HB 391 (Representative Domino) + SB 1556 (Senator Geller)

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc. 

July 5, 2006

Much to our delight, Governor Jeb Bush vetoed two really bad association bills -- HB 391 and SB 1556. Both were nasty bills with dreadful provisions. Actually, the Governor quoted the same faults in his Veto Letters that CCFJ had warned about from Day One. 

HB 391, sponsored by Representative Domino, according to his office was actually a Community Associations Institute bill that had been given to him by Travis Moore, the lobbyist for CAI and Becker & Poliakoff P.A. There was really nothing in this bill that would have helped owners. It was another “Get Rich Quick Scheme” for attorneys that would have turned back the clock, removing positive reforms created by the 2004 HOA Task Force. But it seems Representative Andy Gardiner, the House Majority leader who was pushing the bill for the CAI, recognized the problems really fast.  Gardiner made sure that the very good HOA bill HB 839, sponsored by Representative Jeff Kottkamp, would be included with HB 391, hoping that the contents of his very useful bill would disguise the ugly taste of HB 391 to make it more palatable! And, with enough pressure from the House leadership, this nasty HOA bill made it through the House with some small changes. But the Governor's veto letter really exposed the bill with all of its faults! Governor Bush quoted more or less the same arguments for vetoing the bill that we had listed in our Open Letter to the Governor, when we asked him to veto the bill. 


In his veto letter the Governor quoted parts of the former HB 839, which was actually co-sponsored by seven other Florida Representatives, and stated that these were very good provisions, provisions that in reality should have been enacted for the benefit of the homeowners. It's a shame that Representatives Gardiner and Domino didn't let HB 839 pass but instead used it trying to cover up the many problematic issues in HB 391, in fact detrimental to the welfare of the homeowners!

In his veto letter the Governor brought up some very important issues that will be definitely discussed during the 2007 legislative session! Among other suggestions, Bush "directed the DBPR to initiate a study and make recommendations to the extent to which protections afforded members of mandatory homeowners' associations can approach parity with those afforded condominium owners!" Not sure the DBPR is the right place to get recommendations from, since they completely fail to create the protection for condo owners as intended by the Florida legislature. But, we'll see!

But it is definitely a start. For the 2007 legislative session CCFJ will prepare an extensive bill proposal that will use the Governor's recommendation and a lot of other important issues, including the provisions that originally had been included in HB 839.

A most comprehensive bill is nearly ready for publication!


HB 543 (identical SB 1556) -- Representative Dudley Goodlette -- was in its original version a very good bill, a bill that would have helped condo owners sorting out their business after a natural disaster, such as a hurricane. We have seen many condos struggling after serious damages from the last hurricanes. Representative Goodlette even agreed to correct one sentence for clarification. That was the bill needed and should have passed, as the Governor agreed in his VETO LETTER . But, as usual, some special interests couldn't let it alone and had to stick their version into the bill, a version that would have created an "eminent domain" bill for condo owners. Suddenly it wasn't just dissolution after natural disaster.  Suddenly it turned into a cash cow for developers, who would have been allowed to secretly buy unit after unit, grab hold of the board majority and push owners out of their homes in order to build bigger and more expensive condos on valuable beach property, making a financial killing at the expense of helpless condo owners.

The original bill was good -- and should be revived for the 2007 session. Relatively easy dissolution after casualty is very recommendable. Greed is not!

Thank you Governor Bush for minding the store and vetoing these bills that would have created huge problems for Florida's citizens living in mandated properties!

But nothing without a great laugh. I really laughed hard when I read the article regarding these vetoes in the Sun Sentinel and found this quote from Donna Berger (Community Associations Legislative Lobby aka Community Association Leadership Lobby).  Berger blamed Bush's staff for the vetoes: "Apparently a mix-up in the staff analysis resulted in the gubernatorial veto!"                  

Sometimes I'm really not sure if Berger wants to be taken seriously? Or hasn't she yet grasped that we are not the only ones who realize that everything that comes from her direction only helps service providers like attorneys – much to the detriment of the owners?

Like Governor Bush said in his veto letter: It is about time that we obtain here in Florida a comprehensive bill that protects owners against all kinds of abuse, frivolous lawsuits and creates easy enforcement of the governing laws and accountability of the people in charge!
It's about time -- it's actually long overdue! 

We have here in Florida not only a total insurance disaster, but as well serious problems for owners in mandatory associations. Both problems have to be solved as soon as possible, in order to avoid pushing families out of their homes  --   especially elderly and low-income families. We don't need to create more homeless folks, priced out of their homes by outrageous insurance premiums and frivolous lawsuits.

The members of our organization will work hard to remedy the situation and will push for the necessary legislative reforms. 

Asking the Governor to veto these bills, our citizens’ campaign has clearly shown that an organized effort can create the necessary results in Tallahassee. We don't have the financial means of the service providers, but we have the votes in the upcoming elections.

Florida's citizens have to make sure that we vote into office the excellent legislators that are willing to fight for our cause. 

We just can't afford to elect any more sleazy politicians that ignore our requests for consumer protection of our most basic rights.

Help us -- so that we can help you!

Fairness In Associations Is The Goal