Senate against shutter mandate for coastal homes
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 30, 2007 at 11:43 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - A plan to force homeowners to install hurricane shutters in coastal areas looks like a long shot for passage after the state Senate criticized it Monday.
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Saying it could be another financial burden for Florida homeowners already dealing with rising taxes and insurance costs, the Senate came out strongly against the proposal to require homeowners with coastal property worth at least $300,000 to install the shutters if they want a permit to complete other work on their home.
The bill would also require the 1.3 million residents covered under the taxpayer-funded Citizens Insurance program to install the shutters to continue coverage.
Lawmakers argued the proposal, by Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, would be a particular burden to Florida's low-income and elderly residents.
"We're just making the shutter industry a lot of money,'' said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.
In other hurricane-related action Monday, Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a sales tax holiday designed to encourage Floridians to prepare for hurricane season.
From June 1 to June 12, merchants will charge no sales tax on items such as cell phone chargers, flashlights, generators and coolers.
Senators said they supported efforts such as a tax holiday to entice people to prepare for storms. But they said the state shouldn't force people to pay for shutters.
On an average home, shutters can cost anywhere from $2,200 to $15,000.
Legislators in January passed a law that requires any new homes built in the high-risk areas to have shutters.
Posey wants the same requirement to kick in on existing coastal homes worth at least $300,000 once a resident tries to pull a permit for a new roof, hot water heater or lanai installation.
He says it's the only way to make sure the state is prepared when another major hurricane hits.
Otherwise, Florida could end up bankrupt, he said.
"This is not something that I enjoy doing,'' Posey said. "It's not any fun. Nobody enjoys buying shutters.''
While they slammed the shutter idea, senators did agree that Floridians in coastal areas who want to put on a new roof should be required to build a stronger one.
But the debate also highlighted the chaos that can reign in Tallahassee during the last few days of the legislative session.
While they condemned the idea Monday, senators last Friday sent to the House an amendment to a building code revision bill that contained the shutter requirement Posey wanted.
Posey said that means his shutter plan isn't dead yet, even though he admitted "everybody's against it.''
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