A Look Back at How the Commercial Construction Industry Faired this Session
Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida had a tremendous 2017 Legislative Session. This summary should serve as a quick look back at how we did on our main Legislative Priorities. A more comprehensive session overview will be publsihed in the coming weeks.
ABC of Florida’s 2017 Legislative Priorities
Open Competition Legislation (HB 599) – this legislation, also known as “Public Works Projects”, has been a legislative priority for the association for quite some time. While it has taken a number of different forms, the purpose has always been to ensure an open and competitive process on public works projects that are funded by taxpayer dollars. This legislation establishes the following: on public procurement projects where 50% or more of the funding comes from state dollars, public entities would be prohibited from imposing hiring mandates, wage rate mandates, benefit package mandates, and training mandates through a pre-determined or single source. We cannot say enough about the work that our sponsors did on this legislative effort. Please take a moment to thank Representative Jayer Williamson (Electrical Contractor) and Senator Keith Perry (Roofing Contractor) for their work on this bill. Our industry is stronger because of their efforts.
Statute of Repose Legislative Clarification (HB 377) – Florida’s 10 year Statute of Repose governs the period during which owners can seek recourse from their contractors for latent defects on their property. The SOR clock begins ticking when the latest of one of four triggers occurs: actual possession by the owner, issuance of a certificate of occupancy, abandonment of construction, or completion of the contract. Prior to a court decision in 2015, this last trigger – completion of the contract – had gone undefined by the Legislature. In 2015 in the Cypress Condominium case, a judge ruled that “completion of the contract” occurred when the owner issued final payment. This ruling left the construction industry vulnerable to claims filed well past the ten year SOR period because owners can legally drag out final payment for some time. ABC of Florida worked with the Florida Justice Association on the final bill language. This legislation now states that completion of the contract means the later of the date of final performance of all the contracted services or the date that final payment for such services becomes due without regard to the date final payment is made. The judge in Cypress set the precedent that there are two parties to a contract and no single party should hold the ability to simply declare a contract complete. This final legislation is a direct response to the Cypress case and allows contractors to look to their contracts to help them determine when their services are complete. Representative Tom Leek and Senator Kathleen Passidomo put forth exceptional efforts to secure ultimate passage of this legislation.
What’s Next: Both House Bill 599 and 377 are headed to the Governor for final consideration and ultimate signing into law. We will be reaching out to you, at the appropriate time, to contact the Governor and ask for his final support.
Other ABC Legislative Priorities
Comprehensive Workers Compensation Reform – ABC of Florida was proud to be part of a business coalition working to secure comprehensive reform this session. Working with groups like Associated Industries of Florida, the Chamber, and the Florida Retail Federation, our focus was to directly address those issues raised in the recent Westphal and Castellanos court decisions like attorney’s fees, duration of disability coverage, and access to courts. The House and Senate started the session with two very different versions of their reform packages and ultimately, were unable to reach an agreement on the best approach. There will be no comprehensive reform this session, and as of yesterday, we know a State Appeals Court has upheld the 14.5% increase in rates.
Other Workers Compensation Reform Efforts – there was some successful legislative reform found in HB 1107 (Rep. Albritton and Sen. Perry). This legislation would create a public records exemption for the personal information of the injured worker. Currently, when an injured worker files a notice of the intent to claim for Workers Compensation benefits, that information can be publicly searched – most frequently by attorneys. This law now would require that the personal information of the claimant be kept private except to a limited number of parties such as the injured claimant, the employer, and the insurance carrier. While this victory may seem small in the larger world of reform needs – it is a very big step in the right direction.
Workforce Development/Apprenticeship Issues – during the 2016 Legislative Session, we were able to assist in the creation of a Task Force to study how Florida is and can respond to our crippling skilled worker shortage. The Task Force, chaired by ABC Florida East Coast President Peter Dyga, came up with a number of recommendations for the Legislature to consider. While the majority of the recommendations were not taken up this session, there is funding and approval for the continuation of the Task Force efforts so that over this summer, they can work with Career Source and the Department of Education on implementation efforts. This permission and funding came via the annual Building Code Legislation – House Bill 1021.
Building Code Bil l – this annual piece of legislation occurred in two different bills this session. One (SB 7000/HB 901) aimed at revamping how Florida updates the Building Code and the other SB 1312/HB 1021) the more traditional piece of legislation aimed at addressing immediate code reform needs. Senate Bill 7000 gained a lot of attention early on as it would have created a different process for adopting and reviewing updates from both the International Construction Code, the Florida Building Code, and how it would treat local amendments to the code as passed by local governments. SB 7000/HB 901 did not pass this session.
What can you do now?
Please be on the look out for Action Alerts from ABC of Florida urging the Governor to sign our bills, HB 599 and 377 into law.
A Final Thank you to our Dear Friend – Richard Watson
This session marked the final year that Rick Watson would serve as Chief Counsel for ABC of Florida. Representing the needs of the Association, and the Commercial Construction industry at-large for more than 31 years, Rick’s name has become synonymous with the industry and will be greatly missed. It has been an honor and a blessing to have Rick as the face of ABC of Florida for as long as we’ve had him with us and we wish he and his wife Candy all the happiness in the world as he heads into retirement – as the new Tax Collector for Franklin County. While he has mastered advocating on behalf of the industry it appears his true understanding of what it means to be retired is flawed. Please take a moment to help us thank Rick Watson for his tremendous service to ABC.