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Weekly Legislative Update from May 3, 2019

Legal & Judicial

SB 862 – Relating to Lessor Liability Under Special Mobile Equipment Leases

On Tuesday, April 30, SB 862 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) was read on the House floor and passed with a vote of 83 yeas and 32 nays.

Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine (DID) was created in the early 20th century, a time where automobiles began traveling on public roads. The doctrine has been expanded far beyond the borders of its original intent and now applies to off-highway vehicles such as golf carts, tractors, and construction equipment. The doctrine holds owners or lessors liable for the harm caused by an operator, even when the lessor is not in control of the equipment or vehicle at the time of the incident. Florida is the only state in the country where DID is applied in this manner.

This bill provides that lessors of special mobile equipment are not liable for the acts of the lessee or lessee’s agent or employee if the lease agreement requires documented proof of insurance coverage containing limits of at least $250,000 per person and up to $500,000 per incident for bodily injury liability and up to $100,000 for property damage liability, or at least $750,000 for combined property damage liability and bodily injury liability. Special mobile equipment are vehicles not designed or used primarily to transport persons or property and that are only incidentally operated or moved over a highway. Examples include ditchdigging apparatus, well-boring apparatus, road construction and maintenance machinery, draglines, self-propelled cranes and earthmoving equipment.

SB 862 will now go to the Governor.

AIF supports the protection of owners and lessors from vicarious liability which is harmful to Florida’s business community.

HB 431 – Relating to Liens Against Motor Vehicles and Vessels

On Tuesday, April 30, HB 431 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) was read on the Senate floor and passed with a vote of 38 yeas and 0 nays.

Currently, towing companies and auto repair shops, among others, may impose a lien on automobiles for towing and storage charges, as well as unpaid repair costs. The current statute requires the lienor to give the auto owner and all parties that have a financial interest in the auto notice of the lien and the public sale of the auto to cover paying off the lien.

Unfortunately, some “bad actors” in Florida have been abusing our current system by: 

  • Manipulating the time period for sending the notice of lien and notice of sale to eliminate the owner or finance company’s ability to pay the charges and recover the auto;
  • Imposing very high administrative fees for perfecting the lien and enforcing the lien;
  • Adding unreasonable or fraudulent charges to the towing or repair bill to justify the sale of the auto and keeping all proceeds of the sale. 

HB 431 will now go to the Governor.

AIF supports legislation that prevents the increase in insurance rates.  When ‘bad actor’ companies take advantage of the current lien laws, insurance rates become improperly inflated and has a harmful effect on many sectors of the business community.

HB 107 – Relating to Wireless Communications While Driving

On Monday, April 29, HB 107 by Representative Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) was read a third time on the House floor and passed with a vote of 108 yeas and 7 nays.

Current law prohibits a person from texting, emailing, and instant messaging while driving but is considered a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement cannot stop a driver solely for texting. This bill makes the use of a wireless communication device while driving a primary offense, allowing law enforcement to stop individuals for wireless device usage while behind the wheel.

HB 107 will now go to the Governor.

AIF supports legislation that addresses the issue of distracted driving and will ensure public safety for businesses and Floridians operating on our roadways.

HB 7103 – Relating to Property Development

On Friday, May 3, HB 7103, sponsored by the House Commerce Committee, was amended on second reading and read a third time on the Senate floor and passed with a vote of 26 yeas and 13 nays.

Property development in Florida is governed in part by both the Community Planning Act and the Florida Building Code. The Community Planning Act governs how local governments create and adopt local comprehensive plans, implement land development regulations, and issue development orders and permits. Every local government must enforce the Building Code and issue building permits. Local governments impose impact fees to fund local infrastructure needed to expand local services to meet the demands of population growth caused by development.

This bill changes property development regulations by:

  • Restricting counties and municipalities from adopting or imposing certain mandatory affordable housing ordinances;
  • Imposing time limits for a county or municipality to review a development order or permit application;
  • Reducing the time period building departments have to review a permit application when a private provider approves the plans;
  • Prohibiting a local jurisdiction from charging fees if a private provider is hired;
  • Amending how a local government may impose impact fees.

HB 7103 will now go to the Governor.

AIF supports legislative efforts to remove onerous regulations imposed on any part of Florida’s business community.

HB 829 – Relating to Attorney Fees and Costs

On Thursday, May 2, HB 829 by Representative Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) was read a third time on the House floor and passed with a vote of 77 yeas and 31 nays.

Florida law states that a court may impose sanctions on a party or attorney who raises a frivolous claim or defense or unreasonably delays a judicial proceeding. This bill entitles a party to attorney fees and costs if the party prevails in an action challenging a local government ordinance as preempted. However, attorney fees and costs may not be awarded if the local government withdraws or repeals the ordinance within 30 days after receiving a claim that the ordinance is preempted or the filing of a motion seeking attorney fees and costs under the new statutory section, whichever occurs first. The bill prospective and only applies to cases commenced on or after July 1, 2019.

HB 829 will now go to the Governor.

AIF supports legislative attorney fee reform that helps prevent onerous fees imposed on businesses post-litigation.