Miami (CBS Miami) — Governor Ron DeSantis responded to criticism that he did not do enough during the legislative session to help pass a bill to make apartments safer after the Surfside collapse.
“In fact, when we were literally there, when Surfside happened, I said, ‘Whatever needs to be done, I want to support him,'” DeSantis said during a Tuesday morning news conference.
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A bill that would have provided sweeping repairs to improve inspections and ensure that critical repairs to the building were done in a timely manner died out when State Representative Danny Perez and State Senator Jennifer Bradley were unable to resolve differences in their respective bills.
3.5 million Florida residents live in apartments, and 60 percent of their buildings were built more than 30 years ago.
Negotiations broke down between the House and Senate over several issues, including whether the buildings had the ability to waive the collection of reserve funds — money that was supposed to be earmarked for important repairs. Perez didn’t want to allow any waivers while the Senate didn’t revoke the ability to waive the reserves, but he made it more difficult and provided greater oversight.
“We wanted to be able to sign something that would have an impact,” DeSantis said. “But the idea that I was somehow trying not to support her just wasn’t true.”
The problem was not whether DeSantis would sign a bill, but rather he or his staff worked with lawmakers to come up with solutions.
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While the governor was active in pushing other issues through the legislature, he remained silent about any reforms at Surfside, drawing a reprimand from Martin Langesfeld, whose sister Nicole and husband Louis both died in the meltdown.
He didn’t do anything at all,” Langsfield said. Once he left the cameras, maybe three weeks after the breakup, he left. We have asked to meet him countless times. Many families have asked to meet him and he is acting like we don’t exist.”
DeSantis denied contempt for the victims’ families, including Langesfeld.
“I’ve met him a few times,” DeSantis said. “I have met many families many times. I have never in any way indicated opposition to anything.”
On Tuesday, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz released a letter signed by other members of Congress calling on DeSantis to find a way to address safety reforms immediately. The governor said that if lawmakers could agree on something, he would be willing to include it in a private session.
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“If they can do it, then surely,” DeSantis said. “But you know, they have to agree on something. It’s the same thing we want with insurance. So the moment they tell me this is something they have the ability to cross, we can add it.”