2017 Florida Legislative Session

Dean Mead Capitol Report (2017)

Dean Mead’s Government Relations and Lobbying Team is pleased to present the 2017 Capitol Report. There were 1,719 bills introduced in the Florida Legislature this year, a fraction of which survived final passage. The Capitol Report highlights some of the bills that passed the Legislature that may affect your businesses or clients. We have provided a short summary of the important provisions within each bill.

The Governor has now acted on all legislation in this report, and the appropriate Session Law number follows the summary on each bill. The full text of each enrolled bill, as well as applicable legislative staff reports, are available on the legislative web sites (www.flsenate.gov; www.myfloridahouse.com).

The Capitol Report is intended to update you on changes to the law that affect your businesses and practice groups. For more information, please contact our Tallahassee Office at 850-999-4100.

Real Estate and Development

Self-Storage Facilities: This bill revises the provisions of Chapter 83 relating to self-storage facilities and permits a lien sale to be conducted on a public website; it permits a landlord to provide property value limits on property being stored by a tenant; it permits the landlord to tow a boat or motor vehicle of a delinquent tenant from the premises; and it authorizes the landlord to charge a reasonable late fee. (Chapter 2017-82, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 357 by Representative Moraitis.)

Real Property Improvements—Contract Completion: In this legislation, the provisions of Chapter 95 are revised to provide that the completion of a contract relating to the design, planning or construction of improvements to real property shall be the later of the date of final performance of all contracted services or when the final payment for such services becomes due. (Chapter 2017-101, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 377 by Representative Leek.)

Underground Facilities—Damage:  This bill amends the “one-call” requirements and imposes new reporting requirements when underground excavation of property causes damage to natural gas facilities or other facilities transporting hazardous substances or materials. (Chapter 2017-102, Laws of Florida.) (HB 379 by Representative Leek.)

Estoppel Certificates: The estoppel legislation revises the procedures for providing estoppel certificates by condominium, cooperative and homeowners associations; it requires the delivery of certificates within 10 days; it specifies the information to be contained in the certificate; it provides that the certificate must be effective for 30 days; and it provides for fees that may be charged for the certificate. (Chapter 2017-93, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/SB 398 by Senator Passidomo.)

Community Associations: This is a comprehensive community association measure that makes a series of revisions to the housing chapters (718, 719 and 720) that include extending the time for a response for records production from 5 to 10 days; eliminating the auditing exemption for communities of 50 units or less; eliminating the restriction on the waiver of financial reporting; clarifying the notice requirements for special assessments; providing for exemptions for fire sprinkler retrofitting; and eliminating the bulk buyer sunset for Part VII of the Condominium Act. The legislation also contains the provisions found in CS/CS/CS/HB 1237 and CS/SB 1520. CS/CS/CS/HB 653 passed the Legislature. (Vetoed by the Governor.) (CS/CS/CS/HB 653 by Representative Moraitis.)

Accessibility to Accommodations: The bill creates an optional inspection process under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to allow property owners required to comply with the federal American with Disabilities Act to have their premises inspected and certified in compliance by a qualified expert. It also provides for the development and implementation of a remediation plan if modifications to the premises are required to comply with the ADA. (Chapter 2017-139, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/HB 727 by Representative Leek.)

Timeshares: The timeshare legislation revises procedures for the extension and termination of timeshare plans; provides new requirements on the board of the association and association expenses; and addresses extension of multisite timeshare plans.  (Chapter 2017-22, Laws of Florida.) (CS/SB 818 by Senator Hutson.)

Condominiums: This legislation makes a series of revisions to the Condominium Act that include provisions that an attorney may not represent both a management company and condominium association; it restricts purchasers of a condominium unit at a foreclosure sale of a condominium lien; it extends records access to a tenant and imposes criminal penalties for the failure to provide records; it imposes new website requirements on an association containing  150 or more units; it imposes new requirements on the delivery of financial reports; it imposes term limits on board members; it prohibits certain service providers; it provides new conflict of interest standards for officers and board members; it permits the privatization of arbitrators; it creates a new section dealing with fraudulent voting activities; and it creates a new filing requirement of financial institutions at the Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes. (Chapter 2017-188, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/CS/HB 1237 by Representative Diaz.)

Condominium Terminations: The condominium termination legislation revises the optional termination process for condominiums. Similar provisions passed in CS/CS/CS/HB 653, and the combined changes in the legislation clarify the public policy basis for terminations; revise the percentage that may object to the termination from 10% to 5%; expand the notice requirements for bulk ownership; revise the statutory content of a plan of termination; and require filing of a plan with the Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes before an approved plan can be recorded.  (Chapter 2017-122, Laws of Florida.(CS/SB 1520 by Senator Latvala.)

Community Associations: This measure repeals the exemption from financial reporting requirements for communities with 50 units or fewer and also repeals the restriction on the waiver of financial reporting requirements in Chapters 718, 719 and 720. The same language appears in CS/CS/CS/HB 653.  (Chapter 2017-161, Laws of Florida.) (HB 6027 by Representative Williamson.)

Multifamily Residential Docks: This measure is a comprehensive bill dealing with vessels and floating structures. Section 1 of the bill is of interest to multifamily properties because it grandfathers certain oversized condominium and multifamily docking facilities from submerged land lease payments.  Section 2 of the bill provides additional clarity on what is considered commercial versus recreational use of a vessel.  (Chapter 2017-163, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 7043 by the House Government Accountability Committee.)

Family And Wealth Management

Electronic Wills: The Florida Electronic Wills Act authorizes the electronic execution and storage of wills, but the remote presence of witness and a notary public have a delayed effective date of April 1, 2018. The bill was also includes the trust initiatives found in CS/CS/HB 481. CS/CS/HB 277 passed the Legislature. (Vetoed by the Governor.) (CS/CS/HB 277 by Representative Grant.)

Guardianship: This guardianship initiative provides revisions to the state’s guardianship laws that include the ability of a guardian to initiate divorce proceedings for the ward; it removes the statutory cap on funeral expenses of the ward; and it creates a notice-and-demand procedure for hearsay and other objections to the examining committee reports in proceedings.  (Chapter 2017-16, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 399 by Representative Diamond.)

Trusts: This initiative passed as an amendment to CS/CS/HB 277 and includes a provision to resolve the inconsistency in the current law regarding notices to the Attorney General relating to charitable trusts; modernizes of the statutory authority for decanting trusts; clarifies that the settlor’s intent is paramount when interpreting the terms of the trust; and clarifies the duty of a trustee concerning accounting during any period.  (Vetoed by the Governor.) (CS/CS/HB 277 by Representative Grant.)

Elective Share: This measure modifies elective share provisions of Florida law. The revisions include the manner in which protected homestead is included in the elective share; the time for filing the share election; and provisions addressing attorney’s fees and unproductive property in an elective share context.  (Chapter 2017-121, Laws of Florida.)  (CS/CS/SB 724 by Senator Passidomo.)

Charitable Trusts: The legislation contains several provisions relating to the Department of Legal Affairs.  Sections 7 through 12 of the bill relate to charitable trusts and revise the provisions of Chapter 736 substituting the state attorney with the Florida Attorney General in matters relating to charitable trust proceedings.  (Chapter 2017-155, Laws of Florida.) (CS/HB 1379 by Representative Diaz.)

Guardianship—Technical: This statutory revisers bill contains a variety of technical changes to various parts of the Florida Statutes, and Section 45 of the bill makes a technical change in a cross-reference to new section 744.2003 based on the renumbering of this section in Chapter 2016-40, Laws of Florida.  (Chapter 2017-3, Laws of Florida.) (SB 502 by Senator Benacquisto.)

Elder Affairs Rule Ratification: The Legislature ratified the Department of Elder Affair’s rules relating to professional guardians in this legislation.  (Chapter 2017-165, Laws of Florida.) (HB 7073 by the House Committee on Children and Families.)

Agriculture & Water

Water Resources: This measure is the major water funding initiative of the Legislative Session, and it authorizes bonding for projects in the Everglades Agricultural Area for environmental cleanup and restoration. The legislation also incorporates provisions for long term planning by governmental entities; it includes water supply authorities in its planning process; and provides for a new water storage revolving loan fund for man-made water storage. (Chapter 2017-10, Laws of Florida.) (CS/SB 10 by Senator Bradley.)

Terrorism—Water Supplies: This initiative defines a series of new criminal activities as terrorism and provides appropriate penalties. Among the new defined terrorist activities is the poisoning of potable water supplies with the intent to injure and or kill livestock, crops and persons. (Chapter 2017-37, Laws of Florida.) (CS/HB 457 by Representative Gonzalez.)

Low-Voltage Electric Fences: This bill provides new, first-time requirements for use of a low- voltage electric fence that is part of an alarm system. If a farm operation uses, or intends to use, this type of security for protection of acreage or production facilities,  compliance requires that warning signs be posted, that a non-electric fence enclose the low voltage fencing, and the system cannot be used in residential areas. (Chapter 2017-52, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 241 by Representative Williamson.)

Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: This measure is the comprehensive Department of Agriculture package. The bill expands the Department’s safety inspection services to raw commodities grown, produced, harvested, and packed, and once implement by rule, the new authority extends inspections to these agricultural production activities. The bill also revises the procedures for filing and protecting livestock brands. In lieu of a facsimile of the brand, a detailed drawing of the brand will now be required, and once registered with the Department, the protection of the brand registration has been extended from 5 years to 10 years. The bill also repeals s. 534.061 that has previously required the immediate rebranding of cattle by the purchaser.   (Chapter 2017-85, Laws of Florida.)  (CS/CS/HB 467 by Representative Raburn.)

Cottage Food Operations: The provisions of this bill expand the permitted production of a cottage food operator, and if a food producer uses these activities in marketing or promotion of its products, the changes in the law will be of interest. The bill increases the annual gross sales for a qualifying cottage food operation under s. 500.80, F.S. from $15,000 to $50,000, and it provides that a cottage food operation may sell products over the Internet provided that the products are delivered in person directly to the customer or the specific event menu. (Chapter 2017-32, Laws of Florida.) (HB 1233 by Representative White.)

Agriculture Tax Incentives: The Legislature’s annual comprehensive tax package contains a number of tax exemptions and reductions with relevance to agricultural operations. There are provisions in the bill that exempt from sales tax certain animal health products and other items used in agricultural production, including compressed liquefied oxygen, hog wire, nylon mesh netting, and barbed wire fencing. The bill also increases the tax exemption on the sales price for farm trailers from $20,000 to $25,000; and it reduces the sales tax on commercial leases of real property from 6% to 5.8%.  (Chapter 2017-36, Laws of Florida.) (HB 7109 by Representative Boyd.)

Industrial Hemp: The hemp initiative authorizes an “industrial hemp pilot program.” The legislation has placed the development of the program under the Department of Agriculture, and it authorizes a state university (IFAS at the University of Florida and Florida A & M are specifically designated) to join with a “qualified project partner” that can be either a public or private entity to undertake a “pilot project.” The project can include research into any aspect of the cultivation, harvesting, processing, marketing, and sales of approved industrial hemp or related commercial products.  Any project will be required to address the potential impact that hemp may have on other crops commercially grown in Florida, including the impacts of plant pests and diseases. The research project is required to take place over a minimum of 10 semiannual crop rotations or 5 years, whichever is longer. The DACS is required to promulgate rules to implement the program, and the effective date of the bill is “upon becoming law” so the implementation process can begin almost immediately.  (Chapter 2017-124, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 1726 by Senator Montford.)

Reportable Pollution Release: The “Public Notice of Pollution Act” is created by this initiative, and it requires reporting of pollutant spills to the Division of Emergency Management at Department of Environmental Protection within 24 hours of discovery of the release. The legislation requires the Department to create a website for the posting of notices and promulgate rules to implement the Act. The legislation also provides for site assessment and rehabilitation for real property contaminated by petroleum and dry cleaning solvent.   (Chapter 2017-95, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 1018 by Senator Grimsley.)

Unmanned Devices: The legislation deals with unmanned devices, and Section 8 of the bill creates a partial preemption of local regulation of drones and creates a new regulatory framework for their use at the state level.  The legislation also prohibits the use of drones over areas considered “critical infrastructure facilities.” (Chapter 2017-150, Laws of Florida.) (CS/HB 1027 by Representative Yarborough.)

Pesticide Registration: This legislation eliminates the supplemental fee for each registered brand of pesticide that contains an active ingredient for which the EPA has established a food tolerance limit. (Chapter 2017-158, Laws of Florida.) (HB 5401 by Representative Grimsley.)

Herbert Hoover Dike Repair: $50 million was appropriated to accelerate the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike on the last day of the special session. The appropriation is a contribution to the $2 billion federal government project that is scheduled for completion in 2025.The Governor has been a strong supporter of repairing the dike to allow more water to be held in the lake. The repair of the dike was added to the call by the Governor just hours before the conclusion of the special session. The repairs are part of a strategy aimed at helping reduce the frequency of harmful freshwater discharges to the coastal estuaries. (Chapter 2017- 233, Laws of Florida.)  (HB 1A by Representative Renner.)

Medical Marijuana: Legislation passed during the special session to implement Article X, section 29 of the Florida Constitution, which allows the use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions. The comprehensive legislation includes provisions removing the 90-day waiting period for patients and directing the Department of Health to license additional medical marijuana treatment centers. (Chapter 2017-232, Laws of Florida.) (SB 8A by Senator Bradley.)

Business, Transportation & Economic Development

Central Florida Expressway Authority: This legislation expands the membership of the Authority from 9 members to 10 members, and the new member of the Authority will be appointed by the Brevard County Commission.  (Chapter 2017-56, Laws of Florida.) (HB 299 by Representative Goodson.)

Public Records— Attorney Fees:  This initiative will require a complainant seeking attorney’s fees from a public body for the failure to the provide public records to show evidence that the complainant gave written notice to the agency before making a claim for attorney fees for the failure to provide the records can be made.  (Chapter 2017-21, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/SB 80 by Senator Steube.)

Fictitious Name Registrations: For companies and entities operating under a fictitious name, this measure revises the Fictitious Name Act to require the business entity registrant to be organized and in active status; it provides that with respect to a general partnership, it is the general partners who are the registrants under the Act; it provides for the reregistration when a business is sold; and it expands the terms and words that may not be used by a registrant. (Chapter 2017-47, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 169 by Representative White.)

Notaries Public: This measure makes a minor modification to the state’s notary law and expands the list of identification credentials that a notary public may rely upon in notarizing a signature on a document to include a veteran health identification card.  (Chapter 2017-17, Laws of Florida.)  (CS/HB 401 by Representative Abruzzo.)

Signage—Preemption of Local Regulation: This legislation relates to construction and provides for the preemption of local government regulation of signage that impairs the aesthetics of a corporate trademark or prevents signage for gasoline pricing from being clearly visible to drivers approaching a gas station.  (Chapter 2017-149, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 1021 by Representative Avila.)

Wireless Antennas and Facilities: This legislation preempts the local regulation of wireless facilities attached to utility poles or similar structures that provide lighting electric distribution, traffic control, or signage are located in the right of way. The legislation also prohibits unrelated fees or in-kind services in conjunction with the installations. (Chapter 2017-136, Laws of Florida.) (CS/CS/HB 687 by Representative La Rosa.)

Economic Development: Legislation passed during the special session creating the $85 million Job Growth Trust Fund within the Department of Economic Opportunity allowing the Governor to approve funds for public infrastructure and workforce training projects. The legislation also creates the Targeted Marketing Assistance Program to enhance tourism business marketing of small, minority, rural, and agritourism businesses and increases the funding of VISIT FLORIDA to its current levels and up from the $25 million originally appropriated during regular session. (Chapter 2017-233, Laws of Florida.) (HB 1A by Representative Renner.)

Tax and Taxation

Property Taxes—Solar Energy Devices: This solar device initiative extends the tax exemptions for renewable energy improvements to commercial property by exempting 80% of the just valuation of the improvements; it expands the equipment entitled to the exemption; and it provides implementing language for the solar energy constitutional amendment. CS/SB 90 has passed the Legislature and is pending action by the Governor.  (Chapter 2017-118, Laws of Florida.) (CS/SB 90 by Senator Brandes.)

Property Tax Exemption—First Responders: This initiative exempts the homestead property of first responders from ad valorem taxes who have been permanently and totally disabled from injuries sustained in the line of duty, and it also extends the exemption their surviving spouses. (Chapter 2017-105, Laws of Florida.(CS/CS/HB 455 by Representative Metz.)

Taxation: In addition to the agricultural tax exemptions, the comprehensive tax package for the Session also makes other significant changes.  Section 5 of the bill simplifies the annual tax exemption application for not-for-profit senior centers; Section 6 provides an additional tax exemption for low income multifamily housing projects; Section 21 of the bill reduces the sales tax on the leases of real property from 6% to 5.8%; and Section 49 amends s. 733.2121 and revises the process by which a personal representative may serve a notice to creditors on the Department of Revenue.  (Chapter 2017-36, Laws of Florida.) (HB 7109 by Representative Boyd.)

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Property Tax Cap:  This proposed constitutional amendment will make permanent the 10% cap on assessment increases for non-homestead real estate for purposes of calculating property taxes. The proposed amendment will appear on the 2018 General Election ballot for consideration by Florida voters. (CS/HJR 21 by Representative Burton.)

Homestead Exemption Increase: This proposed constitutional amendment will increase the homestead exemption to $100,000, and it will appear on the ballot in 2018 for approval by Florida voters.  HB 7107 is the implementing legislation that will take effect upon the passage of HJR 7105.  (Chapter 2017-35, Laws of Florida.) (HB 7107 and HJR 7105 by the House Ways and Means Committee.)

Dean Mead’s Governmental Relations, Lobbying & Administrative Team:

Peter Dunbar’s practice focuses on governmental, administrative, and real property law. He began his long career in Florida government in 1967 as staff director in the Florida House of Representatives. Mr. Dunbar later served for five terms as a distinguished member of the Florida House representing Pinellas and Pasco counties in the Florida Legislature. Upon leaving the Legislature, he held the posts of General Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs under Governor Bob Martinez and as General Counsel at the Department of Financial Services. Mr. Dunbar served as Chief of Staff during the transition from the Martinez administration to the administration of Governor Lawton Chiles, and he is former Chairman and two-term member of the Florida Ethics Commission. Mr. Dunbar was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1972. He is a member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, an adjunct professor at Florida State University College of Law, and has recently been selected by his peers as a member of Florida Trend’s Florida Legal Elite Hall of Fame. He may be reached at pdunbar@www.deanmead.com.

Martha Edenfield focuses her practice on governmental affairs, environmental land use and administrative law. Now in her 30th year of private law practice in Tallahassee, she has gained a wide variety of experience representing clients before the Florida Legislature, the Governor, the Cabinet and state agencies. Ms. Edenfield utilizes her political leadership skills to advocate for her clients and coordinate a legislative team. Ms. Edenfield has extensive experience as legal and governmental counsel for agricultural trade groups, industrial associations, medical professionals and local governments. She may be reached at medenfield@www.deanmead.com.

Cari Roth has 30 years of public and private sector legal and legislative experience and is a recognized leader in government relations and environmental and land use law. Her legal and legislative practice focuses on state and local government issues, including land use, water and environmental law, growth management and infrastructure issues, and intergovernmental relations. She also has significant experience in special district law. Most recently, Ms. Roth served as chair of a statewide firm’s land use and government consulting practices. Prior to that, she worked for four years as General Counsel and Assistant Secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs in Tallahassee where she played a lead role in negotiating major growth management legislation. As General Counsel, she was involved in many inter-agency efforts, particularly those with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Department of Transportation and all the regional Water Management Districts. She may be reached at croth@www.deanmead.com.

John Wharton represents both public and private clients in cases from application creation to administrative litigation before state and federal agencies. He also practices general litigation in state and federal courts. Mr. Wharton has over 25 years of experience in Tallahassee practicing before and often litigating against numerous state agencies in the areas of water resource planning; permitting and regulation; mitigation banking; health care; utility law and utility regulation; professional regulation and environmental law. Mr. Wharton has represented clients before the Florida Public Service Commission, the Division of Administrative Hearings, the Department of Environmental Protection, the St. John’s River Water Management District, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Financial Services, various boards within the Department of Professional Regulation, the Department of Health, the Florida Department of Lottery, and the Governor and Cabinet sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, among others.  He may be reached at jwharton@www.deanmead.com.

Bill Townsend practices in the areas of state and local taxation and multi-state taxation. He has represented clients in various states on issues in administrative and judicial actions relating to sales, corporate income, business and organization taxes and telecommunications taxes, as well as state taxation of intellectual property, electronic commerce taxation (E-commerce) and unclaimed property (escheat) issues. Additionally, Mr. Townsend represents clients on legislative tax matters, including the taxation of computer services, corporate income tax issues and sales tax exemption matters. He has an extensive background in structuring business transactions to minimize state tax impacts. Mr. Townsend has also assisted representing new businesses and expanding businesses in dealing with Enterprise Florida and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. He has also represented clients in dealings with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on matters dealing with liquor and tobacco issues. He may be reached at btownsend@www.deanmead.com.

Brittany Finkbeiner focuses on Real Property and Administrative law. Prior to going into private practice, Ms. Finkbeiner served as a chief attorney for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes. In addition, she’s worked at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee and as a legislative aide for the Florida Senate. She may be reached at bfinkbeiner@www.deanmead.com.