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April 16, 2009

Although the Senate Judiciary Committee approved (7-2) the workers compensation bill, SB 2072 by Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples), the version of the bill that passed is not favorable to Florida’s employers.

As filed, the bill would have clarified the statutory ambiguity identified by the Florida Supreme Court in the Murray v. Mariner Health decision. This bill as filed would also have reversed the 6.4 percent rate hike that became effective April 1, 2009 and would eliminate the need for future rate increases due to the attorney fee changes.

However, an amendment filed by Senator Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) deleted the entire bill and put in its place language support by the trial attorneys that will allow for increased attorney fee schedules and higher attorney fee collections. 

In other words, the committee took a bill that would HELP Florida employers and added a trial lawyers amendment that will INCREASE their costs!  Not something business owners need or deserve during one of the most challenging economic times in memory.

AIF is in the process of analyzing all the details of the bill as amended and placing a price tag value to it.  However, the bottom line is that Florida employers cannot tolerate any increase in their workers’ compensation premiums.  This bill now absolutely represents an increase and definitely sets the workers’ compensation system up for a return to the chaos and crisis of the late 90’s and pre-2003 reform days.

Although there remains one additional committee of reference, now is the time for all Florida employers to contact their senators and let them know the importance of passing workers’ compensation reform that narrowly and precisely corrects the ambiguity in the statute while restoring and protecting our current rate levels with no future increases in these perilous economic times.