Informing & Supporting
Conditioning Air Professionals & the Industry
loader-image
Tampa, US
1:29 am, April 17, 2024
weather icon 70°F

A Final Review of the 2023 Florida Legislative Session’s Impact on the HVACR Industry

NOTE: the following is a summary of Edward Briggs’s presentation at the June 21, 2023, Manasota Air Conditioning Contractors Association meeting. Edward is Vice President of Government Relations and Community Affairs at RSA Consulting Group, the Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (FRACCA) lobbying firm in Tallahassee.

OVERVIEW

“This was the most interesting session I have witnessed in the eleven years  I’ve been involved with state politics,” Edward began. “A lot of it is due to Republican super-majorities in the house, senate and cabinet made up of the governor,  CFO, Commissioner of Agriculture and Attorney General,  allowing them to move legislation through that they haven’t been able to do in the past seven years. They didn’t need to negotiate with the minority, committees were stacked so they could present the bills they wanted heard and certain rules were waived.”

Edward Briggs, Vice President of Government Relations and Community Affairs at RSA Consulting Group

Florida has 40 state senators and 120 house members. 25 senators and 85 representatives are Republican. The only thing they are required to do constitutionally is present a balanced budget.

“One thing that’s important for you to know and we’ve explained is that ideas rarely get passed the year they are introduced,” Edward continued. “It takes a couple of sessions because we have to vet it out, see who’s opposed and evaluate the different sides of it. Every year we, as a firm, convene a legislative planning conference including FRACCA. It is open to anybody and is where we set our priorities for the coming year.”

WHAT GOT DONE

This year the first bill Edward, RSA and FRACCA focused on was HB89, Building Construction, which passed. This bill had language in it that benefits the HVAC industry and construction as a whole, stating “After the local enforcing agency issues a permit, the local enforcing agency may not make or require any substantive changes to the plans or specifications except changes required for compliance with the Florida Building Code, the Florida Fire Prevention Code, or the Life Safety Code, or local amendments thereto. If a local enforcing agency makes or requires substantive changes to the plans or specifications after a permit is issued, the local enforcing agency must identify the specific plan features that do not comply with the applicable codes, identify the specific code chapters and sections upon which the finding is based, and provide the information to the permit holder.”

Registration and transfer of warranties was another priority for FRACCA. Language was copied from a Texas statute that says a manufacturer’s warranty is tied to the property, not the owner and the new owner is entitled to the full warranty that is remaining. The bill provides that such warranties are deemed registered if a contractor licensed under Part I of Chapter 489 installs the new HVAC system AND provides the manufacturer of the HVAC system with the certificate of occupancy (for HVAC systems installed in new construction) or the serial number of the HVAC system that was installed for existing construction. Also, the warranty goes into effect as soon as the HVAC contractor installs it and receives a receipt from the homeowner.

Another big item that passed was SB240, the Career Technical Education (CTE) package, which included an Apprenticeship tax credit. It allows employers to receive a $2,000 tax credit per apprentice as long as the apprentice has been in a program for over nine weeks and accumulated 500  apprenticeship hours.  A second item in the CTE package was changing the Pathways to Career Opportunity Grant from a competitive to non-competitive grant, so as long as it’s applied for properly, it is granted directly and quickly. The legislature put about $20 million into the grant to help create pre-apprenticeship programs. The bill removed a cap on funding that public middle schools could be reimbursed for proving CTE courses. The cap prevented a lot of middle schools from even providing CTE courses. Now, public middle schools can be reimbursed for the full amount of CTE courses provided.  The bill will also allow vouchers to be applied for pre-apprenticeship classes. That was a big win for the industry.

Construction defects were also addressed, dropping the statute of repose from 10 years to 7 and changing the timeline for when it starts to the temporary certificate of occupancy or the final day of abandonment. They also stipulated that a lawsuit for construction defects can only be instigated if it is a material violation of the Florida Building Code that results in a life-threatening  injury. It cannot be a cosmetic issue but has to result in bodily harm.

WHAT DIDN’T GET DONE

Back to HB89, Building Construction.
“We wanted to shore up some language on the line/load side issue of electrical service, allowing HVAC contractors to work on both sides of the disconnect switch,” Edward said.  “At the last minute, the electrical union contractors raised the issue that it could cause deaths so the language was pulled. That’s something we’ll probably be working on again in the upcoming session.”

“One of the things we teamed up with other trades this year on is workforce education and apprenticeships,” Edward continued. “We looked at establishing  a statewide grant for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship where associations and apprenticeship programs receive their funding directly from the grant without relying on a local education agency (LEA) for disbursement. We’ve found that working through LEAs, you usually don’t know the whole amount you’re supposed to get and the LEAs receive a portion of the money for their operating costs. That bill did not make it through but started some robust conversations amongst the lawmakers about creating transparency at the Department of Education about how the monies are being spent. Speaker Paul Renner is going to discuss apprenticeship in his State of the House address next year and he has committed to finalizing a direct apprenticeship grant during the next session. Associations like FRACCA and other providers that are state certified will be able to institute their own apprenticeship programs without having to go through a college or other technical college.”

“The other bill that didn’t get done but we think will have some traction next year is allowing Bright Futures to be used for apprenticeship and pre-apprentice programs,” Edward added. “We know that every kid doesn’t want to go to college and this would allow them to access the scholarship funds.”

MISCELLANEOUS

In conclusion, Edward discussed SB1718,  the Immigration Bill. Starting July 1, 2023 and becoming fully effective January 1, 2024, all new employees of companies with 25 or more employees must be screened by the E-Verify system. You have to knowingly and willingly hire an illegal immigrant to be affected by this. The reason this bill was put into effect wasn’t to hurt the farming and construction industries. They were targeting two things, traffickers and smugglers. There is no funding in this bill to enforce it and there are no resources for law enforcement to police it.

One of the big issues addressed this session was tort reform and how it impacts insurance rates. The legislature instituted comparative negligence which places a percentage of fault on each of the parties in a lawsuit. They also instituted loser-pay. The loser of a lawsuit pays the attorney fees for both parties, modeled after the European system and other states that have implemented it.

From ACProsite owner Peter Montana: ACprosite appreciates what is being done in Tallahassee by FRACCA and RSA Consulting Group. FRACCA and the affiliated local chapters are footing the bill for having representation looking out for the interests of thousands of licensed contractors in the state. Find out how you can support these efforts and have your voice heard by those in government that make the rules impacting your businesses.

Contact Edward Briggs by emailing Edward@teamrsa.com.

FRACCA Executive Director Paula Huband can be reached by calling 407.676.0031 or emailing Paula.Huband@FRACCAAir.com.

In the Spotlight

FEATURES

Informing & Supporting
Conditioning Air Professionals
& the Industry