Highlights from the 2014 Florida Legislative Session

Dean Mead’s Government Relations, Lobbying and Administrative Law industry team are pleased to provide a summary report of the highlights from the 2014 Florida Legislative Session.

March 24, 2014

Annual Appropriations. As week 4 of the Session begins, both Houses are preparing to bring their $74 billion spending plans for the coming fiscal to the floor for debate and passage, and both the House and Senate will be giving priority attention to Appropriations Bills in the coming weeks. While there are many other important issues pending, the annual budget is the only required legislation that must pass before the Session concludes.

Wealth Management, Estate Planning, and Guardianship. CS/HB 1267 by Representative McBurney and CS/SB 1238 by Senator Richter will afford families with a new wealth management tool. The initiative provides the option to create and license family trust companies for managing family businesses and family wealth. Both bills have cleared their initial committees as the Session nears its mid-point. CS/SB 757 by Senator Spano and CS/SB 998 by Senator Hukill amend the state’s current Probate and Trust Codes to clarify provisions for death benefits and the burden of proof in trust contests. CS/HB 405 by Representative Peters and CS/SB 826 by Senator Joyner would permit a trust to provide exculpation of an excluded trustee when the trustee does not have the power and did not have actual knowledge of willful misconduct. Guardianships will have additional oversight under the provision in CS/CS/SB 634 by Senator Brandes and CS/HB 635 by Representative Passidomo. The legislation would authorize the Clerk of Court to obtain and review guardianship records and require non-professional guardians to submit to a credit history.

Water & Agriculture. Water continues to be near the top of the Legislature’s agenda. Water quality and water supply are part of the intended purposes behind SB 1576 by Senator Dean and HB 1313 by Representative Brodeur that call for new regulations in rural and suburban areas to protect the state’s natural springs. Funding has been tentatively set aside in the Appropriations Bill in both Houses to support the effort; and in SB 312 by Senator Simpson and HB 575 by Representative Albritton agriculture tax exemptions are on the table for dispersed water storage programs.

Gaming. SB 7052 by the Senate Gaming Committee, the comprehensive revamp of the state’s pari-mutual gaming regulation, continues to draw attention and offers the potential for destination casinos in South Florida. The House is considering a similar proposal along with HJR 7151 that will offer an amendment to the Florida Constitution to restrict further expansion of gambling in the state. CS/SB 668 by Senator Stargel and HB 945 by Representative Albritton authorize amusement games in which the player’s skill controls the outcome at bowling centers, hotels, restaurants, arcade amusement centers, and truck stops.

Residential Properties. Changes are pending to the state’s residential housing laws on several fronts. CS/SB 798 by Senator Ring and CS/HB 807 Representative Moraitis are the omnibus community association bills that will offer a series of changes to the Condominium Act, Cooperative Act and Chapter 720 governing mandatory homeowners’ associations. The legislation will expand the technology permitting absent board members to participate in meetings using Skype, Facetime or other modes electronic and video communication. The bills will provide association access to abandoned units, and they will impose a 5-day deadline for outgoing board members to turn over records to newly elected board members. CS/SB 1466 by Senator Lee and CS/HB 7037 by House Civil Justice amend the community association managers’ regulations to authorized managers to provide specific advice concerning the application of provisions in Chapters 718, 719 and 720. The legislation also creates new forms in Chapters 718, 719 and 720 and will authorize community managers to complete the statutory forms. Finally, CS/SB 1450 by Senator Simpson will specifically require that all homeowners’ association meetings to be held at locations accessible to physically handicapped persons.


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.

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.

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.

Ashley Gault’s practice focuses on Real Property and Administrative law. While completing law school, she served as a law clerk at the Florida Department of Financial Regulation and her former law firm, Pennington, P.A.  As a member of the Florida State moot court team, Ms. Gault took first place in 2012 Kaufman Memorial Securities Competition in New York City. She has represented clients before the Florida Supreme Court and the district courts of appeal.