2022 Legislative Session Leaves Much Unwritten

Magazine ,

By Amanda White, FAA Government Affairs Director

The 2022 regular 60-day Florida legislative session ended on March 14 with much still unsettled, but the state’s apartment industry had numerous advocacy victories this year. 

Not long after the hanky drop in the Capitol to celebrate the end of session, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the Legislature’s newly drawn congressional district maps and called a special session for the week of April 18. Another special session related to property insurance was scheduled for May.

Regardless of what shakes out of a special session (or sessions), Florida’s multifamily industry can celebrate that many of the bills the industry supported made it to the governor’s desk once the dust settled. Equally important, however, are the numerous and onerous measures blocked from advancing through the legislative process. 

Codify Apartment Employee Screening and Key-Access Best Practices

In fall 2021, Miya Marcano was brutally murdered by a maintenance technician, who worked at the same property where she worked and lived. This crime sparked a flurry of debate among local and state elected officials regarding apartment safety and employee background screening procedures.

In light of pre-session discussions related to apartment safety after the tragic murder of Marcano, it became clear legislation related to apartment employee screening and key access was likely to be introduced during the 2022 session. At the Platform meeting, FAA leaders and members determined that it was critical for the apartment industry to be proactive, rather than reactive, in identifying a policy solution. The decision to be proactive ensured that the industry had an alternative to the overly burdensome solutions that were being discussed by legislators, such as Florida Department of Law Enforcement background screening and fingerprinting that would be conducted on an ongoing basis throughout an individual’s employment.

Prior to the start of the 2022 session, FAA drafted an alternative policy solution that merely codified industry best practices related to employee background screening and key access. Thankfully, after many meetings with Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Robin Bartleman (D-104), the alternative proposed by FAA was ultimately included in the legislation. 

As a result, FAA supported Stewart's SB 898 and Bartleman's HB 577. This legislation was nicknamed "Miya's Law."

Miya's Law

  • Requires all apartment employees to undergo a background screening as a condition of employment. This screening can be done by a credit reporting agency in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and must screen records in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. (effective  Jan. 1, 2023). 

  • Requires apartment communities to establish policies and procedures related to key access and to maintain a log accounting for the issuance and return of keys. The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation can request proof of compliance during annual inspections (effective Jan. 1, 2023). 

  • Increases from 12 to 24 hours the reasonable notice to enter an apartment home (effective Jan. 1 2023).

  • Prohibits hourly rental of an accommodation (effective  July 1, 2022). 

SB 898 passed both chambers in the final days of session and was sent to the governor for his signature.  

Permit Affordable and Workforce Housing Property Tax Discounts

Florida’s housing affordability challenges have taken center stage, and the apartment industry stands ready to be part of the solution. This session, FAA urged the Legislature to pass HB 495 (Rep. Anthony Rodriguez) and SB 1150 (Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez), which provided local governments with the ability (but did not require them) to waive or reduce property taxes for affordable and workforce housing apartments. 

SB 1150 had strong bipartisan support in the Senate and as a result, the bill cleared its first two committees, which was a significant accomplishment. Unfortunately, the legislation stalled because the House companion (HB 495) did not advance. While the House’s lack of action on this bill was disappointing, FAA believes bipartisan support for this legislative concept remains strong and it is possible that the industry will continue to pursue this as a legislative priority in 2023. If passed in a future session, this legislation would be a game-changer for Florida’s housing supply and unlock additional financial incentive opportunities at the local level for affordable housing.

Clarify Fire Radio System Requirements

Across the state, the patchwork of local regulations related to fire radio system requirements remains a significant challenge for apartment owners and operators. Some local governments are holding certificates of occupancy hostage, while others are constantly moving the goalpost for compliance. In response to this issue, FAA urged the Legislature to pass legislation to clarify fire department radio signal requirements for new and existing high-rise buildings. 

Unfortunately, the language that was drafted by FAA did not get introduced during the 2022 session. However, other legislation related to this issue, SB 1190, which was strongly supported by FAA, passed both chambers. SB 1190 exempts certain apartment buildings from having to comply with the fire radio signal requirements. The exemption applies to buildings with:

  • Wood-frame construction.
  • A maximum of 150 units.
  • A maximum height of 75 feet.
  • Dwelling units that discharge to the exterior or a corridor that leads directly to an exit.

At the time of this publication, SB 1190 was still awaiting DeSantis’ signature.

While this legislation is an important first step, FAA believes more must be done to standardize the policies and procedures concerning fire radio system requirements across the state. As such, FAA anticipates the association may continue to advocate for further reforms during the 2023 session.

Affordable Housing Funding

The FY 22-23 state budget was also a victory for the apartment industry because it included record funding for affordable housing, with $53.25 million in funding for the State Apartment Incentive Loan (SAIL) program and $209.47 in funding for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program. 

FAA Defeated Problematic Legislation

Successful advocacy isn’t just about celebrating the legislation we help pass. In fact, the bills that you are able to stop dead in their tracks are just as important. During the 2022 session, FAA successfully opposed legislation or amendments that would have:

  • Established source of income protections statewide.
  • Capped rent increases.
  • Established an eviction expungement process.
  • Sealed eviction records related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more.

While it’s important to celebrate the industry’s 2022 victories, it is never too early to think about 2023, and FAA needs your input. All FAA members will receive an advocacy survey via email, which will provide you with an opportunity to weigh in on the issues impacting your business and the legislative initiatives that you think the association should concentrate on in 2023. Please take time to complete this survey, and plan now to attend the FAA Legislative Platform meeting at the 2022 FAA Annual Conference & Trade Show in Hollywood, Florida, on September 28. In the meantime, if there is a legislative proposal or advocacy initiative that you would like to see FAA focus on in the future, please email amanda@faahq.org