Cam Fentriss Provides Legislative Updates to Local Associations
Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (FRACCA) Tallahassee lobbyist Cam Fentriss provided legislative updates to attendees at the monthly Southwest Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SWACCA) and Air Conditioning Contractors Association of Central Florida (ACCA-CF) September meetings.
Cam began her presentations by stating that things have been very quiet on the legislative front, typical for an election year. These measures have been considered:
Worker’s compensation. An average rate decrease of 13.4% has been proposed for 2019. The proposal has to pass the rate hearing process which may take through October. The actual impact on the HVAC category is unknown at this time. Cam alerted the contractors that increases are on their way, however.
Open or expired permits. Several years ago, realtors and title companies moved to add open or expired permits to the business and home sales checklist and it was discovered that there are a great number of them in the system. A bill filed last year would have imposed penalties on contractors for those permits. Cam and several supporters raised concerns with the bill’s sponsor and it was pulled for negotiation. The contractor penalty was removed, the bill was limited to residential permits only and an expiration time was set when open permits will close automatically. Cam stated there are still some liability issues and it’s in the best interests of the HVAC industry to come up with a permanent solution.
Cam addressed the biggest issue confronting the construction and manufacturing industries, the need for workers. Several years ago, a coalition was formed of all parties involved in construction, ranging from roads, underground utilities and the HVAC, plumbing and electrical trades to unions and government interests. Because of the coalition’s diverse priorities, there wasn’t much progress. The coalition is re-energized and a goal has been set to secure funding for an outreach and public relations campaign that will promote construction as a favorable career.
“The public’s perception that the four-year college program is the best career path is shifting, so we feel the timing is good for this effort,” Cam stated. “We will be reaching out to guidance counselors in high schools and approaching the four-year colleges as well because they understand that their model is facing some problems and they need to get involved with alternatives.”
When first formed, the coalition requested reports from the Department of Education (which oversees apprenticeship programs) and CareerSource Florida to determine the status of workforce training. Those efforts were met with resistance because those departments weren’t open to change. The coalition did find enthusiastic support within the Department of Corrections and is now working to strengthen that relationship. They don’t generate the types of employees most customers would welcome in their homes and businesses but there are a lot of opportunities in the construction field for them and the Department of Corrections wields a lot of power in the government.
There has been some discussion in the legislature about tying equipment warranties to the units and taking home ownership out of the equation. This process is in the early stages and will require input from all parties involved.
Cam encouraged members to become involved in the ground roots of legislation development by joining some of the boards that determine how the HVAC industry is regulated. “If we don’t have voices at that stage, other industries will be making the rules that control us. We currently have several HVAC contractors and FRACCA members holding various positions. Oscar Calleja of South Florida sits as a commissioner on the Florida Building Commission and chairs the Energy Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) which has a tremendous impact as it offers guidance to new construction, solar and other segments of the building industry. Tampa’s Bob Cochell is on Energy TAC and Dan Griffin of Jacksonville sits on the Mechanical TAC.”
Cam listed the Florida positions facing election this year: Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, Agriculture Commissioner, 18 out of 40 Senate seats and 88 out of 120 House of Representative seats. She emphasized the importance of getting to know your local government representatives. Though lobbies are strong forces, candidates rely on the voters to keep their jobs and listen and react to their constituents if the voices are loud enough.
Cam concluded with a brief summary of the upcoming legislative year. After the November 6 elections, a brief organizational session that usually lasts one day will be scheduled. Legislative committees are expected to schedule interim committee meeting weeks in December, January and February. This is when priorities of the incoming House and Senate leadership and new governor are unveiled. The 2019 legislative session will begin on March 5, 2019 and is expected to end May 3, 2019.
The meetings ended with updates on the Florida Power and Light (FPL) initiative to get involved in HVAC contracting. FRACCA and the Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) Coalition for Fair Competition asked Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate the business practices of Florida Power & Light (FPL) on September 13, 2018. Specifically, the groups claim that FPL is misappropriating regulated public assets to enter private for-profit markets.
FRACCA originally filed a complaint with the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) on April 18, 2018 to prevent FPL from subsidizing Jupiter-Tequesta A/C through FPL Energy Services. Currently, Jupiter-Tequesta A/C is marketing itself as an FPL Energy Services company and is utilizing FPL’s name and logo in all of its advertisements. FPL is also subsidizing Jupiter-Tequesta A/C in other ways such as recruiting employees, transferring incoming calls directly to the for-profit subsidiary, marketing their services in utility customer invoices and sharing a myriad of infrastructure and other ratepayer funded resources.
NextEra Energy, FPL, FPL Energy Services and Jupiter-Tequesta A/C all share officers and directors. In addition, FPL has admitted to collecting pricing data and customer information from independent contractors participating in rebate programs.
For more information on the FPL initiative and the MEP Coalition for Fair Competition, visit www.mepcoalition.org or contact Skip Farinhas by calling 727.275.0572 or emailing Info@mepcoalition.org.