Changes in Florida building code

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS DESK) - Legislation is making major changes to Florida's building code which was bundled with more than a dozen other changes in construction law this past session.

A coalition of building officials and insurance interests 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 this 1950's era brick house, while a newer home right next door sustained little if any damage. The difference: stronger building codes following 1992's Hurricane Andrew.

House Bill 1021 is on the governor's desk. Florida home builders pushed for the legislation, which they said streamlines future changes to the building code.

"It doesn't weaker the code in any shape, form, or fashion. All it does is change the process by which we adopt future changes," Rusty Payton, CEO Florida Home Builders Association, said.

The legislation would allow Florida to pick and choose what new items it wants to add to 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 lead to death, billion dollar losses, and certain destruction," Leslie Chapman-Henderson of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes said.

Home builders disagree, saying, "We can not weaken water intrusion, can not weaken wind loads."

If signed, opponents say the state would immediately lose a $60 million discount on flood insurance.

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.