December 5, 2011
TALLAHASSEE – With the start of the legislative session less than a month away, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today released their 2012 Legislative Priorities publication, which outlines the issues for which the statewide business organizations plans to advocate. As “The Voice of Florida Business Since 1920,” AIF determines its legislative agenda based on the issues of the greatest interest or concern to its members. This session, AIF’s priorities include everything from workers’ compensation to job creation to insurance reform to tax fairness.
“Before the Legislature this year are numerous issues that could have a significant effect on the business community – both positively and negatively,” said Jose Gonzalez, AIF Vice President of Governmental Affairs. “It’s our responsibility as an organization to protect our members, as well as the entire Florida business community, and use our influence in Tallahassee to ensure Florida is creating a climate that spurs job and business development. By publishing and distributing AIF’s 2012 Session Priorities, all 160 members of the Florida Legislature, agency heads of the executive branch and the Florida Cabinet are well aware of where our organization stands on the issues.”
Below are AIF’s top legislative priorities as outlined in the 2012 Session Priorities publication. An electronic version of the publication, which includes a full list of AIF’s legislative priorities, is available online.
Workers’ Compensation Drug Repackaging
For decades, AIF has been the state's premier advocate for workers' compensation policy that yields an equitable system at affordable rates. As such, AIF will continue to advocate for legislation that will close the statutory loophole that some physicians use to charge exorbitantly high rates when they dispense repackaged drugs to injured workers. They unfairly collect reimbursements at exponentially higher rates than those traditional pharmacy providers are permitted to collect, causing unpredictable cost fluctuations that drive up workers’ compensation pharmacy costs. Legislation has been filed this year – HB 511 by Rep. Matt Hudson (R-Naples) and SB 668 by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) – clarifying that all drugs are subject to the same statutory fee amounts regardless of where the drug is dispensed. Approval of this legislation will immediately save all Florida employers upwards of $62 million in workers’ compensation rates – savings that could instantly be used to create jobs for Florida’s citizens.
Tax Fairness (Online Travel Companies and E-Fairness)
A number of tax-related issues will dominate the upcoming legislative session, many of which deal with existing inequities in Florida’s tax code. AIF opposes any legislation that seeks to permanently provide online travel companies with an unfair tax advantage. Online travel companies should not have an unfair advantage over companies located and doing business in Florida. The way in which taxes are currently remitted is hurting Florida’s tourism economy and hoteliers who have been collecting and remitting occupancy taxes to the state, counties and municipalities for years. Any legislation that permanently codifies the online travel companies’ business model would be bad for Florida employers and would open the door to demands from other wholesale-to-retail businesses seeking a similar tax windfall if this market-distorting tax advantage were enacted by the Legislature.
Regarding E-Fairness, AIF supports efforts to enforce the fair collection of state sales tax.Commonsense updates can and should be made to Florida’s tax system to level the playing field for all retailers selling goods in Florida. Today, “brick and mortar” retailers are at a disadvantage to out-of-state, online-only retailers when it comes to the collection of state sales tax. Under current law, online-only retailers forgo collecting sales tax at the point of purchase, despite the fact that it is still due, and the burden is passed on to unknowing consumers. This is not a new tax. Making Florida’s tax system more competitive can be accomplished by collecting already-due taxes from online sales and then eliminating some other existing tax or fee.
Destination resorts offer Florida an opportunity to grow its economic base and create as many as 100,000 new jobs. These luxury resorts will attract new visitors to Florida who are interested in experiencing a variety of amenities including high-end retail, restaurants, entertainment venues and gaming facilities, hotel and residential towers, convention space, pools and outdoor recreation facilities. AIF supports and will aggressively advocate for legislation that will bring premier development companies to Florida to build world-class destinations resort resulting in direct and indirect economic benefits to Florida and Florida businesses.
Insurance (Automobile Insurance and Hurricane Taxes)
AIF supports legislation to reduce Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims costs. Under Florida’s no-fault law, which has been in effect since January 1, 1972, owners of motor vehicles are required to purchase $10,000 of PIP insurance which compensates persons injured in accidents, regardless of fault. Notwithstanding several legislative reforms to the law, auto insurance premiums continue to be unnecessarily high because of increased litigation, few cost controls for medical services, and few effective measures to reduce rampant fraud and abuse. AIF supports various bills including HB 523 by Rep. Workman (R-Melbourne), HB 119 by Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) and SB 254 by Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton), which address PIP-related issues.
For years, AIF has worked to reform the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund in an effort to reduce the risk these government entities pose to Florida’s business community. This year, AIF supports legislation that will return Citizens to an insurer of last resort and reduce the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund so that it can meet its financial obligations. By reducing the exposure of Citizens and the Cat Fund, we will substantially reduce the likelihood of claims-paying deficits and, thus, hurricane taxes on insurance premiums for Florida’s employers.
Bad Faith Reform
There is currently an imbalance in the laws governing the payment of insurance liability claims which is exploited by claimants’ attorneys to create “bad faith” lawsuits where they otherwise would not exist. This practice, commonly referred to as the “bad faith set-up,” if successful, allows a claimant to collect from an insurance company a jury award in excess of the insured’s policy limits. The “set-up” includes a claimant’s attorney sending a letter to an insurance company offering to settle the claim for policy limits which imposes an unreasonable time period for the evaluation of the claim as to and accept the offer. Insurance companies which fail to settle the liability claims within the time periods, which can be as short as five days, are subject to “bad faith” lawsuits further expanding the litigation universe. An unbalanced civil justice system in Florida only dampens employers’ ability to recover from the economic downturn and create new jobs. Increased civil litigation also directly costs businesses through increased premiums for liability and automobile insurance and indirectly through management and employees’ time diverted to lawsuits. In an effort to better protect Florida businesses, AIF supports legislation establishing a 60-day time frame during which an insurer may investigate and, if warranted, offer policy limits to settle a liability claim. Under HB 427 by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), the offer of policy limits within 60 days demonstrates a “good faith” effort by the insurer to settle a liability claim on behalf of its insured.