Below is a FACTSS update in regard to proposed legislation that would significantly enhance our chances to opt out of certain mandated fire safety upgrades if it is enacted. We also want to remind you that the State Fire Marshals are supporting different legislation that would still require us to install an ELSS or full sprinklers, with a deadline later than the existing 12/31/19 and with an alternate method of financing the costs. Your Board believes that this Fire Marshal supported legislation may have a greater chance of enactment into law.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH YOUR MANAGERS, BOARD MEMBERS AND OWNERS
After the vote by the State House on our opt-out bill (the vote was 103 in favor and 7 opposed), HB 647 was sent to the Senate to vote on and hopefully concur with the opt-out provisions. We had a good amendment pending on Senator Hooper’s mandatory sprinkler bill (SB 908) to match up to HB 647, sponsored by Senator Brandes. In a clever but last-minute move, Senator Hooper pulled up HB 647 instead of his own bill and filed a strike-all amendment at the last minute, giving us no time to respond. This is a maneuver allowed under the Senate rules. This killed our good amendment and we were potentially stuck with a new law requiring mandatory sprinklers or a looming deadline.
After intense negotiations and late-night meetings, Senator Hooper, the sponsor of the mandatory ELSS bill (SB 908) agreed to strip all the language out of HB 647 and substitute with an amendment, just prior to the vote. Since we knew that Senator Hooper would kill his own bill if we amended it with our opt-out language, we felt this was a huge win because no bill meant we would have to install our ELSS by the end of this year. The amendment delays implementation of ELSS until January 1, 2024, instructs the State Fire Marshal to compile a list of association high-rise buildings that opted out of the original sprinkler retro fit and deliver a copy to the Governor, Florida House and Senate, and provides for a uniform summary inspection report to be used by all jurisdictions. The amendment was agreed to and the Senate voted 39-0 to approve HB 647 (the amended version) and sent it back to the House. It is currently pending before the House and must be voted on prior to the May 3 recess in order to go to the Governor for his signature. We are on pins and needles because many members are eyeing our bill to amend other language. This is common in the last days of session when legislators know their important priorities are dead and they are looking for any vehicle that lives. Keeping amendments off becomes critical, otherwise it has to go back to the Senate for another vote and we could run out of time.
If this passes, we will live to “fight another day.” In addition to the extension, we were successful in preserving critical language currently in statute that will give us the opportunity to obtain a declaratory statement from the Fire Marshal outlining where he believes his authority lies in requiring sprinklers as part of an ELSS since we have a full statutory opt-out of sprinklers in units and common areas.
This is a “David vs Goliath” battle. We were opposed by special interests with very deep pockets such as the Fire Sprinkler Association, the State Fire Marshals and their association, and as session progressed, the fire fighters joined in as well. We had two Senate committee chairs who refused to schedule our senate bill, SB 1152, for consideration, so working with Senator Hooper to mitigate the damage of his bill which mandated sprinklers was our only option. Our opponents hired a team of lobbyists to oppose us and also tried to get the Governor to weigh in on their side. That didn’t happen! With all of that against us – thanks to our FACTSS members’ hard work by delivering thousands of emails on demand and our small but mighty government affairs team lead by Ellyn Bogdanoff, we are still alive in the state legislature and working to achieve the best end results possible.
Stay tuned because Session ends this Saturday and Friday will be the last day for floor votes. We thank our House Sponsor, Rep. Michael Grieco, our Senate Sponsor, Sen. Jason Pizzo, our co-sponsors, and the hard work of Senator Jeff Brandes, who voluntarily stepped up because he believes in what we are doing. But not for them, we may be looking at a deadline by the end of this year.
Keep your fingers and toes crossed as we head in to the final two days…Stay tuned for further updates.
Pio Ieraci, FACTSS President
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