Measures aimed at speeding up the home foreclosure process, keeping college students from dropping out and increasing the amount the state must pay into employee retirement accounts were among those the Legislature passed on the last day of the lawmaking session. They were among the flurry of bills pinging back and forth between the two chambers leading up to when the handkerchief drops.
The last day of session had lawmakers playing a game of hurry-up-and-wait, at times. In the Senate, President Don Gaetz asked for members’ patience to make sure the two chambers got the timing right in order to finish all business before the end of session.
“The landing is planned. We can see through the clouds. The airport is there. The lights are on. We’re about to drop the landing gear, but we just have to make sure that, before we do, that everything is lined up on the ground,” Gaetz said during a particularly long break on Friday morning.
Among the measures passing the Senate on Friday is one aimed speeding up the mortgage foreclosure process. In addition to requiring courts to act more quickly through parts of the foreclosure process, it also requires people challenging a foreclosure in court to show cause, which is a stricter standard than previously required. Sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) said, the bill is aimed at unclogging the backlog of foreclosure cases mucking up the court system.
“And I don’t think our real estate market will really start getting back to normal in Florida, with new home building and so forth, unless we can reduce this backlog,” he said. “I think we’ve added safeguards in this bill that, on balance, make it much more tilted toward consumers than it is the banks.
But Sen. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) said, it’s not the law causing the backlog, it’s the banks, slowing down their processing on purpose because they don’t want to release properties and flood the housing market. He says the bill hurts homeowners.
“And the ‘innocent people’ we’re protecting? Hedge funds. Flippers. Foreign investors. These aren’t families buying these houses in foreclosure, they’re sophisticated investors that know the risks they have. But the people who are losing their houses? They are our constituents. They are Florida’s families.”
The bill passed the Senate 26-13. Another bill passing the chamber on Friday was a sweeping education bill that, among other things, is aimed at keeping first-year college students in school.
Bill sponsor, Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) said, “A future should come out of the college system, as opposed to a bad statistic.”>>
He said, the measure allows students to earn college credit while catching up on skills they might have missed in high school. They could take a couple of weeks of fractions training, for example. Meanwhile, the bill does away with non-credit remedial classes, which he said, have been shown not to work.
“Students are, in an effort to further their future, going into our open-door college system, and getting trapped in the vestibule. And they’re dropping out at higher rates in that first year or immediately after that first year because they’re not earning credits, they’re not working toward an accomplished goal,” he said. “But a lot of them could. A lot of them could be successful.”
The Senate also passed two measures that benefit state employees. One requires the state to contribute slightly more to their employee retirement accounts. The other, which is a requirement of the federal health overhaul law, requires the state to provide health insurance to employees working more than 30 hours.
And Florida shoppers, take note. The Senate passed a bill allowing for three-day tax holiday on clothes and school supplies. If the governor does not veto this provision, shoppers should mark their calendars for August 2.