Facing rising sea levels, increasingly severe storms, and soaring temperatures, Florida is often called America’s “ground zero” for climate change. Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2022 report specifically mentions the environmental and economic impacts of climate change on Florida several times. According to the report, tidal flooding from sea level rise has cost Miami-Dade county $500 million in lost real estate value and Florida could lose up to $50 billion in reef-related tourism by 2100 as coral reefs die from warming ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.
The economic impacts of these environmental changes shape state policy surrounding climate change. Multiple bills related to climate change are being considered in this year’s legislative session.
Here’s what this year’s climate change legislation is all about:
Two similar bills — SB 716, introduced by Florida State Sen. Linda Stewart (D), and HB 1291, introduced by Florida State Rep. Bruce Hadley Antone (D) — would require sellers of residential property to disclose information to the buyer in writing about the status and history of flood damage to the property and if the property is in a designated flood-hazard zone before a contract is signed.
A comparable bill, HB 325, proposed by Florida State Rep. Susan Valdés (D), would extend these requirements to the sellers of commercial properties.
SB 716 and HB 1291 would also require landlords of rental properties to disclose any information related to flood zones before the tenant signs a lease. If passed, the legislation would also require landlords to update a tenant if the property’s flood zone designation changes.
UPDATE: SB 716 died in the Judiciary Committee. HB 1291 died in the Civil Justice Subcommittee. HB 325 died in the Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee.
Two identical bills — HB 859, introduced by Florida State Rep. Fabián Basabe (R), and SB 1018, introduced by Florida State Sen. Jay Trumbull (R) — would allow local governments to adopt a minimum freeboard requirement or a maximum voluntary freeboard that exceeds the current requirements in the Florida Building Code.
Freeboard refers to the extra height added to a building’s lowest floor above the base flood elevation established by local flood insurance rate maps as a safety precaution against flooding.
“Freeboard provides an added margin of safety to address flood modeling and mapping uncertainties and can lead to reductions in flood insurance premiums,” reads a staff analysis of SB 1018. While not required by the National Flood Insurance Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency encourages communities to adopt at least one foot of freeboard.
According to a staff analysis of SB 1018, voluntary freeboard is defined as, “the additional height above the freeboard required by floodplain management regulations and the Building Code.” Currently, the maximum voluntary freeboard is 9 feet in coastal high-hazard areas and 4 feet in all other areas.
SB 1018 would also exclude the maximum voluntary freeboard from being used in the calculation of the maximum allowable height for a structure in certain zoning areas. Lastly, statewide minimum freeboard requirements would be developed by November 1, 2023, and added to the new edition of the Florida Building Code, which is updated every three years.
UPDATE: HB 859 died in the Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee; identical SB 1018 died in the Rules Committee.
Through the Resilient Florida Grant Program, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provides funds to counties, municipalities, and water management districts to analyze and plan for vulnerabilities to flooding and sea level rise. In its first two years, the program awarded $954 million to a total of 263 implementation projects.
SB 1170, proposed by Florida State Sen. Alexis Calatayud (R), expands the purposes for which the DEP can provide grants. Under the new legislation, municipalities would be eligible for grant funding to support “feasibility studies and the cost of permitting for innovative measures that reduce the impact of flooding and sea level rise and focus on nature-based solutions,” according to the bill text.
The bill would also authorize water management districts, in support of local government adaptation planning, to receive grants for the purpose of supporting the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation in DEP for data creation and collection, modeling, and the implementation of statewide standards.
Additionally, as required by SB 178 (passed in 2020), public entities must conduct a sea level impact projection (SLIP) study before constructing certain state-financed structures in coastal building zones. SB 1170 would expand the geographical area where a SLIP study is required and would change the types of structures to which this requirement applies.
If passed, the bill would require public entities to conduct a SLIP study before beginning construction of any “potentially at-risk structure or infrastructure” in an area at risk due to sea level rise, regardless of whether it is within the coastal building zone.
In the staff analysis of the bill, any area at risk due to sea level rise is defined as “any location projected to be below the threshold for tidal flooding within the next 50 years by adding sea level rise using the highest of the sea level rise projections required [under Florida statutes].”
Additionally, “potentially at-risk structures or infrastructure,” could include airports, major roadways, wastewater treatment facilities, schools, or cultural assets that are within an area at risk due to sea level rise.
HB 111, introduced by Florida State Rep. Christine Hunschofsky (D) would take similar measures.
UPDATE: SB 1170 was laid on the table, meaning it was set aside and died at the end of the session — however, its contents were substituted by HB 111, which was enrolled, meaning it has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for approval.
In January, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that climate change is indisputably making severe weather events worse. Additionally, with Hurricane Ian ranking as the third-costliest weather disaster in the last 40 years, legislators are focusing on providing relief to homeowners who harden their properties against storm and hurricane damage.
Created during the 2022 Special Legislative Session on Insurance, the My Safe Florida Home Program gives Florida homeowners a free wind mitigation home inspection and grant funding to better prepare their homes for storms and lower their insurance premiums.
Two similar bills — HB 881, introduced by Florida State Rep. Chip LaMarca (R), and SB 748, introduced by Florida State Sen. Jim Boyd (R) — would expand the eligibility requirements and increase grant funding, all with the goal of reducing insurance premiums.
The legislation would increase grant funds for low-income property owners from $5,000 to $10,000 and extend the eligibility for grant funding to property owners statewide, rather than to those who own properties in the wind-borne debris region.
Two additional identical bills SB 1688, introduced by Florida State Sen. Shevrin Jones (D), and HB 1477, introduced by Florida State Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D), would also expand My Safe Florida Home grant eligibility to homeowners statewide, as well as double the funding for the program from $150 million to $300 million.
Some legislation looks to increase transparency for homebuyers. SB 1370, introduced by Florida State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R), and HB 1551, introduced by Florida State Rep. Kimberly Berfield (R), would require any property appraiser in a county located within a wind-borne debris region “to specify for each parcel on the property appraiser’s website the year of initial construction of the improvement and the year of publication of the building code applicable to initial construction of the improvement,” according to the bill text.
Florida Sen. Ed Hooper (R) proposed SB 556, which would require residential and mixed-use condominiums created after July 1, 2023 to have hurricane protection procedures stated within the condominium declarations. The “declaration” or “declaration of condominium” is the legal instrument by which a condominium is created.
Condominium declarations would also be required to specify whether the individual property owner or condominium association is responsible for implementing hurricane protection measures. A similar bill, HB 395, was proposed by state Rep. Kaylee Tuck (R).
UPDATE: SB 748 was laid on the table, meaning it was set aside and died at the end of the session — however, its contents were substituted by HB 881 which was enrolled, meaning it has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for approval. SB 1688 died in the Banking and Insurance Committee; identical HB 1477 died in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. SB 1370 died in the Community Affairs Committee; HB 1551 died on Second Reading Calendar. SB 556 died in the Rules Committee. HB 395 died in the Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee.
Since 2003, residential property insurers have been required to provide credits, discounts, and other rate differentials to reduce insurance premiums for policyholders who retrofit their homes with features like hurricane shutters or hip roofs, meant to mitigate wind damage during a strong storm or hurricane.
Two similar bills, HB 799, proposed by Florida State Rep. Philip Griffitts (R), and SB 594, proposed by Sen. Jonathan Martin (R), would require property insurers to provide discounts for additional windstorm and hurricane mitigation measures when calculating insurance premiums. For example, the bill adds wind uplift prevention to the list of fixtures or construction techniques that must be considered when insurers calculate these premium discounts. As wind moves across a roof during a windstorm, negative pressure is created that causes an uplift toward the center. When wind uplift exceeds the limits of the roof design, the roof could detach from its support structure.
Construction techniques to mitigate wind uplift include those that “enhance roof strength, roof covering performance, roof-to-wall strength, wall-to-floor-to foundation strength, or appropriate protection, window, door, and skylight strength.”
Additionally, HB 799 aims to ensure property owners are aware of certain stipulations in their coverage. Many property insurance policies do not include flood insurance, meaning property owners must purchase that separately. However, some insurance policies include language stating that to receive windstorm coverage, the applicant must also have flood insurance coverage.
“Compliance with this requirement may be problematic if an insurance agent has not made an insured [policyholder] or applicant aware of it at the time a property insurance policy is purchased,” reads a staff analysis of HB 799. The bill aims to clear up a potential discrepancy by requiring that the insurer verify the property owner has flood insurance prior to issuing a policy containing wind coverage.
Under current law, when establishing insurance rates, insurers look at factors that statewide organizations develop to indicate how building code enforcement units evaluate risk in geographical areas. But these factors are often flawed and do not accurately reflect current building code enforcement. Two similar bills, HB 505, introduced by Florida State Rep. Vicki Lopez (R), and SB 418, introduced by Florida State Sen. Keith Perry (R) would instead allow residential property insurers to submit rating plans evaluated by independent, nonprofit scientific research organizations, which current law does not allow for. The bills would also require insurers to estimate hurricane losses using a weighted or straight average of two or more approved hurricane models.
Property insurers based in Florida would also have to maintain a surplus of $20 million if SB 1528, introduced by Florida State Sen. Linda Stewart (D), passed. “I want to make sure that when insurers decide to put too many eggs in one basket, they have a backup funding to keep their commitment to the policy holders,” said Stewart in a press release about the bill.
Other bills related to property insurance:
- Collateral Protection Insurance – SB 410 and HB 793 (SB 410 was laid on the table, meaning it was set aside and died at the end of the session — however, its contents were substituted by HB 793, which was enrolled, meaning it has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for approval)
- Insurance – HB 1431 (Died in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee)
- Resolution of Disputed Property Insurance Claims – HB 1141 and SB 1174 (HB 1141 died in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee; identical SB 1174 died in the Banking and Insurance Committee)
- Insurance – SB 1688 and HB 1477 (SB 1688 died in the Banking and Insurance Committee; identical HB 1477 died in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee)
UPDATE: SB 594 was laid on the table, meaning it was set aside and died at the end of the session — however, its contents were substituted by HB 799, which was enrolled, meaning it has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for approval. HB 505 was also laid on the table and its were contents substituted by SB 418, which was enrolled. SB 1528 died in the Banking and Insurance Committee.
Florida currently has an average of 25 dangerous heat days every year, with that number projected to increase to 130 by 2050. Dangerous heat days are those that have a heat index of at least 105° F. Such high temperatures increase the risk of heat illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. Researchers also estimate that the additional heat will cost outdoor workers $8 billion and yield an increase of $313 million in cooling costs for the state.
SB 706, introduced by Florida State Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R), and HB 903, introduced by Florida State Rep. Michael Gottlieb (D) would require employers in industries where employees regularly perform work in an outdoor environment to implement an outdoor heat exposure safety program approved by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Health. The legislation would also require specified annual training on heat illness. A similar bill (SB 732) was filed in 2022 but died in the Health Policy Committee.
UPDATE: SB 706 died in the Commerce and Tourism Committee; HB 903 died in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee.
- Resilience Districts – HB 1147 and SB 1200 (HB 1147 died in the Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee; SB 1200 died in the Community Affairs Committee)
- Carbon Sequestration – HB 1149 (HB 1149 died in the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee)
- Saltwater Intrusion Vulnerability Assessments – SB 734 and HB 1079 (SB 734 passed unanimously in the Senate, but died in the House; identical HB 1079 died in the Agriculture, Conservation & Resiliency Subcommittee).