Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Florida Legislative Session

Below are the most recent decisions made at the 2011 Florida Legislative Session:

Emergency Management. The bill creates the “Postdisaster Relief Assistance Act” to provide immunity from civil damages to persons who gratuitously and in good faith, supply temporary housing, food, water, or electricity to emergency first responders or their immediate family members in response to a declared emergency or public health emergency.

The immunity provided to persons under the bill does not apply to damages as a result of any act or omission:

• That occurs more than 6 months after the declaration of an emergency, unless the declared emergency is extended, in which case the immunity continues to apply for the duration of the extension; or


• That is unrelated to the original declared emergency or any extension thereof.


In addition, the immunity granted to providers of temporary housing, food, water, or electricity does not apply in situations in which the provider acts in a manner that demonstrates reckless disregard for the consequences of another. The bill defines reckless disregard as “conduct that a reasonable person knew or should have known at the time such services were provided would likely result in injury so as to affect the life or health of another, taking into account the extent or serious nature of the prevailing circumstances.”


Finally, the bill provides that a person who registers with a county emergency management agency as a temporary provider of temporary housing, food, water, or electricity for emergency first responders or their immediate family members is presumed to have acted in good faith in providing such housing, food, water, or electricity.
 Residential Building Permits. This bill originated out of a situation in South Florida with local building code inspectors who were allegedly citing deficiencies outside the scope of the inspection. This legislation went through a number of rewrites before it was considered to be acceptable by numerous interested parties, including FFMIA. This bill prohibits a local enforcement agency, and any local building code administrator, inspector, or other official or entity from requiring the inspection of any portion of a building, structure, or real property that is not directly related to the activity for which a permit is sought as a condition for issuance of a one- or two-family residential building permit. The provisions of this bill do not apply to a building permit that is sought for: substantial improvements, a change in occupancy, conversions from residential with nonresidential or mixed use, and historic buildings. The bill does not prohibit a local enforcement agency, or any local building code administrator, inspector, or other official or entity from:


• Citing a violation that was inadvertently observed in plain view during the course of an inspection conducted in accordance to this act;


• Inspecting a physically nonadjacent portion of the building, structure, or real property that is directly impacted by the activity for which the permit is sought;


• Inspecting any portion of the building, structure, or real property in which the owner or person having control has voluntarily consented to such inspection;


• Inspecting any portion of the building, structure, or real property pursuant to an inspection warrant issued in accordance to ss. 933.20-933.30, F.S.


The provisions of this bill shall expire upon being adopted into the Florida Building Code.
 Firesafety. House Bill 331 has passed the Legislature and will: align the laws governing the State Fire Marshal with educational laws governing firesafety inspections on educational property; abolish the classification of the special state firesafety inspector, leaves intact the classification of firesafety inspector, and provides for a contingent grandfathering of existing special state firesafety inspectors. The bill requires uniform firesafety standards and an alternate system to be governed by firesafety inspectors certified by the State Fire Marshal, and reduces the number of mandatory annual inspections at educational facilities from two to one. Additionally, the bill requires all public education boards to use only certified firesafety inspectors and other inspectors who have been certified by the State Fire Marshal in monitoring compliance with the Florida Building Code, the Florida Fire Prevention Code, and the State Requirements for Educational Facilities; and requires a public education board to submit for approval the site plan for new construction to the local entity providing fire-protection services to the facility, and outlines the compliance process.
 Building Code legislation. House Bill 849 passed the Legislature as the annual building code package. The building code bills are common targets for stealth amendments on the Fire Prevention Code, however, no such amendments were successful in being attached this year, as both the House and Senate sponsors worked closely to alert us to any threats. Among the many provisions of the bill, it exempts the Florida Building Code and the Florida Fire Prevention Code from being required to provide a statement of estimated regulatory. The bill also provides for state agency compliance with the 2011 version of the National Fire Protection Association standard (NFPA 58) for LP gas tank separation.

Condominium, Cooperative, & Homeowners' Association. House Bill 1195 address a number of glitch fixes from last year's SB 1196. One of those glitches is language related to manual fire alarm systems in condominium and apartment buildings less than four stories, with exterior egress, that incorporates nearly identical language that passed last year but that language was demoted to "note" status in the official statutes published by the State of Florida when it conflicted with a similar version. Of particular concern was a proposed amendment that was circulated by Senator Bogdanoff that would have made the language retroactive and allowed residents to remove existing systems. The House bill sponsor, Rep. Moraitis, amended his bill with the amendment to allow the removal of existing pull stations at the bill's last committee stop, over the objection of the fire service. As a result, FFMIA sought out Representative Ed Hooper, a long-time ally of the fire service, and legislative chair of the Fire Caucus, to run an amendment on the House floor to strip the offending language. An extended floor fight result in one of the closest votes in the House during the 2011 Session: 59 to 55 in favor of Rep. Hooper's amendment to strip Rep. Moraitis' removal of existing systems language.

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