Ana Maria Rodriguez again targets condo fraud, school zone speeders, PACE changes

There are many maxims that Doral Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez probably subscribed. One of them is certainly this: if it doesn’t work the first time, try, try again.

Of the many bills Rodriguez is submitting for the 2023 legislative session, those she is most passionate about are iterations of previous proposals that missed the proverbial finish line. This year she hopes they will break through.

The first on the list is SB950what Florida’s Property Assessed Clean Energy would change (TEMPO) program, a financing model that allows consumers to repay the cost of certain home improvements through assessments of their property tax bill.

As the name suggests, the program focuses primarily on home renovations for energy efficiency, such as solar panels and insulation. However, in recent years there have been moves at the state and local levels to expand the program to flood mitigation and septic tank conversion to sewers as eligible projects.

In recent years, Rodriguez and Republican Rep. Randy fine have led this effort in the legislature but have not yet managed to get it through.

They’re doing it again this year. Fine’s bill (HB669) is initially identical to that of Rodriguez.

In addition to expanding the fundable projects, SB 950 would give the program a new name — Resiliency Energy Environmental Florida (REEF) — and add several safeguards to protect homeowners who may not understand the costs they would incur if they participated.

According to the Pasco County Tax Collector, that’s a welcome solution mike pheasantwho told that Miami Herald Currently, there is “no oversight of PACE loans” in Florida.

And it has led to some worrying situations. In 2018, an octogenarian Miami Shores resident was named Julnor Jean installed solar panels in his home after speaking to a representative Ygrene Energy Fund, a company that provides PACE financing in Florida. The panel installations and hurricane security Jean opted for added more than $8,000 to his annual property tax bill. almost making the Social Security dependent homeowner homeless.

Rodriguez said her bill – which would require contractors to disclose more information to consumers in PACE/REEF transactions – would help prevent that. The bill would not change the funding model.

“The program has a bad reputation in some circles, and maybe there are some bad actors in that environment,” she said.

“The goal of this legislation is to take action against these bad actors and provide more consumer transparency. And as chairman of Environment and Natural Resources CommitteeI am very committed to helping our state help people convert as much of their property from septic tank to sewer as possible.”

Another measure Rodriguez has revived this year is SB1136which would create a “Condominium Fraud Investigation Pilot Program” within the Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Legal Affairs Division investigating condo-related wrongdoing in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Rodriguez, Chair of the Miami Dade County Legislative Delegation, submitted the same bill for last year’s regular meeting with support in the House of Representatives from Miramar Republican Rep. Tom Fabricio. Both bills died without a single hearing.

The program would create a condo fraud team composed of investigators with backgrounds in law enforcement, administration and finance. The team would respond to complaints of unscrupulous conduct and abuse of condo funds and would have the power to subpoena witnesses and examine records.

If the team found a reason, it would escalate the case to Moody’s Office for prosecution.

“I have tried to get this law passed on numerous occasions,” she said. “I would have liked to see that in the other reforms during this period Special session where we added condo inspection requirementsbut they didn’t want to add it, so we never did it.”

There are also SB588, which would help curb speeders in the school zone. The bill – on which the Republican rep. Traci Koester submitted a house attendant (HB657) for the upcoming session – would simply enable camera enforcement of speed limits in school zones.

Counties and municipalities could install radar detection devices in and around school safety zones to target motorists driving 10 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit. The systems could take photos or video of vehicles at the time of a violation. Cameras would only target speeders – not drivers who run red lights or commit other traffic violations.

A Version of the bill submitted by Rodriguez last session made it to the Senate before faltering. Similar legislation by former Democratic Rep. Nick Duran there was never a hearing of the committee in the lower house of the legislature.

“From what I’ve heard, it has a better chance this year in the House of Representatives,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is similarly optimistic SB54. The bill would change the source of funding for projects under the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, which uses about $20 million in state funds annually to address environmental and resilience issues in Monroe County.

These projects are currently financed from an annual allocation of funds by the legislature. SB 54 would instead receive the money through a recurring set-aside from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. As the name suggests, the fund helps local governments acquire, restore, manage and improve conservation and recreational areas.

Republican Rep. Jim Mooney of Islamorada, whose district includes the Florida Keys in Monroe and part of South Miami-Dade, filed the bill’s House Companion (HB135). He and Rodriguez, whose Senate district is the only one covering the Keys, filed the same bill last year, though neither bill went far.

Rodriguez also sponsored the measure in 2021 when Republican Rep. Rick Roth passed dual legislation.

“If we passed this law, we wouldn’t have to go to the legislature every year and ask for this money; it would just be automatically appropriated,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not easy to get money every year and this fund is important.”

The 2023 legislative session will take place from March 7th to May 5th.

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