After four years of infighting, and with the nightmare of Hurricane Andrew's $16 billion devastation in mind, Florida's legislature adopted a new statewide Unified Building Code this May.

But it's hardly the final version. Although the new code is scheduled to go into effect on July 1 of next year, the 2001 legislature will review it when it meets in January.

A main source of contention is the Panhandle Protection Provision. Under the code, all new construction in areas subject to wind speeds of more than 120 mph must comply with the new state regulations. But in the Panhandle, the full code will apply only to a 1-mile strip along the coast. That means that a Panhandle home could be built in an area subject to 140 mph winds without fully meeting the code.

State Senator Charlie Clary, who fought for the exemption, says the Panhandle hasn't experienced a severe hurricane in more than 100 years and that complying with the code could boost the cost of a home by $15,000.

Code revisions are also being discussed because a lot of interests are unhappy. Homebuilders consider it too restrictive; insurance companies want it strengthened; construction manufacturers want to be assured that their products will meet the code; and some county building code officials--particularly in hurricane-prone Miami-Dade and Broward counties--fear that certain aspects of their tough local codes, such as product approval, could be preempted by a state code.

"No one got everything they wanted," says Representative Lee Constantine, who sponsored the bill and worked to reconcile the nearly 80 special interests involved. Even with minor revisions, its strength, Constantine notes, is that it ensures "a single educational system, a single accountability system and a single interpretation."