As the Florida State Legislature prepares to begin its 2020 session, it has introduced two industry-backed bills — one meant to ease the state’s dearth of pool/spa subcontractors, the other to increase the swimming literacy among its population.
The Florida Swimming Pool Association and its nonprofit foundation, Florida Swims, has also advocated House Bill 4245, by Clay Yarborough (R-Duval), which would grant the foundation a $200,000 appropriation to help fund and expand childhood learn-to-swim programs in Broward, Hillsborough, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
“This is a first step in a larger push to expand access to childhood swimming lessons,” said Dallas Thiesen, government affairs manager for the Florida Swimming Pool Association (FSPA). “Our ultimate goal is to make sure every child in Florida has an opportunity to take swim lessons before they enter kindergarten.”
If the appropriation is granted, Florida Swims plans to start by identifying existing programs that could potentially expand throughout the state or region and then issue them funds to expand.
FSPA had originally explored the possibility of a bill that required swimming instruction as a prerequisite for entering kindergarten. “Through conversations with legislators and leadership, it was determined that an appropriation is the best approach,” Thiesen said.
FSPA also supports a bill specific to pool and spa contracting. Senate Bill 1102 by Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota/Charlotte) would exempt pool/spa subcontractors from the state’s specialty license requirement. While about 3,800 licensed pool contractors pull permits in the Sunshine State, only about 351 subcontractors have received their specialty licenses, FSPA reports.
“It’s created a shortage of subcontractors ... because the state subcontracting licenses are very underutilized,” Thiesen said. “You have pool builders and pool service contractors who are having to wait weeks or months for subcontractors to become available ...”
Many subs bypass the licensing requirements because they are nearly as difficult as those for a pool/spa builder. Subs often figure if they must go to such effort, they may as well go into building whole projects, or take a risk and work illegally. “Right now the incentive structure is backwards,” Thiesen said.
As it already stands, pool builders bear ultimate responsibility for the workmanship on a project, so FSPA doesn’t believe such a change would negatively impact the projects. “While this bill, I think, is a positive step for the industry, it’s also great for consumers, because they’re going to get their jobs done more efficiently, on time and done better,” Thiesen said.
Separately designated trades, such as electricians and plumbers, will need to have their specialty license to handle work in the breaker box or to the main line.
FSPA is hoping the legislature’s current desire to streamline regulation will help. “We are cautiously optimistic,” Thiesen said. “It’s still going to take a lot of work. It’s not a slam-dunk by any means. But we think it’s something that fits into the regulatory mindset of the legislature and the governor in this term ...”
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