2019 FAA Legislative Conference Report

Posted By: Randa Griffin Magazine ,

FAA Members Promote Key Priorities at Statehouse

By Randa Griffin

Record-breaking attendance at the 2019 FAA Legislative Conference in Tallahassee was inspired in part by last year’s legislative win on behalf of the doorstep trash industry. Some first-time attendees said that last year’s victory proved the power of advocacy and demonstrated the strength of the multifamily industry’s collective voice. Nearly 180 FAA members gathered to learn about the issues affecting the apartment industry and how to articulate those issues to Florida legislators.

The conference, which took place February 5 and 6, began with a series of association meetings including the FAA Board of Directors, Legislative Committee, Executive Committee, APAC Board of Directors, Association Executives’ Council, Editorial Advisory Committee, Product/Service Council and the Masters Steering Committee.

The final meeting on Tuesday was a legislative briefing, which educated members on FAA’s four 2019 legislative priorities (see faahq.org/news/faas-2019-legislative-priorities- for details):

  • Support full funding of the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the passage of Senate Bill 70.
  • Support the passage of House Bill 721/Senate Bill 1128 to reduce emotional support animal fraud and abuse.
  • Support the passage of legislation to prohibit mandatory inclusionary zoning practices.
  • Support the passage of Senate Bill 144 to clarify the impact fee process.

The briefing began with a welcome message from FAA President Bonnie Smetzer, followed by a brief presentation from the evening’s sponsor, Rapid Response.       

Jimmy Chestnut, FAA’s 2019 APAC vice chair, emphasized the importance of supporting APAC and recognized individuals and companies who have donated to the PAC in 2019.

“The purpose of APAC is simple — to raise funds and elect candidates who not only understand but support our interests, regardless of party affiliation,” he said.

Exemplifying the impact APAC can have on the industry, FAA Secretary Katie Wrenn presented awards for the 2018 FAA Legislator of the Year to Sen. Manny Diaz (R-36) and Sen. Aaron Bean (R-4), to recognize and thank them for their support of the apartment industry. Both senators were key leaders in passing last year’s HB 529, the doorstep trash bill, and graciously accepted the awards in person. Sen. Bean spoke to the “apartment family” and praised members who want to be involved because it takes an army — not just one person, to bring about change.

In 2018, HB 529 cleared up ambiguous language in Florida’s Fire Code and helped protect the doorstep trash industry, allowing companies to continue business as usual. Kelsey Davis of the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando said last year’s legislative win motivated her to come to this year’s FAA Legislative Conference. 

“I work for Valet Living so last year was a big deal,” Davis said. “It made me want to be more involved.”

Recently appointed Clerk of the House Jeff Takacs gave attendees an overview of his job keeping records at the Capitol and shared pieces of the Florida legislature’s history — mainly multiple failed attempts to move the Capitol out of Tallahassee. Andrew Wiggins, senior director of campaigns and elections for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, gave an update on how the recent midterm elections have shaped the composition of the Florida House and Senate.

Davis said the speakers at the briefing were informative and demonstrated the process of getting these important bills passed.

Amanda Gill, FAA government affairs director told attendees about the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund and concerns about mandatory inclusionary zoning policies. Lee Steinhauer, government affairs and legal counsel for AAGO and president of The Steinhauer Group LLC, discussed the impact fee process, followed by Josh Gold, FAA executive vice president, who discussed the emotional support animal fraud and abuse priority. Animated videos explained the issues and the impact the legislation could have on the multifamily industry.

Carol Lehnert with Matrix Residential attended the FAA Legislative Conference for the first time this year as a way to become more involved while supporting the industry.

“The best part has been learning about these issues that affect our industry and ways we can help make a change,” she said.

The briefing concluded with a Q&A session with lobbyists Ron Book and Kelly Mallette, who answered questions about the priority legislation and eased attendee worries about interacting with legislators. After the briefing, local affiliates caucused with their members to plan for the next day’s legislative appointments before heading to the cocktail reception and APAC silent auction, which raised more than $2,600.

Christina Inglis with Affinity Waste Solutions said aside from the legislative importance of attending the conference, it’s also a great time to reconnect with old friends and coworkers. “This industry really is like a big family so it’s nice getting to catch up with members from across the state,” she said.   

Early Wednesday morning members met at the Capitol to speak with legislators and put the information they learned at the briefing to the test. Members went into their meetings equipped with fact sheets about FAA’s priorities and leave-behind pamphlets to pass onto legislators.  

Inglis has attended Legislative Conference the past eight years and said she keeps coming back because she knows how important it is to have a presence in Tallahassee.

“We have to let legislators know we’re an important industry,” she said. “I don’t think people realize how important it is to bring their attention to issues that affect us.”