Legislative Action Center

How did the 2019 Legislative Session affect you and your Fire Department?
May 15, 2019 by Darrel Donatto
Florida Fire Chiefs Association
2019 Legislative Session Review
 

The 2019 Florida Legislative Session officially ended on Saturday, May 4 at 2:03 p.m.  There were at total of 3,571 Bills and PCBs filed, 2,997 Amendments filed, 3,765 Votes Taken, and 40 Floor Sessions that resulted in 196 Bills passed both chambers (5.4%).
 
The Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association was tracking and involved in over 80 bills at one point in the session.
 
When it was all said and done, only 17 of the bills we were watching were passed by both chambers and sent to the Governor for signing.  Below is a brief synopsis of the bills that passed and their importance or impact on the fire service.
 
Legislation that Passed both Chambers and has been sent to the Governor.

HB 23 Telehealth by Representative Yarborough
This bill establishes the standards of practice for telehealth providers in the State of Florida.  The FFCA supported this bill and advocated for and was able to ensure that the definition of a “Telehealth Provider” included EMTs, Paramedics, and Emergency Medical Dispatchers.  This is important to the fire service, because one day, the use of live, two-way video communications between a physician and EMS providers in the field will become standard practice; whether it be on emergency medical calls, or while providing community paramedic services.  This bill becomes effective on July 1, 2019.
 
SB 96 Police, Fire, and Search and Rescue Dogs and Police Horses by Senator Bean
The FFCA supported this bill and advocated for the inclusion of search and rescue and arson investigations canines in the bill.  This bill increases the penalty for intentionally and knowingly causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or death to, or using a deadly weapon upon, police canines or horses, fire canines, or SAR canines, etc. The bills effective date is 10/1/2019.
 
HB 107 Wireless Communications While Driving by Representative Toledo
Distracted driving has led to an increase in motor vehicle accidents.  This bill makes it illegal to type or read emails, text messages, or instant messages while driving and allows a law enforcement officers to stop motor vehicles and issue citations to persons who are texting while driving.  The bill also prohibits the use of a cellphone (talking) in a handheld manner in school and work zones. In order to ensure the fire service can continue to use or mobile data computers, the bill exempts operators of an authorized emergency vehicle and law enforcement, fire service, and emergency medical services professionals performing official duties.  All fines from these citations will go into the Emergency Medical Service Trust Fund which is used to fund EMS grants.  The texting and driving portions are effective July 1, 2019.  The school and work zone limits on handheld use of cellphones will start January 1, 2020.
 
HB 127 Permit Fees by Representative Williamson
This bill requires counties & municipalities to post its building and fire inspection permit and building and fire inspection fee schedules on its website. The bill is effective on July 1, 2019.
 
SB 248 Public Records/Civilian Personnel Employed by a Law Enforcement Agency by Senator Hooper (former firefighter)
This bill does two primary things for the fire service.  First, it expands the definition of “home addresses” the physical address, mailing address, street address, parcel identification number, plot identification number, legal property description, neighborhood name and lot number, GPS coordinates, and any other descriptive property information that may reveal the home address for the dwelling location at which an individual resides.  Second, it removes the Sunset date of October 2, 2021, for the public record exemptions for current or former firefighters, and their spouses and children. This bill is effective 7/1/2019.
 
HB 411 Nonemergency Medical Transportation Services by Representative Perez
This bill will allow Medicaid recipients to use Uber and Lyft ride-sharing services to go to the doctor or emergency room for non-emergency purposes.  Uber and Lyft in 2018 both unveiled programs with services tailored to transport medical patients on-demand that would be available at hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and addiction treatment centers.  The rides would be scheduled through a managed care provider rather than directly through the app on a user’s phone.  The FFCA opposed a provision in the early versions of the Senate version of the bill that would exempt ambulances services providing non-emergency transport services from having to have a COPCN.  At our insistence, the language was modified in the final bill that said the bill does not exempt any person, firm, corporation, association, or governmental entity that engages in the business or service of providing advanced life support or basic life support transportation services from the licensure requirements provided in s. 401.25.
 
SB 426 Firefighters by Senator Flores
This bill, one of the FFCA’s priorities, provides benefits to a firefighter upon receiving a diagnosis of cancer if certain conditions are met. 
(1) The bill covers 21 types of cancer that have been identified as more prevalent in firefighters over the course of several studies: Bladder Cancer, Brain Cancer, Breast Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Colon Cancer, Esophageal Cancer, Intestinal Cancer, Invasive Skin Cancer, Kidney Cancer, Lung Cancer, Malignant Melanoma, Mesothelioma, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Oral/Pharynx Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Rectal Cancer, Stomach Cancer, Testicular Cancer, and Thyroid Cancer. 
(2) This bill requires certain levels of insurance coverage to be provided to firefighters, by their employer, when diagnosed with cancer.  Out-of-pocket costs medical care costs would be reimbursed to the firefighter. 
(3) Firefighter employers must apply leave time/job retention policies as if the cancer were a line of duty injury. 
(4) Employer-sponsored retirement plans and Florida Statutes would consider death/disability from these cancers to be incurred in the line of duty. 
(5) Employers must provide firefighters diagnosed with cancer with a one-time $25,000
payment upon a cancer diagnosis in lieu of a work comp settlement. 
(6) The bill restriction these benefits to firefighters with at least 5 years of service and who have not used tobacco in the prior 5 years, and these firefighters cannot have had other employment in workplaces with a proven higher risk of cancer. 
(7) The bill provides for cancer coverage to be carried into retirement (up to 10 years).
The effective date of the bill is 7/1/2019.
 
HB 441 E911 Systems by Representative DuBose
This bill effects three areas of E911 systems:
(1) Text-to-911 - The final version of the bill requires each county to enact a system to allow text-to-911services by January 1, 2022.
(2) Transfer of 911 calls from one county to another – Currently, counties have limited capabilities to transfer 911 calls to other counties. The state must by February 1, 2020, to upgrade 911 public safety answering points to allow the transfer of an emergency call from any PSAP in the State to any other PSAP in the State.
(3) Direct radio communication between 911 public safety answering points and first responders – To address recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission concerning inter-agency communications and 911 call routing, the bill provides for direct radio communication between each PSAP and first responders outside the PSAP’s normal service area, for which the PSAP may reasonably receive 911 communications.  Each PSAP must be capable of immediately broadcasting 911 communications or public safety information over the primary radio dispatch channels of each police, fire, and emergency medical service agency in the county it serves, except in those first responders service areas where the PSAP cannot reasonably receive 911 calls. The sheriff of each county must facilitate the development and execution of written interlocal agreements between first responder agencies within a county to establish the protocols by which a PSAP will directly provide notice of an emergency by radio to the on-duty personnel of a first responder agency for which the PSAP does not provide primary dispatch functions.   Each primary first responder agency, PSAP, and dispatch center within each county shall train all applicable personnel on the radio functionality and how to readily access the necessary dispatch channels in order to accomplish the above. The deadline for the direct radio communications component is January 1, 2020.
 
HB 487 Carrying of Firearms by Tactical Medical Professionals by Representative Smith
In short, SWAT medics were required to complete the law enforcement academy in order to carry a weapon during SWAT operations; this bill eliminates that requirement.  This bill defines a "tactical medical professional" as a paramedic, a physician, or an osteopathic physician who is appointed to a law enforcement tactical team to medical services at high-risk incidents.  The bill allows a tactical medical professional to possess and use a firearm in the same manner as a law enforcement officer while actively operating in direct support of a tactical operation by a law enforcement agency if the tactical medical professional has an active concealed weapons permit, has successfully completes a firearms safety training and tactical training as established or designated by the appointing law enforcement and participates in annual firearm training and tactical training.  The bill allows a tactical medical professional to use any force which he or she reasonably believes is necessary to defend himself or herself or another from bodily harm while operating as part of a law enforcement tactical team.  The bill grants the same immunities and privileges as a law enforcement officer in a civil or criminal action arising out of a tactical law enforcement incident.  This bill does not authorize a tactical medical professional to carry, transport, or store any firearm or ammunition on any fire apparatus or EMS vehicle. This bill is effective 7/1/2019.
 
HB 595 Alcohol or Drug Overdose Prosecutions by Representative Silvers
This bill has a small part within it that touches emergency medical service providers,  The bill grants immunity to a person who seeks medical assistance for the individual experiencing, or believed to be experiencing, an alcohol-related or a drug-related overdose; however, that person must remain at the scene until emergency medical services personnel arrive and must cooperate with the emergency medical services personnel.
 
HB 983 Ratification of Rules of the Department of Financial Services by Representative Casello
Effective October 1, 2018, workers’ compensation wage replacement benefits are provided in specified circumstances for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suffered by a first responder, regardless of whether the individual’s PTSD is accompanied by a physical injury requiring medical treatment. In response to this, the Department of Financial Services adopted a rule, as required by law, to specify the types of third-party injuries qualifying as grievous bodily harm of a nature that shocks the conscience for the purposes of allowing wage replacement benefits for first responder PTSD. The rule must be ratified by the Legislature to become effective, and accordingly, this legislation ratifies Rule 69L-3.009, Florida Administrative Code.
 
HB 1393 Department of Financial Services by Representative Clemons
This bill is the agency bill for the Department of Financial Services and thus covers a wide range of issues.  There are several specific issues that affect the fire service.
(1) The bill creates a Uniform Fire Alarm Permit Application that must be filed along with any drawing, plan, and supporting documentation required by a local enforcement agency for a project for which a plan review or fire alarm permit is required.  The Uniform Fire Alarm Permit Application may be submitted electronically or by facsimile.  The Uniform Fire Alarm Permit Application must contain the specific information within the statute, in a substantially similar form as within the statute.  The FFCA opposed this provision of the bill.  However, we feel that the portion of the bill that allows a local enforcement agency to require supporting documentation eases the impact.
(2) The bill directs the State Fire Marshal’s Office to adopt rules to implement a uniform summary inspection report and submission procedures to be used by all third-party vendors and local authorities having jurisdiction for the inspection of fire control systems, fire hydrants, and fire protection systems.  The rule cannot require a contractor to submit the information contained within the detailed inspection report unless the information is required to be included in the uniform summary inspection report.  The bill also provides that the local authority having jurisdiction may accept these uniform summary inspection reports by United States mail, by hand delivery, by electronic submission, or through a third-party vendor that collects the reports on behalf of the local authority having jurisdiction.
(3) The bill directs the Division of State Fire Marshal to adopt rules to establish employers' cancer prevention best practices related to personal protective equipment, decontamination, fire suppression equipment, and fire stations.  This is the same language found in SB 426.
 
SB 1460 Stroke Centers by Senator Book
This bill adds a third class of Stroke Center, Thrombectomy-capable Stroke
Center, to the existing primary and compressive stroke center designations. The bill creates a statewide stroke registry containing nationally recognized stroke performance measures.  Emergency Medical Service providers are not mandated to submit data to the new stroke registry.  Medical directors of emergency medical services provider must develop and implement assessment, treatment, and transport-destination protocols for stroke patients that consider the capability of an emergency receiving facility to improve outcomes for those patients suspected of having an emergent large vessel occlusion.
 
SB 2500 Appropriations – State’s General Appropriations (Budget) Bill
The State Appropriation Bill contained many line items that are applicable to the fire service.  The most important of which is funding for the Medicaid Public Emergency Medical Transport program.
 
Medicaid PEMT certified public expenditure program...........................................$21,191,500
Medicaid PEMT intergovernmental transfer program …………………………......……$68,595,211
The Agency for Health Care Administration shall seek a state plan amendment/waiver to implement this program pursuant to 42 CFR 433.51. Payments to providers under this section of proviso is contingent upon the nonfederal share being provided through intergovernmental transfers in the Grants and Donations Trust Fund.
 
BRIDG - Fire Safety Program ..................................................................................... 250,000
Brooksville Replacement of Fire Trucks and Equipment ............................................. 325,000
Calhoun County Volunteer Fire Department Equipment ………………………………........240,000
Canaveral Port Authority - Enhanced Fireboat ........................................................ 1,500,000
Charlotte County Airport Rescue and Firefighter Training Prop .................................. 500,000
Jacksonville Fire Gear Extractors and Dryers ...............................................................278,621
North River Fire District DHS/FEMA PSGP Grant ........................................................... 80,000
Apopka Fire Station 6 .................................................................................................500,000
Baker County Central Fire Station ...............................................................................811,949
Bonifay Fire Department Expansion............................................................................ 854,430
Bronson Fire Station Replacement Project ...................................................................900,000
Cedar Hammock Fire Control District Regional Training Tower ................................1,000,000
Coral Gables Public Safety Building and Regional EOC ..............................................1,000,000
Dunedin EOC/Fire Training Facility ..........................................................................1,000,000
Marco Island - Barrier Island Emergency Services Fire Services ....................................500,000
Midway Fire District ....................................................................................................500,000
Ocean City - Wright Fire Department/Northwest Florida State .....................................500,000
Pembroke Pines Fire Station 69 Project ........................................................................500,000
 
Firefighter assistance grant program from insurance regulatory trust fund………..….1,000,000
Funds for the Firefighter Assistance Grant Program and shall be awarded to entities pursuant to section 633.135, Florida Statutes.
 
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center - firefighters cancer research……………......1,000,000
The nonrecurring funds provided to the University of Miami - Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center for the purpose of Firefighter Cancer Research. The funds shall be utilized to: expand firefighters access to cancer screenings across the state; enable prevention and earlier detection of the disease; identify exposures that account for increased cancer risk; and field test new technology and methods that measure exposure in the field. The University of Miami - Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center shall develop a report on cancer research outcomes and cancer mitigation efforts being examined. The report shall be submitted to the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Governor by June 15, 2020 (Senate Form 1215) (HB 4091).
 
Forestry Wildfire Protection/Suppression Equipment 
From Agricultural Emergency Eradication Trust Fund………………………………...........3,000,000
From Incidental Trust Fund…………………………………….…………………............……..…156,868
From Land Acquisition Trust Fund …………………………………………….…............……4,420,570
(Note: This funding will allow Forestry to replace one of their aging 1960's era helicopters.)
.
From the nonrecurring funds from the General Revenue Fund: 
Brevard Emergency Operations Center Construction ................................................... 513,500
City of LaBelle Civic Center Emergency Generator ......................................................... 65,000
City of LaBelle City Hall Emergency Generator ............................................................... 45,000
Emergency Response and Operation Center Improvement .........................................1,072,000
City of Hollywood Disaster Recovery Center Generator ................................................ 150,000
Southwest Florida Regional Emergency Shelter ......................................................... 8,000,000
 
From the funds in Specific Appropriation 1281, nonrecurring general revenue funds are provided to the following projects:
D/S Gentry Regional Public Safety Training Center....................................................... 400,000
 
Funds in Specific Appropriation 1286A are provided for the following fixed capital outlay projects: 
D/S Gentry Regional Public Safety Training Center ................................................... 4,570,000
Public Safety Training Facility …………………………………………………………...........….. 965,000
 

SB 7098 Death Benefits Committee Bill by Governmental Oversight and Accountability
This bill implements Amendment 7 to the State Constitution, which was approved by the voters in November 2018 to require the payment of death benefits to the survivors of certain first responders.  The bill expands the death benefits currently provided to firefighters and adds paramedics and emergency medical technicians to those eligible for death benefits.  The bill increases the amount of the benefit to $75,000 when a firefighter, paramedic, or emergency medical technician is accidentally killed or receives an accidental bodily injury that results in the loss of the individual’s life.  The bill provides for an additional $75,000 when an eligible firefighter, paramedic, or emergency medical technician is accidentally killed in the above manner and the accidental death occurs as a result of the response to an emergency.  If a firefighter, paramedic, or emergency medical technician is unlawfully and intentionally killed in the line of duty or is injured in the line of duty by an unlawful and intentional act of another person and dies as a result of such injury the total amount of $225,000 is paid.  If an eligible firefighter, paramedic, or emergency medical technician is killed in the line of duty the state will waive certain educational expenses for the child or spouse of a deceased first responder to attend expenses attend a state career center, a Florida College System institution, or a state university.  This bill is effective on July 1, 2019.
 
HB 7103 Community Development and Housing Committee Bill by Commerce Committee
This comprehensive bill deals with many different issues, most of which are not related to the fire service.  This bill was used as the vehicle to deal with the upcoming deadline to retrofit high-rise condominiums with a fire sprinkler system or an engineered life safety system.  The deadline has been moved from December 31, 2019, to December 31, 2023.  It also included a provision that prevents local authorities having jurisdiction from requiring retrofitting of common areas with handrails and guardrails before the end of 2024. The bill also requires the State Fire Marshal issue a data call to all local fire officials to collect data regarding high-rise condominiums greater than 75 feet in height which have not retrofitted with a fire sprinkler system or an engineered life safety system and a report all data must be compiled by July 1, 2020.
 
HB 7125 Public Safety Committee Bill by Judiciary Committee
This bill is an Omnibus Criminal Justice Reform Bill that deals with many different issues, most of which are not related to the fire service.  However, the bill contains a provision that allows the Florida Forestry Service Division and the Division of State Fire Marshal to develop a program to train and certify inmates as firefighters. The program should include, but not be limited to, certification of inmates as state forest staff trained to help protect homes, forestland, and natural resources from the effects of wildfires throughout the state.
 
Medicaid Public Emergency Medical Transportation (PEMT) Reimbursement Program Update
The Florida Fire Chiefs Association was able to obtain a significant expansion to the Medicaid Public Emergency Medical Transportation (PEMT) Reimbursement Program.  Last year, we secured $35 million to provide reimbursement to governmental ambulance service providers who transported Medicaid fee for service ambulance patients; this was under the certified public expenditure (CPE) program.  More and more Medicaid patients in the state are being moved into the Managed Care system. These patients have been excluded from the CPE reimbursement programs.  The FFCA was able to secure authorization to establish an intergovernmental transfer program through the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and an appropriation of $68.6 million for reimbursement when governmental ambulance service providers provide ambulance transport for Medicaid managed care patients.  This is in addition to $21.2 million that will be available for reimbursement under the CPE program, with the total reimbursement amount being $89,786,711.
The PEMT Managed Care reimbursement program will require an intergovernmental transfer of funds from the governmental ambulance service provider to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), and those funds are then used to draw down funds from the federal government as “match” funding.  For example, a governmental ambulance service provider would transfer $1 and then get back $1.61.  The program will also require a Letter of Agreement (LOA), which is a contract between AHCA and the governmental ambulance service provider.
The FFCA is working with our lobbyist and AHCA to finalize the operational details of the new Medicaid Public Emergency Medical Transportation (PEMT) Managed Care Patient Reimbursement Program using IGTs.  We will be hosting an information and education session in the latter part of July and will announce the date and location when finalized.
 
Legislation that did not Pass.
Several of the bills that the FFCA was tracking did not pass out of both houses and thus died during this session.  These bills should be noted as they will often appear again in the next session.
 
Medical Services and Insurance - This was an attempt to adopt a statewide fee schedule for emergency transport and treatment during transport by providers licensed under chapter 401 of 200 percent of Medicare.
 
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - This was an attempt to amend 633.406, changing the term from Forestry to Wildland Firefighter certificate of compliance; and to amend 633.408 requirements for forestry (Wildland) firefighters by reducing the current mandatory 206 hour minimum structural fire training course to 40 hours minimum training.
 
Peer Support for First Responders - This would have defined "Peer-to-peer support" to mean any conversation or communication between a first responder and a person who is not a health care practitioner but who has experience working as or with a first responder regarding any physical or emotional conditions or issues associated with the first responder's employment.  The legislation would limit when a person who provides peer-to-peer support to a first responder would be required to testify in any civil, criminal, administrative, or disciplinary proceeding or otherwise divulge information obtained during such peer-to-peer support.
 
Emergency Medical Services – This is legislation proposed by the FFCA that would amend Florida State Statute 401 to authorize a paramedic or emergency medical technician to provide other treatment and transport options for patients; to allow Medical Directors to establish the minimum equipment carried on ambulances; to revise the requirements for ambulance vehicle design and construction; and to allow the Department of Health to adopt rules governing the use of telemedicine by EMS.  It would also provide for immunity from liability for law enforcement personnel providing emergency examination and treatment of incapacitated persons.  In addition, it would correct some statutory language in s. 893.05, F.S to specifically authorizing a certified paramedic to administer a controlled substance under the supervision of certain health care practitioners.
 
Expanded Uses of Unmanned Aircraft – This legislation would have exempted firefighters who, in the course of their duties, used an Unmanned Aircraft to record video footage.
 
Firefighters' Bill of Rights – This legislation would have revised the Firefighters' Bill of Rights.  The FFCA was opposed to how this legislation was written but was working with the Florida Professional Firefighters on some acceptable alternative language.
 
If you have any questions about this year’s legislative session or
any particular legislation, feel free to call or email:
Darrel Donatto, 1st Vice-President
Florida Fire Chiefs Association
advocacy@ffca.org
561-719-3517
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