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Daily Legislative Brief from March 6, 2019

Legal & Judicial

HB 17 – Relating to Tort Reform

On Wednesday, March 6, HB 17 by Representative Tom Leek (R-Daytona Beach) was heard in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee and was voted favorably with 10 yeas and 5 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Florida currently has the highest tort system costs among U.S. states as a percentage of state GDP, at 3.6%. In 2016, the total amount paid in costs and compensation within Florida's tort system averaged $4,442 for each Florida household. 

A flawed tort system generates exorbitant damages and unpredictability, causing: 

  • Increased economic costs and increased risks of doing business;
  • Higher insurance premiums; 
  • Increased healthcare costs and declining availability of medical services; and 
  • Deterrence of economic development and job creation activities.


HB 17 will now move to the House Commerce Committee.

AIF supports tort reforms which will dramatically reduce the costs of the tort system in Florida while providing a better business climate in the state.

HB 423 – Relating to Lost or Abandoned Personal Property

On Wednesday, March 6, HB 423 by Representative Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) was heard in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee and was voted favorably with 14 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

The bill creates an alternate disposal process for lost or abandoned property for owners and operators of theme parks, entertainment complexes, zoos, museums, aquariums, public food service establishments, and public lodging establishments. The alternative process would require these types of facilities to hold the property for at least 30 days. Any property not claimed within 30 days must be donated to a charitable institution.

HB 423 will now move to the House Commerce Committee.

AIF supports the right of property owners to hold and donate lost or abandoned property thereby eliminating the burden of contacting law enforcement for lost personal belongings.

HB 355 – Relating to Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine

On Wednesday, March 6, HB 355 by Representative Tom Leek (R-Daytona Beach) was heard in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee and was voted favorably with 10 yeas and 5 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine (DID) was created in the early 20th century, a time where automobiles began traveling on public roads. The doctrine has been expanded far beyond the borders of its original intent and now applies to off-highway vehicles such as golf carts, tractors, and construction equipment. The doctrine holds owners or lessors liable for the harm caused by an operator, even when the lessor is not in control of the equipment or vehicle at the time of the incident. Florida is the only state in the country where DID is applied in this manner.

HB 355 will now move to the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

AIF supports the protection of owners and lessors from vicarious liability which is harmful to Florida’s business community.

SB 76 – Relating to Distracted While Driving

Wednesday, March 6, SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Spring Hill) was heard before the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee and was voted favorably with 9 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Currently, Florida law prohibits a person from texting, emailing, and instant messaging while driving, however, enforcement of this is a secondary offense, which means a law enforcement officer must detain a driver for another traffic offense in order to cite the driver for texting while driving. The bill would rename the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law” to the “Florida Driving While Distracted Law.” This bill would change the current enforcement from a secondary offense to a primary offense for all distracted driving and handheld use of wireless communication devices, not just texting and emailing, allowing law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle solely for driving while distracted. The main goal of this legislation is to eliminate a component that contributes to distracted driving on Florida’s roadways.

SB 76 will now move to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AIF supports legislation that addresses the issue of distracted driving and will ensure public safety for all on Florida’s roadways.

HB 431 – Relating to Liens Against Motor Vehicles and Vessels

On Wednesday, March 6, HB 431 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) was heard in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee and was voted favorably with 13 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Currently, towing companies and auto repair shops, among others, may impose a lien on automobiles for towing and storage charges, as well as unpaid repair costs.  The current statute requires the lienor to give the auto owner and all parties that have a financial interest in the auto notice of the lien and the public sale of the auto to cover paying off the lien.
Unfortunately, some “bad actors” in Florida have been abusing our current system by: 

  • Manipulating the time period for sending the notice of lien and notice of sale to eliminate the owner or finance company’s ability to pay the charges and recover the auto;
  • Sending empty envelopes to the entity that has lien on the auto for providing the financing of the auto;
  • Imposing very high administrative fees for perfecting the lien and enforcing the lien;
  • Adding unreasonable or fraudulent charges to the towing or repair bill to justify the sale of the auto and keeping all proceeds of the sale.

HB 431 will now move to the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee.

AIF supports legislation designed to curtail bad actor companies taking advantage of current Florida lien laws for personal gain.

Transportation

HB 311 – Relating to Autonomous Vehicles

On Wednesday, March 6, HB 311 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) was heard in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee and was voted favorably with 14 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

This bill authorizes the use of vehicles in autonomous mode in the state. The autonomous technology would be considered the human operator of the motor vehicle and provides that various provisions of law regarding motor vehicles such as rendering aid in the event of a crash do not apply to vehicles in autonomous mode if the vehicle owner, or person on behalf of the owner, promptly contacts law enforcement. The bill also specifies that statutory provisions relating to unattended motor vehicles, wireless communication devices, and television receivers do not apply to autonomous vehicles (AVs) operating with the automated driving system engaged. The bill also removes the requirement for a person to possess a valid driver license to operate a fully autonomous vehicle.

HB 311 will now move to the Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.

AIF supports modernizing state law to accommodate for self-driving technologies that open the door for safe, reliable modes of AVs in a competitive marketplace with clear, limited government regulations.

Energy

SB 796 – Relating to Public Utility Storm Protection Plans

On Wednesday, March 6, SB 796 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) was heard in the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee and was voted favorably with 10 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

This bill aims to harden Florida’s utilities grid against tropical storm and hurricane damage with proposed under-grounding of electric infrastructure. The bill would require public utility companies (Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power Company, Tampa Electric Company, and the Florida Public Utilities Corporation) to submit a transmission and distribution storm protection plan to the Public Services Commission, with updates required at least every three years. Data collected after Hurricane Irma showed that underground lines suffered minimal outages during storms. To maintain reasonable electric rates, public utilites may not underground more than 4% of distribution lines per year.

SB 796 will now move to the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee.

AIF supports actively seeking ways to harden infrastructure during hurricanes and tropical storms to ensure that power is restored more quickly following interruptions in service.

Insurance

Proposed Committee Bill CJS 19-01 – Relating to Insurance Assignment Agreements

On Wednesday, March 6, PCB CJS 19-01, sponsored and heard by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, and was voted favorably with 13 yeas and 2 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

The abuse of the one-way attorney fee statute in relation to “assignment of benefits” (AOB) has created a relatively new form of litigation over auto glass repairs and property damage. These legal abuses are perpetrated by a handful of lawyers and vendors who work together to strip benefits away from policyholders and use these to force higher settlements from insurers, and even go so far as to sue in the name of the policyholder, often without the policyholder’s consent. This bill helps prevent future abuse of AOBs.

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

Economic Development

Proposed Committee Bill PKI 19-01 – Relating to Career Education

On Wednesday, March 6, PCB PKI 19-01, sponsored and heard by the PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee, was voted favorably with 15 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Florida’s growing labor market will need to fill an additional 1.7 million vacancies by 2030. In order to meet this demand, Florida’s PreK-20 education system must have the capacity to produce graduates who are ready to fill high-growth, high-demand careers.

To help meet the growing workforce demand, this bill:

  • Revises the school grades formula to recognize career certificate clock hour dual enrollment and establishes formal career dual enrollment agreements between high schools and career centers;
  • Requires the Department of Education to aid in increasing public awareness of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship opportunities; and
  • Requires the elimination of industry certifications that are not aligned to industry needs.

 

AIF supports adopting the PreK-to-Job model of the future to improve the organic talent pipeline and create a strategy that addresses these gaps, including training the talent required for the future in our PreK-to-Job system today.