Randy Fine bill aims to make waterways – and loan terms – crystal clear


representing Randy good has a beak that would kill two birds with one stone.

HB 387 would help improve water quality by enabling property owners to take out loans under the Property Assessed Clean Energy program for environmental mitigation projects such as septic tank-to-sewer conversions or advanced wastewater treatment systems. wastewater on site.

The Property Assessed Clean Energy program, better known as PACE, is a fundraising vehicle that allows consumers to reimburse the cost of improvements through assessments on their property tax bill. As the name suggests, the main focus of the program is on energy efficiency improvements such as installing solar panels, although storm protection projects are also eligible.

“Everyone in Brevard County wants a clean Indian River Lagoon, but for years my constituents have told me they don’t just have thousands of dollars to spend to hook their house up to a sewer. or modernize their septic tank. HB 387 will allow these consumers to obtain special and secured loans, often at reduced interest rates, to help them finance these essential projects, which will benefit all of us, ”said the Republican of Palm Bay .

“During my four years in the legislature, I brought back millions of dollars in public funds for lagoon improvement, freed up tens of millions of dollars of available local funding, and dramatically increased penalties against local politicians who dump millions of gallons of raw sewage into our waterways. This bill represents the next step on this journey to save our precious lagoon by making it easier and cheaper for owners who want to do the right thing.

While PACE’s funding has helped many Floridians improve their homes and reduce their carbon footprint, it has not gone without criticism.

The main complaint is borrowers’ lack of financial literacy, and it’s not their fault – financing is just different from the types of auto, home or other loans that consumers are more familiar with. The lack of understanding has led to a rude awakening of some borrowers when their tax bill arrives.

Fine’s Bill solves this problem with a series of consumer protections.

Frontal protections include standardized financial information that clearly defines payment terms; requiring lenders to obtain oral confirmation that the borrower understands the terms; and requires a certificate of product completion before money changes hands.

The bill would also give borrowers three days to opt out of the deal, similar to termination rights for other large purchases.

On the lender side, PACE administrators need to develop criteria showing that borrowers can afford the financing; exercise due diligence before approving contractors; and prohibit sales agents from making misleading statements.

Although the list of regulations is long, the bill got its start with strong support from Ygrene Energy Fund – one of the major players in PACE funding.

“This legislation will significantly improve an already hugely successful policy to ensure its lasting impact and availability for years to come. It ensures that PACE remains a strong and viable program by further protecting consumers, protecting properties and giving homeowners peace of mind when making essential upgrades to their property. We look forward to continuing our important work with the Florida legislature, ”said Ygrene CEO. Jim Reinhart noted.

The bill also fits with the President of the Senate Wilton simpson and President of the Chamber Chris stretchesshared vision of environmental policy. Presidents have taken a strong stand on tackling sea level rise and protecting Florida’s coastline in a joint editorial Last year.

Their message: “Through careful planning and strong partnerships, Florida can be a national example of resilient communities, where water remains the engine of our state’s prosperity and the only thing the rising tide does is lift all boats. “

By combining accessible funding and consumer protection, Fine’s Bill has the potential to be such a partnership.

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