A new bill coming before the Florida legislature would require all pool service technicians statewide, including those who perform only chemical adjustments, to be swimming pool/spa servicing contractors.

Currently, Florida pool service techs who do no more than adjust chemicals and clean pools don’t need a special license from the state.

Senate Bill 156 has been filed, and Rep. Larry Ahern (R-FL 66th Dist.) is putting together the House’s version of the proposal.

“We’re fine-tuning it so it has the best chance to pass,” Ahern said.

Currently, a pool service tech must work for a licensed pool contractor for a year or be a college graduate in a related field, then complete a 60-hour course before being allowed to take the license exam. The proposal would eliminate the time and degree requirements, and substitute 20 additional hours of training. This would benefit a service tech who wants to be licensed, but can’t afford to give up their business to work for someone else for a year.

“We have a multitude of people out there cleaning pools who have viable businesses [and] don’t have an opportunity to get licenses because of the way it’s structured,” said Dominick Montanaro, a member of the Florida Swimming Pool Association’s service council and president of its Space Coast Chapter. “There are a lot of people who’d like to get this license, but don’t meet the criteria.”

Ahern, who had a pool service and retail business before entering politics, wants to ensure that beginners still have the opportunity to get into the industry. “A lot of us came in at the cleaning level,” he said. “You hate to lose that aspect of the business.”

The proposal also has the backing of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association. “We’re creating the course that these people would take,” said Todd Starner, IPSSA Chapter 11 president. “We’re going forward with the class and creating it with the idea the law will pass.” IPSSA’s Board of Regional Directors at its November meeting approved spending $43,000 to develop the course.

For his part, Starner is personally concerned that the plan might allow lightly experienced service techs to get in over their heads after being licensed. “Now they’ll have people with only a year of experience cleaning pools, and they’ll be able to do acid washes and remodels. I think it’ll make the pool industry look bad for a while until those guys are weeded out,” he said.

Taking the opposite point of view, Rick Schmitz said licensing would help the reputation of service techs. “It’s a great opportunity for consumers to have a little more confidence that the people who are working on their pools are going to be licensed and have to go through continuing education. I think it’s a benefit for everyone involved,” said Schmitz, who owns Paradise Pools in Jacksonville and is a member of FSPA.

Ahern agreed. “There’s somewhat of a public safety issue: Carrying chemicals with no training can be a bad idea,” he said.

Also in Florida, the state’s Swimming Pool Technical Advisory Committee recommended to the Florida Building Commission that it approve Addenda A to the building code, which would allow single-speed pumps of less than 1hp. Currently, such pumps are allowed only if they have a flow rate of 36 gallons per minute or less. Some had said the lower-flow pumps weren’t powerful enough to operate some equipment.

In addition, the Swimming Pool TAC also moved not to recommend to the commission that it adopt the International Swimming Pool and Spa Code at this time. The state’s recent changes to its swimming pool rules — including moving jurisdiction of building public pools from the state’s health department to building departments — contributed to this decision.

State officials will have an opportunity to change their minds in three years, when code revisions will be entertained once again.