(1) To facilitate the prompt settlement of claims for additional compensation arising out of construction and maintenance contracts between the department and the various contractors with whom it transacts business, the Legislature does hereby establish the State Arbitration Board, referred to in this section as the “board.” For the purpose of this section, the term “claim” means the aggregate of all outstanding claims by a party arising out of a construction or maintenance contract. Every contractual claim in an amount up to $250,000 per contract or, at the claimant’s option, up to $500,000 per contract or, upon agreement of the parties, up to $1 million per contract that cannot be resolved by negotiation between the department and the contractor shall be arbitrated by the board after acceptance of the project by the department. As an exception, either party to the dispute may request that the claim be submitted to binding private arbitration. A court of law may not consider the settlement of such a claim until the process established by this section has been exhausted.
(2) The board shall be composed of three members. One member shall be appointed by the head of the department, and one member shall be elected by those construction or maintenance companies who are under contract with the department. The third member shall be chosen by agreement of the other two members. Whenever the third member has a conflict of interest regarding affiliation with one of the parties, the other two members shall select an alternate member for that hearing. The head of the department may select an alternative or substitute to serve as the department member for any hearing or term. Each member shall serve a 2-year term. The board shall elect a chair, each term, who shall be the administrator of the board and custodian of its records.
(3) A hearing may be requested by the department or by a contractor who has a dispute with the department which, under the rules of the board, may be the subject of arbitration. The request is to be made to the board within 820 days after the final acceptance of the work for all contracts entered into after June 30, 1993. The board shall conduct the hearing within 45 days of the request. The party requesting the board’s consideration shall give notice of the hearing to each member. If the board finds that a third party is necessary to resolve the dispute, the board may vote to dismiss the claim, which may thereafter be pursued in accordance with the laws of the State of Florida.
(4) All members shall be necessary to conduct a meeting. Upon being called into session, the board shall promptly proceed to a determination of the issue or issues in dispute.
(5) When a valid contract is in effect defining the rights, duties, and liabilities of the parties with respect to any matter in dispute, the board shall have power only to determine the proper interpretation and application of the contract provisions which are involved. Any investigation made by less than the whole membership of the board shall be by authority of a written directive by the chair, and such investigation shall be summarized in writing and considered by the board as part of the record of its proceedings.
(6) The board shall hand down its order within 60 days after it is called into session. If all three members of the board do not agree, the order of the majority will constitute the order of the board.
(7) The members of the board may receive compensation for the performance of their duties hereunder, from administrative fees received by the board, except that no employee of the department may receive compensation from the board. The compensation amount shall be determined by the board, but may not exceed $125 per hour, up to a maximum of $1,000 per day for each member authorized to receive compensation. This section does not prevent the member elected by construction or maintenance companies from being an employee of an association affiliated with the industry, even if the sole responsibility of that member is service on the board. Travel expenses for the industry member may be paid by an industry association, if necessary. The board may allocate funds annually for clerical and other administrative services.
(8) The party requesting arbitration shall pay a fee to the board in accordance with a schedule established by it, not to exceed $500 per claim which is $25,000 or less, not to exceed $1,000 per claim which is in excess of $25,000 but not exceeding $50,000, not to exceed $1,500 per claim which is in excess of $50,000 but not exceeding $100,000, not to exceed $2,000 per claim which is in excess of $100,000 but not exceeding $200,000, not to exceed $3,000 per claim which is in excess of $200,000 but not exceeding $300,000, not to exceed $4,000 per claim which is in excess of $300,000 but not exceeding $400,000, and not to exceed $5,000 per claim which is in excess of $400,000, to cover the cost of administration and compensation of the board.
(9) The board in its order may apportion the fee set out in subsection (8), and the cost of recording and preparing a transcript of the hearing, among the parties in accordance with the board’s finding of liability.