Gov. Rick Scott, who often cites his concern for middle-class families, must soon decide whether to sign several bills that consumer activists say would make things worse for working people in Florida.
In the days ahead, Scott must decide whether to sign or veto bills dealing with evicting tenants from apartments, speeding up foreclosure cases in the courts, increasing consumer loan interest rates, altering legal protections for car buyers and banning local laws that require sick leave for employees.
All five were championed by Scott’s fellow Republicans in the Legislature in the spring session, and all five are generating a steady stream of emails to Scott.
“All of these bills erode basic consumer protections,” said Alice Vickers of the Florida Consumer Action Network. “We’ve been able to stop them in the past, but we were fighting an uphill battle this year.”
One bill would change the law to allow landlords to evict tenants if they make partial rent payments, and permit evictions for two minor violations such as parking a car in the wrong space. Sheriff’s deputies could issue eviction notices on weekends and holidays.
The bill (HB 77) was co-sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who manages rental properties, and passed both the House and Senate by wide margins.
Miami attorney Arthur Rosenberg of Florida Legal Services, on behalf of low-income renters, urged a veto, telling Scott that the bill eliminates a rule that landlords keep window screens in good repair, and only requires screen repair or replacement once a year. The group noted that the foreclosure crisis has resulted in a surge of people living in rental housing, about 5 million people — some of whom rely on good screens in buildings without air conditioning.
Joe Farrell of the Pinellas Realtor Organization in Clearwater urged Scott to sign the bill, saying it “aims to protect both landlords and tenant.” Marisa Price, who works in the rental housing industry in Orlando, wrote Scott to say the bill ensures “fairness” and clarifies confusion in current law.
The other bills awaiting Scott’s approval would affect Floridians’ pocketbooks in various ways.
Several working mothers from the Orlando area delivered 11,000 petitions to Scott’s office this week urging a veto.
Scott has until June 12 to act on the eviction and foreclosure bills. He has yet to formally receive the other bills; when he does, he will have 15 calendar days to decide whether to sign or veto them.
Times/Herald staff writer Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report. Contact Steve Bousquet at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.