It's the Final Countdown...

We're in the final countdown - less than one week left until your lawmakers hit the sixty-day sprint in Tallahassee.

Florida's annual legislative session begins this Tuesday, March 7 and runs through Friday, May 5. But much of the Legislature's work began months ago - shortly after the November election, in fact - with lawmaker bills filed, referred, and already heard in committee meetings.

In recent weeks, we've shared with you a lot about one legislative issue in particular - SB 398 and HB 483, the Home Tax. While we won't stop talking about estoppels, this week we'll focus on a several other bills that your Community Association Network is keeping a close eye on for you that may significantly impact your community.

HB 135: Elections for boards of directors

Filed by Rep. John Cortez of Kissimmee, this bill sets requirements for board of directors elections for communities of 7,500 or more homes.

Among the requirements are that the association must notify members of the election 60 days prior, and must send a second notice that includes the ballot. Members wishing to run must let associations know 40 days prior, and may request an information sheet about their candidacy be included with the ballot. At least 20 percent of eligible voters must cast a ballot for the election to be valid.

HB 135 was referred to the House Agriculture & Property Rights Subcommittee on January 11, with no action yet taken.

HB 137: Nonbinding arbitration for association disputes

Also filed by Rep. Cortez is a bill related to disputes within associations.

Instead of pre-lawsuit mediation, the bill authorizes associations to submit certain disputes for nonbinding arbitration to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The eligible disputes include those over amendments to association documents, board and committee meetings, and non-election membership meetings.

HB 137 was referred to the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee on January 11, with no action yet taken.

SB 188: Preemption of local vacation rental ordinances

Filed by Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota, this is one of many "preemption" bills filed by lawmakers. Preemption bills restrict the authority of cities and counties to regulate in their local areas.

The bill prevents local laws, ordinances, and regulations from restricting, prohibiting, or regulating vacation rentals, based only on their classification, use, or occupancy - but only for local laws passed since June 1, 2011.

SB 188 was referred to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on January 10, with no action yet taken.

HB 6003: Non-preemption of local vacation rental ordinances

If this bill, filed by Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, sounds similar to the above bill, there's a good reason - it's essentially the opposite.

This bill gives authority to regulate vacation rentals back to local cities and counties, removing the June 1, 2011 clause in SB 188. It would allow local laws, ordinances, and regulations on vacation properties to continue as they see fit.

Given the dueling nature of HB 6003 and SB 188, time will tell which version will emerge victorious.

HB 6003 was referred to the House Agriculture & Property Rights Subcommittee on January 9, with no action yet taken.

SB 294: Financial reporting requirements

Filed by Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee, this bill makes changes to the financial reporting requirements associations face.

Unit owners, through written request, may receive a copy of the association's prior year financial report - if the association doesn't provide it, the association must provide financial reports for the next three consecutive years to the Florida Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation, and cannot exercise the reporting option.

The bill also removes the provision that allows associations of less than 50 units, regardless of annual revenues, to waive the financial report requirement for cash receipts and expenditures.

SB 294 was referred to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on January 25, with no action yet taken.

While the Home Tax gets its share of association news, we're keeping close watch on these other significant bills this session. The success of your homeowners, property, and association is CAN's success. Gideon Tucker's famous 1866 saying goes, "no man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session." But with your help, and with CAN's advocacy, we can continue good dialogue with our state lawmakers that yields great results for Florida's community associations.

Yours in Community,

Alan Garfinkel

Community Association Network (CAN)

Chairman of the Board of Directors



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