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Weekly Legislative Update from March 17, 2017


IBS1-Relating to Workers’ Compensation
On Tuesday, March 14th, IBS1, relating to Workers’ Compensation by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee was heard by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and passed by a vote of 14 yeas to 1 nay. AIF spoke in opposition to the bill.

This legislation seeks to address the issues within Florida’s Workers’ Compensation law that have deemed the law unconstitutional, specifically the issue of rate increases, attorney fees, claimant benefits, etc. While AIF applauds the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee for aiming to fix this delicate issue we believe there is still much work to be done.

Representative Jay Fant (R-Jacksonville) offered a strike all amendment to make steps to remedy the major problem at hand, attorney fees. The business community was united in support of the Fant amendment that would move Florida to a claimant paid system, in-line with 32 other states. AIF spoke in support of this amendment, but unfortunately this amendment was not reported favorably. 

IBS1 is not currently referred to any other committees of reference.

Please see below statement from our President & CEO, Tom Feeney, regarding today’s workers’ compensation legislation:

Florida’s Business Community Deserves Stable, Self-Executing &
Affordable Workers’ Compensation System
AIF Applauds Representative Fant for Leading Charge for Small Employers & Injured Workers

Tallahassee, Fla. – The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today released the following statement on behalf of its President & CEO Tom Feeney, who also serves as the chair of its “Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force,” regarding workers’ compensation legislation today heard in the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. 

“While we appreciate the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee for their work on legislation to address Florida’s ailing workers’ compensation system, AIF and our members believe there is still work to be done.

“AIF’s ‘Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force’ proposed a bill that will go a long way in helping Florida’s injured workers to get healthier, while relieving burdensome pressures on Florida’s employers.  Florida’s business community deserves a stable, self-executing and affordable system to care for injured workers.

“HB 1107, championed by Representative Albritton, addresses one of the components of relieving this pressure by exempting public records requirements relating to injured or deceased workers.  Additionally, we would like to thank Representative Fant for filing an amendment to the proposed committee bill on workers’ compensation that would have rescued the business community from the attacks made by the hostile Florida Supreme Court decisions.  Representative Fant and the six committee members who voted in favor of this amendment did the right thing today by standing up for Florida’s businesses – both large and small – against the trial lawyers.

“As this legislation progresses, we encourage our state’s leaders to consider all aspects of the Workers’ Compensation Act in Florida and put in place commonsense solutions that address unnecessary, costly and time consuming litigation.  This will allow injured workers to receive their benefits as soon as possible.”

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HB 1107-Relating to Public Records/Workers’ Compensation
On Tuesday, March 14th, HB 1107, relating to Public Records/Workers’ Compensation, by Representative Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) was heard by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and passed unanimously by a vote of 15 yeas to 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, spoke in support of this bill.

This bill would exempt private and personal identifying information of an injured worker or deceased employee from public record. Currently, this information is open to the public and often times injured workers are inundated with outreach from attorneys wanting to take on their cases immediately after filing their claim.

HB 1107 will now go to the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee for its second hearing.

AIF SUPPORTS protecting the private information of injured or deceased employees.

HB 1421-Relating to Property Insurance Assignment Agreements
On Tuesday, March 14th, HB 1421, relating to Property Insurance Assignment Agreements, by Representative James Grant (R-Tampa) was heard by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and passed by a vote of 14 yeas to 1 nay. AIF stood in support of this bill.

The bill moves AOB claims to a prevailing party attorney fee system, effectively cutting off one-way fees for assignees. The sponsor, Rep. Jamie Grant, filed a strike-all amendment Monday evening, which purported to institute a more complex, presuit process. This strike all was voted down in committee after concerns expressed by many, including Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, that the strike-all amendment would not further the goal to cut fraud, waste, and abuse. Associated Industries of Florida was at the hearing, and was supportive of another amendment to include auto glass in the scope of the underlying bill, which was explained and withdrawn. We are working to address this important issue at the next stop. In addition, a motion to limit debate was made to get the underlying bill out of committee, which cut short public testimony. The underlying bill passed, which represents a much better solution than the strike-all. However, the preferred method of addressing AOB abuse is the simple and direct approach of SB 1038. AIF is actively working to ensure that the Legislature is aware of the true fix to the AOB crisis: extinguishing one-way attorney fees for assignees.

HB 1421 will now go to the House Commerce Committee to be heard.

AIF SUPPORTS reforms to the assignment of benefits process to protect consumers against these abuses.