Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Florida Cities and Counties Urge Governor Crist to Rethink His Position on Fire Sprinklers

In what is sure to become a domino effect, various cities and counties throughout Florida have heeded calls from their citizens asking for help from overzealous local fire marshals and city inspectors who seem oblivious to the fact that associations are in less of a position than ever to pay for costly retrofits and upgrades for their buildings.

Recently, Collier County, Broward County and the City of Naples have all passed resolutions in support of HB 561 (sponsored by Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff) which would exempt buildings with fewer than 3 stories from having to retrofit with hard-wired fire alarms in units and would allow members living in high-rises (buildings defined as 75 ft. or higher) to determine for themselves by a vote of 75% or higher whether or not they wish to retrofit their buildings with fire sprinklers.

Up next for similar votes: Palm Beach County, Miami Beach (meeting on March 10th) as well as Miramar and Pembroke Pines! The question could very soon become not which cities and counties have passed similar resolutions of support but which have not. In the face of so many pleas for help, can Governor Crist resist and continue to veto bills that our Florida legislators pass unanimously? Unfortunately, in the State of Florida we do not have a line item veto so if the Governor does not like any portion of a large bill, the entire bill is at risk.

Once bills are sent over to the Governor (usually some time in June), he has 15 days from the time a bill reaches his desk to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. The fact that Representative Bogdanoff is not removing this language from her bill as well as the local elected officials now backing up her decision, only reinforces the importance of the mission at hand. While it is politically expedient to paint this issue as one of life and property safety alone, at some point, we might have to ask the Governor whether sleeping under an overpass (after having lost one’s unit to foreclosure as a result of a retrofit special assessment) is safer than sleeping inside an unsprinklered unit in a concrete block construction building that has been in existence for decades without incident.

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