Legislation of interest to the legal profession: The Florida Bar Governmental Affairs Office.
Included in this report is a brief summary, by subject, of bills that passed the House and Senate during the 2004 Regular Session (March 2-April 30, 2004) that may be of interest to Florida Bar members. During the 2004 Regular Session 2,691 bills were introduced. Of that total, 500 bills or approximately 19% of all bills passed. The Senate filed 1,604 bills, of which 337 passed. The House filed 1,087 bills, of which 163 passed.
This compilation reflects pending and final action by the Governor, and references 2004 Laws of Florida as of June 1, 2004. Information for these summaries was extracted from those bills and from House and Senate "End of Session Reports."
Lawyers looking for information in addition to that provided in this report may wish to contact the Florida Legislature's information service, toll-free, at (800) 342-1827. Complete bill text--as filed and in final form, plus legislative history and other information--can be found through Online Sunshine via the Internet at the URL location www.leg.state.fl.us/.
You may also call The Florida Bar's Governmental Affairs Office at (850) 561-5662, or access bill text and other legislative information through links on The Florida Bar's Web site www.flabar.org.
The Department of State will also have the new 2004 laws available online the day after they have been acted on by the Governor. The laws can be found in the "general laws" section of the Department of State's Internet homepage, accessed via the URL location http://election.dos.state.fl.us/laws/.
This is a condensed version, the whole document can be viewed in its entirety on The Florida Bar's Web site. Members desiring a copy of particular legislation in its final form may additionally contact: Session Law Chapter Numbers: Department of State, Elliott Building, 401 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250, (850) 488-8427. Senate Bills: Senate Documents, Room 303, The Capitol, Tallahassee 32399-1100, (850) 487-5285, House Bills: House Documents, Room 325, The Capitol, Tallahassee 32399-1300, (850) 488-7475.
The Florida Bar
Miles A. McGrane III President 2003-2004
Kelly Overstreet Johnson President 2004-2005
Alan B. Bookman President 2005-2006
John F. Harkness, Jr. Executive Director
2003-2004 Alan B. Bookman Chair
Sharon Langer Chair-elect
Francisco R. Angones
Steven E. Chaykin
Ervin A. Gonzalez
J. Chris Lombardo
Lawrence E. Sellers
Chief Legislative Counsel
Stephen W. Metz Tallahassee
Government Affairs Staff
Paul E Hill General Counsel
Dana M. Wood Legislative Assistant
HB 1869--Administrative Hearings Division
By Appropriations Committee and Rep. Brummer
The bill codifies in statute the Division of Administrative Hearing's current practice of providing administrative law judge services to certain entities on a full-cost recovery basis. Entities required to reimburse the division include, for example, water management districts and regional planning councils. This practice is currently authorized annually as proviso language in the General Appropriations Act. This bill eliminates the need for this proviso language. The division is reimbursed approximately $500,000 annually by these entities. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 204--Recording Purchase of Burial Rights
By Banking and Insurance Committee
This bill provides that any person who purchases a burial right, below ground crypt, grave space, mausoleum, columbarium, ossuary, or scattering garden for the disposition of human remains may, at his or her option, permanently record the purchase of such burial right with the clerk of the court in the county where the burial site is located. The purpose of the recordation is for public notification and to establish a permanent official record in the county; however, such recordation does not create any priority of interest or ownership rights as to the purchaser who records such burial rights. The bill requires the court clerk to record the evidence of the purchase of such burial right upon receiving payment by the purchaser of a service charge as provided by law. This legislation would apply to all cemeteries in the state which sell burial rights. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
SB 282--Enforcement of Lost, Destroyed, or Stolen Negotiable Instruments
By Sen. Posey
This bill (Chapter 2004-3, L.O.F.) amends s. 673.3091(1), F.S., by authorizing a person to transfer ownership of a negotiable instrument even if the person lost the physical document creating the instrument. Further, the bill eliminates a person who has acquired ownership of a lost negotiable instrument to transfer ownership of the instrument. Additionally, the bill permits a person with a security interest in a negotiable instrument who never had possession of the negotiable instrument to enforce a lost instrument if the secured person had the right to enforce the instrument when the instrument was lost. The bill conforms Florida law to changes made in 2002 to Section 3-309 of the Uniform Commercial Code. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on March 29, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 528--Funeral and Cemetery Services By Banking and Insurance Committee, and others
The bill merges funeral and cemetery regulation into one board under the Department of Financial Services, and consolidates all cemetery and funeral provisions into one chapter. The bill provides that this act may be cited as the "Senator Howard E. Futch Act." The bill merges the provisions of chs. 470 and 497, F.S., into ch. 497, F.S. It duplicates and incorporates into ch. 497, F.S., relevant provisions from ch. 455, F.S., relating to the current ch. 470, F.S., professions. The bill also consolidates and eliminates duplicative provisions from the two chapters. It creates the Board of Funeral, Cemetery, and Consumer Services (board) and the Division of Funeral, Cemetery, and Consumer Services within the Department of Financial Services. The bill divides ch. 497, F.S., into six parts with each part corresponding to similar regulatory issues, i.e., part I relates to general provisions common to all parts, part II relates to cemetery regulation, part III relates to funeral directors and embalmers, part IV relates to pre-need sales, part V relates to monument establishments, and part VI relates to cremation, crematories and direct disposition. The bill also abolishes the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Board of Funeral and Cemetery Services within the Department of Financial Services. The bill sets forth the authority of the board and the department, including each entity's rulemaking authority. It provides a procedure for providing for receivership for cemeteries with a revoked license. It includes the process of closing the affairs of the cemetery and protecting the interests of consumers and family members of the deceased. It also provides extensive investigatory and examination authority to the department and board. The bill requires the proper identification of dead human remains in the casket, alternative container, or cremation container. The bill provides minimum dimension standards for adult grave spaces. The bill also requires that licensed cemeteries prepare a map documenting the survey reference markers to show the number of grave spaces available for sale, the location of each grave space, the number designation assigned each grave space, and the dimensions of a standard adult grave space. The bill provides for the regulation of pre-need contract sales by requiring a certificate of authority to conduct such sales. The bill also provides for the regulation of monument establishments, including minimum financial requirements for licensure. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect October 1, 2005.
SB 2574--Commercial Relations/Electronic Mail
By Senators Garcia and others
The bill prohibits initiating or assisting in the transmission from a computer located in this state or to an electronic mail address held by a resident of this state of an unsolicited commercial electronic mail message that uses a third party's Internet domain name without permission or contains falsified or missing routing information or otherwise misrepresents, falsifies, or obscures any information identifying the point of origin or the transmission path of the unsolicited commercial electronic mail message or contains false or misleading information in the subject line; or contains false or deceptive information of the body of the message which is designed and intended to cause damage to the receiving device of an addressee or other recipient of the message. The bill also prohibits distribution of software or any other system designed to falsify missing routing information. The bill authorizes the Department of Legal Affairs to bring an action for damages or to impose a civil penalty. It also creates a cause of action for an interactive computer service, telephone company, or cable provider that handles or retransmits a commercial electronic mail message for an injunction against future violations, compensatory damages equal to any actual damage proven by the plain tiff or liquidated damages of $500 for each unsolicited commercial electronic mail message that is in violation of the bill's prohibitions, and attorney's fees and other costs. Additionally, a violation of the bill is an unfair and deceptive trade practices act. The bill states that it does not require a provider of Internet access service to block, transmit, or store electronic mail messages, and authorizes interactive computer services to block commercial or other electronic mail. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 2682--Credit Counseling Services
By Commerce, Economic Opportunities, and Consumer Services Committee, and others
This bill creates ch. 817, part IV, F.S., which contains a framework for regulating the relationship between a consumer and a credit counseling agency that provides credit counseling or debt management services. Credit counseling agencies (an organization providing debt management or credit counseling services) are prohibited from charging fees in excess of prescribed amounts for a fee greater than $50 for an initial consultation; fees amounting to greater than $120 per year for additional consultations; or for debt management services. A fee may not exceed the greater of 7.5 percent of the amount paid monthly by a debtor, or $35 per month. The bill requires a person providing credit counseling or debt management services to be audited annually, and to maintain insurance coverage for employee dishonesty, depositor's forgery, and computer fraud. A person engaged in credit counseling or debt management is required to disburse a consumer's funds within 30 days alter receiving such funds, and must maintain a separate trust account for the receipt of any funds and their subsequent disbursement for each debtor. A violation of any provision of this bill is an unfair or deceptive trade practice under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. A consumer harmed by a violation of this bill may bring in action for recovery of damages, costs and attorney's fees. A person who violates any provision of the bill commits a third degree felony, punishable by not more than 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. There are various exemptions from the provisions of ch. 817, pall IV, F.S. The requirements of the bill do not apply to debt management or credit counseling services provided in the practice of law in Florida or to a person who engages in debt adjustment to adjust the indebtedness owed to that person. The Federal National Mortgage Association, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, and the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, or their subsidiaries are exempt from the act. The bill exempts a bank, bank holding company, trust company, savings and loan association, credit union, credit card bank, or savings bank if it is regulated by a prescribed federal or state banking regulator. Consumer reporting agencies are exempt, as are subsidiaries or affiliates of a bank holding company and their employees and exclusive agents acting under a written agreement. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 2562--Money Transmitters
By Banking and Insurance Committee and Senator Dockery
The Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) of the Financial Services Commission regulates the money transmitter industry, which includes payment instrument sellers, foreign currency exchangers, check cashers, funds transmitters, and deferred presentment providers (payday loans) under the provisions of ch. 560, F.S. This bill provides the OFR with additional compliance and enforcement tools to assist in the regulation of money transmitters by requiring money transmitters to comply with certain federal regulations and authorizing the OFR to take enforcement action against money transmitters for noncompliance. The bill requires money transmitters to develop and implement anti-money laundering programs pursuant to federal regulations; and money transmitters to develop and implement customer identification procedures for new accounts pursuant to federal regulations. The bill authorizes the OFR to take disciplinary action if a money transmitter fails to maintain records or make available documents required by certain federal regulations. It authorized the OFR to conduct investigations or conduct examinations pursuant to s. 560.118, F.S., to determine whether violations of applicable provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations have occurred; and expands the definition of "unsafe and unsound" to include the failure to adhere to certain federal regulations which would authorize the OFR to take regulatory action. The bill also authorizes a money transmitter to conduct business within the state by means of electronic transfer and to charge a different fee for funds transmission based on the mode of transmission used in the transaction so long as the price charged for a service paid with a credit card is not greater than a price charged when that service is paid by currency or similar means. These provisions became law upon approved by the Governor on May 21, 2004.
SB 2056--Corporations Not for Profit
By Senator Aronberg and others
This bill amends s. 617.0505, F.S., to authorize corporations not for profit to make distributions to corporations not for profit that are organized and operated for the same or substantially similar purposes as the distributing corporation, entities that are organized and operated exclusively for charitable, benevolent, educational, or similar purposes, or are otherwise exempt from federal income tax under s. 501(c), Internal Revenue Code; or The United States, a state or possession of the United states, or any political subdivision thereof. A distribution made under this authority may not inure to the benefit of any individual or for profit entity. The bill addresses a 1999 opinion in which the Attorney General responded to a question that asked whether Bonita Community Health Center, Inc., a corporation not for profit, was permitted by law to distribute its excess profits to Lee Memorial Health System, a member of Bonita and also a corporation not for profit. The Attorney General replied that the Legislature had not chosen to extend the authority to corporations not for profit to distribute funds to other nonprofit entities engaged in similar activities. The Attorney General further stated that "until the Legislature makes it clear that a viable nonprofit corporation may dispense its revenues to likeminded nonprofit entities; [the Office of the Attorney General] may not read such authority into the existing statutes." [See Op. Att'y Gen. Fla. 99-23 (1999).] Currently s. 617.0505, F.S., prohibits distributions of income or profit to the members, directors, or officers of a not-for profit corporation. The Governor vetoed the bill.
Children & Family Law
CS/SB 1572--Child Care Personnel Training
By Children and Families Committee and others
This bill requires that child care personnel in child care facilities receive training relative to recognizing and preventing shaken baby syndrome, preventing sudden infant death syndrome, and understanding early childhood brain development. This training is added to the statutory requirements for the 40-bout introductory course that child care personnel in child care facilities must complete. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 12, 2004.
HB 221--Assisting Serf-murder
By Rep. Peterman and others
This bill creates a new law that prohibits the act of assisting an actual serf-murder for commercial or entertainment proposes. A self-murder is defined as the voluntary and intentional taking of one's own life, to include an attempted self-murder. This bill specifically prohibits a person from the following: conducting any event that the person knows or reasonably should know includes an actual self-murder as part of the event or deliberately assisting in an actual self-murder; providing a theater, auditorium, club or other venue or location for any event that the person knows or reasonably should know includes an actual self-murder as part of the event. An event during which a simulated self-murder occurs, defined as an artistic depiction of a self murder, is permitted. Sanctions for violating these provisions include a third degree felony charge, and civil charges brought by the Attorney General or any state attorney for declaratory, injunctive, or other relief. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 11, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 44--DNA Evidence
By Criminal Justice Committee and others
Under the bill, a person convicted at trial and thereafter sentenced may file a petition for post conviction. DNA testing within 4 years, instead of 2 years, of the date the judgment and sentence becomes final if no appeal is taken; the date the conviction is affirmed on appeal; or the date collateral counsel is appointed after the conviction is affirmed in a capital case. Motions for post-conviction DNA testing that are time barred under existing law must be filed by October 1, 2005. Under existing law, motions for post conviction DNA testing that were not filed within the appropriate two-year time frame were time barred on October 1, 2003. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 20, 2004
SB 226--Law Enforcement Fair Defense Act
By Senator Posey and others
This bill creates the "Law Enforcement Fair Defense Act" by revising s. 111.065, F.S., which governs the provision and payment of a law enforcement officer's legal representation in civil and criminal actions under specified circumstances. The bill broadens the definition of officer to include law enforcement officer, corrections officer, and correctional probation officer for purposes of who may qualify for the provision and payment of legal representation associated with his or her defense in a civil or criminal action. It mandates an employing agency to provide and pay for legal representation in criminal actions against an officer if all of the following criteria are met: the officer's action occurred in response to an emergency; upon the need to protect the officer or others from imminent death or bodily harm; or during an officer's fresh pursuit, apprehension, or attempted apprehension of a suspect whom the officer reasonably believes has perpetrated or attempted to perpetrate a forcible felony or escape; the officer's actions arose within the course and scope of his or her duties; and the officer's actions were not acts of omission or commission which constituted a material departure from the employing written policies and procedures, or from generally recognized criminal justice standards if no written policies or procedures exist. The bill provides an alternative process by which an employing agency may reimburse an officer's legal representation when an employing agency does not provide an attorney or the officer does not use the employing agency's attorney, but only if the officer did not plead guilty or nolo contendere or was not found guilty at trial. The bill caps reimbursement for fees and costs under the alterative process at $100,000. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 12, 2004.
HB 295--Fleeing Law Enforcement Officer
By Rep. Patterson and others
The bill amends s. 316.1935(1), F.S., to provide that it is a third degree felony for the operator of a vehicle, having knowledge that he or she has been ordered to stop such vehicle by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, willfully to refuse or fail to stop, or having stopped in compliance with such order, willfully to flee in an attempt to elude the officer. The bill also amends s. 316.1935(3), F.S., to create paragraph (3)(b), which provides that a person commits a first degree felony if he or she willfully flees or attempts to elude a law enforcement officer in an authorized law enforcement patrol vehicle with agency insignia and other jurisdictional markings prominently displayed on the vehicle, with siren and lights activated, and during the course of the fleeing or attempted eluding, drives at high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, and causes serious bodily injury or death to another person, including any law enforcement officer involved in pursuing or otherwise attempting to effect a stop of the person's vehicle. The court shall sentence the person convicted of this offense to a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years imprisonment. The punishment provided shall not prevent a court from imposing a greater sentence of incarceration as authorized by law. The bill also amends s. 316.1935(4), F.S., to create paragraph (4)(b), which provides that a person commits aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death, a first degree felony, if he or she, in the course of unlawfully leaving or attempting to leave the scene of a crash (in violation of s. 316.027, F.S., or s. 316.0611, F.S.), having knowledge of an order to stop by a duly authorized law enforcement officer, willfully refuses or fails to stop in compliance with such an order, or having stopped in compliance with such order, willfully flees in an attempt to elude such officer and, as a result of such fleeing or eluding, causes serious bodily injury or death to another person, including any law enforcement officer involved in pursuing or otherwise attempting to effect a stop of the person's vehicle. The felony of aggravated fleeing or eluding and the felony of aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death constitute separate offenses for which a person may be charged, in addition to the offenses under ss. 316.027 and 316.061, relating to unlawfully leaving the scene of a crash, which the person had been in the course of committing or attempting to commit when the order to stop was given. The court shall sentence the person convicted of aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death to a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years imprisonment and revoke the person's driver's license for a period not less than 1 year nor exceeding 5 years. The punishment provided shall not prevent a court from imposing a greater sentence of incarceration as authorized by law. No court may suspend, defer, or withhold adjudication of guilt or imposition of sentence for any violation of s. 316.1935, F.S., and a person convicted and sentenced to a minimum mandatory term of incarceration under s. 316.1935(3)(b) or s. 316.1935(4)(b), F.S., is not eligible for statutory gain-time under s. 944.275, F.S., or any form of discretionary early release, other than pardon or executive clemency or conditional medical release under s. 947.149, F.S., prior to serving the mandatory minimum sentence. Any motor vehicle involved in a violation of s. 316.1935, F.S., is deemed to be contraband, which may be seized by a law enforcement agency and is subject to forfeiture pursuant to ss. 932.701-932.704, F.S., the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. The bill also amends s. 921.0022, F.S., the offense severity ranking chart of the Criminal Punishment Code, to rank the third-degree felony offense in s. 316.1935(1), F.S., in Level 1 of the chart, rank the first-degree felony offense in s. 316.1935(3)(b), F.S., in Level 7 of the chart, rank the first-degree felony offense in s. 316.1935(4)(b), F.S., in Level 8 of the chart, and make technical or conforming changes to the chart consistent with the amendments to s. 316.1935, F.S. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
HB 599--Stolen Property
By Rep. Culp and others
The bill amends s. 812.022, F.S., to provide that proof that a dealer who regularly deals in used property possesses stolen property upon which a name and phone number of a person other than the offer or of the property are conspicuously displayed gives rise to an inference that the dealer possessing the property knew or should have known that the property was stolen. If the name and phone number are for a business that rents property, the dealer avoids the inference by contacting the business, prior to accepting the property, to verify that the property was not stolen from the business. If the name and phone number are not for a business that rents property, the dealer avoids the inference by contacting the local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the dealer is located, prior to accepting the property, to verify that the property has not been reported stolen. An accurate written record, which contains specified information, is sufficient evidence to avoid the inference. The bill provides that the inference created by the bill does not apply to persons, entities, or transactions exempt from s. 538.57, F.S. (nonprofits, certain transactions involving secondhand goods, and specified persons, entities, and transactions); printed or recorded materials, computer software, videos, video games, or used sports equipment that does not contain a serial number; or a dealer that implements, in a continuous and consistent manner, a program for identification and return of stolen property that meet several specified criteria. The bill also amends s. 921.0022, F.S., the offense ranking chart of the Criminal Punishment Code, to raise from Level 6 to Level 7 the offense of cargo theft where the property stolen is valued at less than $50,000, and to raise from Level 7 to Level 8 the offense of cargo theft where the property stolen is valued at $50,000 or more. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 678--Assault/Battery on Sports Official
By Criminal Justice Committee and others
The bill amends s. 784.081, F.S., to provide for the reclassification of the felony or misdemeanor degree, as applicable, of assault, aggravated assault, battery, or aggravated battery when any of those offenses are committed upon a sports official when he or she is actively participating as a sports official in an athletic contest or immediately following such athletic contest. The bill defines the term "sports official" as "any person who serves as a referee, an umpire, or a linesman, and any person who serves in a similar capacity as a sports official who may be known by another title, which sports official is duly registered by or is a member of a local, state, regional, or national organization that is engaged in part in providing education and training to sports officials." If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
HB 869--Adjudication of Guilt
By Rep. Gelber and others
The bill creates s. 775.08435, F.S., which prohibits a court from withholding adjudication of guilt for a capital felony, life felony, and first degree felony. A court also may not withhold adjudication of guilt for a second degree felony if the defendant has a prior withhold of adjudication for a felony not arising from the same transaction as the current felony. If there is no such prior felony, the court can only withhold adjudication if it makes a written finding that a withhold of adjudication is reasonably justified based on statutorily-specified factors for mitigating a Criminal Punishment Code sentence or the state attorney requests in writing that adjudication be withheld. A court also may not withhold adjudication of guilt for a third degree felony if the defendant has a prior withhold of adjudication for a felony not arising from the same transaction as the current felony, unless the state attorney requests in writing a withhold of adjudication or the court makes a written finding that a withhold of adjudication is reasonably justified based on statutorily specified mitigating factors. However, there cannot be a withhold of adjudication of guilt for a third degree felony if the defendant has two or more prior withholds of adjudication for a felony not arising from the same transaction as the current felony. The bill amends s. 924.07, F.S., to provide that the state may appeal from an order withholding adjudication of guilt in violation of the new statute. The bill repeals Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.670 to the extent that it is inconsistent with the provisions of the bill. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004, except as otherwise provided.
CS/CS/SB 1376--Habitual Misdemeanor Offenders
By Appropriations Committee and others
The bill creates s. 775.0837, F.S., which creates a new category of habitual offender called the "habitual misdemeanor offender," which the bill defines as a defendant who is before the court for sentencing for a specified misdemeanor and who has previously been convicted, as an adult, of four or more specified misdemeanor offenses, which, in relation to each other and the misdemeanor before the court for sentencing, must be separate offenses that are not part of the same criminal transaction or episode, and which must have been committed within 1 year of the date the misdemeanor before the court for sentencing was committed. The bill limits the specified misdemeanor offenses to misdemeanor violations under the following statutory chapters: ch. 741, F.S. (domestic violence); ch. 784, F.S. (assault and battery); ch. 790, F.S. (weapons and firearms); ch. 796, F.S. (prostitution); ch. 800, F.S. (lewdness and indecent exposure); ch. 806, F.S. (arson and criminal mischief); ch. 810, F.S. (burglary and trespass); ch. 812, F.S. (theft and robbery); ch. 817, F.S. (fraudulent practices); ch. 831, F.S. (forgery and counterfeiting); ch. 832, F.S. (violations involving checks); ch. 843, F.S. (obstructing justice); ch. 856, F.S. (drunkenness, loitering and prowling); ch. 893, F.S. (drug abuse); or ch. 901, F.S. (arrests). The bill provides that, if the court finds that a defendant before the court for sentencing for a misdemeanor is a habitual misdemeanor offender, the court shall, unless the court makes a finding that an alternative disposition is in the best interests of the community and defendant, sentence the defendant as a habitual misdemeanor offender to one of following three sentences: imprisonment of not less than 6 months, but not to exceed 1 year; commitment to a residential treatment program for not less than 6 months, but not to exceed 364 days, provided that the treatment program is operated by the county or a private vendor with which the county has contracted to operate such program, or by a private vendor under contract with the state or licensed by the state to operate such program, and provided that any referral to a residential treatment facility is in accordance with the assessment criteria for residential treatment established by the Department of Children and Family Services, and that residential treatment beds are available or other community-based treatment programs or a combination of residential and community based programs; or detention for not less than 6 months, but not to exceed 364 days, to a designated residence, if the detention is supervised or monitored by the county or by a private vendor with which the county has contracted to supervise or monitor the detention. The bill further provides that the court may not sentence a defendant as a habitual misdemeanor offender if the misdemeanor offense before the court for sentencing has been reclassified as a felony as a result of any prior qualifying misdemeanor. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming law.
SB 1596--Frivolous Actions/Filed by Prisoner
By Senator Smith and others
This bill amends s. 944.279, F.S., which subjects an inmate to Department of Corrections' disciplinary proceedings if a court finds that the inmate fried an action or appeal in bad faith or knowingly presented false information or evidence to the court. The bill removes an exception that prevents application of the sanction to a collateral criminal proceeding filed by an inmate. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
SB 1620--Firearms/Sales and Delivery
By Criminal Justice Committee and Senator Lynn
This bill amends the sunset provision on the Firearm Purchase Program from June 1, 2004, to October 1, 2009. The Firearm Purchase Program performs criminal record checks on potential firearm purchasers who are making the purchase from licensed firearm dealers in Florida. The program will be reviewed during the 2009 Legislative Session. The October 1, 2009, repeal date will provide ample time for FDLE to phase out the program should the Legislature decide to discontinue the program during that Legislative Session. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 21, 2004.
By Senator Smith
The bill defines ammunition and includes possession of it by a convicted felon, violent career criminal, or juvenile delinquent as a second degree felony crime in s. 790.23, F.S. Possession of a firearm, or electric weapon or device, or carrying a concealed weapon including a tear gas gun or chemical weapon is currently prohibited in s. 790.23, F.S., and constitutes a second degree felony, Level 5 in the Criminal Punishment Code Offense Ranking Chart. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
SB 1828--Home-Invasion Robbery
By Senators Smith and Lawson
The bill amends s. 812.135, F.S., to create three home-invasion robbery offenses. Under current law, home-invasion robbery is a first degree felony ranked in Level 8. In terms of penalties, the law does not distinguish between the robbery when it is committed while armed and the robbery when it is committed while unarmed. The bill punishes home-invasion robbery while armed more severely than home-invasion robbery while unarmed. If a person, in the course of committing a home-invasion robbery, carries a firearm or other deadly weapon, the person commits a first degree felony punishable by a term of years not to exceed life imprisonment, which is made a Level 10 offense in the offense severity ranking court of the Criminal Punishment Code. If a person is carrying a weapon, it is a first degree felony, which is made a Level 9 offense. If a person is not carrying a firearm, deadly weapon, or other weapon, it is a first degree felony, which is made a Level 8 offense. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming law.
HB 1847--Capital Collateral Regional Counsels
By Appropriations Committee and Rep. Negron
The bill amends various sections of Chapter 27, F.S., to continue a pilot program in which private attorneys, rather than the state capital collateral counsel, represent defendants in capital post conviction litigation in the northern region of the state. The Legislature first established the pilot for 1 year in ch. 2003-399, L.O.F., in order to implement the 2003-2004 General Appropriations Act. To participate in the pilot, private attorneys must be listed on the registry of attorneys maintained pursuant to s. 27.710, F.S., and be qualified to provide representation in federal court. The bill prohibits pilot attorneys from being compensated for work previously performed by the regional office of capital collateral counsel for the northern region. The bill limits private attorneys to representing no more than 5 defendants in capital pest conviction litigation at any one time. The bill provides for monitoring and evaluation of the pilot. The bill requires the Commission on Capital Cases to review the operation of private attorneys participating in the pilot as well as receive and refer to The Florida Bar any complaints regarding their practice. Private attorneys in the pilot must report on their performance using the same performance measures adopted by the Legislature for the remaining 2 capital collateral regional counsels as well as the number of hours worked and the amount expended on cases. Finally, the Office of the Auditor General must conduct a performance review of the pilot program to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of using private attorneys compared to the capital collateral regional counsels and submits a report to the Legislature by January 30, 2007. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 1928--Unlawful Use or a Recording
Device in a Motion Picture Theater
By Commerce, Economic Opportunities, and Consumer Services Committee and Senator Atwater
The bill inhibits a person from knowingly operating the audiovisual recording function of any device in a motion picture theater while a motion picture is being exhibited, with the intent of recording the motion picture, if the persons knows or should have known that he or she was recording the motion picture without the consent of the theater owner. The bill specifies that a first violation is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to 1 year in jail or up to a $1,000 fine. A second or subsequent violation is a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison or by a fine of up to $25,000, or both. The bill also provides an exemption from these criminal violations for certain law enforcement officials under specified conditions. The bill requires a theater owner prohibiting motion pictures from being recorded in a motion picture theater to display a sign giving notice that recording a motion picture without the consent of the theater owner is a criminal violation. The sign must be displayed in a manner that is clearly legible and conspicuous from the entrance of the motion picture theater. The bill authorizes the theater owner to detain a person who the theater owner has probable cause to believe has recorded or is recording a motion picture in violation of the bill. The bill requires a law enforcement officer to be called to the scene immediately after the person is detained. The bill grants the theater owner immunity from civil and criminal actions arising out of measures taken to detain a violator while awaiting the arrival of a law enforcement officer, if the violator is detained in a reasonable manner for a reasonable time. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 2054--Sexual Predators and Offenders
By Criminal Justice Committee and others
The bill amends s. 775.21, F.S., to require that a person civilly committed as a sexually violent predator be designated as a sexual predator for registration purposes by the corm involved in the civil commitment. The bill amends ss. 775.21 and 943.0435, F.S., to require sexual predators and sexual offenders who vacate a permanent residence and do not establish or maintain another residence to report to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) or the local sheriff where the person is located within 48 hours after vacating the residence and provide the date the residence was vacated, update registration information, and provide an address where the person will be dining the time when no residence is established or maintained. If the sexual predator or sexual offender remains at a permanent residence after having reported vacating the premises, he or she has to return to FDLE or the sheriff within 48 hours after the date he or she indicated the residence would be vacated and report that fact. Failure to make this report is a second degree felony. The bill amends ss. 775.21, 943.0435, 944.606, and 944.607, F.S., to modify the definition of "conviction" under these registration statutes to indicate that conviction includes an entry of a guilty plea or nolo contendere resulting in a sanction. The bill amends ss. 775.21, 943.0435, and 944.607, F.S., to indicate where venue may occur for the purpose of prosecuting violations of the registration laws. The bill amends ss. 775:21,943.0435, and 944.607, F.S., to provide that an arrest on charges of failure to register, the service of an information or a complaint for a violation of these sections, as applicable to the predator or offender, or an arraignment on charges for such violation, constitutes action notice of the duty to register when the predator or offender has been provided and advised of his or her statutory obligation to register. The failure of a sexual predator or sexual offender to immediately register as required following such arrest, service, or arraignment constitutes grounds for a subsequent charge of failure to register. A sexual predator or sexual offender charged with the crime of failure to register who asserts, or intends to assert, a lack of notice of the duty to register as a defense to a charge of failure to register shall immediately register as required. A sexual predator or sexual offender who is charged with a subsequent failure to register may not assert the defense of a lack of notice of the duty to register. Registration following such arrest, service, or arraignment is not a defense and does not relieve the sexual predator or sexual offender of criminal liability for the failure to register. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
SB 324--Driver's Licenses/Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
By Senator Saunders
The bill amends s. 322.20, F.S., to require the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to maintain conviction records for persons holding a foreign driver's license if the uniform traffic citation indicates an address located in Florida. The bill also amends s. 322.27, F.S., to require law enforcement agencies to notify DHSMV within 24 hours after any traffic fatality or when a law enforcement officer initiates a blood test for impairment or intoxication in cases of death or serious injury. This bill conforms statutory language to procedures that are currently codified in the Florida Uniform Traffic Citations Procedure Manual. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 284--Video Voyeurism
By Judiciary Committee and others
The bill creates the crimes of, and penalties for, video voyeurism, video voyeurism dissemination, and commercial video voyeurism dissemination. A person commits the offense of video voyeurism if that person, for amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing another person, intentionally uses or installs an imaging device to secretly view, broadcast, or record a person, without that person's knowledge or consent, who is dressing, undressing, or privately exposing the body, at a place and time when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy; or for the amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit of another, or on behalf of another, intentionally permits the use or installation of an imaging device to secretly view, broadcast, or record a person, without that person's knowledge or consent, who is &dressing, undressing, or privately exposing the body, at a place and time when that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy; or for the amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal, gratification, or profit of oneself or another, or on behalf of oneself or another, intentionally uses an imaging device to secretly view, broadcast, or record under or through the clothing being worn by another person, without that person's knowledge or consent, for the purpose of viewing the body of, or undergarments worn by, that person. A person commits the offense of commercial video voyeurism dissemination if that person knowing that an image was created in violation of the video voyeurism provisions, sells the image for consideration to another person; or creates the image in violation of the video voyeurism provisions, disseminates, distributes, or transfers the image to another person for that person to sell the image to others. The bill exempts from its provisions any law enforcement agency conducting surveillance for a law enforcement purpose; a security system when a written notice is conspicuously posted on the premises stating that a video surveillance system has been installed for the purpose of security for the premises; a video surveillance device that is installed in such a manner that the presence of the device is clearly and immediately obvious; or dissemination, distribution, or transfer of images subject to this section by a provider of an electronic communication service, such as providers of wire or oral communications, tone-only paging communications, remote computing services, tracking devices, or electronic funds transfer. A limited exception is also provided for a merchant observing customers in dressing, fitting or changing rooms or restrooms, where the observation is within the scope of the merchant's duties and does not otherwise violate certain laws, or if the customer invites or consents to the merchant's presence. A first violation is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a definite term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or by a fine of not more than $1,000. If a person who violates this section has been previously convicted or adjudicated delinquent of any violation of this section, it is a third-degree felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years if the person is categorized as a habitual felony offender. In the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, the definition of "contraband article" is amended to include any personal property, such as, any imaging device used in violation of s. 810.145, F.S. (the video voyeurism provisions created in the bill), or any photograph, film, or other recorded image, including an image recorded on videotape, a compact disk, digital tape, or fixed disk, recorded in violation of s. 810.145, F.S. The bill requites an agency that has received, through forfeiture, illegal video voyeurism images to destroy any image and the medium upon which the image is recorded when it is no longer needed for an official purpose, including, but not limited to, a photograph, video tape, diskette, compact disk, or fixed disk. The agency may not sell or retain any image. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 2762--Driving Under Influence
By Criminal Justice Committee and Senator Smith
This bill authorizes records from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, relating to prior convictions for driving under the influence, to be sufficient by themselves to establish previous convictions. This presumption may be introduced with other evidence to establish prior DUI convictions. This evidence may be contradicted or rebutted by other evidence. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shall review the materials submitted by the law enforcement officer to determine whether the materials comply with applicable statutes, rules and policies, and the department shall inform the law enforcement officer when a deficiency exists to correct it prior to the hearing. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004
CS/CS/CS/SB 1156--Sport Shooting and Training Ranges
By Appropriations Committee and others
This bill includes legislative findings that state environmental regulations and unnecessary litigation initiated against sport shooting and training ranges by governmental agencies for violation of environmental laws may bankrupt and destroy the sport shooting and training range industry. Further, findings in the bill state that the elimination of sport shooting and training ranges will impair the ability of state residents to exercise and practice their rights to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions. Under the bill, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must attempt to distribute copies of the Best Management Practices for Environmental Stewardship of Florida Shooting Ranges to all shooting and training ranges in the state by January 1, 2005. The ranges must implement appropriate management practices by January 1, 2006. If contamination of a shooting range and training range is suspected or identified, DEP may assist with or perform a contamination assessment. If contamination is found, the range must comply with a site-specific rehabilitation program. In exchange for compliance with the Best Management Practices for Environmental Stewardship of Florida Shooting Ranges and site-specific rehabilitation programs, sport shooting and training ranges are immune from environmental suits by the state and its subdivisions for the use of the range property as a shooting range. The bill also requires that any existing environmental lawsuits brought by the state or its subdivisions against a range be withdrawn. Future actions filed in violation of the provisions of this bill entitle the sport shooting or training range defendant to recover all expenses resulting from the action from the governmental entity. Government employees who intentionally and maliciously bring a lawsuit against a shooting or training range in violation of the provisions of the bill commit a first degree misdemeanor. Lastly, the bill clarifies that except as expressly provided in general law, the Legislature preempts all regulation of firearms and ammunition use at sport shooting and training ranges including the environmental regulation of sport shooting and training ranges. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 13, 2004.
HJR1-Parental Notification of Abortion on a Minor
By Rep. Byrd and others
HJR1 creates Article X, Section 22 of the State Constitution which, if approved by the voters at the general election in November, authorizes the Legislature to enact by general law a requirement that a parent of guardian of a minor be notified prior to the termination of a minor's pregnancy, notwithstanding the minor's right to privacy provided in Article 1, Section 23 of the State Constitution. The bill requires the Legislature to provide exceptions to the notice requirement and to create a procedure for judicial waiver of the notification. Subject to voter approval in the November 2004 general election, the effective date of the resolution is January 4, 2005.
CS/CS/CS/SB 160--Child Support
By Appropriations Committee and others
This bill amends a series of statutes relative to the administrative support order process used for Title IV-D cases to provide for the recognition of administrative support orders in ch. 61, F.S., and s. 409.2561, F.S.; to provide specific criteria for establishing venue for hearings held by the Division of Administrative Hearings; to clarify and modify the process required for a noncustodial parent to proceed in circuit corm in lieu of the administrative process; to articulate the practice for assigning an account number; to direct petitions contesting an income deduction order established by the administrative process to be filed with the Department of Revenue instead of the court for a hearing; and to extend the deadline for the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to submit an evaluation report on the statewide implementation of the administrative process for establishing child support to June 30, 2006. It eliminates the requirement in s. 61.13(1)(d), F.S., that social security numbers be provided for minor children on all child support orders. The bill requires that when the current child support obligation in a Title IV-D case is reduced or terminated due to the emancipation of a child and the noncustodial parent owes arrearages, retroactive support, delinquency, or costs, the noncustodial parent be required to pay the support at the same rate in effect prior to emancipation until all arrearages, retroactive support, delinquency, and costs are paid in full or the order is modified. It stipulates the process for establishing a depository account for the receipt and disbursement of interstate support payments for Title IV-D cases. The bill amends s. 61.1814, F.S., relative to the Child Support Enforcement Application and Program Revenue Trust Fund to reflect the current purpose, composition, and function of the trust fund. The bill permits a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity that is witnessed by 2 individuals and signed under penalty of perjury to be accepted as a valid affidavit for adding the father's name to the birth certificate at the time of birth, for amending the birth certificate after the birth to add the father's name, and for establishing paternity for children born out of wedlock. The bill amends the process for processing undistributable collections to remove the requirement that the noncustodial parent's permission be obtained before applying the undistributable collection to another case where child support is owed by that parent and instead provides the noncustodial parent with notification of the intended action and of the noncustodial parent's right to contest this action in court. It removes the requirement that a mother is deemed noncooperative and ineligible for public assistance until a subsequent father is identified and confined through scientific testing to be the father if the possible fathers initially identified are determined not to be the fathers. The bill also allows for the securities which are to be used for the purpose of meeting an obligation of past due child support to be liquidated in an amount that is sufficient to cover both the past due child support and any applicable commissions and fees. It also directs the Department of Revenue to develop and operate a voluntary data match system which would identify noncustodial parents who owe past due child support and also have a claim with an insurer. The bill provides for the options insurers may use to provide the department with information from which to conduct the match, limits the garnishment of liability claims to cases where bodily injury exceeds $3,000, and provides limited immunity for insurers and other participants in the data match process. The bill expands the list of licenses for which the Department of Revenue has authority to seek denial or suspension to include all licenses issued by a state or local government licensing authority and modifies the noticing requirement. Finally, the bill requires the Department of Revenue, in collaboration with the Department of Corrections, the Agency for Workforce Innovation, the Office of the State Courts Administrator, local law enforcement, community based and faith-based organizations, and other organizations, to identify strategies for increasing the collection of child support from incarcerated parents, for maximizing the incarcerated parents' potential for successful reentry into society and reconnection with their families, and for building collaboration and data-sharing among the stakeholders to continue this initiative. A report to the Governor and Legislature on the data collected and recommendations for implementing identified strategies is required by December 31, 2004. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming law except as otherwise expressly provided for in the act.
HB 495--Protective Injunctions
By Rep. Planas and others
This bill brings the statute governing protective injunctions for sexual violence (s. 784.046, F.S.), into conformity with the domestic violence injunction statute as it relates to victim address confidentiality. Specifically, it allows a victim of sexual violence to submit his or her address to the court in a separate confidential filing when petitioning the court for a protective injunction, if the victim needs to keep his or her location confidential for safety reasons. It removes the statutory language instructing the Department of Corrections (DOC) to serve respondents of protective injunctions against sexual violence if they are in the custody of the DOC. In addition, the bill makes willful violation of a protective injunction against sexual violence a first degree misdemeanor, which is the same penalty currently provided for willfully violating a protective injunction against repeat, dating, or domestic violence. It also includes violation of a sexual violence injunction as aggravated stalking, if the person knowingly, willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person. Finally, it eliminates duplicative language in s. 901.15(10), F.S., which gives a law enforcement officer warrantless arrest authority when probable cause exists that a person has knowingly committed an act of repent violence in violation of a repeat violence injunction. These provisions were approved by the Governor and take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 1060--Temporary Support Orders
By Judiciary Committee and others
This bill authorizes the court to modify, vacate, or set aside a temporary support order under chs. 61 and 742, F.S., either before or at the time a final order is entered in a proceeding. Such modification, vacating, or setting aside of the temporary support order may be executed upon the showing of good cause and without the need to show a substantial change in circumstances. The bill also provides for the possible retroactive lime frames to which a modification to a temporary support order may apply. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect on July 1, 2004.
HB 1787--Name Change Petitions
By Judiciary Committee and others
This bill requires the clerk of court to submit a report of every name change judgment to the Department of Law Enforcement along with the fingerprints of the person whose name has been changed. Additionally, every name change petition must show whether the petitioner has ever been arrested for or charged with, pied guilty or nolo contendere to, or been found to have committed a criminal offense, regardless of adjudication, and if so, when and where. The petitioner is responsible for the cost of fingerprinting. The Department of Law Enforcement must send a copy of the report of the judgment to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and may also forward the report to any other law enforcement agency believed to retain information related to the petitioner. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004
By Senator Campbell
The hill prohibits the Department of Children and Family Services from removing a foster child who has resided for at least 6 months with foster parents who are licensed or court-ordered custodians when either the foster parent or custodian has applied for adoption and the application for adoption has been denied, unless such removal is by order of the court. Exceptions are provided for when the child is believed to be at imminent risk of abuse or neglect, 30 days have expired since the foster parent or custodian received written notice of the denial and no formal challenge has been filed, or the foster parent or custodian agrees to the child's removal. The bill also allows the court to waive the required consent of the department in ch. 39, F.S., adoptions if the court determines that the consent is being unreasonably withheld and the petitioner has filed a favorable preliminary adoptive home study with the court. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming law.
CS/SB 2640--Parenting Coordination Program
By Children and Families Committee and others
The bill defines "parenting plan" as a temporary or final court order setting out the residence, parental responsibility, visitation or other parental responsibility issues in dissolution of marriage proceeding or any other civil action involving custody or parenting of a child or children. The bill also defines "parenting coordination" as a process in which a parenting coordinator helps the parties implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of disputes between parents or legal guardians and with the prior approval of the court, by making decisions within the scope of the court order appointing the parenting coordinator. Under the bill, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator for the parties if the court finds the parties failed to implement adequately their parenting plan; mediation has not been successful or has been determined by the judge to be inappropriate; and the appointment of a parenting coordinator is in the best interest of the child or children involved in the proceedings. The court also is directed to consider the effect any domestic violence injunction may have on the parties' ability to engage in parenting coordination. Qualifications for a parenting coordinator are specified. Unless the parties agree to the appointment of a member of the clergy or a member of The Florida Bar in good standing offering to serve pro bono, qualifications include licensure as a mental health professional or a physician; 3 years of post-licensure experience; completion of a Florida Supreme Court certified family mediation training program. A minimum of 20 hours of parenting coordination training including: parenting coordination concepts and ethics; family dynamics in separation and divorce; the parenting coordination process; parenting coordination techniques; family court proceedings; and domestic violence. Experience as a parenting coordinator in 4 or more cases before October 1, 2004 can be substituted for licensure and post-licensure experience. The parenting coordinator is to assist the parties in implementing the parenting plan and in developing structured guidelines for implementing the plan; help in developing guidelines for communication between the parents; assist the parents in developing parenting strategies to minimize conflict; teaching communication skills and principles of child development; and educate both parents about the source of their conflict and its effect on the children. If a parenting coordinator or a parenting coordination program charges a fee, the court may refer the parties to such a person or program only if the court first determines that the parties have the ability to pay the fee. The coordinator or program may be compensated by public funds to the extent such funds are available. Communications with the parenting coordinator are not confidential, unless the court finds confidentiality is in the best interests of the child or children. The patties and the coordinator all must agree to the determination of confidentiality. A parenting coordinator is immune from liability for civil damages for any act or omission within the scope of the coordinator's duties, unless the person acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard for the rights, safety, or property of the parties. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 532--Good Samaritan Act
By Comprehensive Planning Committee and others
The bill extends immunity from civil liability, under the Good Samaritan Act, to a person who gratuitously provides care, treatment, or service during emergency response activities in connection with a community emergency response team, local emergency management agencies, the Division of Emergency Management of the Department of Community Affairs, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The immunity also protects a person from civil liability for damages caused by an act or a failure to act to arrange further care, treatment, or services if such person acts as a reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 12, 2004.
CS/CS/CS/CS/SB 1372--Internet Pharmacies
By Appropriations Committee and others
The bill requires an "Internet pharmacy" to receive a permit in order to sell medicinal drugs to persons in Florida. The bill requires any person who desires to operate an Internet pharmacy to apply to the Florida Department of Health (DOH) for an Internet pharmacy permit. The bill defines "internet pharmacy" to include locations not otherwise licensed or issued a pharmacy permit, within or outside Florida, which use the Internet to communicate with or obtain information from consumers in Florida and use such communication or information to fill or refill prescriptions or to dispense, distribute, or otherwise engage in the practice of pharmacy in Florida. Such acts constitute the practice of pharmacy as defined in the pharmacy practice act. The bill provides requirements for Internet pharmacies. A permit may not be issued to an "Internet pharmacy" unless a licensed pharmacist is designated as the prescription department manager for dispensing medicinal drugs to persons in Florida. The bill requires the Internet pharmacy and the pharmacist designated by that pharmacy to serve as prescription department manager or its equivalent to be licensed in the state of location in order to dispense drugs in Florida. The bill makes a pharmacist subject to disciplinary action for dispensing any medicinal drug based upon a communication that purports to be a prescription when the pharmacist knows or has reason to believe that the purported prescription is not based upon a valid practitioner-patient relationship. A pharmacy is subject to disciplinary action for dispensing any medicinal drug based upon a communication that purports to be a prescription when the pharmacist knows or has reason to believe that the purported prescription is not based upon a valid practitioner-patient relationship that includes a documented patient evaluation. The bill creates a criminal offense that prohibits an Internet pharmacy from distributing a medicinal drug to any person in Florida without being permitted as a pharmacy in Florida. A violation of this prohibition is a second degree felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years and the imposition of a fine of up to $10,000. The bill adds the newly created criminal offense to the racketeering provisions so that the offense may be prosecuted as racketeering in appropriate cases, thereby allowing harsher sentencing for the criminal conduct and the further use of civil racketeering sanctions. The bill revises requirements for pharmacists to display the expiration date on the outside of the container of each medicinal drug dispensed. A pharmacist is given the option of providing the purchaser either the expiration date when provided by the manufacturer, repackager, or other distributor of the drug, or an earlier beyond-use date for expiration of up to 1 year from the date of dispensing. The dispensing pharmacist or practitioner must provide information concerning the expiration date to the purchaser upon request and must provide appropriate instructions regarding the proper use and storage of the drug. The bill authorizes a community pharmacy to transfer a prescription for a Schedule II controlled substance under specified conditions. The pharmacy receiving the prescription may ship, mail, or deliver into Florida, in any manner, the dispensed Schedule II medicinal drug under the following conditions: the pharmacy receiving and dispensing the transferred prescription maintains a valid unexpired license, permit, or registration to operate the pharmacy in compliance with the laws of the state in which the pharmacy is located and from which the medicinal drugs are dispensed; the community pharmacy and receiving pharmacy are owned and operated by the same person and share a centralized database; and the community pharmacy assures its compliance with federal law and certain state pharmacy laws. The bill creates exceptions to the recordkeeping requirements for prescription drug distribution applicable to chain drug entities, including at least 50 retail pharmacies, warehouses, and repackagers which are members of the same affiliated group, if the affiliated group: discloses to DOH the names of all its members; and agrees in writing to provide records on prescription drug purchases by members of the affiliated group no later than 48 hours after the department requests such records, regardless of the location where the records are stored. The record keeping requirements expire on July 1, 2006. The bill appropriates $590,051 from the Medical Quality Assurance Trust Fund to DOH, and nine full-time equivalent positions are authorized for FY 2004-2005, to implement the bill. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 1062--Health Care Facilities
By Health, Aging, and Long-Term Care Committee and others
The bill creates a procedure for the issuance of an inactive license for a nursing home to permit a home to maintain its license under 2 circumstances: during a period when it is temporarily not serving residents but will resume doing so. Nursing home regulation is changed in several ways that affect nursing home operations. Certain registered nurses, other than the director of atoning, may sign a resident care plan in a nursing home. The Agency for Health Care Administration's (AHCA's) publication of data regarding nursing homes must reflect the most current agency actions. AHCA must adopt by rule a nursing home bed need methodology that has a goal of maintaining a district average occupancy rate of 94 percent. For the Gold Seal program, nursing homes operated by the state or federal government (VA homes) will be deemed to be financially stable and Will not be required to provide further proof of financial stability. The bill revises certificate-of-need (CON) requirements for nursing homes to provide expedited review of a proposed replacement nursing home or a project to relocate a portion of the beds of a nursing home under specified circumstances. Exemptions from CON review are created for replacing a nursing home on the same site, or within 3 miles of the site, and for combining or consolidating nursing homes or transferring licensed nursing home beds within the same planning subdistrict. The number of beds that a Gold Seal nursing home facility may add without CON review is increased from 10 to 20, or 10 percent of the number of beds licensed in the facility, whichever is greater. Exceptions to the moratorium on CON approval for nursing homes are established for a proposed nursing home in a county in which there are no community nursing home beds and all nursing home beds that were licensed on July 1, 2001, have subsequently closed and for the addition of beds in a nursing home in a county of fewer than 50,000 residents. The bill revises licensure requirements for health care clinics to exempt the following entities from licensure: end-stage renal disease providers; therapy providers (speech, occupational, and physical) which are Medicare-certified; birth centers; clinical laboratories; charitable clinics--501(c)(3) or (4); entities owned or operated by the federal or state government; hospitals and entities they own; a sole proprietorship, group practice, partnership, or corporation that provides health care services by physicians covered under s. 627.419, F.S. (includes dentists, optometrists, podiatrists; chiropractors, physicians); Entities that provide only oncology or radiation therapy services by physicians; and entities that provide neonatal or pediatric hospital-based healthcare services. Mobile clinics and portable equipment providers are included in the definition of clinic. The date for filing a clinic license application with AHCA is changed to July 1, 2004, from March 1, 2004. If AHCA issues a notice of intent to deny a clinic license application after a temporary license has been issued, the temporary license expires on the date of the notice and may not be extended during any administrative or judicial review. The bill provides that any person or entity defined as a clinic is not in violation of the Health Care Clinic Act due to failure to apply for a clinic license by March 1, 2004, and payment to such person or entity by an insurer or other entity liable for payment may not be denied on the grounds that the person or entity failed to apply for or obtain a clinic license before March 1, 2004. The bill gives AHCA the authority to seek federal approval in advance of the approval of its formal waiver application to limit the diversion provider network by freezing enrollment of providers at current levels when an area already has three or more providers or, in an expansion area, when enrollment reaches a level of 3 providers. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming a law.
HB 1629--Affordable Health Care
By Pep. Farkas and others
This legislation may be referred to as "The 2004 Affordable Health Care for Floridians Act." The purpose of the act is to address the underlying cause of the double-digit increases in health insurance premiums by mitigating the overall growth in health care costs. The bill includes provisions to improve the availability of affordable health insurance, to provide access to health information regarding costs, and to increase patient safety. The bill requires health care facilities not operated by the slate, to make available on their Web sites a description of and a link to the performance outcome and financial data that is published by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA); and provide a written estimate of reasonably anticipated charges for non-emergency medical services, within 7 business days of a written request of a prospective patient. Health care facilities must make available to a patient, in the facility's offices, all records necessary for verification of the accuracy of the patient's bill, and must establish a method for responding within 30 days to questions concerning the itemized bill. Health care facilities, providers, and health insurers must submit data to AHCA, and AHCA must make performance outcome and financial data available to consumers, including retail prices for the 50 most frequently prescribed medicines for licensed pharmacies, and patient charge and outcome data for inpatient and outpatient procedures provided in facilities. Pharmacies must make available on their Web sites a link to the financial data published by AHCA and to post notice of such information where prescriptions are filled. The bill creates the Florida Health Insurance Plan (plan) as the high risk pool for uninsurable medical risks, to replace the Florida Comprehensive Health Association (FCHA). The plan must be approved by the Financial Services Commission but the plan cannot be implemented, other than administration of coverage for persons insured by the FCHA and entering into a contract for an actuarial study, until funds are appropriated for start-op costs and any projected deficits. A 9-member Board of Directors Will supervise the plan, chaired by the Director of the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), plus 5 members appointed by the Governor, 1 member appointed by the Chief Financial Officer, 1 member by the Senate President, and 1 by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. By December 1, 2004, the board must submit an actuarial study to determine the impact the creation of the plan will have on the small group market, the number of individuals the pool could reasonably cover at various funding levels, a recommendation as to the best source of funding for anticipated deficits, and the effect on the Individual and small group market by including persons eligible for coverage under s. 627.6487, ES. (i.e., persons eligible under HIPAA for guaranteed issuance of coverage). The bill expands the Health Flex Pilot Program statewide. It makes the requirement that small group carriers' guarantee-issue policies to one-life groups conditional upon the absence of enrollment availability in the Florida Health Insurance Plan. The bill requires small group carriers to offer a high deductible plan that meets the federal requirements of a health savings account plan or health reimbursement arrangement. It creates the "Small Employers Access Program" that authorizes OIR to select an insurer, through competitive bidding, to provide coverage to small employers with 25 or fewer employees within established geographical areas, It requires persons who provide access to my discounted medical services to be licensed by OIR. The bill reduces from 5 percent to 4 percent the maximum aggregate increased premiums that may be charged to all policyholders by a small group carrier, over a 6-month period, due to the application of health-related rating factors. It requires health insurers and HMOs to provide on their Web sites information regarding appropriate utilization of emergency care services which shall include a list of alternative urgent care contracted providers, and to develop community emergency department diversion programs, which may include enlisting providers to be on call after hours and certain other programs. It allows health insurers and HMOs to require higher copayments for nonemergency use of emergency departments and for use of out-of-network emergency departments. It also authorizes HMOs that offer point-of-service riders to offer such riders to employers for employees living and working outside the HMO's approved geographic service area, without having to obtain a health care provider certificate, as long as the master group contract is issued to an employer that maintains its primary place of business within the HMO service area. This bill creates the Florida Patient Safety Corporation as a not-for-profit corporation to assist health care providers to improve the quality and safety of health care that is rendered and to reduce harm to patients. AHCA must assist the corporation in its organizational activities. The corporation is required to seek private funding and apply for grants to accomplish its goals and duties.
By December 1, 2004, the corporation must submit a report on its initial activities to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and must submit an annual report thereafter. The Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) must develop performance standards by which to measure the implementation and activities of the corporation and must conduct a performance audit of the corporation, using the performance standards, during 2006. OPPAGA must submit a report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by January 1, 2007. AHCA must develop and implement a strategy for the adoption and use of electronic health records and must report to the Governor and the Legislature with recommendations for legislation necessary to protect the confidentiality of electronic health records. Hospitals and federally qualified health centers are authorized to develop emergency room diversion programs and a "Fast Track" program for non-emergency patients to be treated at alternative sites. The duties of the federally qualified health centers are expanded to include urgent care services and emergency room diversion programs. Health insurers and health maintenance organizations must also develop community emergency department diversion programs. The Statewide Provider and Subscriber Assistance Program is renamed as the Subscriber Assistance Program. The bill requires a written contract before an insurance agent may receive any fee or commission for examining any group health insurance or any group health benefit plan for the purpose of giving or offering advice, counsel, recommendation, or information in respect to terms, conditions, benefits, coverage, or premium of any such policy or contract. The bill provides appropriations to fund various provisions in the bill. If approved by the Governor, and except as otherwise provided in the bill, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
By Health, Aging, and Long-Term Care Committee and Senator Saunders
This bill creates the "Joining Forces for Public Guardianship" grant program to be administered by the Statewide Public Guardianship Office within the Department of Elderly Affairs. The purpose of the program is to provide start-up funding to encourage communities to develop and administer locally funded and supported public guardianship programs to address the needs of indigent and incapacitated residents. The bill specifies the duties and a responsibility of the Statewide Public Guardianship Office related to the grant program, the application process, application requirements, and proposal review criteria, and establishes eligibility. Circuit courts are authorized to appoint a guardian advocate, without an adjudication of incapacity, for a person with developmental disabilities if the person lacks the capacity to do some, but not all, of the tasks necessary to care for his or her person, property, or estate, or if the person has voluntarily petitioned for the appointment of a guardian advocate. The bill makes numerous substantive changes related to a direct-support organization (DSO) under ch. 744, F.S. The Governor approved the hill; except as otherwise expressly provided, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 2306--Radiologists Performing Mammograms
By Judiciary Committee and Senator Lynn
The bill requires the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) and the Department of Health (DOH) to study issues relating to the availability, utilization, quality and cost of mammography services. OPPAGA must complete and submit its study to the Legislature by December 15, 2004. The bill also creates the Workgroup on Mammography Accessibility, to he staffed by DOH, to study the availability, quality of care, and accessibility of mammography in this state; the need for research and educational facilities; availability of resources; and patient wait times for screening and diagnostic mammography, The 13 member workgroup will be chaired by the Secretary of Health or his or her designee, and the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives must each appoint four members. DOH must submit a report of the findings and recommendations of the workgroup to the Governor, Senate President, House Speaker, and the substantive legislative committees by December 15, 2004. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 13,2004.
CS/SB 2448--Public Health
By Health, Aging, and Lung-Term Care Committee and Senator
This bill makes numerous revisions to statutes under the purview of the Department of Health (DOH). Most of the revisions are technical and clarifying in nature. Other revisions provide necessary authority for DON to carry out its public health and regulatory mission efficiently and effectively, and to respond to changing programmatic and funding requirements. The bill changes the Division Emergency Medical Services and Community Health Resources to the Division of Emergency Medical Operations; the Division of Information Resource Management to the Division of Information Technology; and the Division of Health Awareness and Tobacco to the Division of Health Access and Tobacco. The Division of Disability Determinations is established within DOH. The bill authorizes DOH to disburse funds from the Tobacco Settlement Clearing Trust Fund to the Biomedical Research Trust Fund in DOH. The bill creates the Institutional Review Board within DOH to review all biomedical and behavioral research on human subjects funded or authorized by DOH and authorizes the board to charge fees to cover research review costs. The bill establishes the Officer of Women's Health Strategy within DOH. The Officer is required to ensure that Florida's policies and programs are responsive to sex and gender differences and to women's health needs. Women's health issues must be taken into consideration in the annual budget planning of DON, the Agency for Health Care Administration (,MICA), and the Department of Elderly Affairs (DOEA). The inclusion of gender considerations and differential impact must he considered in the criteria for choosing state-funded research and demonstration proposals. Boards or advisory bodies which fall under the purview of DON, AHCA, and DOEA am encouraged to seek equal representation of women and men and the inclusion of persons who are knowledgeable and sensitive to gender and diversity issues. The Officer is required to submit to the Governor and the Legislature an annual report with policy recommendations. The Office of Minority Health is established within DON. The bill requires DOH to include oral health care programs in the department's Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: Closing the Gap grant program.
The bill adds language that allows DOH to release newborn hearing and metabolic tests or screening results to the newborn's primary care physician. The bill requires newborns to be tested for phenylketonuria prior to becoming 1 week of age, rather than 2 weeks of age, and clarifies that newborns do not have to be born in Florida to he screened. The Child Abuse Death Review Team and local review committees are authorized to review all deaths resulting from verified child abuse and neglect, not just those with a report to the central abuse hotline. DOH and DOE are required to prepare a grant proposal each year to the U.S. Department of Education for funding early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities, from birth through 36 months years of age and their parents. The bill establishes an injury-prevention program within DOH. The bill clarifies that the prohibition on uncertified operators applies to the "practice of radiologic technology" and not just the application of radiation. The bill gives DON explicit authority to investigate and determine whether violations of existing radiologic technology statutes have occurred, and allows DOH to take disciplinary action against technologists who are acted against by national registries or national boards recognized by the DOH. The bill modifies the licensure fees for tanning facilities by removing the minimum fee per tanning device, but maintaining the maximum fee per tanning device, and authorizing DOH to set the maximum total fee per individual tanning facility by rule. The bill requires AHCA to report to the Legislature by December 31, 2004, recommending whether it is in the public interest to allow a hospital to license or operate an emergency department located off the premises of the hospital. A 1-year moratorium on CONs for offsite emergency departments is established. The bill requires licensed facilities to release patient information to regional poison control centers for patient case management. The bill requires acute care hospitals, upon request, to report trauma registry data to DOH and clarifies reporting requirements for trauma centers, pediatric trauma referral centers, and acute care hospitals to the brain and spinal cord injury central registry. Hospitals licensed under ch. 395, F.S., are required to implement immunization programs to offer immunizations against influenza and pneuomococcal bacteria to people aged 65 and older in accordance with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The bill allows federally qualified health centers to be reimbursed retroactively by the Medicaid program from the date they submit their application to the date the application is approved. The bill provides that, notwithstanding any other law or local ordinance to the contrary, the regulation, identification, and packaging of meat, poultry, and fish is preempted to the state and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 1064--Medicaid Fraud
By Appropriations Committee; and Others
The bill implements the recommendation from the Senate Select Subcommittee on Medicaid Prescription Drug Over-Prescribing. The bill makes several statutory changes broadening the authority of the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) related to combating fraud and abuse in the Medicaid program, particularly focused on prescribed drugs. The bill also makes several statutory changes giving the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in the Department of Legal Affairs broader authority to pursue entities that try to defraud the Medicaid program. AHCA is required to mandate a recipient's participation in a provider lock-in program, when appropriate, if a recipient is found by the agency to have and Medicaid goods or services at a frequency or amount not medically necessary, limiting the receipt of goods or services to medically necessary providers, for a period of not less than 1 year. The lock-in programs must include, but are not limited to, pharmacies, medical doctors, and infusion clinics. The limitation does not apply to emergency services and care provided to the recipient in a hospital emergency department. AHCA is authorized to mandate prior authorization, drug therapy management, or disease management participation for certain Medicaid beneficiaries, and is required to enroll Medicaid recipients in the drug benefit management program if they meet certain criteria and are not enrolled in a Medicaid health maintenance organization. The bill specifies that a provider is not entitled to enrollment in the Medicaid provider network and that AHCA may implement fee for service provider network controls, including, but not limited to, competitive procurement and provider credentialing. The bill specifies a provider's obligation with regard to submitting claims to the Medicaid program by providing that AHCA shall not reimburse any person or entity for any prescription for medications, medical supplies, or medical services if the prescription was written by a physician or other prescribing practitioner who is not enrolled in the Medicaid program. This requirement does not apply in instances involving bona fide emergency medical conditions as determined by the agency; to a provider of medical services to a patient in a hospital emergency department, hospital inpatient or outpatient setting, or nursing home; to bono fide pro bono services by pre-approved non-Medicaid providers as determined by the agency; to prescribing physicians who are board-certified specialists treating Medicaid recipients referred for treatment by a treating physician who is enrolled in the Medicaid program; to prescriptions written for dually eligible Medicare beneficiaries by an authorized Medicare provider who is not enrolled in the Medicaid program; to other physicians who are not enrolled in the Medicaid program but who provide a medically necessary service or prescription not otherwise reasonably available from a Medicaid-enrolled physician; or in instances where the agency cannot practically notify a pharmacy at the point of sale that a prescription will be approved for processing under the previous exemptions. This provision expires July 1, 2005. The bill clarifies that suspension or termination from the Medicaid program precludes participation in Medicaid during that period, which includes any action that results in a claim for payment to the Medicaid program as a result of furnishing, supervising a person who is furnishing, or causing a person to furnish goods or services. The bill authorizes AHCA to withhold payment to a provider upon receipt of evidence of fraud, willful misrepresentation, or abuse under Medicaid, or a crime committed while rendering goods or services to Medicaid recipients, regardless of whether there are ongoing legal proceedings related to that evidence. AHCA is also authorized to deny payments or require repayments where the goods or services were furnished, supervised, or caused to be furnished by a provider terminated or suspended from the Medicaid or Medicare program by the Federal government or any state. AHCA is authorized to implement amnesty programs that encourage voluntary repayment of overpayments. The bill authorizes AHCA and MFCU to review a provider's non-Medicaid-related records in order to determine the total output of a provider's practice to reconcile quantities of goods or services billed to Medicaid with quantities of goods or services used in the provider's total practice. The bill authorizes AHCA to limit the number of Schedule II and Schedule III refill prescription claims submitted from pharmacy providers if AHCA or MFCU determines that the specific prescription refill was not requested by the Medicaid recipient or authorized representative for whom the refill claim is submitted, or was not prescribed by the recipient's medical provider or physician. The bill requires Medicaid provider cost reports submitted to AHCA to include a statement of understanding relating to the laws and regulations of the provision of health services under the Medicaid program. The bill requires that AHCA give pharmacists at least 1 week's notice prior to an initial audit for each audit cycle. The pharmacy audit criterion applies only to audits of claims submitted for payment subsequent to July 11, 2003. The bill authorizes the Office of Statewide Prosecution to investigate and prosecute any criminal violation of s. 409.920 or s. 409.9201, F.S., which relate to Medicaid fraud. The bill establishes new criminal violations relating to Medicaid fraud and dealing in property paid for by the Medicaid program and expands the definition of "racketeering activity" to include crimes committed under s. 409.9201, F.S., relating to Medicaid recipient fraud. The bill expends the definition of "contraband article," to include property acquired through Medicaid fraud, and requires that proceeds collected under the Contraband Forfeiture Act be deposited in the Department of Legal Affairs Grants and Donations Trust Fund. The Statewide Grand Jury's jurisdiction is expanded to include ally criminal violation of s. 409.920 or s. 409.9201, F.S., relating to Medicaid fraud. The bill provides an appropriation of $262,087 to the Department of Health from the Medical Quality Assurance Trust Fund for four full-time equivalent positions for the purpose of implementing the provisions of this act daring FY 2004-2005. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
HB 639--Insurance Guaranty Associations By Pep. Fields
The bill provides that neither the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) or the Florida Workers' Compensation Insurance Guaranty Association (FWCIGA) will provide coverage for an insurance claim against an insolvent insurer if the claim has been rejected by any other state guaranty fund on the grounds that the insured's net worth is greater than that allowed under that state's guaranty fund or liquidation law. An exception is provided for the FWCIGA for employers who, prior to April 30, 2004, entered into an agreement with FWCIGA preserving the employer's right to seek coverage of claims rejected by another state's guaranty fund. State insurance guaranty funds provide payment for claims of insolvent insurance companies, subject to certain limitations. Most states have imposed net worth limitations which preclude payment if the insured, such as a large corporation, has a net worth exceeding a certain amount, typically $25 million or $50 million, but as low as $3 million in Georgia. Florida, however, does not have a net worth limitation for either FIGA, which covers property and casualty insurance, or FWCIGA, which covers workers' compensation insurance. This can result in either association providing payment as the fund that is "next in line" to pay the claim when the state fund that is primary denies the claim due to the net worth limitation. For FWCIGA, this occurs if a workers' compensation claimant (employee) is a resident of another state with a net worth limitation, and the employer is a multi-state employer with its home office in Florida. For FIGA, this can occur if a third party claimant is a resident of Florida who has a claim against an insured corporation in another state. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 21, 2004.
By Commerce, Economic Opportunities, and Consumer Services Committee; and others
This bill provides for comprehensive changes pertaining to property and casualty insurance; automobile insurance; credit life and disability insurance; premium finance companies; adoption of mortality tables; reinsurance; and local government workers' compensation self insurance. The bill mandates that the Division of Consumer Services of the Department of Financial Services designate an employee of the division as a primary contact for consumers on insurance issues relating to sinkholes. It requires the Florida State University Department of Risk Management and insurance to conduct a feasibility and cost-benefit study of a potential Florida Sinkhole Insurance Facility and other matters related to the affordability and availability of sinkhole insurance. It provides that if a mortgage lender fails to timely pay an insurance premium, and the payment is not more than 90 days overdue, the insurer must reinstate the insurance policy retroactive to the date of cancellation, and the lender must reimburse the property owner for any penalty or fees imposed by the insurer and paid by the property owner to reinstate the policy. If the premium payment is more than 90 days overdue, or if the insurer refuses to reinstate the policy, the lender must pay the difference between the cost of the previous insurance policy and a new, comparable policy for 2 years. It requires the Legislative Auditing Committee to contract with the Department of Risk Management and Insurance at Florida State University to conduct a detailed analysis of factors affecting costs and potential assessments on consumers, and availability, of personal lines property and casualty insurance in Florida generally and, in particular, in those areas in which coverage is underwritten by the Citizens Property and Casualty Insurance Company. The analysis is due no later than February 1, 2005, and shall be funded by assessments on insurers issuing personal lines property and casualty insurance in this state. The budget for the study may not exceed $250,000. The Office of insurance Regulation is authorized to collect the assessments, which shall he pro rated among the insurers using a prescribed formula based on direct earned premiums. The bill provides consumer protections for settlement practices which apply to adjustment and settlement of personal and commercial motor vehicle insurance claims. Insurers that elect to repair a vehicle, and require a specific repair shop for vehicle repairs, shall cause the damaged vehicle to be restored to its physical condition as to performance and appearance immediately prior to the loss at no additional cost to the insured or third-party claimant other than as stated in the policy. Insurers must use specified methods when an insurance policy provides for the adjustment and settlement of first-party motor vehicle total losses on the basis of actual cash value or replacement provisions. When the amount offered in settlement reflects a reduction by the insurer because of betterment or depreciation, the information relating to a deduction must be maintained with the insurer's claim file. The bill authorizes the Division of Workers' Compensation to enter into a penalty payment agreement schedule with an employer who is unable to pay the penalty in fun at the time a stop-work order is issued at a jobsite for non-compliance with workers' compensation coverage requirements and allows an employer to resume business operations if the employer meets coverage requirements and the terms of the penalty payment agreement. The hill exempts credit disability insurance from the requirement that a health insurer's active life reserve must not be less than the pro rata gross unearned premiums for such policies. The exemption will allow reserves to he set using new mortality and disability tables adopted under this legislation. Use of these tables should enable insurers to set more accurate reserves. It permits the Financial Services Commission to adopt the National Association of Insurance Commissioner's (NAIC) mortality and disability tables by rule. This provision permits the commission to adopt updated tables by rule for policies issued on or after July 1, 2004. It permits an insurance company to substitute the ordinary mortality tables adopted after 1980 by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for use in determining the minimum non-forfeiture standard. The tables would have to be adopted by rule of the Financial Services Commission.
The bill repeals s. 625.131, F.S., which requires the minimum reserve for credit life and disability policies to he the unearned gross premium, and contains reserve requirements. The section is repealed due to the adoption of new standard ordinary mortality tables in s. 625.121(13), F.S., which will be used to set reserves. The new mortality tables should enable insurers to set more accurate reserves. The bill provides the requirements for canceling an insurance contract when a premium finance agreement contains a power of attorney or other authority enabling the premium finance company to cancel any insurance contract listed in the agreement. The legislation adds a time requirement that, when a financed insurance contract is canceled, the insurer must return the unpaid balance due under the finance contract to the premium finance company and any remaining unearned premium to the agent or insured, within 30 days of the cancellation date. The premium finance company must refund to the insured any refund due on the account within 15 days of the account being overpaid. However, if the refund is sent or credited to the agent, the premium finance company must return or credit to the agent the amount of the overpayment and notify the insured of the refunded amount. The bill also criminates the $10 fee for filing forms with the Department of Financial Services regarding premium financing. The legislation specifies that local government self-insurance funds created after October 1, 2004, must initially be subject to the requirements of a commercial fund under s. 624.4621, F.S., and for the first 5 years, it will be subject to the requirements applied to commercial serf-insurance funds or to group self-insurance funds. A local government self-insurance fund created after January 1, 2005, must, for its first 5 fiscal years, file with the Office of Insurance Regulation annual and quarterly financial statements of its financial condition, transactions, and affairs, including a statement of opinion on loss and loss adjustment expense reserves by a member of the American Academy of Actuaries. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
By Banking and Insurance Committee and Senator Diaz de la Portilla
The bill includes various changes related to insurance. The bill deletes certain statutory restrictions on nonresident insurance agents licensed in Florida, in response to a recent U.S. District Court ruling that such provisions are unconstitutional. The bill deletes the requirement that all insurance policies written under a nonresident general lines agent's license be countersigned by a Florida resident agent. It deletes the requirement that a nonresident agent must pay part of his or her commission to the countersigning resident agent. It deletes the prohibition against a nonresident agent having an office or place of business in this state and from having any pecuniary interest in any insurance agent or agency licensed as a resident of this state. It deletes the prohibition against a nonresident agent soliciting, negotiating, or effecting insurance contracts in this state unless accompanied by the countersigning resident agent. It deletes the prohibition against a nonresident agent being licensed as a surplus lines agent and establishes requirements for licensure of nonresident surplus lines agents. The bill authorizes the Department of Financial Services to issue a new type of insurance agent's license for a personal lines agent. Currently a general lines agent license is issued for all types of property and casualty insurance. The new license would be limited to property and casualty insurance sold to individuals and families for noncommercial purposes, such as auto insurance and homeowners insurance. The bill amends provisions in ch. 631, part I, F.S., Insurer Insolvency; Rehabilitation and Liquidation. These provisions are generally intended to strengthen the powers of the Department of Financial Services, as receiver of an insolvent insurer, to acquire the assets belonging to the insurer and thereby lessen the amount that must be assessed against other insurers to fund payment of the insolvent insurer's claims and debts. The bill amends s. 631.021, F.S., to give exclusive jurisdiction to domiciliary courts that acquire jurisdiction over persons subject to this chapter in an insurance delinquency proceeding, and to give the Circuit Court of Leon County exclusive jurisdiction with respect to assets or property of any insurer subject to such proceedings. It amends s. 631.041, F.S., to provide that the estate of an insurer in rehabilitation or liquidation is entitled to actual damages, including costs and attorney's fees if it is injured by a willful violation of an applicable stay or injunction, plus additional sanctions as may be imposed by the receivership court. It amends s. 631.141(7), F.S., to allow the Department to recover expenses for employing a special agent, counsel, clerks, or assistants in a delinquency proceeding in which recovery of administrative expenses is authorized. It amends s. 631.205, F.S., to specify that an order of conservation, rehabilitation, or liquidation against an insurer cannot be deemed an anticipatory breach of a reinsurance contract, and cannot be used to retroactively revoke or cancel a reinsurance contract It amends s. 631.261, F.S., to delete the intent requirement of current law so that any transfer of property by an insurer is voidable if it is made within 4 months prior to the commencement of any delinquency proceeding and gives any creditor a greater percentage of debt than any other creditor of the same class. The bill also provides that a transfer or lien upon the property of an insurer or its affiliate made between 4 months and 1 year prior to the commencement of a delinquency proceeding is void if the transfer or lien benefited a director, officer, employee, or other specified parties. It amends ss. 631.262 and 631.263, F.S., to provide that a transfer made within 1 year of a successful petition for a delinquency proceeding, or made after such petition, is not made until the insurer or affiliate has acquired rights in the transferred property. The bill includes additional provisions related to insurance agents by eliminating the requirement that at least 2 hours of instruction on the subject of unauthorized entities that sell insurance be included in the required 24 hours of continuing education classes for insurance agents every 2 years. It provides that a salaried employee of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation who performs policy administrative services after the effectuation of a policy is not required to be a licensed insurance agent. It provides that an entity applying for a limited insurance agent license for baggage and motor vehicle excess liability insurance is required to submit only one application for all licenses to be issued for each office, and that a business entity offering this type of insurance or personal accident insurance under a limited license may use part-time employees to offer such insurance. The bill requires workers' compensation insurers to notify employers of the availability of a discount for a drug free workplace plan at the time of the initial quote for the policy and at the time of each renewal of the policy. The bill provides an additional option to a mutual insurer that converts to a stock insurance company, through the formation of a mutual insurance holding company with a subsidiary stock insurance company. The bill provides that neither the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) or the Florida Workers' Compensation Insurance Guaranty Association (FWCIGA) will provide coverage for an insurance claim against an insolvent insurer if the claim has been rejected by any other state guaranty fund on the grounds that the insured's net worth is greater than that allowed under that state's guaranty fund or liquidation law. An exception is provided for the FWCIGA for employers who, prior to April 30, 2004, entered into an agreement with FWCIGA preserving the employer's right to seek coverage of claims rejected by another state's guaranty fund. The bill authorizes a sales representative who sells motor vehicle service agreements, home warranties, or service warranties for consumer products to offer rebates of his or her sales commission to consumers. The rebate amount must conform to a schedule that is prominently displayed in the sales representative's office and the same rebate must he offered to all similarly situated individuals. The bill also provides that a service warranty association is not required to maintain an unearned premium reserve or contractual liability insurance and may allow its premiums to net assets ratio to exceed 7-to-1 if the association has a net worth of at least $100 million; or the association maintains at least $750,000 in net assets and is a wholly owned subsidiary of a parent corporation with a net worth of at least $100 million which guarantees the performance of the warranty obligations of the association. The bill provides that the cancellation of a workers' compensation policy, if requested by the policyholder, is effective on the date the insurer sends the notification to the insured, and would not be subject to the 30 days notice requirement of s. 440.42(3), F.S. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
Judiciary and Attorneys
CS/CS/SB 192--Magistrates and Masters
By Governmental Oversight and Productivity Committee and others
This bill (Chapter No. 2004-11, L.O.F.) renames magistrates as trial court judges to conform to the 1972 revision to Art. V, State Constitution. The bill also renames masters as magistrates. Lastly, the bill replaces references to the term "hearing officer" in s. 394.467, F.S., with the term "administrative law judge" to conform to prior legislation redesignating hearing officers as administrative law judges. These provisions were approved by the Governor and take effect October 1, 2004.
SB 1776--Practice of Law
By Senator Villalobos
This bill increases the penalty for unlicensed practice of law from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. The penalty for violating related types of unlicensed practice of law, including practicing law while disbarred or suspended, and aiding or assisting a disbarred or suspended attorney, is also increased from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 2962--State Judicial System
By Appropriations Committee and others
This bill, along with Chapter 2003-402, L.O.F., implements the 1998 amendment to Art. V of the State Constitution. Effective July 1, 2004, the amendment imposes 3 requirements on court funding. First, the stale must assume responsibility for funding the stale court system, state attorneys, public defenders, and court appointed counsel. Second, all funding for the clerks of the circuit and county courts performing court-related functions must he provided from filing fees, service charges, and costs. Finally, counties and municipalities are no longer required to fund any of the aforementioned entities, but they me required to fund facilities for those entities and certain other items. The bill authorizes counties to impose $65 optional court cost to be divided equally to fund: state court innovations; legal aid; law libraries; and teen court, juvenile assessment centers and juvenile alternative programs The Department of Revenue is to withhold certain revenue sharing receipts from counties which do not fund court facilities, maintenance, utilities, communication services, existing radio systems, existing multi-agency criminal justice information systems, legal aid programs, and alternative sanctions coordinators. Additional amounts will be withheld in later years if noncompliance continues. The state will pay for the items from the funds withheld. The bill revises revenue sharing calculation to municipalities and consolidated local governments to be revenue neutral. Counties and consolidated local governments can impose up to a $15 surcharge on criminal and non-criminal traffic violations to fund state court facilities. Counties and consolidated local governments that used court fees and service charges to secure the payment of bonds for court facilities before July 1, 2003 are authorized to impose a surcharge on criminal and non-criminal traffic violations sufficient to secure the bonds until they are paid. Counties and consolidated local governments may not impose both of the above service charges. A $4 service charge is imposed on instruments recorded in the official records, if counties maintain responsibility for court-related technology needs $2 of the $4 is to be distributed to the counties to fund court-related technology and court technology needs of the courts, state attorney, and the public defender in the county. $2 goes to the Clerk's Association $1.90 is retained by the clerk for deposit into the clerks' Public Records Modernization Trust Fund to fund court-related technology needs of the clerk, and 10 cents is distributed to fund the clerks' Comprehensive Case Management System. If the counties maintain legal responsibility for court-related technology needs, a county would not be required to provide any additional funding for the clerk's court-related technology needs. However, if the state becomes legally responsible for court-related technology needs then the entire $4 service charge would go the state general revenue fired. All court records and official records are declared the property of the state, including records of the Comprehensive Case Information System, and neither a clerk nor an association would be permitted to charge a fee to an agency, the Legislature, or the courts for copies of records generated by the Case Information System or held by the clerk or an association. The corporation replaces the Clerks of Court Operations Conference enacted into law in 2003. The corporation is charged with developing performance standards and corrective action to be taken by a clerk not meeting the standards. The corporation will also review and certify proposed clerk budgets to the Legislature, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and the Department of Revenue (DOR). The Chief Financial Officer reviews the certifications and reports its findings to the Legislature. The bill also provides a list of court-related functions and functions which are not court related; certified public accountants auditing counties are to report whether a clerk of court is complying with the certified budget and the Auditor General is to develop a compliance supplement. The corporation is considered a political subdivision of the state and its functions are considered to be for a valid public purpose. The corporation is not subject to state procurement provisions or the Administrative Procedures Act. State attorneys and public defenders are authorized to contract with counties and dries for prosecution and defense of local ordinance violations. Hourly and FTE based contracts are limited to $50/hr. State attorneys and public defenders can contract with counties with a population of less than 75,000 on other terms as the parties agree. A county or municipality wishing to enforce a local ordinance violation in state court must pay a $10 filing fee. The court must assess a $40 court cost against the non-prevailing party. A county or municipality is the prevailing party if the defendant is found in violation on any count or lesser included offense. 10 percent of frees collected on municipal ordinances are remitted to clerk to offset clerk's cost. The clerk may impose $5 per-month service charge or $25 due-time charge for establishing a payment plan for payments other than restitution. When a person convicted of certain criminal traffic offenses fails to pay in full, or in part under a payment plan, the person's driver's license will be suspended. The license will be reinstated when the person pays in full or pays all delinquent partial payments, agrees in writing to a payment plan, or the court orders reinstatement of the license. The bill reduces from $30 to $25 the add-on marriage license fee which funds domestic violence centers. It also increases from $18 to $55 the add-on fee for a petition for dissolution of marriage which will also funds domestic violence centers. The net effect of the 2 changes results in a $2.5 million increase in funding for domestic violence centers.
The Board will be housed within Office of Legislative Services, consisting of 10 members including: the Chief Justice; the Speaker appointee to represent state agencies that participate in CJIS council; Speaker private sector appointee and President private sector appointee with experience in managing enterprise integration projects. The President appointee will represent law enforcement agencies. A state attorney, public defender, clerk, county budget director, and county management information system director will serve on the Board as well. The Board is to report by January 15, 2005. The report will identify data elements and functional requirements needed for each state court system entity to conduct business transactions, identify security and access requirements, identify information standards and protocols, and recommend policy, functional and operational changes to achieve access to data and report by January 15, 2006. The report will include alternative integration models and the advantages and disadvantages of each model and certain specifics of each model and a proposed operational governance structure. The Board is dissolved effective July 1, 2006. The clerk can refer collection to private attorney or collection agent, but clerk must have first attempted to collect through collection court, collection docket, or other collection process established by the court. A collection fee of agent or attorney is added to the balance owed, not to exceed 40 percent of amount owed at time account is referred. Filing fees for Supreme Court and district corm of appeal are increased to $300. Of each fee paid, $50 is distributed to fund court improvement projects in General Appropriations Act. A $101 court cost is imposed on those guilty of certain offenses against a minor to fund Florida Network of Children's Advocacy Centers. Centers must meet Department of Children and Families (DCF) standards. An annual report to Legislature is required. The Supreme Court is to determine fees to certify court reporters. The process for determination of indigent status is reorganized and revised. The date for selection of private court appointed counsel from the registry is moved back from July 1, 2004 to October 1, 2004. The bill limits to 80 percent the partial payment of fees private court-appointed counsel may receive when a case is on going for more than 1 year or to an amount proportionate to the maximum fees permitted. The court is to fix reasonable compensation for representation under sexually transmittable diseases, ch. 384, F.S., and tuberculosis control ch. 392, F.S. The bill provides that for purposes of county funding of court-related functions, the term "circuit and county courts" includes the office and staffing of the guardian ad litem programs. Effective June 1, 2004, there is an additional service charge of $4 per page for instruments filed to cover cash-flow problems that may affect clerks' offices in July and August 2004. The additional service charge expires July 1, 2004. The bill requires $500,000 for expenses of Article V Technology Board; $75,000 for Department of Management Services (DMS) review of procurement policies and practices of state courts system, state attorneys, and public defenders. Department of Management Services is to propose strategies for cost savings and report to Governor, President, Speaker, and Chief Justice by January 1, 2005. Department of Management Services may assist State Courts Administrator and Judicial Administration Commission with competitive solicitations for procurement. The bill includes $2.5 million from DFS Administrative Trust Fund in special category created by Executive Office of the Governor and 5 FTEs for FY 2004-2005 to fund contract with Florida Clerks of Court Operation Corp. $20 million from Clerks of Court Trust Fund for FY 2004-2005 is to fund revenue deficits of clerks of circuit court. $13.6 million from Clerks of Court Trust Fund from the $50 filing fee on re-opened cases imposed pursuant to 2003 legislation from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004 and the addition $4 recording fee in the bill from June 1, 2004 to July 1, 2004 to address cash-flow problems that may arise in clerks' offices during July and August 2004. $2.5 million to DCF to fund the operational costs of certified domestic violence shelters for FY 2004-2005. Finally, $900,000 to DCF to fund children's advocacy centers for FY 2004-2005. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004, except as otherwise provided in the bill.
CS/SB 222--Service of Process
By Criminal Justice Committee and Senator Crist
The bill amends s. 48.031, F.S., to allow witness subpoenas to be served by any form of United States mail in misdemeanor, second or third degree felony, and criminal traffic cases. The witness cannot be held in contempt of court for failure to appear if certified mail is not used. The bill permits posting of a criminal witness subpoena after 3 unsuccessful attempts to serve the subpoena at the witness' residence on different dates and times of day. Also, service may be made on the person in charge of a private mailbox service if the person to be served maintains a private mailbox at that location and does not have another address. The bill amends s. 48.081, F.S., relating to service on corporations. If service cannot be made on a corporation's registered agent because of a failure to comply with s. 48.091, F.S., service may be made on any employee of the corporation at its principal place of business or upon any employee of the registered agent. The section also allows service in accordance with s. 48.031, F.S., if the address for a corporation's registered agent, officer, director, or place of business is a residence or a private mailbox. The bill broadens the language of s. 48.21, F.S., to refer to "the person who affects service of process" rather than only "officers to whom process is directed." It also revises the section to require notation of the date of receipt and service and to refer to "service" rather than "execution" of process. The bill also deletes s. 48.29(6)(a), F.S., to eliminate the requirement for certified process servers to annotate certain other information on the face of the original and any served copies of the process. The bill amends s. 83.13, F.S., to make the party who had a distress writ issued in a nonresidential tenancy case responsible for delivering the writ to the appropriate county sheriff if the property has been removed from the county where the writ was issued. The bill creates a new subsection of s. 624.307, F.S., authorizing the Chief Financial Officer to use registered mail, certified mail, or any other verifiable means to forward legal process that is received for a regulated person who is required to appoint the CFO as attorney to receive legal process. The bill amends s. 832.07, F.S., concerning prima facie evidence of intent to pass a worthless check, to allow the recipient of a worthless check to send notice to the maker by first-class mail, evidenced by an affidavit of service. The bill also requires the maker of a worthless cheek to make the check good within 15 days after written notice is sent to the address printed on the check or given at the time of issuance. The bill amends s. 409.257, F.S., to allow the Department of Revenue to issue witness subpoenas by regular United States mail in child support enforcement cases. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 2564--Juvenile Detention
By Appropriations Committee and Senator Crist
The bill makes the following changes to juvenile justice detention centers required to implement the proposed General Appropriations Act for FY 2004-2005. The bill increases the fiscal responsibility of counties for public safety issues related to juvenile detention services. It requires each county to budget the cost of pre-adjudication detention of juveniles who reside in that county. Each county will be responsible for setting aside these costs at the beginning of the fiscal year and monthly payments to the state. Counties may collaborate with the state when calculating these expanses by considering the previous fiscal year's cost. It requires the Department of Juvenile Justice to publish the costs for which each county will be responsible. It requires the state to deposit revenues received from the counties into the Department of Juvenile Justice's Grants and Donations Trust Fund. Reconciliation of costs between each county and the department will occur at the end of the fiscal year to account for differences between the estimated and actual numbers of juveniles detained. It requires the Department of Juvenile Justice to ensure that each county is fulfilling its responsibility for these costs. If a county fails to transfer funds, the Chief Financial Officer will withhold state funding to that county, equal to the amount the county has neglected to pay. The bill provides that the state will coordinate with the resident state for the collection of detention costs for the period of time prior to final court disposition for juveniles detained who are not Florida residents. If residency cannot be established, the state will bear financial responsibility for the costs of detention prior to adjudication. It recognizes that some counties will be unable to account for such costs and defines them as "fiscally constrained counties." A "fiscally constrained county" is defined as a rural area of critical economic concern under s. 288.0656, F.S., for which the value of a mill in the county is no more than $3 million, based on the property valuations and tax data annually published by the Department of Revenue under s. 195.052, F.S. Under these economic conditions, and subject to appropriation, the state will provide grant funding to these counties. The bill requires the Department of Juvenile Justice to produce a cost measurement system to forecast the financial responsibility of each county regarded as "fiscally constrained." The bill states that the Legislature has determined and declares that this act fulfills an important state interest. The bill provides an effective date of October 1, 2004. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 28, 2004
Labor and Employment Law
CS/SB 1250--Employee Benefits
by Appropriations Committee and Senator Pruitt
The bill is a compilation of law changes regarding employee benefits. For purposes of the state employee health insurance program, the bill eliminates the expiration dates on the statutory provision setting forth the prescription drug schedule and the statutory provision requiring the Department of Management Services to determine annually the premium necessary to fully fund the state employee health insurance plan. The bill also clarifies that the state employee health insurance plan is not subject to the regulatory provisions applicable to multiple employer welfare arrangements. The bill addresses three Article V implementation issues. First, those county employees moving to state employment who have 12 months of continuous coverage in the county-sponsored health insurance plan will be deemed to have met the pre-existing condition limitations applicable in the state health insurance plan. Second, the hill provides that employees moving from county employment to work in state attorney or public defender offices will be permitted to transfer up to 80 hours of annual leave and 320 hours of sick leave. These levels are consistent with the current policies of the state court system. Third, City of Jacksonville employees moving to state employment as part of the Article V implementation will be permitted to purchase service for purposes of the Florida Retirement System. The bill also resolves the mandatory collective bargaining issues at impasse, extends the eligibility date for the life insurance program, and clarifies the eligibility for participation in the state's pretax benefits program. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming law.
Mental Health Law
CS/CS/CS/CS/SB 700--Mental Health
By Appropriations Committee and others
This bill amends Chapter 394, Part I, F.S., (the Baker Act) to include criteria and a process for involuntary outpatient placement that will allow individuals with mental illness who meet certain criteria to be ordered by the court to participate in community-based mental health treatment. The provisions of s. 394.459, F.S., rights of patients, are applicable to persons who have been court ordered to involuntary outpatient placement. Prior to filing a petition for involuntary outpatient placement, a designated service provider must develop a proposed treatment plan and certify that the services identified in the proposed treatment plan are available in the community. If the services identified in the treatment plan are not available then a petition may not be filed. If the court concludes that a person meets the criteria for involuntary outpatient placement and services me available, an order is issued for involuntary outpatient placement. The court order is in effect for a period of up to six months and must specify the nature and extent of the person's mental illness. Treatment plans that have been ordered by the court may be modified by the service provider with agreement by the patient or the patient's guardian. However, substantial modifications of the plan which are agreed upon must be reviewed and approved by the court. Non-compliance with court-ordered outpatient treatment may result in the individual being evaluated for involuntary inpatient treatment if he or she is believed to meet the criteria. Effective July 1, 2005, mental health counselors will be allowed to file a certificate for involuntary examination. A workgroup is to be established to determine the fiscal impact of allowing mental health counselors, who are not currently permitted to seek involuntary examinations, to initiate these examinations. The membership of the workgroup is specified by this bill, and the Florida Mental Health Institute is directed to complete certain aspects of the evaluation and provide information to the workgroup. The workgroup must provide a report of its findings to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate by March 1, 2005. The workgroup terminates on March 1, 2005. The Department of Children and Families is also directed to conduct a pilot in District 4 allowing mental health counselors to initiate involuntary examinations and is authorized to spend $75,000 for the pilot project. The data collected during this pilot will be used to evaluate the impact of these professionals initiating involuntary examinations. The pilot will terminate on July 1, 2005. If approved by the Governor, these provisions, unless otherwise specified take effect January I, 2005.
Military Affairs Law
HB 1183--Unemployment Compensation/Military Spouses
By Rep. Green and others
This bill amends s. 443. 101, F.S., to provide that a military spouse is not disqualified for unemployment insurance benefits for voluntarily terminating work to relocate as a result of their military-connected spouse's permanent change of station orders, activation orders, or unit deployment orders. The bill would enable military spouses who terminate their employment in order to accompany their active-duty spouse to another state or foreign country pursuant to the military's permanent change of station orders to receive unemployment insurance benefits. In addition, the bill would enable the spouses of certain Florida National Guard members and Florida reservists who elect to terminate their employment and relocate pursuant to their spouse's activation or unit deployment orders to receive unemployment insurance benefits. The amount and duration of benefits would be consistent with existing benefit provisions contained in ch. 443, F.S. Individual Florida employers would not be charged under the bill for purposes of calculating unemployment compensation contribution rates. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 25, 2004.
By Rep. Allen
This bill amends the law regulating engineers by increasing the number of members on the Board of professional Engineers in the Department of Business and Professional Regulation from 9 to 11. It requires the 2 new members of the board to be a licensed structural engineer and a licensed industrial engineer. It provides that an applicant for licensure as an engineer will be deemed to have passed the fundamentals examination if the applicant has received a doctorate degree in engineering from an institution that has an accredited undergraduate engineering program and has taught engineering full-time for at least 3 years. It decreases from 5 to 3 the number of times an engineer applicant may take the fundamentals examination or the principles and practice examination. It removes the requirement that the applicant take college-level coupes in the areas of deficiency, as determined by the hoard, if an applicant fails either examination three times. The applicant must still take college-level education courses in order to reapply for examination. It provides an exemption from the prohibition on use of the title "engineer." The exemption applies to a person who is exempt from licensure because the person provides design or fabrication of manufactured products and servicing of the products for a corporation not engaged in the practice of engineering, or the person is a subordinate of a licensed engineer who is in responsible charge. Additionally, the person must be a graduate of an approved engineering curriculum of 4 years or mere in a school, college, or university which has been approved by the board. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming law.
CS/CS/SB 2026--Professions Regulation/DBPR
By Governmental Oversight and Productivity Committee and others
The bill substantially amends the provisions of the Management Privatization Act in s. 455.32, F.S., to establish a model for the privatization of the regulation of professionals when requested by any board of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). The bill defines "board" to mean any board, commission, or council created within the department pursuant to ch. 20, F.S. The bill requires that a board's privatization request must contain a reeds assessment and financial feasibility study. The bill provides that a corporation providing support services to a board must be a Florida corporation not for profit, and operate under a fiscal year of July 1 through June 30. The bill requires that the corporation must have its articles of incorporation and bylaws approved by the department, and operate under a written contract with the department. The corporation must also provide a faithful performance bond for all persons charged with receiving and depositing fee and fine revenue. The bill requires that the corporation keep financial and statistical information and be the sole source and depository for the board's records, which must be maintained in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of State. The bill deletes the DBPR's authority to privatize continuing education monitoring, and establishes limits for fines that may be imposed for violations by licensees and providers. The bill provides for the approval of continuing education courses by the DBPR. The bill provides methods and mechanisms to resolve any noncompliance of the contract and the return of records and property to the department. The bill provides requirements for insurance coverage and the payment of certain legal and contract costs by the corporation. The bill requires a financial model and business case for the corporation with projected costs for the first 2 years. The business case must be approved by the Governor. The bill authorizes the corporation to initiate disciplinary investigations, and authorizes the department to delegate to the corporation the authority to issue emergency suspension or restriction orders. The bill also amends ch. 509, F.S., relating to the regulation of public food service establishments, to provide that licensed public food service establishments must report to the Division of Hotels and Restaurants within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation proof upon request of the establishment's food safety training of its employees. The bill also establishes reporting and record keeping requirements for third party providers that provide food safety training. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
HB 1317--Public Records Requirement/Exemption
By Rep. Reagan
This bill amends s. 119.07, F.S., to create new public records exemptions for building plans, blueprints, schematic drawings, and diagrams that depict the internal layout or structural elements of an attractions and recreation facility, entertainment/resort complex, industrial complex, retail and service development, office development, or hotel or motel development, which are held by a governmental agency. Drafts, preliminary, and final formats are included within the exemption, and the exemption applies to any documents held either permanently or temporarily by an agency. The bill provides for exceptions to the public records exemption. Such exempt information may be disclosed to another governmental entity if disclosure is necessary for the receiving entity to perform its duties and responsibilities; to the owner or owners of the structure in question; or upon a showing of good cause before a court of competent jurisdiction. The bill limits the types of entities that are included within the exemption. As required by s. 24, Art. I, State Constitution, the bill provides a statement of public necessity. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on March 29, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 348--Personal ID Information/Pub. Rec.
By Governmental Oversight and Productivity Committee; and others
This bill provides a public record exemption for the home addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and photographs of current or former United States attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys; of spouses and children of current or former U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys; the names and locations of schools and day care facilities attended by the children of current or former U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys; the home addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and photographs of current or former judges of the U.S. Courts of Appeal, U.S. District and U.S. Magistrate judges; and, the names and locations of school and day care facilities attended by the children of current or former judges of the U.S. Courts of Appeal, U.S. District and U.S. Magistrate judges. This bill also provides that a state agency that has a social security number in its possession, that is not the employing agency, is required to keep the social security number confidential if the employee or the employing agency submits a written request for confidentiality to that agency. However, the agency is required to
release the last 4 digits of a social security number to certain commercial entities upon a proper request. A social security number provided in a lien filed with the Department of State shall be released in its entirety. These provisions will he reviewed in accordance with the Open Government Sunset Review Act of 1995, and will stand repealed on October 2, 2009, unless reenacted by the Legislature. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004
HB 635--Public Records Exemption for Identity of Children
By Rep. Vana and others
The bill creates an exemption for any information that would identify or help to locate a child who participates in government-sponsored recreation programs or camps or the parents or guardians of such child. The bill specifically exempts the name, home address, telephone number, social security number, or photograph of the child, as well as the names and locations of schools attended by the child. Additionally, the names, home addresses, and social security numbers of parents or guardians of the child are exempt. The exemption is made subject to the Open Government Sunset Review Act of 1995 and will repeal on October 2, 2009, unless reviewed and saved from repeal through reenactment by the Legislature. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 11, 2004.
CS/SB 702--Patient Safety Data/Public Records and Meeting Exemptions
By Governmental Oversight and Productivity Committee and Senator Saunders
The bill creates exemptions from the public records and meetings laws for certain information contained in patient safety data held by the Florida Patient Safety Corporation as created in House Bill 1629. Information that identifies a patient, a person or entity that reports patient safety data to the corporation, and a health care practitioner or health care facility is confidential and exempt from the public records law. Such information may be disclosed only with the express written consent of the parson or entity involved, by court order upon a showing of good cause, or to a health research entity under specified conditions. Any portion of a meeting held by the Florida Patient Safety Corporation during which such information is discussed is exempt from the public meetings law. The bill provides a statement of public necessity for the exemptions and makes the exemptions subject to the Open Government Sunset Review Act of 1995. The exemptions will be repealed on October 2, 2009, unless reviewed and saved from repeal by the Legislature. The Governor approved the hill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 712--Business Records/Eminent Domain Negotiations
By Governmental Oversight and Productivity Committee and others
The bill saves from repeal and revises an existing public records exemption, codified in s. 73.0155, F.S., for business records that are submitted to a governmental condemning authority as part of an offer to settle a claim of business damages resulting from the acquisition of a parcel for right-of-way purposes under the eminent domain law. The bill is based upon the findings and recommendations of Interim Project Report 2004-201 by the Committee on Commerce, Economic Opportunities, and Consumer Services, which is an Open Government Sunset Review of the public records exemption. Rather than apply the exemption to "business records," as the statute currently does, the bill amends s. 73.0155, F.S., to prescribe the information covered by the public records exemption. Including federal and state tax returns and tax information that is provided confidentiality under specific federal or state laws; balance sheets, profit-and-loss statements, cash-flow statements, inventory records, or customer lists or number of customers for the business operating on the parcel to be acquired; franchise, distributorship, or lease agreements relating to the business operating on the parcel to be acquired; information in the nature of trade secrets, using the definition of trade secrets provided under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act; and other sensitive or proprietary information that the business owner attests in writing is being relied upon to substantiate a business-damage claim, has not otherwise been disclosed, cannot be readily obtained through other means, is used to protect a competitive position in the marketplace, and would injure the business in the marketplace if it were disclosed. The bill also adds a requirement that the business must request in writing that the information he held exempt. In addition to specifying that the confidentiality and exemption are lifted if the covered information is otherwise made available to the public; the bill provides that the protected information may be shared with an agency, as defined under the public records law, for the transaction of official business. The bill provides, however, that an employee or agent who willfully and knowingly fails to maintain the confidentiality commits a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by no more than a year in prison or a $1,000 fine. The bill extends the scheduled expiration of the public records exemption until October 2, 2009, and provides for future review of the exemption under the Open Government Sunset Review Act. In addition, the bill includes a legislative statement of public necessity for the public records exemption, which cites the need to prevent potential injury to the competitive position of a business due to the release of sensitive business recoils and the need for condemning authorities to obtain accurate financial information to use in evaluating business-damage claims in eminent domain actions. The bill also clarifies that the confidential and exempt status accorded to the information in no way prevents use of that information in a legal proceeding or prevents a court from determining whether to close a portion of a court record from subsequent public disclosure after trial in order to maintain the confidentiality of that information. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
HB 1737--Motor Vehicle Records/HSMV/Public Records
By Transportation Committee and Rap. Russell
The bill amends s. 119.07(3)(aa), F.S., to provide holders of Florida driver licenses will not have to "opt out" to ensure identifying information contained in motor vehicle records is withheld from public disclosure. The bill also revises 2 exceptions allowing for public disclosure in connection with a legal proceeding, specifying the information may not be used for mass commercial solicitation of clients for litigation against motor vehicle dealers. This bill also provides driver's license information can be distributed for surveys, solicitations or marketing purposes only when the license holder expressly consents to the release of the information for that purpose. This bill provides the restrictions contained in s. 119.07(3)(aa), F.S., do not impair the use of organ-donation information found on a driver license nor impair the administration of organ-donation initiatives in this state. This bill also revises the citation to the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act to reflect recent amendments. Finally, this bill makes this exemption subject to the Open Government Sunset Review Act of 1995 and will repeal on October 2, 2009, unless reviewed and reenacted by the Legislature. The bill provides a public necessity statement as required by s. 24(c), Art. I, State Constitution, to justify the exemption from public records laws. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 2704--Public Records/Children's Services Council
By Governmental Oversight and Productivity Committee and others
This bill provides an exemption from the public records laws for personal identifying information of a child or the child's parent or guardian held by a children's service council, juvenile welfare board, or other similar entity created under s. 125.901, F.S., or by special law, or held by a service provider or researcher under contract with such entity. This exemption is retroactive in effect. Non-identifying information regarding the child would not be exempted from disclosure by this bill. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
Real Property, Probate & Trust
HB 325--Mobile Home Parks
By Rep. Fiorentino and others
The bill amends s. 723.0612(7), F.S., to require that the mobile home park owner must pay $1,375 for a single section and $2,750 for a multisection into the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Corporation. It deletes the provision that requires a mobile home park owner to pay the corporation an amount equal to one-fourth of the maximum allowable moving expenses if the home owner chooses the option to abandon the mobile home in lieu of moving the mobile home. These provisions were approved by the Governor and took effect April 6, 2004.
HB 529--Deeds or Conveyances of Real Estate
By Rep. Negron and others
This bill is designed to supersede the court rulings in In re Raborn, 16 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. D 257 (S.D. Fla. 2003) and In re Schiavone, 209 B.R. 751 (S.D. Fla. 1997). These cases held that real property belonged to trustees in the trustees' individual capacities and as a result, part of their bankruptcy estates. The deeds conveying the property to the trustees stated the titles of the trusts to which the trustees argued the property belonged, but the deeds did not name a trust beneficiary or state the nature and purpose of the trusts. This bill retroactively clarifies whether real property or a mortgage belongs to a trust or trustee in the trustee's individual capacity when a person is listed on an instrument as a trustee of an interest in real property or of a mortgage. Under the bill, real property or a mortgage belongs to a trust if the instrument assigning an interest in real property or the mortgage includes any of the following information: the name of a beneficiary of the trust; the nature and purpose of the trust; or the fide or date of the trust. If none of the information above is included on the instrument or mortgage, the real property or mortgage belongs to the trustee in the trustee's individual capacity. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on April 24, 2004.
CS/CS/CS/SB 1184--Condominium and Community Associations
By Judiciary Committee and others
The bill provides immunity from liability to a condominium association and its authorized agent for providing information, other than that required by ch. 718, F.S., in good faith in response to a written request if the person providing the information includes a written statement as provided for in statute. The bill provides immunity from liability under certain circumstances to community associations for damages caused by the use of an automated external defibrillator owned by the association. This bill also prohibits an insurer from requiring community associations to purchase medical malpractice liability coverage as a condition of issuing any other coverage carried by the association. Also, an insurer may not exclude damages resulting from the use of an automated external defibrillator from coverage under a general liability policy issued to a community association. The bill creates the Advisory Council on Condominiums to receive public Input and make recommendations for changes in condominium law. The Office of rise Condominium Ombudsman is created within the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The ombudsman must be an attorney admitted to practice before the Florida Supreme Court and shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The ombudsman shall make recommendations for legislation relating to division procedures, rules, jurisdiction, personnel and functions. The bill also authorizes 15 percent of the total voting interests of a condominium association or 6 unit owners, whichever is greater, to petition the ombudsman to appoint an election monitor to attend the annual meeting and conduct the election of directors. The bill authorizes voting by limited proxy on votes to forego retrofitting a condominium or cooperative with a fire sprinkler system. It also revises notice requirements relating to the vote to forego retrofitting. The bill amends the Condominium Act to provide that a resale purchaser is entitled to receive from a nondeveloper, a question and answer sheet upon entering into a contract for sale and to require related disclosures in the resale purchase contract. This bill provides that any amendment restricting condominium unit owners' rights relating to the rental of units applies only to unit owners who consent to the amendment or unit owners who purchase their unit after the effective date of the amendment. This bill provides a method for reviving the expired declarations of covenants of a homeowners' association. The bill also amends several substantive provisions of ch. 720, F.S., relating to homeowners' associations. It redefines the term "member" to include any person or entity obligated by the governing documents to pay an assessment or amenity fee. The bill provides that parcel owners and members have the right to attend all meetings, and the right to speak for at least 3 minutes at meetings, provided that the parcel owner or member submits a request to speak prior to the commencement of the meeting. The bill also requires notice to parcel owners and members of all board meetings, and requires an association's board to address an item of business if 20 percent of the total voting interests petition the board. The board would have to take up the petitioned item at its next meeting or special meeting. The bill requires associations to maintain a copy of their governing documents and records, and to provide parcel owners with copies requested, if a copy machine is available, during an inspection if the entire request is limited to no more than 25 pages. The bill expands flag display rights to include the right to display the official State of Florida and flags of the U.S. Armed Services. It prohibits "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" or "SLAPP" suits against a parcel owner, requires courts to award the prevailing party reasonable attorney's fees and costs, and bars associations from expending association funds in prosecuting a SLAPP suit against a parcel owner. It allows any parcel owner to construct an access ramp under certain circumstances. The bill also provides that parcel owners may display within 10 feet of any entrance to the home a sign of reasonable size provided by a contractor for security services. In addition, the bill provides that a fine by an association against any member, tenant, guest, or invitee cannot become a lien against a parcel. It provides that in any action to recover a fine, the prevailing party is entitled to collect reasonable attorney's fees and costs. The bill establishes requirements for associations' contracts for products and services. This bill revises notice requirements for a homeowners' association meeting at which the hoard intends to take action on any rules regarding the use of parcels or the hoard will consider assessments. It provides disclosure requirements for sellers of property in a community governed by a homeowners' association and allows a prospective purchaser to void a contract under certain circumstances for failure to receive the disclosure summary. The bill provides a cause of action to rescind the contract for sale or for damages against a developer for false or misleading material statements. The bill grants the county courts original jurisdiction over disputes occurring in homeowners' associations, and provides for concurrent jurisdiction in the circuit courts. The bill revises the Uniform Community Development District Act of 1980 to allow a community development district governing board to enforce deed restrictions (in specified circumstances), to correct deficiencies in the district dissolution process, and to correct deficiencies in district elections policies and procedures. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
CS/SB 1208--Timeshare Plans
By Comprehensive Planning Committee and Senator Webster
The bill revises provisions in ch. 721, F.S., to tailor regulation of personal property timeshare plans offered in Florida. Personal property timeshares are timeshare interests not permanently affixed to real property, such as cruise ships, houseboats, and recreational vehicles. The bill clarifies language with respect to exchange programs and incidental benefit disclosures and addresses the issues of automatic renewal for timeshare plans, disclosure provisions, advertising, exchange programs, and incidental benefits. It provides that a timeshare developer may voluntarily file advertising material with the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums, and Mobile Homes (Division), Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and requires the Division to review and comment on any filed advertising deficiencies within 10 days. It provides that notices and other information sent by the timeshare board may he sent via electronic mail. It provides timeframes for review of exchange filings, amendments, and advertising. It provides conforming, clean-up and technical corrections. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming law.
CS/SB 2666--Landlords and Tenants
By Regulated Industries Committee and others
The bill clarifies that rental agreements with a specific duration may require liquidated damages to be paid by a tenant for failure to timely notify the landlord that the dwelling unit will be vacated at the end of the lease. The bill requires a landlord to satisfy certain procedural requirements before the landlord may impose liquidated damages on a tenant who fails to timely notify the landlord that the dwelling unit will be vacated at the end of the rental agreement. Under the bill a landlord must notify a tenant in writing of the tenant's obligation in the rental agreement to provide notice that the dwelling unit will be vacated at the end of the rental agreement. This notice must be provided to the tenant within 15 days before the date by which a notice of vacating the dwelling unit is due from the tenant to the landlord. The notice most list all fees, penalties, and other charges that may be imposed for failing to timely notify the landlord that the dwelling unit will be vacated at the end of the rental agreement. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect upon becoming law.
CS/CS/SB 2984--Condominium and Community Associations
By Comprehensive Planning Committee and others
The bill limits the application of any amendments that restrict a condominium unit owner's rights relating to unit rental to owners who consent to the amendment and to subsequent purchasers. It includes the Frequently Asked Questions document in the non-developer disclosure information. It also provides a method for the revival of homeowners' associations expired declarations of covenants. The bill revises the Uniform Community Development District Act of 1980 to allow a community development district (CDD) governing board to enforce deed restrictions in specified circumstances, and to correct deficiencies in the district dissolution process and elections policies and procedures. The bill amends several substantive provisions of ch. 720, F.S., relating to homeowners' associations. The bill establishes requirements for associations' contracts for products and services. The bill provides disclosure requirements for sellers of property in a community governed by a homeowners' association. The bill provides a cause of action to rescind the contract for sale or for damages against developers for false or misleading material statements. The bill grants the county courts original jurisdiction over disputes occurring in homeowners' associations, and provides for concurrent jurisdiction in the circuit courts. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect October 1, 2004.
CS/SB 1738--Tax Liens/Homestead Exemptions
By Appropriations Committee and Senator Fasano
The bill extends the statute of limitations from 5 years to 20 years for a tax lien imposed under s. 196.161, F.S., relating to the fraudulent receipt of homestead exemption. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 11, 2004.
CS/SB 2444--Property Tax Administration
By Finance and Taxation Committee and Senator Margolis
The bill increases the length of time, from 10 days to 15 days before a value adjustment board hearing that evidence must be provided by a petitioner to the board. The property appraiser's evidence must be provided no later than 7 days before the hearing if the petitioner provides his or her required information and if the petitioner requests the property appraiser's evidence in writing. If the property appraiser does not timely provide his or her evidence, the hearing will be rescheduled. It also requires that a petitioner to the value adjustment board be notified 25 days before the scheduled appearance, instead of 20 days. The bill allows the Department of Revenue to change its current manual of instructions for property appraisers to include all settled court decisions and to update the guidelines for technical changes and other changes in assessment practices. It creates s. 689.261, F.S., to require that a purchaser of residential property be notified that the property will be re-assessed following the sale, which may result in the taxes being higher than the taxes levied in the current year. This disclosure summary must be attached to the contract for sale at or before executing the contract for sale, unless a substantially similar disclosure is included in the contract for sale. The bill provides the form with which the disclosure summary must substantially comply. It creates s. 193.017, F.S., to provide requirements for assessing property that is subject to a low income housing tax credit. This new provision is substantially identical to ss. 420.5093(5) and (6), and 420.5099(5) and (6), F.S. It provides that the tax credits granted and the financing generated by the tax credits may not be considered as income to the property, the actual rental income from rent-restricted units in such a property shall be recognized by the property appraiser, and any costs paid for by tax credits and costs paid for by additional financing proceeds received under ch. 420, F.S., may not be included in the valuation of the property. Furthermore, if an extended low-income housing agreement is fried in the official public records of the county in which the property is located, the agreement must be considered a land-use regulation and a limitation on the highest and best use of the property during the term of the agreement, amendment, or supplement. The bill allows a person other than the property owner to contest the valuation of property if that person is responsible for the entire property tax payment pursuant to a contract and has the written consent of the property owner. It also specifies that the tax collector shall be the defendant in legal challenges related to applications for tax deeds, but not challenges regarding the deeds themselves. This bill defines "contiguous" for purposes of notifying owners of contiguous property before a tax deed is granted on a parcel, and clarifies that submerged sovereignty lands are not considered contiguous property under this requirement. It also provides that the search of public records required by law to locate owners of contiguous property shall be by direct and inverse search. It also streamlines the process by which property available for taxes escheats to the county where it is located, by providing self-executing cancellation of all tax certificates, taxes, and other liens including governmental liens. The bill allows the tax collector to contract for higher limits of liability than are allowed under s. 627.7843(3), F.S., for title or abstract companies that perform title searches or abstracts required to issue tax deeds. It also streamlines the process by which property available for taxes escheats to the county where it is located, by providing self-executing cancellation of all tax certificates, taxes, and other liens including governmental liens. It amends s. 193.501, F.S., to clarify that when land development fights have been restricted or conservation restrictions have been covenanted for land used for an outdoor recreational purpose, normal use and maintenance of the land shall not be restricted. The bill amends s. 1011.62, F.S., to direct the Department of Revenue to use the assessed value of residential parcels subject to Save Our Homes in its certification of level of assessment for equalizing required local effort. Finally, die bill directs the department to use the new methodology for the 2004 levels of assessment and thereafter, and ratifies previous certifications using the old methodology. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect January 1, 2005.
HB 333--Limitation of Civil Liability
By Pep. Simmons and others
The bill bars a claim for damages arising from personal injury or wrongful death against a manufacturer, distributor, or seller of foods or nonalcoholic beverages if the claim is premised upon a person's weight gain or obesity, or a health condition related to weight gain or obesity, resulting from long-term consumption of such foods or nonalcoholic beverages. The limitation on such claims does not bar a claim otherwise available under law against a manufacturer, distributor, or seller of foods or nonalcoholic beverages if such person failed to disclose statutorily required nutritional content information or provided materially false or misleading information to the public. These provisions became law upon approval by the Governor on May 21, 2004 and shall apply to all claims filed on or after that date.
CS/CS/CS/SB 1764--Donated Firefighting Equipment
By Judiciary Committee; and others
The bill creates the "Good Samaritan Volunteer Firefighters' Assistance Act" to provide immunity from civil liability for a state agency or subdivision, including its officers, employees, and agents who are acting within the scope of their employment or function, which donates qualified fire control or fire rescue equipment to a volunteer fire department. The immunity provided by the bill is from liability for personal injury, property damage, or death that is proximately caused, after the donation, by a defect in the equipment. This immunity, however, does not apply if the defect that proximately caused the personal injury, property damage, or death is the result of malice, gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct or the result of alterations or modifications by the agency or subdivision after recertification of the donated equipment; or the agency or subdivision is the manufacturer of the qualified equipment. The bill also clarifies that nothing in the section is to be construed as a waiver of sovereign immunity. The bill defines the terms "authorized technician," "qualified fire control or lure rescue equipment," and "state agency or subdivision." The bill applies to any action that accrues on or after July 1, 2004. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/SB 1790--Paintball/Governmental Liability
By Governmental Oversight and Productivity Committee and Senator Posey
The bill adds paintball to the list of activities for which liability is limited for governmental entities for personal property damage or bodily injuries. This bill does not constitute a waiver of sovereign immunity and does not limit the liability of a governmental entity for failure to guard against or warn of a dangerous condition, gross negligence, or failure to obtain written parental consent for participants in paintball under the age of 17. These limitations on liability with regard to paintball do not apply to independent concessionaires or others using governmental property, regardless of whether a contractual relationship exists with the governmental entity. The bill adds paintball to those activities for which any person, regardless of age, who participates in, assists in, or observes paintball, assumes the known and unknown inherent risks in this activity and is legally responsible for resulting damages, injury, or death to himself or herself. A governmental entity which sponsors, allows, or permits paintball on its property is not required to eliminate, alter or control the inherent risks in that activity. Finally, the bill includes paintball among those activities for which s. 316.0085(7)(b), F.S., prescribes duties required of a participant. Failure to comply with these requirements shall constitute negligence for purposes of comparative fault. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
CS/CS/SB 2020--Specialty License Plates
By Appropriations Committee and others
The bill amends ss. 320.08053, 320.08056 and 320.08058, F.S., and provides the following relating to specialty plates: Florida Educational; Save Our Seas; Family First; Sportsmen's National Land Trust; Live the Dream; Discover Florida's Oceans; Family Values; Parents Make A Difference; Support Soccer; Animal Friend; and Kids Deserve Justice--The hill directs the DHSMV to issue a Kids Deserve Justice specialty license plate. In addition to applicable motor vehicle registration taxes and fees, a $25 annual use fee will be charged for this new specialty license plate. The annual use fees will be distributed to the Florida Bar Foundation, Inc., to operate a grant award process to fund children's legal services programs, which shall include legal services programs, and programs to obtain: federal benefits for disabled children; testing and services required by law for learning disabled children; and permanent placement for abused and neglected children. In addition, The Florida Bar Foundation, Inc., is authorized to retain the fast annual use fee proceeds to offset its costs in developing the plate. Specialty License Plate Requirements
The bill revises Florida's existing specialty license plate program. Specifically, the bill amends ss. 320.08053 and 320.08056, F.S., relating to the application process to require an applicant to create the artwork for the sample plate in a medium prescribed by DHSMV. The bill defines "scientific sample survey" as information gathered from a representative subset of the population as a whole; modifies the requirements for specialty license plates to require a scientific sample survey indicating 30,000 motor vehicle owners intend to purchase the proposed plate rather than 15,000 motor vehicle owners; requires the Auditor General to validate the methodology, results, and any evaluation by DHSMV of the scientific sample survey prior to the submission of the specialty license plate for approval by the Legislature; and requires DHSMV to develop design standards for specialty license plates to assist law enforcement in identification of the state of origin of a plate (as to Florida-issued plates). The roles must provide uniform specifications requiring common placement of the word "Florida" on specialty plates, and requiting the word to be clearly identifiable when the plate is mounted on a vehicle. The rules must also provide specifications for the size and location of any words or logos appearing on the plates. The bill authorize DHSMV to retain annual use fees sufficient to cover inventory costs and audit and attestation compliance review costs directly associated with the requirements of administering the specialty license plate program; changes the time and criteria for discontinuation of an approved specialty license (even collegiate specialty plates). If the number of valid specialty plate registrations falls below 1,000 plates for at least 12 consecutive months DHSMV must discontinue the plate. In addition, a warning letter is to be mailed to the sponsoring organization following the first month the total number falls below 1,000 plates; and requires DHSMV, in cooperation with representatives of local tax collectors and PRIDE at Union Correctional Facility, to study the feasibility of using direct-to-customer distribution of license plates, and to report the findings to the Legislature no later than December 31, 2004. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
Workers' Compensation Law
CS/SB 1926--Workers' Compensation
By Banking and Insurance Committee
Pursuant to the workers' compensation legislation enacted last year, each of the respective presiding officers of the Legislative Branch appointed members to the Joint Select Committee on Workers' Compensation Rating Reform to study the merits of requiring each workers' compensation insurer to individually file its expense and profit portion of a rate filing, while permitting each insurer to use a loss cost filing made by a licensed rating organization. The committee was also charged with studying other rating options that would promote greater competition while protecting employers from rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory. The bill revises the criteria the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) must use in considering an application by an insurer for a rate deviation from the approved rate for worker's compensation filed by a licensed rating organization. In determining whether to approve or disapprove the deviation, the OIR would continue to consider standards related to the actuarial soundness of the rate and the financial condition of the insurer, but would no longer consider the impact of the deviation on the composition of the market, the stability of rates, and the level of competition of market. It requires each workers' compensation insurer to notify the OIR of a significant underwriting change that materially limits or restricts the number of policies or premiums written in Florida. It allows workers' compensation insurers to use rates in excess of their filed rates with the written consent of the policyholder for a period of 3 years, for employers the insurer takes or keeps out of the Workers' Compensation Joint Underwriting Association, without these policies being subject to the current maximum limitation of 10 percent of an insurer's commercial policies. The bill requires the OIR to submit an annual report to the Legislature that evaluates competition in the workers' compensation market in Florida, including the availability and affordability of coverage and whether the current market structure and performance are conducive to competition, based upon economic analysis. The Governor approved the bill; these provisions take effect July 1, 2004.
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|Publication:||Florida Bar News|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2004|
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