April 2, 2003
Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings announced that “…any legislation dealing with workers’ compensation this year must include provisions that will create the equivalent of a 15% roll back in rates.” Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), the state’s major business organization, totally agrees with Lieutenant Governor Jennings, who is one of the most knowledgeable elected officials in Florida regarding the workers’ compensation law and its cost.
As a member of the House of Representatives, The Florida Senate, and as President of the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Jennings, during her entire career, was out front leading the way for workers’ compensation reform to provide adequate benefits to injured workers and keep the cost down for employers.
AIF President, Jon L. Shebel , stated that, “It is very significant that Lieutenant Governor Jennings has entered the fray in workers’ compensation at this time because everybody knows that she has been a leader in this area of the law, and her comments relating to a 15% roll back in rates could not be more timely.”
Shebel pointed out that the Coalition of Business and Insurance Industry (the Coalition) has worked for several years to put together legislation that will reduce rates, and at the same time increase benefits in needed areas of the law for injured workers. This bill mirrors closely the key recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on Workers’ Compensation and also appears to express the views of practically everyone except the workers’ compensation trial lawyers who are the major problem in the system.
Bills filed by Representative Connie Mack (R-Ft. Lauderdale) and Senator JD Alexander (R-Winter Haven) encompass the main elements of the Governor’s Commission and the Coalition recommendations and have the highest cost savings of any bills filed thus far. Shebel stated that, “We believe the Mack and Alexander bills reflect the key issues identified by the Governor’s Commission, the House Select Committee, the business community and the insurance industry and could be crafted to roll rates back by 15%.”
The bill filed by Representative Kim Berfield, Chair of the House Insurance Committee, (R-Clearwater) and Senator Charlie Clary (R-Destin) will increase rates by 25 - 30 % according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).
Lieutenant Governor Jennings, by going public and setting the 15% roll back in rates as the goal of the Bush-Jennings administration, has done a great service to injured workers and employers, both of whom would benefit by the passage of legislation which would bring about this level of a roll back in rates.
There is statutory language available at this point in time, namely the bills by Representative Mack and Senator Alexander along with some of the work done by Representative Dennis Ross (R-Lakeland), who chaired the House Select Committee on Workers’ Compensation, that could be crafted to bring about a 15% cut in the rates for employers while at the same time increasing the benefits in needed areas for injured workers.
“Hopefully the public entry of Lieutenant Governor Jennings into this area will send a signal to her Republican colleagues in the House and Senate that it is now time to move forward with a bill that truly brings about significant rate cuts and increases benefits in the needed areas for injured workers,” stated Shebel.
The trial lawyers, who in many cases derive more in attorney’s fees based on an hourly rate than their injured worker clients receive in benefits, are the only ones standing in the way of needed workers’ compensation reform. The trial lawyers have blamed employers, insurance companies and even their own clients for the problems in the workers’ compensation law, but all valid data shows the trial lawyers are the main cost drivers.
Associated Industries of Florida is a statewide employers association representing 11,000 businesses that range from large multinational corporations to small family-owned enterprises. AIF is commonly known as “The Voice of Florida Business.”