any measure that will further improve these numbers and will ensure that all children in Florida receive a high quality education.

Higher Education & Career Readiness Subcommittee talks Career and Technical Education and State Financial Aid Programs

Click to Florida state financial aid programs This week, the Higher Education & Career Readiness subcommittee heard presentations from the Florida Department of Education (DOE) on career and technical education in both the Florida College System and technical colleges/Centers as well as state financial aid programs.

The Florida College System and the technical colleges/centers in Florida provide postsecondary access to students of all ages and from all walks of life. In particular, students can pursue postsecondary certificates, industry certifications, and associate degrees that lead to high skill/high wage employment. The committee expressed a strong desire to strengthen workforce education opportunities for students, and I support the Governor’s sentiment in his inaugural speech that career education is vital to the state’s economy.

Click to Florida state financial aid programs In addition, Florida offers many state-funded programs to increase access to postsecondary education. The financial aid programs do this by: rewarding Florida high school graduates for high academic achievement, providing funds to students who may not otherwise be able to afford postsecondary education, and offering student’s opportunities to pursue careers in both technical and academic fields. A few of the state financial aid programs offered include the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Programs, the Benacquisto Scholarship Program Florida Student Assistance Grants, the Florida Work Experience Program, the Effective Access to Student Education Grant Program, and the Access to Better Learning and Education Grant.

I believe through these scholarships, Florida is able to give all students a pathway to achieve their goals and pursue higher education. I will proudly support any measure which ensures a bright future for Florida’s next generation.

It is an honor to serve as your State Representative in Tallahassee for District 93. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, that my office may be of assistance to you please do not hesitate to reach out.

Best Wishes,


Representative Chip LaMarca
Florida House District 93

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February 12, 2019 Update

Florida Fire Marshals Association February 12, 2019 - Mirroring thousands of other Florida high-rise associations, Galt Mile homeowners voted overwhelmingly to opt-out of a full sprinkler system retrofit - in compliance with former State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff's 2010 statutory opt-out amendment. For six years, the fire sprinkler associations and their minions in the Fire Marshals union (Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association – or FFMIA) were prohibited from requiring a fire sprinkler retrofit in associations that opted out.

Click Here to Office of State Fire Marshal 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).

 


Milking the Windfall

 

Click Here to American Fire Sprinkler Association Click Here to National Fire Sprinkler Association Many Fire Marshal union officials have been employed in executive positions by trade associations that promote the sale of fire sprinklers, including the American Fire Sprinkler Association and the National Fire Sprinkler Association. These trade groups also fund many of their events and activities.

Click Here to Declaratory Statement Case No. 189152-16-DS
Florida Deputy Chief Financial Officer Jay Etheridge
FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF FINANCIAL
OFFICER JAY ETHERIDGE
The sprinkler associations had no intention of leaving a $multi-billion windfall on the table, and with their support, in May of 2016, former Fire Marshals Association President David Woodside petitioned an interpretation of the Florida Fire Prevention Code (FFPC) in the form of a Declaratory Statement. Deputy Chief Financial Officer Jay Etheridge interpreted the code to mean that high-rise associations that opted out of a fire sprinkler retrofit could be required to install an Engineered Life Safety System.

Click Here to Florida Fire Prevention Code An Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) is an undefined set of fire safety features that "might consist of a combination of any or all of the following systems:

(1) Partial automatic sprinkler protection

(2) Smoke detection alarms

(3) Smoke control

(4) Compartmentation or other approved systems, or both"

The FFPC also states that an ELSS “shall be developed by a registered professional engineer experienced in fire and life safety system design, shall be approved by the authority having jurisdiction”

By Statute, enforcement is at the discretion of the local fire marshal. Prior to the Declaratory Statement, Fire Marshals had approved various Engineered Life Safety Systems - with and without fire sprinklers.

Representative George Moraitis
FORMER REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE MORAITIS
Although the FFPC states that an ELSS must be designed by an engineer working for the property owner, local fire marshals with Statutory approval authority were encouraged to reject any ELSS that doesn’t include fire sprinklers - functionally usurping the engineers' design authority.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran
HOUSE SPEAKER RICHARD CORCORAN
In the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions, former Representative George Moraitis filed legislation to enable associations to opt-out of an ELSS as well. In 2017, the legislation was overwhelmingly approved in the House and Senate, but vetoed by Governor Scott. Although Moraitis was hesitant to refile in 2018 - an election year - since campaigning lawmakers are at the mercy of deep-pocketed special interests, House Speaker Richard Corcoran advised him to file the bill anyway, which he did.

Senator Tom Lee
SENATOR TOM LEE
Like the previous year, the House and Senate bills were each assigned to three vetting committees. Senator Tom Lee (R - Thonotosassa), a former Senate President, had announced his intention to run against Florida CFO (and State Fire Marshal) Jimmy Patronis. Lee also chaired the Senate Committee on Community Affairs; the Senate Bill's first committee stop. By stonewalling the bill, Lee planned to split the Fire Marshals' support for Patronis. The bill died on the calendar. After also considering a run for Congress, Lee ultimately decided to remain in the State Senate.

Florida CFO (and State Fire Marshal) Jimmy Patronis
FLORIDA CFO JIMMY PATRONIS
In a June 2018 post-session meeting with Rep. George Moraitis and Ellyn Bogdanoff, they advised inviting participation by the 4337 Florida high-rise associations that had legally opted out of the fire sprinkler retrofit, and are now under threat by local Fire Marshals to install an ELSS that contains fire sprinklers. Such an expansion could potentially inflate the active support base to roughly 4.5 million Florida residents. As a last resort, an expanded support base would also broaden access to the financial resources required to file a legal action against local fire marshals that exceeded their authority.

Bogdanoff in Tallahassee
BOGDANOFF IN TALLAHASSEE
Florida Statute section 718.112 (2)(l) provides that, “notwithstanding chapter 633 or of any other code, statute, ordinance, administrative rule, or regulation, or any interpretation of the foregoing, an association, residential 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. The local authority having jurisdiction may not require completion of retrofitting with a fire sprinkler system before January 1, 2020. By December 31, 2016, a residential condominium association that is not in compliance with the requirements for a fire sprinkler system and has not voted to forego retrofitting of such a system must initiate an application for a building permit for the required installation with the local government having jurisdiction demonstrating that the association will become compliant by December 31, 2019.”

While requiring an ELSS may not conflict with State Law, collusion by the fire marshals to reject any ELSS without a sprinkler system (that is not required by the Florida Fire Prevention Code) is a deliberate attempt to circumvent the Statute.

Litigation attorneys who specialize in this field also advised that since the code created by an unelected commercial enterprise was never approved by the Legislature, it also constitutes “the improper delegation of rulemaking authority”

There are several possible consequences to filing a legal action. It might block enforcement or preclude further collusion by the fire marshals and the fire sprinkler associations to reject any ELSS that lacks a sprinkler system. More importantly, it might also provide injunctive relief, and postpone the installation deadline. This would provide associations with sufficient time to repeatedly revisit a legislative solution – until an ELSS opt-out was enacted. However, given our upcoming opportunity to address this issue in the legislature, a legal action is not yet warranted.

The code currently provides for two deadlines. By December 31, 2016, associations were supposed to demonstrate that they are planning to install an ELSS. The deadline for installing an ELSS is December 31, 2019.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas
FORT LAUDERDALE FIRE MARSHAL JEFF LUCAS
Shortly after the Declaratory Statement was issued, Galt Mile association officials also met with Fort Lauderdale Fire Marshal Jeff Lucas, who didn't agree 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.” As the local “authority having jurisdiction” only Lucas can decide enforcement issues. Lucas agreed to postpone enforcement of the December 31, 2016 deadline until the recent legislative session concluded, after which he suggested that affected associations “should at least begin looking into an ELSS."

Regency Tower Condominium
REGENCY TOWER
On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, some Regency Tower residents met with Jeff Lucas to solicit his take on association options going forward. Lucas exclaimed that he will not violate associations that fail to meet the Statutory deadlines, which he characterized as unrealistic. However, Lucas lamented that until this controversy was settled in Tallahassee, his inspections would include a casual inquiry into future compliance. Lucas pointed out that since it costs nothing, an association can solicit proposals from engineers with expertise in designing an ELSS – while fighting to overturn the code provision. Lucas added that Engineered Life Safety Systems were conceived to benefit visiting firefighters, and afford little protection for homeowners in otherwise code compliant buildings.

Repeating his former recommendation to fight this issue in Tallahassee, Lucas remarked, “With a new Governor, there is an excellent chance that an ELSS opt-out bill filed in 2019 will become State Law, and end this confusion.” Addressing the nature of such a bill, Lucas added, “I would rather see this controversy ended than simply delayed for another few years.” We agreed. Lucas has been a hands-on Fire Marshal – and we are lucky to have him.

 


FACTSS is Born

 

Galt Mile Advisory Board
GALT MILE ADVISORY BOARD
Since 2002, Galt Mile associations have served as the lynchpin of this fight to block a predatory retrofit mandate that was repeatedly opposed by Florida lawmakers, and rejected by every other State in the country. Following the Declaratory Statement, Florida association attorneys were swamped with angry client inquiries about opposing this unwarranted and avaricious levy on association homeowners. As observed by former legislator Ellyn Bogdanoff, transferring this burden to a dedicated statewide organization would enable thousands of other impacted associations to add their voices – and resources – to ours.

On Friday, October 12, 2018, Galt Mile and Miami association officials met with Ellyn Bogdanoff in preparation for the upcoming legislative session (March 5 – May 3), and fleshed out her plan for an expanded statewide support base. A newly formed 501(c)(6) corporation – better suited to statewide outreach than the neighborhood association – is retaining Ellyn Bogdanoff (as a lobbyist) to enact an ELSS opt-out bill in 2019. Its governing board will include association leaders from across the state.

Click Here to Florida Association of Condominiums to Support Self-Determination By late October, Broward and Miami-Dade Association officials had formed the “Florida Association of Condominiums to Support Self-Determination” or FACTSS. Shortly after creating an informational website (www.factss.org), FACTSS officials and staffers embarked on a massive outreach campaign, primarily targeting the 4337 Florida high-rise associations that had legally opted out of the fire sprinkler retrofit by the 2016 deadline.

Their efforts were rewarded by scores of inquiries as associations from across the State sought membership and committed resources. A steering committee was formed to better represent participant jurisdictions. A December 29 message to members announced the creation of a “key government affairs team” and confirmed a mutual objective: providing association homeowners with the right to decide for themselves whether or not to forgo installing a costly ELSS containing fire sprinklers (despite that the Florida Fire Prevention Code does not require an ELSS to include fire sprinklers). On January 22, members received a second pre-legislative session update from GMCA and FACTSS official Pio Ieraci. The following report discloses how some of the players are poised to influence the planned legislation:

 

 

FACTSS UPDATE
Legislative Session

January 22, 2019

Galt Mile Community Association President Pio Ieraci
GALT MILE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT PIO IERACI
The State Legislature will formally convene on March 5 and end on May 3, 2019. The legislature meets for a 60-day session, unless called back into session by the governor. FACTSS’ government relations team, headed by Ellyn Bogdanoff, is meeting with the House and Senate leadership, along with state representatives and senators, to educate them on the ELSS issue, solicit their support, and seek sponsors for both the House and Senate bills. Now that the new governor has been sworn-in and his staff in place, Ellyn will be meeting with the governor’s staff and Governor DeSantis on the ELSS issue.

Representative Bob Rommel
REPRESENTATIVE BOB ROMMEL
Representative Heather Fitzenhagen
REPRESENTATIVE HEATHER FITZENHAGEN
The House and Senate have finished appointing committee chairs and committee members. The House subcommittees of interest will be chaired by Representative Heather Fitzenhagen (House Business and Professions Subcommittee) and Representative Bob Rommel (House Civil Justice Subcommittee). Both are from the Southwest Florida area. Rep. Fitzenhagen has served in the Florida House since 2012 and is well versed in community association issues. Rep. Rommel was elected in 2016, replacing Senator Kathleen Passidomo (Passidomo filed the successful Senate bill in 2017).

During January and February, legislative committees are meeting, bills are being filed, and much preliminary work of the state legislature is done before the formal opening on March 5.

Pio Ieraci, President
Galt Mile Community Association
Fort Lauderdale

 



 


Two Weeks Later...

 

Representative Michael Grieco
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL GRIECO
On February 5, 2019, Statehouse Representative Michael Grieco (D - Miami Beach), filed House Bill 647, entitled “Community Association Fire and Life Safety Systems”. On February 13, the bill was referred for review to the House Business & Professions Subcommittee, the House Commerce Committee and the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.

Senator Jason Pizzo
STATE SENATOR JASON PIZZO
The salient provision includes the right to opt-out of any obligation “to retrofit a fire sprinkler system or other engineered life safety system... if the unit owners have voted to forego such retrofitting by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all voting interests in the affected condominium.” An identical provision addresses Cooperative Associations. On February 18, 2019, Senator Jason Pizzo (D – Miami) filed Senate Bill 1152, a companion bill in the other chamber. Game on.

For associations that fail to opt-out, the December 31, 2016 deadline for initiating an application for an ELSS building permit would be extended to December 31, 2019. The current December 31, 2019 ELSS installation deadline would be revised to achieve completion before January 1, 2023. Associations that lack common area fire sprinklers would be required to post a sign or symbol to alert visiting firefighters. A second companion bill in the other chamber will soon follow.

 


Post Script

 

This isn’t about fire safety – although it should be. It’s about the right of association homeowners to collectively decide for themselves how to effectively protect their home and loved ones – a right enjoyed by every other Florida homeowner – while blocking a mercenary campaign by fire sprinkler associations to usurp that decision for the sole purpose of realizing a windfall at our expense. Florida is the only state in the country that requires condominium homeowners to retrofit otherwise fully compliant homes with Fire Sprinklers or an ELSS.

Click Here to United Technologies web site Click Here to Tyco Fire web site Why were these special interests only able to unjustifiably mandate the purchase of their products in Florida? In every other State, lawmakers review new requirements before approving their incorporation into State building and Fire Safety codes. In Florida, Fire Sprinkler associations that represent corporate juggernauts like Tyco and United Technologies only need the cooperation of a key mid-level bureaucrat to circumvent legislative oversight. FACTSS’ secondary objectives include illuminating – and then closing this regulatory slop sink.

Click Here to United Technologies web site Galt Mile associations have passed every annual fire-safety inspection since their respective inceptions. Of course, anything can happen – either during a legislative session – or in a courtroom, but given the unjust and costly alternative, both the neighborhood association and FACTSS will continue striving with our neighbors and affected associations statewide to achieve the final objective – while remaining in compliance and working closely with our local Fire Marshal.

With the bills in play, Bogdanoff will issue regular detailed reports of their progress, vetting committee amendments, prospective obstacles in each chamber – and what we can do to help. Stay tuned...

 


Beating Back a Scam

 

Unless this scam is blocked by our lawmakers in Tallahassee (or in court), one of the costliest rip-offs in Florida history will deep-fry the family budgets of association homeowners across the State, including those of almost a million elderly retirees on fixed incomes. If you live in an association threatened with a $million assessment because the Fire Sprinkler associations circumvented State Law by engineering a skewed interpretation of an unvetted Fire Code provision, you have an opportunity to reclaim a right enjoyed by every other Florida homeowner – to decide how to best protect your home and family. If your local Fire Marshal has ordered the retrofitting of an ELSS containing fire sprinklers – despite a legal opt-out vote taken by the owners – or threatened to “Red Tag” your home, please review your options on the FACTSS website – facts.org (or click the below FACTSS graphic link). Given the alternative, this is a no-brainer.

 


Click Here to Florida Association of Condominiums to Support Self-Determination

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Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca

Happy Holiday; District Office; New Staffers; Contact Info

Commentary

Click to December 2018 LaMarca Letter
District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip Lamarca
DISTRICT 93 STATEHOUSE REP. CHIP LAMARCA
January 11, 2019 - In his first constituent message since relocating to Tallahassee, newly elected District 93 Florida House Representative Chip LaMarca opens his December 2018 LaMarca Letter with Holiday greetings and an expression of gratitude for his political ascendancy. Still settling into his new digs in the State Capital, LaMarca reports his progress in selecting a site for a local District office (1827 NE 24th street in Lighthouse Point) and accumulating new staff. In Tallahassee, LaMarca set up shop at 1401 The Capitol, 402 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399 (telephone: 850-717-5094).

Chip LaMarca Legislative Assistant Corey Staniscia
COREY STANISCIA
Click to Staniscia at Tripp Scott law firm LaMarca's newly appointed Legislative Assistant Corey Staniscia may ring familiar. After interning for former House Speaker Will Weatherford in 2011, Staniscia served as former District 93 State House Representative George Moraitis' legislative aide, and later managed his 2014 re-election campaign. LaMarca snatched up Staniscia from the Tripp Scott law firm, where he was working as a Governmental Relations Consultant.

LaMarca was appointed to 6 House Committees, including the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee; the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee; the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee; the Oversight, Transparency & Public Management Subcommittee; the powerful Judiciary Committee and the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. While hunting votes prior to the election, LaMarca promised Galt Mile officials that he would fight to protect and benefit his association constituents, including support for legislation that would provide high rise condo and cooperative homeowners with the right to decide whether or not to install a currently mandated Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) - spin for a costly fire sprinkler retrofit. For Representative Chip LaMarca’s December 2018 Newsletter, read on... – [editor]

 

The LaMarca Letter

December 2018

District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca
DISTRICT 93 STATEHOUSE
REPRESENTATIVE CHIP LAMARCA
I would first like to wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year, and hope that your holiday season was full of friends, family, and great memories.

I would also like to thank you for your support during my time as your Broward County Commissioner, and for entrusting me to continue to represent you as your State Representative. It has always been an honor to serve you, and I am looking forward to continuing to serve you in the Florida House of Representatives for District 93.

We are currently in the process of opening up our District Office to service our constituents with any issues that may arise dealing with local and state level issues and agencies. Our Tallahassee office address and phone number will be announced shortly.

The local office will be located at 1827 NE 24th street, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064 and the best number to reach us at will be (954)-784-4531. We will typically be open during normal business hours and by appointment. You will also be able to reach me directly through email at Chip.LaMarca@myfloridahouse.gov.


Legislative Assistant Corey Staniscia, District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca and District Executive Secretary Samantha Verner
LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT COREY STANISCIA, CHIP LAMARCA AND DISTRICT EXECUTIVE SECRETARY SAMANTHA VERNER


The District 93 team has been assembled, and I am extremely proud to announce that Corey Staniscia will serve as the Legislative Assistant and Samantha Verner will serve as District Executive Secretary. Corey, a District 93 resident, graduated from the University of South Florida and has extensive knowledge working within the Florida Legislature and other government entities will be based in Tallahassee. Samantha is a long-time Broward County resident, a recent graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a degree in political science and women’s studies, and a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumni, will be based in the district office and here to help with all local and constituent outreach issues. You will be able to reach them both directly at Corey.Staniscia@myfloridahouse.gov and Samantha.Verner@myfloridahouse.gov.

We will begin traveling to Tallahassee for legislative committee weeks starting in January in preparation for the 60-day Legislative Session kicking off March 5. As always, if you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or my staff.

It is an honor to continue to serve the residents of northeast Broward County.

Wishing you a Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

Best Wishes,


Representative Chip LaMarca
Florida House District 93

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Courts on Garbage Watch

Click Here to Proposed 2016 Florida Constutional Amendments September 28, 2018 - Given the political fireworks launched during 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 2018 Florida Constutional Amendments To place a proposed Constitutional Amendment on the November 6, 2018 Ballot, a Citizen’s initiative had to petition the signatures of 766,200 registered Florida voters by the February 1, 2018 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.

Constitutional amendments can be proposed by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, a panel of 25 members selected by the Governor, the House Speaker and Senate President that meets every 20 years (next time in 2027) - and only provides for two members of the minority party. The fourth vehicle is a Constitutional Convention, which must be requested in a voter initiative and approved by a simple majority. Lastly - and this tear's headliner - amendments can be balloted by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which is established every 20 years to consider and propose amendments (met in 2017 - 2018); its 37 members are mostly selected by the Governor, the House Speaker, the Senate President, and include the Florida Attorney General - although three others are selected by the Florida Supreme Court.

Click to Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Overwhelmingly predominated by the majority party, the CRC invariably furthers a partisan agenda. Unlike other ballot proposal vehicles, the CRC is allowed by law to bundle more than one issue into each question, a practice known as “logrolling”. This format has devolved into a cliché - as it has been systematically used to cloak a nefarious objective. Usually, a series of inane and/or "apple pie" measures serve as window dressing for a surreptitious power grab, a special interest payoff - a back-door proposal that would ordinarily go down in flames.

Click to Florida Supreme Court ruling against Amendment 8 Although thirteen (13) Proposed Amendments were initially certified for the ballot (eight proposed by the CRC, three by the Florida Legislature and two by citizen initiative), one of them – Amendment 8 - was scratched by the Florida Supreme Court. Amendment 8 would have mandated term limits of eight years for all Florida school boards; required schools to teach “civic literacy” and allowed the state to create public schools, something only local school boards currently can do. In addition to supplanting locally elected school boards with Tallahassee bureaucrats - it would provide for funding private Charter Schools with your tax dollars. Upholding a lower court decision, the high court ruled that Amendment 8 misled voters by not clearly stating its true purpose and never mentioning charter schools by name.

Three other CRC measures - Amendments 7, 9 and 11 - were also struck down by court rulings and removed from the ballot, but may reappear pending appeals. Potentially, twelve (12) Constitutional Amendments (nine (9) surviving ballot measures and three (3) under appeal) could appear on the November 6, 2018 general election ballot. Keep in mind - many of them camouflage constitutional hop-toads couched in misleading Ballot language. Several were created for the sole purpose of abridging your rights or draining your wallet, read on:


Proposed Amendment #1

Third Homestead Exemption - Tax Increase for Snowbirds Ballot Title: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption

Reference: Amendment #1 would amend Section 6(a) of Article VII and add a section to the Florida Constitution's Article XII Schedule; Referred by the Florida Legislature.

Official Ballot Summary: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies. The amendment shall take effect January 1, 2019


What you need to know

Ballot Amendment 1 creates a third $25,000 Homestead exemption, although inapplicable to the School Board levy. As of 2018, Section 6(a) of Article VII of the Florida Constitution allows for a $25,000 Homestead exemption on the portion of home’s value between $0 and $25,000, and another $25,000 on the portion of home’s value between $50,000 and $75,000 – a $50,000 total deduction for homes valued at more than $75,000.

Senator Tom Lee
SENATOR TOM LEE
If approved by the electorate, beginning January 1, 2019, a third $25,000 homestead exemption could be claimed on that portion of a home’s value between $100,000 and $125,000. This measure is controversial. Although it would only benefit roughly 2.4 million homesteaded Floridians with properties worth more than $125,000, it will cost local jurisdictions more than $687 million in lost revenues, leaving a huge gap in local government budgets.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran
HOUSE SPEAKER RICHARD CORCORAN
Although originally filed by Senator Tom Lee as Senate Joint Resolution 1774 (SJR 1774) on March 7, 2017, its companion bill in the other chamber, House Joint Resolution 7105 (HJR 7105) was ultimately approved and filed with Secretary of State on May 5, 2017. The resolutions encountered blowback in the Senate and party-line votes in the House due to its adverse impact on local governments. A political force of nature, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has repeatedly characterized local governments as inefficient, corrupt and wasteful; and has supported a litany of bills that pre-empted local regulations to the Legislature. He announced that Amendment 1 was specifically designed to starve Counties and Cities. Corcoran helped leverage the necessary Statehouse votes.

Tax Increase for Snowbirds Unfortunately, this election year popcorn is a mixed bag for the Galt Mile. To prevent threatened service cuts, cities and counties will offset the resulting revenue shortfall by shifting the assessment burden to small business owners, manufacturers, working families and non-homesteaded property owners - which includes thousands of Galt Mile snowbirds. Anticipating the amendment's approval, Broward County is adding $11 million annually to reserves for 3 years to fund the projected $34 million shortfall in FY 20. What happens in subsequesnt years will depend on the economy.


Proposed Amendment #2

Click to Amendment 2 is for Everybody Ballot Title: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments

Reference: Amendment #2 would amend Section 27 of Article XII of the Florida Constitution; Referred by the Florida Legislature and primarily supported by Amendment 2 is for Everybody - a lobbying puppet of the powerful Florida Association of Realtors.

Official Ballot Summary: Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on specified non-homestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect January 1, 2019.


What you need to know

Snowbird Cap On January 23, 2017, the amendment was filed in the state legislature as House Joint Resolution 21 (HJR 21). Unanimously approved in the House and snagging all but 3 votes in the Senate, on May 8, 2017, the resolution was enrolled with the secretary of state.

Robert Weissert of Florida TaxWatch
ROBERT WEISSERT OF FLORIDA TAXWATCH
In 2008, voters approved Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment that, among other provisions, created a cap of 10 percent on annual non-homestead parcel assessment increases. Other provisions in that landmark amendment - a second $25,000 Homestead Exemption, a $25,000 exemption tor tangible personal property and Save-Our-Homes portability - were all permanent. The "snowbird cap" expires on January 1, 2019,. Although conceived as a hedge against a housing bubble, snowbirds, landlords and business owners were finally provided a cap on their tax exposure. In limiting the property tax on rental properties, the cap increases the availability of affordable housing by cushioning leasing costs for tenants. It also slows inflation by lowering merchant overhead, provides relief to millions of Florida snowbirds and brings a measure of parity to a poorly balanced tax code. Since it doesn't apply to the School Board assessment, educational resources are preserved.

Florida TaxWatch Seven weeks before the measure sunsets, Florida voters will have an opportunity to make the cap permanent. If Amendment 2 fails, all non-homestead property would be assessed at its full value beginning in January 2019. Referring to an in-house study that assesses the economic impact, executive vice president and counsel Robert Weissert at Florida TaxWatch explained, “the combined tax increase could potentially reach $700 million annually.” Amendment 2 enjoys broad statewide support. The only known objection is a protocol shortfall by the League of Women Voters, whose basic policy asserts that “No tax sources or revenue should be specified, limited, exempted, or prohibited in the Constitution.” This is a no brainer - vote “YES”.


Proposed Amendment #3

Click to Voters in Charge Ballot Title: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida

Reference: Amendment #3 would add a Section 29 to Article X of the Florida Constitution; Sponsored primarily by Voters in Charge; Citizen Initiative.

Official Ballot Summary: This amendment ensures that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling by requiring that in order for casino gambling to be authorized under Florida law, it must be approved by Florida voters pursuant to Article XI, Section 3 of the Florida Constitution. Affects articles X and XI. Defines casino gambling and clarifies that this amendment does not conflict with federal law regarding state/tribal compacts.


What you need to know

Gov. Charlie Crist signs Seminole Casino Pact
GOV. CHARLIE CRIST SIGNS SEMINOLE CASINO PACT
Gov. Rick Scott extends Seminole Casino Pact
GOV. RICK SCOTT EXTENDS SEMINOLE CASINO PACT
In 2004, voters passed an initiative, Amendment 4, to allow voters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to authorize slot machines at parimutuel facilities, such as horse racing, greyhound racing, and jai alai exhibititions, that existed and were licensed during the prior two years. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, through the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), negotiated a Class III gaming compact with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist on July 7, 2010, allowing the Seminole Tribe to operate blackjack at five facilities through 2015, sharing revenue with the state. In 2015, Gov. Rick Scott (R) extended the compact with the Seminole Tribe for 20 years, adding craps and roulette to the agreement and providing the tribe with an exclusive right to blackjack. Except in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, card games, casino games, and slot machines are currently prohibited at non-tribal facilities in Florida.

Approval of Amendment 3 would provide voters with the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida,” and make the citizen initiative process “the exclusive method of authorizing casino gambling.” The Florida State Legislature would be prohibited from authorizing casino gambling through statute or a constitutional amendment referred to the ballot. The measure would affect card games, casino games, and slot machines while omitting pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, dog racing, or jai alai exhibitions. The amendment doesn't impact casino gambling on Native American tribal lands established through state-tribe compacts.

Click to Walt Disney Company Compared to crafting an empowering statute or a legislative ballot referral, achieving consent by citizen initiative is significantly more difficult. A two signature threshold must first be met for ballot position. In addition to a statewide acquisition of signatures equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the preceding presidential election, to comply with a constitutional distribution requirement, the signature totals in at least half (14) of Florida's 27 Congressional Districts must also be equal to 8 percent of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election. Districts seeking to increase entertainment revenues by embracing casino gambling would be forced to rely on the approval of neighboring districts with competing alternative entertainment venues.

Click to Seminole Tribe of Florida The handiwork of two corporate goliaths, this measure was designed to block the growth of Florida gaming - and each of the amendment's supporters have endorsed this objective. Amendment sponsor “Voters in Charge” is the lobbying spawn of the Walt Disney Company and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. 97% of the $27.27 million amassed by “Voters in Charge” was pumped in by Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. ($14.65 million) and the Seminole Tribe of Florida ($11.78 million), whose shared objective is to preempt competition. Disney aspires to legally restrict Floridians and visitors to "wholesome family-friendly entertainment". As exclaimed by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, Amendment 3 virtually locks up a gambling monopoly for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Whether you support or oppose casino gambling, rest assured that Amendment 3 is not a grand exercise in Democracy, but a surreptitious vehicle for quashing competition. As such, if you think the gaming industry can boost the state economy, vote no. Conversely, if you believe that gambling is the devil's playground, vote yes.


Proposed Amendment #4

Ballot Title: Voting Restoration Amendment

Reference: Amendment #4 would amend Section 4 of Article VI of the Florida Constitution; Sponsored primarily by Floridians for a Fair Democracy, Inc; Citizen Initiative.

Official Ballot Summary: This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.


. What you need to know

As of 2018, Florida is one of four states - along with Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia - where convicted felons do not regain the right to vote, until and unless a state officer or board restores an individual's voting rights. This felon voting law was part of the Florida Constitution of 1968 - the state constitution active in 2018 - as well as the state constitutions of 1885 and 1868 - a vestige of Florida’s post-Civil War concerns. Of the 50 states, two states - Maine and Vermont - do not rescind the right to vote for convicted felons, allowing them to vote while incarcerated; 14 states and Washington, D.C., restore voting rights upon completion of a prison sentence; four states restore voting rights upon completion of prison and parole time; 19 states restore the right to vote after prison time, parole, and probation are completed; and seven states have systems where certain felons, based on the type or number of crimes committed, regain the right to vote.

Amendment 4; was designed to restore voting rights for convicted felons, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon the completion of all terms of sentence, including prison, parole, and probation. Under former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, the Executive Clemency Board automatically restored the rights of felons who had completed their sentences, paid restitution, and had no pending criminal charges. Eliminating those reforms, Governor Rick Scott (R) required convicted felons to wait five or seven years, depending on the type of offense, after the completion of their sentences to request that the board consider the restoration of their voting and other civil rights.

In Florida, an estimated 1,686,318 persons - 10.43 percent of the voting age population - are barred from voting due to felonies (the nation's highest disenfranchisement rate). Between 2012 and 2016 the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported 6,759 felony convictions for driving with a suspended license. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla) asked if someone who has paid his debt to society for driving with a suspended license should lose his right to vote for the rest of his life? Vote your conscience.


Proposed Amendment #5

Ballot Title: Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees

Reference: Amendment #5 would add a Section 19 to Article VII of the Florida Constitution; Referred by the Florida Legislature.

Official Ballot Summary: Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county, municipality, school board, or special district.


What you need to know

On January 9, 2018, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, in his last State of the State address, called on the state legislature to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote to increase taxes. The legislature passed House Joint Resolution 7001 (HJR 7001), which was enrolled as Amendment 5 and filed with Secretary of State on Friday, March 16, 2018.

Amendment 5 would require a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the Florida State Legislature to enact new taxes or fees or increase existing ones. As of 2018, the state legislature can enact new taxes or fees or increase existing ones, except the corporate income tax, through a simple majority vote in each chamber. Voters approved the amendment for the corporate income tax, with a three-fifths vote requirement to increase the tax above 5.0 percent, in 1971. Supported by Florida TaxWatch and opposed by the League of Women Voters of Florida, the measure would preclude a party-line vote to raise taxes or fees, unless a single party controlled 27 seats in the state Senate and 80 seats in the Statehouse.


Proposed Amendment #6

Ballot Title: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges

Reference: Amendment #6 would amend Section 16 of Article I and Sections 8 and 21 of Article V of the Florida Constitution and add a new section to Article XII of the state constitution; Referred as a Proposal by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

Official Ballot Summary: Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age


What you need to know

Broadcom Corporation co-founder Henry Nicholas
BROADCOM CO-FOUNDER HENRY NICHOLAS
Amendment 6 would make changes to the state’s law regarding the rights of crime victims, the age at which judges are required to retire, and judicial deference. The constitutional amendment regarding the rights of crime victims - known as Marsy's Law - would provide crime victims, their families, and their lawful representatives with specific rights, including a right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect; a right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse; a right to have the victim's welfare considered when setting bail; a right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay, among others.

Broadcom Corporation co-founder Henry Nicholas started campaigning for this kind of legislation to increase the rights and privileges of victims. He formed the national organization Marsy's Law for All in 2009. Marsy’s law is named for Henry Nicholas' sister Marsy Nicholas, a California college student who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Henry and his mother were confronted by Marsy's ex-boyfriend after his release on bail - prompting their advocacy on behalf of victim's rights. Voters in six states approved ballot measures for Marsy's Law, with the most recent in Ohio. Voters in neighboring Georgia will also consider an amendment for a Marsy's Law in 2018.

Amendment 6 would increase the age at which judges are required to retire from 70 to 75 and prohibit state courts from deferring to an administrative agency’s interpretation of a state statute or rule in lawsuits. The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) voted 34 - 3 to place Amendment 6, which is composed of three constitutional amendment proposals, on the ballot. As Amendment 6 bundles three constitutional amendments, voters cannot approve or reject some, but not all, of the amendments. Voting “yes” on the ballot measure is a vote to pass the three constitutional amendments. Voting “no” on the ballot measure is a vote to reject the three constitutional amendments. Again - vote you conscience.


Proposed Amendment #10

Ballot Title: State and Local Government Structure and Operation

Reference: Amendment #10 would amend to Section 3 of Article III, Sections 4 and 11 of Article IV and Sections 1 and 6 of Article VIII of the Florida Constitution; Referred as a Proposal by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

Official Ballot Summary: Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even- numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.


What you need to know

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) voted 29 - 8 to bundle four constitutional amendments into Amendment 10, which was placed on the November 2018 ballot. Proposal 9, Proposal 13, Proposal 26, and Proposal 103 were combined to create Proposal 6005, which formed the basis of this ballot measure.

Amendment 10 requires the legislature to provide for a state Department of Veterans Affairs. In 1988, voters approved constitutional authorization to create a Department of Veterans Affairs, which was shortly thereafter established by the state legislature. In Amendment 10, creation of a Department of Veterans Affairs is required, not simply authorized. Since that Department is now almost 30-years old, this is essentially a housekeeping change with no practical benefit.

The skunk in Amendment 10 is a provision (CRC Proposal 13) that prohibits counties from abolishing certain local offices - sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, and clerk of the circuit court - and requires elections for these offices. In Florida, counties with voter-approved charters are allowed to alter the duties managed in local constitutional offices or reassign those duties and abolish the offices. Of the state's twenty charter-governed counties, eight have either changed or eliminated at least one constitutional office. For example, in Miami-Dade, a sheriff is not elected but appointed by the County board while Volusia and Broward counties neither need nor elect tax collectors.

In 1974, Broward County voters abolished their elected tax collector position and transferred many of the duties from the clerk of courts to the County administrator and the Department of Finance and Administrative Services. An independently selected county auditor was also created. With the approval of Tallahassee, the changes enhanced the efficient delivery of these services while saving $millions for County taxpayers. If this amendment passes, the offices would have to be restored, along with an increased taxpayer burden. Since the amendment would take effect in Miami-Dade and Broward counties on January 2, 2025, both counties would have to fund elections for the reconstituted offices in 2024. Cities and counties across the state oppose this provision for undermining the right of residents to local self-governance.

The amendment also creates a state Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism and requires the legislature to convene the regular legislative session on the second Tuesday of January of even-numbered years. As Amendment 10 includes four divergent constitutional amendments, the electorate isn't afforded an opportunity to approve those that make sense, and reject the bear traps. Voters must vote yes or no on the entire package. Since the housekeeping measure for the Department of Veterans Affairs has no impact, and lawmakers can easily create the Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism and change the start date of any legislative session, the remaining issue in this logrolled amendment begs the question - should your county answer to you - or Tallahassee?


Proposed Amendment #12

Ballot Title: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

Reference: Amendment #12 would amend Section 8 of Article II, Section 13 of Article V and add a new section to Article XII of the Florida Constitution; Referred as a Proposal by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

Official Ballot Summary: Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers; creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by serving public officers and former justices and judges; provides exceptions; prohibits abuse of a public position by public officers and employees to obtain a personal benefit.


What you need to know

Florida Committee on Ethics
FLORIDA ETHICS COMMITTEE
Amendment 12 would make sweeping changes to the state Constitution’s “ethics in government” provisions, following a failed attempt by the Legislature in 2018 to reform lobbying practices. It would prohibit public officials from lobbying for compensation during the official's term in office and for six years after the official leaves office. Under the current ethics rules, state lawmakers need only wait two years after leaving office before they can begin collecting a check for peddling influence in the legislature. This proposed amendment would expand the prohibition to lobbying federal and local governments, and would also apply to statewide officeholders, such as Cabinet members.

Originally approved by the CRC as Proposal 6007, Amendment 12 also applies to County and City officials, Department heads in Executive State agencies and tax district officials - who are also banned from lobbying their governing bodies while in office and for six years after they leave. Judges are banned from lobbying state government for six years after they leave the bench. Additionally, it prohibits public officials from using the office to obtain a disproportionate benefit for themselves or their families. It tasks the Florida Commission on Ethics with defining "disproportionate benefit" and codifying punishment. Although it fails to address the real problem with lobbying - the funding of political campaigns by special interests - Amendment 12 is a step in the right direction.


Proposed Amendment #13

Ballot Title: Ends Dog Racing

Reference: Amendment #13 would add a new section to Article X and a new section to Article XII of the Florida Constitution; Referred as a Proposal by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

Official Ballot Summary: Phases out commercial dog racing in connection with wagering by 2020. Other gaming activities are not affected.


What you need to know

CRC panelist Senator Tom Lee
SENATOR AND CRC PANELIST TOM LEE
Initially filed as Proposal 67 by sponsor Tom Lee, it was revised by the CRC as Proposal 6012, and added to the November 2018 ballot as Amendment 13. As of 2018, Florida was one of 10 states where wagering on dog races is legal. Of the nation’s 18 dog-racing tracks currently operated for gambling in six different states, 12 are in Florida. Neigboring Alabama is also one of the six states with active dog racing tracks. The remaining 40 states had prohibited wagering on dog races. Gambling was illegal in Florida until 1931, when the Florida State Legislature passed a law to allow wagering on horse racing and dog racing.

If approved, Amendment 13 would prohibit Florida pari-mutuel operations (a type of betting pool) from racing dogs for wagering after January 1, 2021. All wagering on the outcome of live dog races held in Florida - primarily greyhounds - would also be prohibited. Dog tracks operated by licensed permitholders would be allowed to host other pari-mutuel sports such as horse racing and jai-alai, and continue offering other types of gambling, including poker rooms. Also, the amendment waives a state requirement that tracks hold a full schedule of live greyhound races in order to continue operating poker rooms or slot machines as part of their pari-mutuel licenses. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, estimated annual losses of $1 million and $1.3 million in tax and fee revenues in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 - if voters approve the ban.

Primarily advocated by Protect Dogs- Yes on 13 - organized to end the cruelty of greyhound racing in Florida - the ban is also supported by several animal advocates, including the Committee to Protect Greyhounds, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Pets Ad Litem, and others. Committee to Support Greyhounds is leading the campaign in opposition to this amendment. Amendment 13 authorizes the Florida Legislature to specify civil or criminal penalties for violating the constitutional amendment. Animal advocates will vote YES, inveterate gamblers will vote NO. Which are you?

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Statutory Surgery

2018 Omnibus Association Bill

Click Here to Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation April 14, 2018 - A few years ago, rampant abuses by rogue Condo Boards in Miami-Dade sparked a series of events that prompted revisions to the laws governing Florida associations. According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), during 2015 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.

2017: Reining in Criminal Abuses

Click Here to Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Click Here to Univisión 23 Following a 2016 probe by South Florida media outlets el Nuevo Herald and Univisión 23 that confirmed the Miami abuses, a Miami-Dade Grand Jury issued a scathing report about the fraudulent rip-offs collusively perpetrated by rogue Condo Boards and shady management companies in Miami-Dade. Given its integral role in uncovering the abuses, the Miami Herald fueled a media frenzy that provided three Miami lawmakers with a golden fast-track to the Front Page.

Rep. J José Félix Díaz
REPRESENTATIVE J JOSÉ FÉLIX DÍAZ
Click Here to Miami-Dade Grand Jury Report on Condominiums During the 2017 legislative session, Florida Senator René Garcia (R - Hialeah), Florida Senator José Javier Rodríguez (D - Miami) and Statehouse Representative José Félix Díaz (R - Miami-Dade) filed legislation to ostensibly rein in the criminal abuses that chronically proliferate in their districts. Given the underlying notoriety, the bills (HB 1237 in the Statehouse and SB 1682 in the Senate) flew through vetting committees and were signed into law on June 26, 2017.

Florida Senator José Javier Rodríguez
FLORIDA SENATOR JOSÉ JAVIER RODRÍGUEZ
Florida Senator René Garcia
FLORIDA SENATOR RENÉ GARCIA
The 2017 legislation provides that 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 term limits board members after 4 consecutive two-year terms, unless there are an insufficient number of candidates or if they are elected by a two-thirds supermajority of the full membership.

It bars a Condo association from hiring an attorney retained by the association's management company. Conflicts of interest for association officials must be declared, recalls are fast-tracked and Condo associations with 150 or more units are required to publish a grab bag of association documents on a password protected website by a July 1, 2018 deadline.

2018: Fixing Knee-Jerk Legislation

As is often the case with knee-jerk legislation slapped together by lawmakers hunting political capital, the bills were regulatory tarpits. Association advocates admonished that the sponsors’ well-intended legislation was rife with glitches, confusing language, provisions that cause more damage than the drawbacks they were meant to cure - and a boatload of unintended consequences. Evidently more concerned with exacting vengeance for disgruntled constituents than crafting workable solutions to statutory deficiencies, the Miami lawmakers would leave others to address the bill’s pitfalls.

Moraitis Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
MORAITIS EXPLAINS BILL TO COMMITTEE
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO
As expected, several bills were filed in the 2018 session to fix skewed or otherwise problematic provisions, including House Bill 841 (HB 841) by District 93 Statehouse Representative George Moraitis (R - Fort Lauderdale) and Senate Bill 1274 (SB 1274), a companion bill in the other chamber by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R - Naples). The bills also enhance regulatory consistency in common interest communities. In most cases, that means applying regulations that already benefit condominiums to cooperatives and/or homeowner associations (HOAs).

Senator Annette Taddeo
SENATOR ANNETTE TADDEO
Former Florida Senator Frank Artiles
FORMER FLORIDA SENATOR FRANK ARTILES
HB 841 was overwhelmingly approved in both chambers (by a vote of 100 Yeas vs. 1 Nay in the House while passed in the Senate by a vote of 35 Yeas vs, 1 Nay) – and signed into law on March 23, 2018. Having acknowledged that the statutory glitches needed correcting, Florida Senator René Garcia – one of the 3 Miami lawmakers who filed the 2017 legislation – voted to approve Moraitis’ bill. When Miami Congresswoman U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement, and Senator José Javier Rodríguez - another co-sponsor of the Miami legislation - declared his intention to fill the District 27 congressional seat, Rodríguez feared that supporting Moraitis' bill might alienate local constituents victimized by the rogue boards. The sole Florida Senator to oppose HB 841, Rodríguez later dropped out of the Congressional race when the candidate field become overcrowded, announcing that he would remain in the State Senate.

Click Here to Ballard Partners
Brian Ballard with Donald Trump
BRIAN BALLARD WITH DONALD TRUMP
When Florida Senator Frank Artiles (R – Miami) was forced to resign after hurling racist invective at two black lawmakers, Representative José Félix Diaz – Statehouse sponsor of the Miami Bill – hoped to grab the vacated District 40 Senate seat in a special election. He lost the race to now Senator Annette Taddeo (D – Miami), who pounded Diaz about his relationship with Donald Trump. In January, Diaz was snatched up by lobbying firm Ballard Partners, as lobbying Guru Brian Ballard’s expansion into Latin America is also based on close ties to the Trump Administration.

HB 841 on the Galt Mile

Rep. George Moraitis and Galt Mile Officials
REP. GEORGE MORAITIS AND GALT MILE OFFICIALS
During an April 2, 2018 Galt Mile Community Association (GMCA) Presidents Council meeting at Regency Tower, more than 50 officials representing 21 of the 29 member associations reviewed an agenda item dedicated to Moraitis’ new law. In exploring how its provisions might affect Galt Mile condominiums and cooperatives, attendees asked if it clarified the confusion surrounding board member term limits, recalls, document uploads to mandatory association websites, and other operational impacts.

Since the existing law term limits board members after 4 consecutive two-year terms but doesn’t address those who serve a series of one-year terms, Moraitis’ bill provides that no board member may serve more than eight consecutive years (barring an insufficient number of available candidates). The current exemption for those elected by a two-thirds supermajority of the full membership was also revised – applying instead to candidates elected by two-thirds of the votes cast in the election.

Downloading Official Documents and Data To help associations that are “IT” illiterate, Moraitis adds 6 months to the July 1, 2018 deadline for associations to provide members with a password protected website for downloading official documents and data - the new deadline is January 1, 2019.

Downloading Official Documents and Data Moraitis observed that recall procedures revised in the 2017 legislation could result in recalls that weren’t approved by a majority of an association’s members. Having removed a requirement for the board to “certify” a recall, the 2017 law automatically made recalls effective at a board meeting noticed and convened within 5 days of the board receiving a recall petition. To be valid, a recall requires the approval of a majority of the association’s voting interests, either by a vote during a meeting or a written agreement.

However, the language was unclear as to whether a board must accept a recall petition that is invalid on its face or not signed by a majority of the owners – although the Board could challenge a defective recall by petitioning for arbitration – after the damage was done. The law also provided the recalled board members with a right to fund a petition for arbitration if they believed the recall was invalid. In deleting the sole process that “certified” a recall petition’s validity, the legislation could enable a handful of malicious owners to destabilize the association by engineering bogus recalls that could only be reversed in arbitration.

Defective Recall
DEFECTIVE RECALLS?
To mitigate the adverse impact of defective recalls, Moraitis’ bill directs a Board to determine if a recall vote is facially valid at a meeting convened within 5 days of receiving a recall petition. Based on that decision, the recall will either be abandoned or become effective when the meeting is adjourned. It also provides that a recalled board member may petition for arbitration to challenge its facial validity or compliance with procedural requirements.

If an arbitrator cites the recall as invalid, the board member is immediately reinstated, and entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees and costs from the respondents (the association and possibly – the unit owner representative). Conversely, an arbitrator who finds that a petitioner’s claim is frivolous may award reasonable attorney fees and costs to the respondents. In short, whoever games the system pays the freight.

After initially excising the prohibition against an association hiring a Management Company's attorney – pursuant to section 718.111(3)(b), Florida Statutes – Moraitis reversed course, as habitually spotty enforcement of the Florida Bar ethics rules wouldn’t offset the potential for conflict. If some ill-conceived action promulgated by a management company employee places the association at risk, a shared attorney might seek to balance the liability instead of protecting the association. Moraitis' bill sidesteps a prospective conflict of interest by leaving the provision intact.

Statutory Revisions to Florida Condos, Co-ops and HOAs

Click Here to Final House Analysis HB 841 either creates or revises regulations applicable to the governance and operation of Florida’s common interest communities (although it doesn’t address mobile home parks, vacation units or timeshares). Since the bill features 72 pages of text, the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries – which became a co-sponsor after officially vetting the legislation – summarized the bill in mid-session by aligning its provisions with their specific impacts on condominiums, cooperatives, and homeowners’ associations. See below to review the final version in a similar format.

 

For condominium, cooperative, and homeowners’ associations:

  • The bill revises notice requirements for board and owner meetings at which an assessment will be considered. For condominium or cooperative associations, a notice must provide estimated costs and a description of the assessment. The bill further enables an HOA to give notice by electronic transmission to any parcel owner who provided the HOA with written consent and a fax number or email address.

  • The legislation enacts procedures for a board-imposed fine or a suspension of voting rights. A hearing is followed by a majority vote of a committee comprised of at least three members who are appointed by the board (not officers, board members, employees of the association, or their family members) before imposing a fine or suspension. Payment of the fine is required within five days of the meeting at which the fine was approved. The association must provide written notice of any fine or suspension by mail or hand delivery to the unit owner and, if applicable, to any tenant, licensee, or guest of the unit owner.

 

For condominium and cooperative associations:

 

For cooperative and homeowners’ associations:

 

For condominium associations:

 

For cooperative associations:

 

For homeowners’ associations:

  • An association is permitted to provide electronic notices of a meeting to any member who has provided written consent as well as a facsimile number or e-mail address for such purpose.

  • An amendment to the governing documents must contain the full text of the provision to be amended, with the new language underlined and proposed deleted language stricken with hyphens. However, an association may reference the governing documents in the event an amendment is too extensive and the inclusion of the full text with stricken and underlined text would hinder understanding of the proposed amendment.

  • If an election is not required because there are either an equal number or fewer qualified candidates than board vacancies, and if nominations from the floor are not required pursuant to s. 720.306, F.S., or the association’s bylaws, then write-in nominations are not permitted and such candidates shall commence service on the board of directors, regardless of whether a quorum is attained at the annual meeting.

  • Click Here to National Fire Protection Association The bill provides a clarification of existing law for the accrual of interest on unpaid assessments, and the application of payments to accrued interest, administrative late fees, collection costs and associated reasonable attorney fees, and finally the delinquent assessment, in such order of priority. While the Florida Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) allows a debtor to make a restrictive notation on a payment instrument, which may direct how the payment is applied, State law supersedes any restrictive endorsement, designation, or instruction placed on or accompanying a payment, including any purported accord and satisfaction (the parcel owner paid a lesser amount claiming full satisfaction of the amount due) pursuant to s. 673.3111, F.S. Notwithstanding the UCC, debtor funds will be applied according to the priorities clarified in HB 841.

Slime Balls and Your Email Address

According to State law, the contact information provided by condominium and cooperative homeowners to their respective associations for notice purposes are considered official records of the association. Ordinarily, this includes a name, address and occasionally - a telephone number. To notify the membership about upcoming board meetings or other events for which notice is required, the association can either hand deliver the information or mail it to the address provided by the member. As official records of the association, this contact information must be furnished to any association member who specifies anyone's - or everyone's - contact data in an official records request.

Associations are increasingly using emails (electronic notices) to facilitate communications with the membership. Unlike other forms of contact information, well-meaning Florida associations are asking owners for permission to use their email addresses for notice purposes – or in an association directory. They are not simply being courteous; the consent is required by State law.

Click Here for email hacking info While many association homeowners mistakenly believe that their email address will be kept confidential, if they agree to allow the association to use it for notice purposes, it can be handed out to any member on request. When this is explained, most owners who decline this quid pro quo do so to avoid being harangued by electioneering wannabes or buried in an endless blizzard of online neighbor-spam. Many of our neighbors downplay simmering suspicions about a far more egregious dilemma.

As identity theft has evolved into a $multi-billion criminal enterprise, a list of email addresses has acquired a significant black-market value. While most of our neighbors enjoy a functional moral compass, every association has a few slime balls with friends in low places. Any reprobates that need fast cash can sell these emails online, where they are typically scooped up by marketing wonks. Less scrupulous ethical lepers can also monetize these email lists on illegal, untraceable auction sites that pepper the Dark Web, where they are used for more nefarious purposes. With your email address, a motivated Ukrainian 12-year old middle school hacker with a remote key logger can finance a car, mortgage your home, and empty your bank accounts – in a heartbeat.

You can safely provide your association with your email address – as long as you don’t consent to its use for notice purposes. In that case, your association must notify you the old-fashioned way – by mailing or hand delivering your notice while plastering it across the premises. You can still request inclusion in email blasts to the membership – but the association will be barred from passing out your email address – and forced to keep it confidential. That said – your association can also be hacked...

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January 28 - February 16, 2018 Update

Click Here to Florida Fire Prevention Code February 24, 2018 - Across the state, high-rise association homeowners are facing a $multi-million assessment to fund retrofitting a fire sprinkler system that they legally opted-out of seven years earlier. By manipulating a skewed interpretation of the Florida Fire Prevention Code (FFPC), lobbyists for Fire Sprinkler Associations sought to circumvent State Law by requiring the installation of an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) - an undefined set of fire safety features. Although the FFPC states that an ELSS must be designed by an engineer working for the property owner, local fire marshals with Statutory approval authority have been ordered to reject any ELSS that doesn't include fire sprinklers - functionally usurping the engineers' design authority.

Upon learning how local fire marshals were suddenly requiring fire sprinklers in buildings that had convincingly passed annual fire safety inspections performed by these same fire marshals - often for decades, lawmakers realized that this wasn't a fire safety issue, but a mercenary scheme to score a $multi-billion payday by stripping association homeowners of their right to self-determination. The 2017 ELSS opt-out legislation was unanimously passed in the House, and only 1 vote shy of unanimous Senate approval.

 


Back to Square One

 

George Moraitis Testifies in the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
MORAITIS EXPLAINS BILL TO COMMITTEE
Senator Gary Farmer
SENATOR GARY FARMER FILES SENATE BILL
When Governor Scott broke his promise and vetoed last year's ELSS opt-out legislation, Statehouse Representative George Moraitis (R – Fort Lauderdale) and Association Advocate Ellyn Bogdanoff agreed to refile the bills in 2018, despite the enormous political obstacles to enacting legislation during an election year session. Since every Statehouse seat is up for grabs, along with 20 of the 40 Senate seats, deep-pocketed special interests are bartering with cash-strapped campaigning lawmakers for favorable votes. As a result, the 2018 committee process navigated by Moraitis' House Bill 1061 (HB 1061) and Senator Gary Farmer's companion Senate Bill 1432 (SB 1432) has degenerated into a minefield.

Following her initial reports of the bill's progress, Bogdanoff sent supporters three consecutive mid-session updates - covering events in week 3 (on January 28), week 4 (on February 4), and weeks 5 & 6 (on February 16). Since the legislation will significantly impact thousands of Florida family budgets, Read on... - [editor]

 

 

“Week 3”
January 28, 2018

Hi members:

Bogdanoff Updates Bill
BOGDANOFF UPDATES BILL
Well, I finally have substance to report. I deemed last week “Octopus Week” and not because I felt like I was swimming in a sea of sharks but because of how many hands I needed to juggle this issue. I am working several angles hoping to get momentum. I was told that the bill was basically dead on Monday because it was not moving in the House, but as we learned last year, it is not dead until it is dead. I was notified late last week that it is on the agenda for its first committee of reference this Tuesday. So we are on the move. Once the House moves a bill, the Senate is more likely to follow. I will be meeting with the Senate sponsor next week and testifying in the House committee.

I received a list of those associations throughout the state that opted out of sprinklers since 2004. The list shows that over 770 associations opted out. Although it is unclear how many were required to opt out, arguably it is substantially more than most thought. What I realized is that there is no statewide association where all associations can go to understand what is happening in Tallahassee. There are fragmented groups and although we are taking the lead this year, there are hundreds of associations in the dark on this issue. So we will plug away for the greater good...

Senator Kevin Rader
SENATOR KEVIN RADER
On another front, I met with the Chair of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (JAPC) which is in charge of keeping Executive Branch agencies in check when their rules exceed or violate statutory authority. I am of the opinion that the Fire Marshall’s requirement and their “scoring sheet” is an un-promulgated rule that exceeds statutory authority. Additionally, if a rule has an economic impact of 1 million or more over 5 years to the private sector, then it must go back to the legislature for ratification. Senator Rader met with me and the Staff Director of JAPC and agreed to write a letter to the Fire Marshall requesting a copy of the “scoring sheet.” It is the first step in challenging their authority to require something that state law states you do not have to have since many associations have advised us that they were told they will not meet the score for an ELSS if they do not install a sprinkler system. Even if they don’t have to install a sprinkler system, hiring an engineer and installing the components of an ELSS would likely surpass the 1 million threshold requiring legislative ratification. I can find no exception to this law even considering the broad authority of the Fire Marshalls. They still must write rules for implementation of any new national rules they adopt. Someone will have to prove we are wrong on this analysis before I stop pursuing it.

Click Here to Florida CFO With that said, I ran into the CFO in the Senate office building and handed him the list of associations that opted out. I gave him my elevator speech and he asked me to set up an appointment to sit down and talk through the issue. I am scheduled to meet with him this Monday. As the State’s Fire Marshall he may be willing to intervene and give directions to the local Fire Marshalls on this issue. I will have that report next week.

Click Here to Bogdanoff's JAPC Primer Did I mentioned that Rep. Moraitis, our House sponsor of the bill, is the rotating Chair of JAPC too? He is on board with our pursuit of challenging this un-promulgated rule in addition to pursuing legislation. The purpose of promulgating a rule is to give the public notice and allow them to provide for input. There was nothing noticed and there clearly were no workshops. Additionally, in promulgating a rule, the agency is required to do a SERC (Statement of Estimated Regulatory Costs) which highlights when it needs to go back to the legislature for ratification. This was obviously not done. JAPC is the most under-utilized committee in the legislature, except of course by me. I chaired it when I was in the House and Senate and was fascinated by what it could do to assist my constituents and now my clients. It has no specific authority but it calls out the over-reaching of agencies that seem to respond to a JAPC inquiry. I created the Primer to educate members and the public and they are still using it. Very cool. Anyway, I have included a link below if you are a nerd like me and want to learn more. The Primer is under the Publications tab.

http://www.japc.state.fl.us/Pages/index.aspx

To make sure I had everything I needed, I rolled my backpack through the halls of the Capitol, weaving in and out of the many visitors. A few people did bump into my bag but hey, I have stuff to carry and it’s just too much weight on my shoulder. It was a long, productive, exhausting week. With the hands I had left, I rolled my backpack to a local restaurant to meet some of my colleagues. I ran into a House member who wanted to know what I was wheeling. When I explained to her why I brought it, she smiled and said, “Ellyn, you just can’t do that. If you are trying to make a fashion statement, let me help you.” Considering she is one of the most put together members, I took that as a big hint, not to mention the wise crack statements I heard from more than one person, okay, 10, but who is counting. Needless to say, I won’t be bringing it up this week.

I will be back at the Capitol tomorrow continuing to shake things up on this issue. I hope to have good news after my meeting with the CFO. Engaging him to negotiate with the state’s Fire Marshalls would be my first goal. Second, would be for them to back off because we are challenging their lack of rulemaking, and third is to pass legislation. We are still at risk for a veto but hopefully we will have greater support and the bill makes it all of the way to the finish line. So that is where we are at the end of the third week of session.

“Week 4”
February 4, 2018

Hi members:

Well, this week was a challenge. The Opt Out bill was up in its first Committee. Both Rep. Moraitis and I were informed about 2 hours before the meeting that the state firefighters, who stood down last year and stayed out of the issue, were now actively opposing the bill. This is not good. Fire Marshalls and the Fire Sprinkler Association are one thing, Firefighters are another. We had no idea they had changed their position until Tuesday. Even though there are over 770 associations that have opted out, there has not been much noise coming from them. Rep. Moraitis and I speak on behalf of everyone, but it is time that the members hear from those that will be directly impacted.

House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
HOUSE CAREERS & COMPETITION SUBCOMMITTEE
The bill passed, but barely. 8 votes yes and 7 votes no. We almost lost the battle. Those that supported us last year, bolted, in large part because of the Governor’s veto. Rep. Moraitis did an excellent job testifying but we were out gunned. We need your help. I am asking each of you and every member of your association you can motivate to contact not only the members below, but those they may have the opportunity to vote in the future. Please thank those that supported us and tell those that did not why this bill is so important. Feel free to reiterate the importance of this bill to those that voted yes. Some did so reluctantly to support their colleague. Keep your comments short and sweet but a personal note goes a long way. I am reluctant to write a canned letter because they are not effective. If you know anyone in the legislature personally, please pick up the phone. We are entering the 5th week of session and time is of the essence. There are a 120 members in the House and the more we hit with our message, the better. Each of you have a personal story. Our opposition keeps quoting this goofy study that says it will only cost owners $800. We need to push back on their message.

Click to House Careers & Competition Subcommittee Vote - CS/HB 1061

Ahern - Nay Fine - Yea Jacquet - Nay
 
Albritton - Yea Gonzalez - Nay La Rosa - Yea
 
Alexander -Nay Gruters - Yea Olszewski - Yea
 
Ausley - Nay Hardemon - Nay Perez - Yea
 
Beshears - Yea Harrison - Yea Silvers - Nay
 

Total Yeas: 8 Total Nays: 7 Total Missed: 0 Total Votes: 15
 

http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx

The above link will take you to the Representative’s page. There is a link to their email. We can turn this thing around if we get hundreds if not thousands to join us in making noise. This is about self-determination. This is the largest unfunded mandate you will ever see. We continue to challenge the Fire Marshalls through JAPC but the Building Code and the Fire Code are exempt from the 1 million threshold (lucky us) for Legislative ratification. We have asked for the “scoring” sheet but it has not yet been produced. Our power to push back is during session. If they stall long enough, Session is over and the members have little ability to do anything.

I wish I had better news. Rep. Moraitis and I brainstormed on a plan B, but we are not prepared to give up on our plan A. He has asked us to help him show his colleagues just how challenging this will be for the citizens of Florida that live in condominiums.

One last ask, please email Senator Farmer, our Senate sponsor and encourage him to move the bill. It has not been heard in the Senate. A few hundred emails ought to do the trick.

Let me know if you have any questions, but this is where we are today. The legislature needs to hear us loud and clear. I hope I know what you will be doing this weekend.

Until next time, which will be sooner than you think...

“Weeks 5 & 6”
February 16, 2018

No sugar coating here:

I think we hit the perfect storm. As I previously reported, Rep. Moraitis’ bill barely made it out of committee. Our goal was to get the CFO on Board and see if there was something the Governor’s office would accept. I met with the CFO, as did Rep. Moraitis. Sympathetic but a “no go” citing years of notice to get this done. I then met with the Governor’s office and they basically said that they would support anything the CFO would support. I felt like I was running backwards.

Now let’s look to the Senate where the bill is not moving... the Chair of the first committee of reference is running for office. Guess which one? Yep, you guessed it, CFO. He can never justify placing the bill on the agenda. So we have gone from 2017, where the bill passed virtually unanimously out of the legislature, to 2018 with the following:

  1. 2017 bill vetoed by the Governor

  2. Firefighters now actively working against the bill

  3. Barely making it out of the first House committee

  4. Stalled in the Senate

Where does that leave us? I have received many new calls from folks who somehow have learned about this issue. Our email campaign needs to grow and it may not help pass a bill but it can send a message to the Fire Marshall that they need to work with the hundreds of thousands of residents impacted by this rule. They want to see progress but there are not enough contractors to complete all that needs to be done by the deadline. Every one of you needs to reach out across the state and engage new associations. We need to build a database far greater than the numbers we have today. I spoke to an association president from the west coast this week and he has identified about 70 condos in his community alone. We need to keep up the pressure and continue the fight past session. Your collective voices can be powerful and you can use your numbers to your political advantage. Help us build this database of voices. 40 is better than 20 and 80 is better than 40. If you want to keep the pressure on, I am game, but we need help. We have 3 weeks left in session and anything can happen. One event can change the political dynamics and course of action of an issue.

I am not ready to give up. I hope you will do whatever you can over the next 3 weeks and beyond to help build our voice. If you send me the association name and email contact, I will add them to our list. Every good campaign starts with a list of passionate people who want to get something done. The bigger the better. Let me know your thoughts.

Until next time.


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

 



 

Florida CFO (and State Fire Marshal) Jimmy Patronis
FLORIDA CFO JIMMY PATRONIS
Senator Tom Lee
SENATOR TOM LEE
At the session's outset, when Bogdanoff met with Florida CFO (and State Fire Marshal) Jimmy Patronis, Patronis said that since he is running for re-election, he can't afford to alienate the fire marshals. The other shoe dropped when she learned that Patronis' opposition for CFO was Senator Tom Lee (R - Thonotosassa), a former Senate President who currently chairs the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, the Senate Bill's first committee stop. By stonewalling the bill, Lee plans to split the Fire Marshals' support for Patronis. As Bogdanoff observed - the perfect storm. With a $multi-billion windfall at stake, its no surprise that the Fire Sprinkler Associations are squeezing vulnerable lawmakers.

Click Here to Bronto Skylift
Bronto Skylift
BRONTO SKYLIFT
When the mandate to retrofit fire sprinklers was first enacted in 2002, Fire Sprinkler Association lobbyists insisted that the fire sprinklers were necessary to protect firefighters battling a blaze in a high rise building. Since the tallest ladder trucks could only extend 100 feet, firefighters would have to enter any building greater than 8 stories to reach those on higher floors. This is no longer true.

Bronto Skylift near High-Rise
BRONTO SKYLIFT
In 2015, at the world's largest fire trade show - Interschutz 2015 in Hannover, Germany - many ladder trucks (also called aerial platforms or turntables) exceeded 200 feet. In fact, a 220-foot ladder truck featured an "elevator" running up the back of the ladder to the basket at the top. The tallest ladder truck in the expo is manufactured by the Finnish company Bronto Skylift. It could extend to a height of 341 feet - and rated to manage structures 30 stories above grade. Although, there were only twenty such trucks worldwide in 2015, two years later, the F-112 HLA (High Level Articulated) is being delivered across the planet.

Bronto Skylift
BRONTO SKYLIFT IN ACTION
Click Here to FDIC International At the FDIC International (Fire Department Instructors Conference), an annual conference and exhibition last held from April 24-29, 2017 at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Bronto Skylift on display in the stadium featured a rescue height of 112 meters (90 meters with a 22 meter arm) - or 367 feet - which has often rescued victims up to 33 stories above grade. More than 300 have already been delivered to customers in North America. The cost for each truck is less than the cost of retrofitting an ELSS in one building.

 


Are You Game?

 

Bogdanoff Keeps Rolling
BOGDANOFF STILL "GAME" - ARE YOU?
As Bogdanoff explained, unless those of us with a dog in this fight reach out to the legislature, and detail how the hardship resulting from this mandate will affect our lives, the bills will die on the calendar. Although a crap shoot, Bogdanoff knows that this can work, as a flood of association emails and telephone calls to lawmakers helped enact her 2010 sprinkler retrofit opt-out legislation and a host of other pro-association bills. Bogdanoff says that she's "game". Are you?

Below are email links to all members of the Statehouse and Senate Committees scheduled to review George Moraitis' House Bill 1061 (HB 1061) and the companion bil filed by Senator Gary Farmer in the other chamber - Senate Bill 1432 (SB 1432). Use the links to email Florida Senator Tom Lee and Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, Also, message members of the 2 remaining Statehouse committees and 3 Senate committees that must approve the bills before they can be sent to the Statehouse and Senate floors. Just fill in the subject line, add your message and send each of them out.

  • Click Here to Email Florida Senator Tom Lee

  • Click Here to Email Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis
  •  

    Yogi Berra
    YOGI BERRA
    Unfortunately, every ISP (Internet Service Provider - the company we use to send out our online messages) limits the number of emails sent each day by a client - unless they use a special program for mass messaging - which we did not. However, once we are "cut off" after hitting the daily limit, you can still send the emails when the limit is reset - probably tomorrow.

    Alternatively. Click Here to download a list of the email addresses for every Statehouse Representative. Click Here to download a similar list of the email addresses - and other contact info - for every Florida Senator.

    As intimated by Bogdanoff, we have nothing to lose by flooding Tallahassee with our concerns. Emulating Yogi Berra's iconic assertion that “It ain't over till its over” Bogdanoff declares, “One event can change the political dynamics and course of action of an issue,” and concludes “anything can happen.” More to come... - [editor]

     

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    January 15, 2018 Update

    January 25, 2018 - On December 26, 2017, Association Advocate Ellyn Bogdanoff delivered a Holiday gift to thousands of Florida homeowners in high-rise associations. A message from the former State Senator revived their hopes for a legislative opportunity to dodge a $multi-million assessment - the cost of complying with a scam mandate to install an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS).

     


    Opt-Out Plan Rescue

     

    Governor Rick Scott
    GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT
    When Governor Scott broke his word and vetoed last year's ELSS opt-out bill - despite its overwhelming approval in both chambers - Bogdanoff and Rep. George Moraitis (R – Fort Lauderdale) expressed trepidations about refiling the bills in 2018, citing the Gubernatorial "wild card" and political obstacles common to an election year legislative session - when cash-strapped campaigning lawmakers become highly vulnerable to the political predations of deep-pocketed lobbyists.

    Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff
    ELLYN SETNOR BOGDANOFF
    Offering an alternative strategy, they proposed legislation that would extend the ELSS installation deadline, empanel a task force to study the fiscal impact and refile the opt-out legislation in 2019 - after term limits ended Rick Scott’s Gubernatorial tenure. Their tactical holding action suffered from sizable drawbacks.

    Moraitis Explains Bill
    MORAITIS EXPLAINS BILL
    For instance, since Rep. George Moraitis is also departing the Statehouse after 2018, unless Bogdanoff could then recruit an equally credible Statehouse sponsor, a far less experienced District 93 successor might be ill-equipped to face the mercenary sprinkler association lobbyists in the subsequent session. Moraitis conveyed this dilemma to Statehouse Speaker Richard Corcoran.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran
    HOUSE SPEAKER RICHARD CORCORAN
    Arguably the most politically imposing figure in the Florida Legislature, Corcoran's support can eviscerate a litany of legislative obstacles. When Corcoran advised Moraitis to refile his original bill in the upcoming session, Bogdanoff and Moraitis alerted grateful association supporters to prepare for Round 2 before successfully scrambling to beat the January 9 opening day filing deadline - in both chambers. On January 15, 2018 - almost a month later - Bogdanoff provided supporters with the following "Week 2" session update. Read on... - [editor]

     

     

    “Week 2”
    January 15, 2018

    Hi members:

    Bogdanoff Updates Bill
    BOGDANOFF UPDATES BILL
    I don’t have much to report as we head into the second week of Session. The bills have been filed, HB 1061 and SB 1432. Each were referred to 3 committees which is a good thing but none are on the agenda for this week. It is still early.

    I did have some conversations with the Chair of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, Senator Radar, to maybe attack this issue from a different angle. It is my belief that any Fire Marshall that requires the installation of a Fire Sprinkler system as part of an ELSS is exceeding their statutory authority.
    Senator Kevin Rader
    SENATOR KEVIN RADER
    If you opted out and had the statutory right to do so, then to require it through another door constitutes an un-promulgated rule by policy that exceeds statutory authority. The law says you don’t have to have one, yet they insist that you do. This may sound like a lot of gibberish, but the bottom line... they can’t do that. At least in my humble opinion.

    CALL Alert - Join ELSS 2018 Opt Out Group It gets more complicated from here so I won’t bore you with the details but we are working it from several angles. Our best hope is that we pass the bill again and it is not vetoed. It is a different day and we are entering an election year. Anything can happen.

    It is a short week due to the holiday. If anything exciting happens I will email you but if not, I will update you this Friday.

    I hope you had a great holiday weekend.


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

     



     

    House Careers & Competition Subcommittee
    HOUSE CAREERS & COMPETITION SUBCOMMITTEE
    A few days before Bogdanoff’s December 26th “First Update”, George Moraitis filed House Bill 1061 (HB 1061) on Thursday, December 21, 2017. On January 3rd, it was referred to three vetting committees, including the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee, the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee and finally, the House Commerce Committee. Its journey began in the Careers & Competition Subcommittee, where the 1st Reading took place on January 9, 2018.

    Senator Kathleen Passidomo
    SENATOR KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO - OUT
    Senator Gary Farmer
    SENATOR GARY FARMER - IN
    When last year's Senate sponsor Kathleen Passidomo (R – Naples) balked about refiling in 2018, Moraitis and Bogdanoff enlisted Senator Gary Farmer (D – Broward) to sponsor a companion bill in the other chamber. A rookie Senator, Farmer filed Senate Bill 1432 (SB 1432) on January 2, 2018. On January 12th, 3 committee stops were scheduled for Farmer’s bill - the Senate Committee on Community Affairs; the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries; and the Senate Committee on Rules. To accelerate the bill through dilatory Senate committee stops, Farmer will need to rely on Bogdanoff’s intimate familiarity with the upper chamber.

     


    Breaking the Law for a Windfall

     

    Senator Kevin Rader
    SENATOR KEVIN RADER
    In her week 2 update, Bogdanoff refers to a legal issue that may ultimately collapse this mercenary scheme like a house of cards. In her discussion with Senator Kevin Rader, Bogdanoff explores how the terms of her 2010 Fire Sprinkler Opt-Out Statute conflict with current Fire Marshal tactics. Given the statutory prohibition against requiring fire sprinklers in associations that legally voted to forego a sprinkler retrofit, when Fire Marshals demand the installation of an ELSS that contains fire sprinklers in associations that opted out, Bogdanoff concludes they are “exceeding their Statutory Authority.” Conversely, Fire Marshals claim that the Florida Fire Prevention Code mandates that every association ELSS must include Fire Sprinklers.

    Click Here to Florida Fire Prevention Code FFPC 101:31.3.5.11.4 is the only provision in the Florida Fire Prevention Code that defines an Engineered Life Safety System. It states “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.”

    By definition, fire sprinklers are one of several options available to a registered engineer assembling an ELSS, not a requirement. Since neither the Florida Fire Prevention Code nor the Florida Statutes require an ELSS to include fire sprinklers, local Florida Fire Marshals who collectively reject any ELSS that doesn’t contain a fire sprinkler system are complying instead with what Bogdanoff calls an “un-promulgated rule by policy”. Since such a rule doesn’t override statutory authority, it begs the question, “If an ELSS plan submitted by an association that legally opted out of a sprinkler retrofit is rejected for not having fire sprinklers, is the association immune to punitive enforcement by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (i.e. the local Fire Marshal)?”

    Bogdanoff is smart, a talented negotiator, and keeps a running inventory of skeletons in State Capital closets. While confirming that her primary objective is to “pass the bill again” and hopefully dodge another veto, her tenure in Tallahassee taught the former lawmaker the wisdom of booking a “Plan B”.

    Demonstrating how Fire Marshals created a policy that violates State Law to line the pockets of their Fire Sprinkler Association benefactors will turn the playing field on its head – not a bad alternative final chapter for an election year session where “anything can happen.” More to come... - [editor]

     

    Click To Top of Page


    December 12, 2017 Update

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

     


    Looking Back: 2017 Session

     

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

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

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

     


    Round 2: Planning the 2018 Rematch

     

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

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

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

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

     

     

    “First Update”
    December 12, 2017

    Hi members:

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

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

    Until next time...


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

     



     

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

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

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

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

     

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    July 24, 2017 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

    ELSS Retrofit: Round 2
    June 27, 2017

    Hi members:

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

    Until next time...


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

     



     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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    ELSS - Final Chapter

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

    WEEK 7 OF SESSION
    April 18, 2017

    Hi members:

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

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

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

    Until next time...


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

     



     

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

    WEEK 8 OF SESSION
    April 29, 2017

    Hi members:

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

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

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

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

    Until next time...


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

     



     

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

     

     

    FINAL DAYS OF THE SESSION
    May 2, 2017

    Hi members:

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

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

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

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

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

    Until next time...


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

     



     

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

    Bogdanoff’s Flea Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Stepping into the Sunshine

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

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

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

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

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

     

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    April 8, 2017 Update

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

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

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

     

     

    WEEK 5 OF SESSION
    April 8, 2017

    Hi members:

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

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

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

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

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

    Until next time...


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

     



     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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    Some Background

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

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

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

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

     

    Ellyn Bogdanoff ELSS Legislative Updates

     

    WEEK 2 OF SESSION
    March 17, 2017

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

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

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

    Have a great weekend. Until next time...


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

     



     

    WEEK 3 OF SESSION
    March 24, 2017

    Representative Randy Fine
    REPRESENTATIVE RANDY FINE
    Members:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Until next time...


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

     



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

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

     

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    Switching Scams

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

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

     

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

    Opinion

    by Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff

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

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

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

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

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

    Where do we go from here?

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

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

    Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff

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




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

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

     


    Moraitis Press Release

     

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

    Press Release

    February 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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




    State Representative - District 93



    Commentary

    Slicing up the Pie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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