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Condo legislation, sovereign immunity, data privacy, and other bills fall by the wayside

Senior Editor Top Stories

Florida CapitolFlorida lawmakers extended the 60-day session to complete work on a $112.1 billion spending proposal, the only bill the Constitution requires them to pass.

Of the 3,735 bills filed, 285 were sent to the governor’s desk, with a few still entering the pipeline a day after adjournment.

Left on the cutting room floor were several high-profile measures, including a legislative response to the June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South that killed 98 Surfside residents.

“Sometimes, 60 days isn’t enough to address some issues, and apparently, sweeping condo reform [is] one of them,” said Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Orange Park.

On the final day for considering substantive bills, Bradley offered a “strike-all” amendment to the House companion, HB 7069 by Rep. Daniel Perez, R-Miami.

The amendment stripped the bill of provisions dealing with maintenance reserves. Bradley said lawmakers would tackle more comprehensive reforms next year.

The amended measure would require all high-rise structures 30 years or older to undergo a structural inspection — 25 years or older if the building is within three miles of the coast — and every 10 years thereafter.

“I do believe this bill will set a new course for Florida’s condos and associations, and I would really appreciate your favorable support,” Bradley said.

The Senate approved the measure 38-0, and in a flurry of congratulatory remarks, sent it to the House, where it died on the calendar when lawmakers recessed later that evening.

Other bills that failed to pass include:

• Sovereign Immunity: HB 985 by Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Valrico, and SB 974 by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota. The measures advanced through three committees in their respective chambers but failed to reach the floor. A moving target, the measures would have raised a $200,000 per person/$300,000 per incident threshold beyond which plaintiffs must seek legislative approval to recover damages from government entities. The measure would have raised the threshold, which hasn’t been adjusted since 2010, to $400,000/$600,000. Sponsors sought to tie future increases to the Consumer Price Index. Local governments complained they would not be able to afford a corresponding increase in liability insurance.

• Consumer Data Privacy: HB 9 by Rep. Fiona MacFarland, R-Sarasota, and SB 1864 by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Orange Park. The measure would have required businesses to obtain a consumer’s permission before selling or sharing their personal information, and imposed a deadline for reviewing, correcting, or deleting their data. A private cause of action would have allowed consumers to sue a business for failure to comply. A priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls, the bill was vehemently opposed by the state’s largest business groups. Critics warned that compliance costs would be prohibitive. The House approved the bill 103-8 on March 2. SB 1864 never received a committee hearing.

• Property Insurance Reform: SB 1708 by Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, and HB 1307 by Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Bradenton. The measure sought to discourage meritless lawsuits by awarding attorney fees to prevailing defendants in property insurance disputes. It would have allowed “surplus lines” companies to accept policies from Citizens, the state-run insurer of last resort, and would have imposed a deductible for roof coverage. At a time when insurance companies are failing, and more than 100,000 policies were cancelled last year, supporters say reforms are desperately needed. The Senate voted 28-11 on March 3 to approve the bill. It died on the House calendar. Some lawmakers predict an insurance crisis will force a special session this year.

• Human Trafficking: HB 1439 by Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, and SB 1852 by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Orange Park. Toledo’s bill would have raised the penalty for a first-time offense of purchasing sex to a felony. Customers could also have their names placed on a statewide registry, be forced to perform 100 hours of community service, attend educational classes, and have their vehicle impounded. Repeat offenders could face a mandatory 10-day jail sentence. HB 1439 was appended to SB 772, a witness protection measure, and passed the House 114-1 on March 2. It died on the Senate calendar.

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