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2020 Legislative Session “Capitol Report”

Published: October 23rd, 2020
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Dean Mead’s Session Overview provides a summary of the important issues that took place in Tallahassee this year. The 2020 Regular Session completed March 19, just as the severity of the pandemic was spreading across the Nation. During the Session, 3,518 bills were filed. Ultimately, only 203 bills were approved. The 2020 budget developed by the Legislature in February was $93.2B, of which the Governor vetoed more than $1B on June 29th.

A summary of key measures approved during the 2020 Regular Session appears below by category in numerical bill order. The full texts of each enrolled bill, as well as applicable legislative staff reports, are available on the legislative web sites (http://www.flsenate.gov; http://www.myfloridahouse.com; and http://www.leg.state.fl.us.).

GENERAL BUSINESS

Subpoenas—Out-of-State Corporations: CS/HB 103 by Representative Gottlieb clarifies the procedures for the service of subpoenas on out-of-state corporations doing business in Florida, including those doing business via the Internet. The legislation also provides for procedures for enforcement of such subpoenas. (Chapter 2020-45, Laws of Florida.)

Verification of Employment Eligibility: SB 664 by Senator Lee requires public employers, contractors, & subcontractors to use E-Verify system for specified purposes; prohibits such entities from entering into contract unless each party to contract uses E-Verify system; authorizes termination of contract; requires private employers to verify employment eligibility of newly hired employees; provides acceptable methods for verification. Both bills were referred to three committees. (Chapter 2020-149, Laws of Florida.)

Business Organizations: CS/SB 838 by Senator Simmons was a “glitch bill” making further revisions to the corporate chapters that were revised during the 2019 Legislative Session. (Chapter 2020-32, Laws of Florida.)

REAL PROPERTY AND DEVELOPMENT

Fireworks—HOA Rules: SB 140 by Senator Hutson permits the consumer purchase of fireworks for use on designated holidays. Section 2 of the bill provides that no provision in the legislation is intended to supersede homeowners’ association covenants and further provides that a board of directors may not abrogate a homeowner’s right to use fireworks by a rule. (Chapter 2020-11, Laws of Florida.)

Community Associations: CS/SB 476 by Senator Hooper provides that a condominium, cooperative, or homeowners association cannot prohibit an owner, tenant or guest from parking his or her law enforcement vehicle in an area where the owner, tenant, or guest otherwise has the right to park community. (Chapter 2020-5, Laws of Florida.)

Housing—Discriminatory Covenants: SB 374 by Senator Rouson modifies the procedures before commencing civil actions in housing discriminations claims, and it adds a provision to the Marketable Record Title Act creating a procedure for the extinguishment of discriminatory community covenants. (Chapter 2020-164, Laws of Florida.)

Leases—Subscribing Witnesses: CS/HB 469 by Representative Duggan and Senator Simmons amends section 689.01 to eliminate the need for subscribing witnesses on an instrument pertaining to a leasehold estate in real property. (Chapter 2020-109, Laws of Florida.)

Insurance Guaranty Associations: CS/HB 529 by Representative Webb is an initiative that increases each covered property insurance claim by a condominium, cooperative or homeowners association from $100,000 to $200,000. (Chapter 2020-156, Laws of Florida.)

Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act: CS/CS/SB 580 by Senator Bracy enacts the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, which provides special procedures for the partition of “heirs property,” which generally includes inherited real property owned by relatives as tenants in common. A partition involves a legal action by a cotenant to force the sale or division of real property. (Chapter 2020-55, Laws of Florida.)

Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act: CS/HB 783 by Representative Beltran creates new Chapter 714 of the Florida Statute that provides procedures for the court appointment of a receiver over commercial real property and the powers vested with the receiver once appointed. The legislation provides for the protection the rights of parties claiming interests in the property; provides protections for mortgages of the property; and protects the property from waste or substantial diminution of value. (Chapter 2020-106, Laws of Florida.)

Curative Deeds: CS/SB 886 by Senator Powell and Representative Altman provides a curative process for correcting scrivener’s errors in deeds that contain typographical errors or omission. The legislation provides the definition of a scrivener’s error and the procedures to be followed when correcting the errors. (Chapter 2020-33, Laws of Florida.)

Neighborhood Improvement Districts: HB 1009 by Representative Newton amends Section 163.511 to permit the membership of the board of directors of a neighborhood improvement district to consist of 3, 5 or 7 members, and it provides that the members of the board will serve 4-year, staggered terms. (Chapter 2020-86, Laws of Florida.)

Impact Fees: CS/CS/CS/SB 1066 by Senator Gruters provides that new or increased impact fees may not apply to current or pending building permits; and it provides that impact fee credits are assignable to another development in the same impact fee zone or impact fee district within the same local government jurisdiction. (Chapter 2020-58, Laws of Florida.)

Emotional Support Animals: SB 1084 by Senator Diaz amends section 413.08 to define and regulate emotional support animals. The legislation provides access to housing accommodations for persons with a disability who have an emotional support animal provided that the animal does not pose a direct threat to persons or property; it provides for written verification of the disability and need for the animal on a form prescribed by the Department of Health; and provides for penalties for the falsification of written documentation that knowingly and willfully misrepresents the need for an emotional support animal. (Chapter 2020-84, Laws of Florida.)

Community Development and Mobile Homes: HB 1339 by Representative Yarborough expands the options for the development of affordable housing within individual municipalities and counties. The legislation also revises provisions in the Florida Mobile Home Act, including provisions to provide disclosure in the prospectus of additions to shared facilities; to require written approval by the park owner before an owner makes modifications to the exterior of the home; to limit amounts a park owner may collect for ad valorem tax charges; to revise notice and election procedures for mobile home owners associations; and to allow reconstruction of a mobile home park after a natural disaster. (Chapter 2020-27, Laws of Florida.)

Rental Agreements upon Foreclosure: SB 1362 by Senator Rodriguez and Representative Sirois repeals s. 83.561 relating to tenant protections during a foreclosure proceeding because it conflicts with a similar provision in federal law. The legislation also contains the provision of federal law and provides that the language will become the law of Florida if the federal act is repealed. (Chapter 2020-99, Laws of Florida.)

Conservation Easement Areas: CS/SB 7018 by the Senate Appropriations Committee is an initiative relating to essential state infrastructure including for emergency staging areas as part of the state turnpike system. The legislation also amends s. 704.06 (11) to provide that the owner of land traditionally used for agriculture and subject to a conservation easement may voluntarily negotiate for the use of the land within the conservation easement for a public or private linear facility. (Chapter 2020-21, Laws of Florida.)

TAXATION

Transfer of Homestead Benefit: HJR 369 by Representative Roth is a proposed constitutional amendment extending the timeframe for the transfer of homestead property tax benefits from property previously owned to new homestead from 2 years to 3 years. (Amendment 5 on General Election ballot.)

Transfer of Homestead Benefit: HB 371 by Representative Roth is the implementing legislation for the constitutional amendment revising the timeframe for transfer of homestead property tax benefits to new homestead. The legislation takes effect upon voter approval of the constitutional amendment by the voters. (Chapter 2020-175, Laws of Florida.)

Economic DevelopmentSB 426 by Sen. Montford reduces the local match requirements for communities applying for the Regional Rural Development Grant and Rural Infrastructure Fund while maintaining the same amount of allocating funds to the Rural Revolving Loan Fund. The bill also adjusts some state-level organizations, including CareerSource Florida, responsible for overseeing programs administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity. (Chapter 2020-30, Laws of Florida.)

Ad Valorem Tax Discounts: HJR 877 by Representative Killebrew is a proposed constitutional amendment to authorize the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran to carry over certain discounts on ad valorem taxes on homestead property until the surviving spouse remarries or otherwise disposes of the property. (Amendment 6 on General Election ballot.)

Ad Valorem Tax Discounts: HB 879 by Representative Killebrew is the implementing legislation for the constitutional amendment providing a surviving spouse of a deceased veteran the ability to carry over certain discounts on ad valorem taxes on homestead property until the surviving spouse remarries or otherwise disposes of the property. The legislation takes effect upon voter approval of the constitutional amendment by the voters. (Chapter 2020-179, Laws of Florida.)

Ad Valorem Tax Discounts: CS/HB 1249 by Representative Sullivan provides that a disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran may apply for and receive a prorated refund of property taxes for new homestead property acquired January 1 and November 1 of any year. (Chapter 2020-140, Laws of Florida.)

Taxation: CS/HB 7097 by the House Ways and Means Committee is the annual Session “tax package.” During the last week of the session, it grew to approximately $250 million in tax reductions and benefits for Floridians. Ultimately, due to the unknowns surrounding COVID-19, the final bill passed with $48 million in one-time tax relief for the annual back-to-school and disaster preparedness sales tax holidays. The bill clarified that corporate income tax donors to the Scholarship Tax Credit Program included in the corporate income tax refunds to be distributed by the Department of Revenue in Spring 2020 due to the increased tax collections after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill created a potential limitation of the property tax exemption enjoyed by nonprofit hospitals based on the actual community benefit expense provided by the hospital in each county. Hospitals will be required to annually report to the Department of Revenue effective in 2022. If the community benefit is less than the property tax exemption in two or more consecutive years, then the property tax exemption will be reduced proportionately. (Chapter 2020-10, Laws of Florida.)

Adoption of the Internal Revenue Code for Purposes of the Corporate Income Tax: HB 7095 by Ways & Means Committee contains the annual “piggyback” bill, which adopts the Internal Revenue Code effective on 1/1/20. (Chapter 2020-184, Laws of Florida.)

ENVIRONMENT AND AGRICULTURE

Environmental Regulation: HB 73 by Representative Overdorf specifies requirements for contracts between residential recycling collectors or recovered materials processing facilities & counties or municipalities; prohibits counties & municipalities from requiring collection, transport, or processing of contaminated recyclable material by residential recycling collectors or recovered materials processing facilities; prohibits local governments from requiring further verification from DEP for certain projects; revises types of dock & pier replacements & repairs that are exempt from such verification & certain permitting requirements. (Chapter 2020-41, Laws of Florida.)

Environmental Resource Management: SB 712 by Senator Mayfield creates the “Clean Waterways Act”; requiring the Department of Health to provide a specified report to the Governor and the Legislature; transferring the Onsite Sewage Program within the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection; creating an onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems technical advisory committee within the department; requiring the department to adopt rules relating to the underground pipes of wastewater collection systems; requiring basin management action plans for nutrient total maximum daily loads to include wastewater treatment and onsite sewage treatment and disposal system remediation plans that meet certain requirements. (Chapter 2020-150, Laws of Florida.)

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: HB 921 by Representative Brannan revises the contents of a Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services report to the Governor and the Legislature to include the development of certain renewable and alternative energy technologies. (Chapter 2020-135, Laws of Florida.)

Aquatic Preserves: HB 1061 by Representative Massullo creates the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve; designates preserve for inclusion in aquatic preserve system. The bill also outlines authority of Board of Trustees of Internal Improvement Trust Fund and prohibits the Board from infringing upon riparian rights of upland property owners adjacent to or within preserve. (Chapter 2020-136, Laws of Florida.)

Environmental Enforcement: HB 1091 by Representative Fine increases civil penalties for violations of numerous environmental provisions such as beach & shore construction, aquatic preserves, the state water resource plan, and artesian wells. (Chapter 2020-158, Laws of Florida.)

Department of Citrus: SB 1276 by Senator Albritton establishes the Friends of Florida Citrus Program within the Department of Citrus and the Friends of Florida Citrus Advisory Council. (Chapter 2020-151, Laws of Florida.)

Fish and Wildlife Activities: SB 1414 by Senator Mayfield prohibits certain harassment of hunters, trappers, & fishers in or on specified lands, areas, & waters. The bill authorizes FWCC to designate additional free fishing days. The bill prohibits certain possession of specified reptiles. (Chapter 2020-123, Laws of Florida.)

MISCELLANEOUS

Adoption Benefits: CS/HB 61 by Representative Roth expands the state financial benefits for the adoption of child to veterans and service members. The legislation also provides an enhanced benefit for the adoption of a child with special needs. (Chapter 2020-22, Laws of Florida.)

Adoption Records: CS/HB 89 by Representative Stark permits release of the name and identity of birth parents to an adoptee who is 18 years of age or older without a court order provided that the birth parents and the adoptive parents have provided written authorization for the release of their names. (Chapter 2020-42, Laws of Florida.)

Illegal Taking, Possession, and Sale of Bears: HB 327 by Representative David Smith provides violations for illegal taking, possession, & sale of bears. (Chapter 2020-66, Laws of Florida.)

Guardianship: CS/SB 344 by Senator Brandley provide for the waiver of filing fees for public guardians and provides that a physician may delegate the responsibility to prepare a report on a ward to a physician assistant or an advanced nurse practitioner. (Chapter 2020-73, Laws of Florida.)

Probate: CS/HB 505 by Representative Driskell and Senator Berman contain clarifications that coins and bullion are tangible personal property; clarification that formal notice under the Probate Code does not confer in personam jurisdiction; expansion of the categories of conflicts of interest for personal representatives; codification of client disclosure requirements for fiduciaries; clarification of PR/beneficiary standing to recover assets; clarification of the elective share notice regarding the timely election of an extension; and notice of administration changes to provide adequate notice that a party may be waiving the right to contest a trust if they fail to timely contest the will. (Chapter 2020-67, Laws of Florida.)

Public Nuisances: CS/CS/HB 625 by Representative Newton revises the notice requirements for filing of a temporary injunction to enjoin certain nuisances; declaring that the use of property for criminal gang-related activity is a public nuisance; and declaring a premises that has been used on more than two occasions during a certain period for criminal activities to be nuisance. (Chapter 2020-130, Laws of Florida.)

Drones: HB 659 by Representative Fischer adds exception to prohibited uses of drone for managing and eradicating invasive exotic plants or animals on public lands. (Chapter 2020-131, Laws of Florida.)

Jury Service: CS/SB 738 by Senator Harrell provides that, upon request, a full-time high school or college student between 18 and 21 years of age shall be excused from jury duty. (Chapter 2020-57, Laws of Florida.)

Vulnerable Investors: CS/CS/HB 813 by Representative Donalds revises and expands the definition of “financial exploitation of vulnerable adults” and expands the reporting requirements to include investment advisors and security dealers. The legislation also permits a security dealer or investment advisor to delay disbursement of funds or securities when there is reasonable belief that the exploitation is present. (Chapter 2020-158, Laws of Florida.)

Guardianship: CS/CS/SB 994 by Senator Passidomo and Representative Burton expands the factors for the court to consider when appointing a guardian; prohibits a guardian from signing a DNR without a court order; prohibits a professional guardian from petitioning for appointment; and other related revisions. (Chapter 2020-35, Laws of Florida.)

Trusts: CS/HB 1089 by Representative Caruso and Senator Gruters creates new section 736.08145 to authorize a trustee of certain trusts to reimburse persons being treated as the owner of the trust; it provides for restrictions on the authority; and it provides that the changes are applicable to trust created before and after the effective date of the act. (Chapter 2020-70, Laws of Florida.)

Underground Facility Damage Prevention & Safety: HB 1095 by Representative Fitzenhagen provides noncriminal violations relating to transportation of hazardous materials. The bill removes provisions relating to hearings by DOAH of certain incidents and creates underground facility damage prevention review panel. (Chapter 2020-137, Laws of Florida.)

Deceased Account Holders: CS/CS/HB 1439 by Representative Yarborough will permit a financial institution to make payment to a surviving successor from a qualified depository account or certificate of deposit without a pay-on-death or survivor designation provided the aggregate sum paid does not exceed $1000 and the payment is not made earlier than 6 months after the decedent’s death. The legislation also create a process by which a beneficiary of an intestate decedent may file an affidavit with the court to request distribution of certain assets of the decedent if the intestate decedent left only personal property that is exempt form probate, personal property constitutionally protected and nonexempt personal property valued at less than $10,000 and certain funeral and medical expenses. The decedent must have died more than a year prior, and no probate proceedings may be pending. The initiative also expands exceptions to generally prohibit financial institutions from disclosing client accounts. (Chapter 2020-110, Laws of Florida.)