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Legislation would make major changes to Florida's building code

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Legislation making major alterations to Florida’s building code got bundled with more than a dozen other changes in construction law this past session.
Now, a coalition of building officials and people tied to the insurance industry fear the legislation could lead to a patchwork of requirements and higher insurance costs.
When Hurricane Ivan stormed into the Panhandle in 2004, it leveled a 1950s-era brick house, while a newer home right next door sustained little, if any, damage. The difference was stronger building codes following 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.
House Bill 1021 is currently on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.
Florida home builders pushed for the legislation, which they said would streamline future changes to the building code.
“It doesn’t (weaken) the code in any shape, form or fashion,” said Rusty Payton, the CEO of the Florida Home Builders Association. “All it does is change the process by which we adopt future changes.”
The legislation would allow Florida to pick and choose what new items it wants to add from the code. Building officials and insurance interests call it a disaster waiting to happen.
“If it becomes law, it will take Florida back to a system that led to death, billion-dollar losses and certain destruction,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.
But home builders disagree.
“We can not weaken water intrusion (and we) cannot weaken wind loads,” Payton said.
If the bill is signed, opponents said the state immediately would lose a $60 million discount on flood insurance.
“This isn’t a streamlining. This is an abandonment,” Chapman-Henderson said. “This is an abandonment of a system that has created the strongest building code in the country.”
The legislation contains about a dozen other changes to building and permitting laws, forcing the governor to weigh the overall impact of the legislation.
Florida’s emergency management director lobbied against the change, which was sponsored by lawmakers who, in their private lives, are home builders and roofing contractors.
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