Not only was Charlie Crist the Florida governor who signed a bill which repealed a regulation some are speculating may have prevented the collapse of the Surfside condo building earlier this month, he also was not a Republican at the time he signed the repeal — he had recently changed his party affiliation to Independent —and he was using his signing of the bill to make political points with condo owners in mostly Democratic parts of the state for his upcoming run for the U.S. Senate.
On Thursday NBC and NBC 6 released a story with the headline Collapsed Florida tower could have been repaired faster under repealed law, experts say which drew quick fire for “shameful reporting” from the Governor’s office and others.
The story implies a 2008 state law, requiring condo associations to hire engineers or architects to submit reports, called “reserve studies,” might have prevented the cataclysmic collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside earlier this month had the law not been repealed in 2010 by the Republican led legislature and signed by the Republican Governor.
The reporters were criticized for not saying who the governor was at the time, letting readers to possibly believe it was Florida’s current governor, Ron DeSantis, when, in fact, it was Crist.
However, The Capitolist has learned the NBC 6 reporter, Phil Prazan, did in fact, say in an on-air report on Thursday that the repeal was “signed into law by then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who is now serving Florida’s 13th Congressional District and running for governor as a Democrat.”
While Prazan initially included the information naming Crist, he later collaborated with Jon Schuppe on the digital story and the information about Crist was omitted.
But, Prazan’s information on Crist’s political affiliation at the time was inaccurate.
Crist switched parties from Republican to Independent in late April of 2010, several months before his signing of the repeal. By the time Crist signed the repeal in June, he was actively campaigning for the U.S. Senate as an Independent.
In fact, he used this piece of legislation to “woo” democratic voters in his race for the U.S Senate, as first reported by Tallahassee Reports.
Reports from the Palm Beach Post on June 24, 2010, describe the governor as on “the photo op express…signing the same bill three times in a two-hour period.” He reportedly stopped in Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach and Delray Beach to “shake hands with residents who live in those heavily Democratic voting areas. The Republican-turned-independent is pushing hard for Democratic votes in his race for the U.S. Senate.”
The repeal bill, SB 1196, was signed on June 1, 2010. It came about in a time when foreclosures were mounting, following the 2009 housing crisis. Condo advocacy groups were urging Florida lawmakers to shift more of the burden of unpaid assessments to lenders. The associations faced budget shortfalls because of the increase in vacant units. The reduced revenue had resulted in the postponement of maintenance and other services.
The parts of the bill Crist campaigned on and which were widely covered by the media required lenders that foreclosed on condo units to cover 12 months of unpaid homeowner association assessments or one percent of the original mortgage debt, whichever was less. Previously, lenders had to pay six months of assessments or one percent of mortgage debt.
The measure also made it easier for condo boards to opt out of expensive fire sprinkler, smoke detector and elevator upgrades that had to be completed by 2014. Additionally, the bill added protections for bulk buyers of condo units and suspended voting rights for condo owners who were 90 days delinquent.
What was not not widely publicized at the time, in fact it’s hard to find any mention of it at all unless you go to the statutes itself, was the bill repealed a provision in Florida Statute 718.113(6), which required the condominium building to be inspected and the board to provide a report under seal of an architect or engineer authorized to practice in this state attesting to required maintenance, useful life, and replacement costs of the common elements. This statute was part of an earlier bill, HB 995, passed in 2008 and mentioned in the NBC story. Some believe if it had still been in effect, it may have prevented the collapse of the Champlain Tower South in Surfside earlier this month, according to the story.
Others, including DeSantis and those in the governor’s office, caution it is too early to determine the cause or place blame, until a thorough investigation into the collapse in Surfside is completed.
The 2010 SB1196 was sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats — then-Senators.Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, and Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and then-Representatives Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, Maria Lorts Sachs, D- Delray Beach, and Matt Hudson, R-Naples.
The Florida Senate approved the bill 38-0 in April 2010, while the House later voted in favor of it 107-4.