Behind the Bill
By Randa Griffin
When Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 529 on April 6, he signed one of the Florida Apartment Association’s priority bills into law — a legislative victory that hit close to home for some supplier members.
HB 529 was drafted by a team of industry professionals and legislators with knowledge of the doorstep trash collection industry and Florida’s Fire Prevention Code. The bill sought clarification on that code, which was unclear on whether or not trash containers were allowed to be placed temporarily in hallways and breezeways. The clarification that HB 529 provided secures the future of doorstep trash collection services in the state for at least the next three years and helps prevent legal challenges related to the Florida Fire Prevention Code. FAA will work to make the clarification permanent at the end of the three years.
The three trash removal companies that spearheaded the process of getting the bill signed into law were Affinity Waste Solutions, Skinner Waste Solutions, and Valet Living, all with offices in Florida and relying heavily on the Florida multifamily market.
“A group of five valet trash competitors in the industry decided to come together and really form a team to keep all of our businesses alive,” said Russell Skinner Jr., president of Skinner Waste Solutions. That effort “turned into a bill that we thought was very fair, that would satisfy the fire marshal as well as the vendors in the market.”
Skinner Waste Solutions was started four years ago in Jacksonville and has quickly expanded to serve communities throughout Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
Justin Frost is co-owner and co-founder of Affinity Waste Solutions, a family-based trash removal company he started with his uncle only three years ago. With 100 employees and more than 27,000 units relying on their service, the Frosts considered HB 529 not just a legislative win, but also a foundation for keeping their business alive.
“Being a company that only services the state of Florida, without this bill being approved, it would jeopardize our whole company as well as 100 employees having a job or not,” Frost said.
To initiate the legislative process, Skinner reached out to Sen. Aaron Bean (R-4), a representative from the Jacksonville area, and asked him to sponsor Senate Bill 746 (which was later merged with HB 529) and assist in the legislative process.
“He’s very pro local business, took the time to hear our concerns, and understood the impact this could have,” Skinner said. “Once he and his team heard the severity, he agreed to be our sponsor. We’ve been able to get where we are thanks to him.”
Rep. Manny Diaz (R-103) sponsored HB 529, the version the governor signed into law on April 6. Passage of the bill saved independent trash removal businesses across the state, which provide more than 1,200 jobs and generate an economic impact of over $68 million annually.
Kelly Veatch, senior vice president of operations for Valet Living, said that in the 23 years the company has been in business, Valet Living has never had an issue with the fire marshals, so passing this bill for clarity was common sense.
“Having a bill that regulates the industry and works in collaboration with the fire department and the fire marshals was something that was needed,” Veatch said. “For us, it was something we were glad we finally got to pass and put in motion.”
HB 529 was a success for these industry professionals and their businesses, but they all agreed the process of getting a bill signed into law was a huge learning experience that they couldn’t have done alone. Legislators, industry partners, and FAA joined in a collaborative effort to make their voices heard and impact this government policy.
“It goes to show how important it is for even supplier partners to be affiliated at the Florida level with the apartment association,” said Frost. “Going to Tallahassee to be able to have a voice — and donating to APAC — lets you set the table to where it’s actually going to be heard.”
“The importance of these politicians who are pro-business and want to see small businesses succeed — we can’t do it without their fire power so it’s just been great to watch this process from start to finish,” Skinner said.
These industry competitors rallying together on HB 529 demonstrates the importance of grassroots lobbying and illustrates the idea that there’s power in numbers.
“You can’t do it alone. This took everyone’s effort to get this raised to a level where it would have significant awareness and people would listen,” Veatch said. “Once people understand the significance or impact this could have had on the industry and the amount of jobs that would have been impacted, I think common sense ruled the day on this one.”
For more information on the bill and a full 2018 legislative update click here.