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Weekly Legislative Update from February 14, 2020

Legal & Judicial

SB 1766 – Relating to Growth Management

On Monday, February 10, SB 1766 by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) was heard by the Senate Community Affairs Committee and was reported favorable with 5 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

The Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act provides a cause of action for relief or compensation when a law, rule, regulation, or ordinance inordinately burdens real property without amounting to a taking. An action of a governmental entity is an inordinate burden if it directly restricts or limits the use of real property in a way that permanently prevents the owner from attaining the reasonable, investment-backed expectation for the existing use of the property or to a specific use of the property.

The bill makes these changes to the Bert Harris Act:

  • Entitles property owners to compensation or other relief when an owner of a similarly situated residential property has become entitled to relief due to the same regulation or ordinance.
  • Shortens the pre-suit process that is a prerequisite to a lawsuit under the Bert Harris Act from 150 to 90 days.
  • Establishes a presumption that a settlement offer made by a governmental entity during the pre-suit process protects the public interest.
  • Gives a property owner the option of having compensation for an inordinate burden determined by a judge, instead of a jury as under current law.
  • Allows a property owner to forgo an application for a permit or other relief as a prerequisite to making a Bert Harris claim if a governmental entity acknowledges that a law or regulation limits the uses of the property.

SB 1870 will now move to the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

AIF supports private property rights which create a prosperous business climate in Florida.


HB 377 – Relating to Motor Vehicle Rentals

On Tuesday, February 11, HB 377 by Representative Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) was heard by the House Ways & Means Committee and was reported favorable with 11 yeas and 6 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Currently, rental car companies levee a daily surcharge of $2 per day that is paid by individuals renting cars. Peer-to-peer vehicle sharing programs are typically app-based platforms where owners can list and lease their personal vehicles for a pre-determined time and rate. Presently, these car sharing services are exempt from the rental car surcharge. The proceeds from the rental car surcharge paid by consumers who rent vehicles goes to build and maintain the state’s infrastructure, which is very important to Florida businesses statewide.

The bill amends current Florida statute which establishes a surcharge on the lease or rental of a motor vehicle, to extend the surcharge to peer-to-peer vehicle sharing programs. The fee amounts to $2 per day on rentals over 24 hours and drops to $1 for rentals of less than 24 hours. The bill also establishes operational requirements for peer-to-peer vehicle sharing programs, such as insurance requirements to prevent a lapse in insurance coverage should an accident occur.

HB 377 will now move to the House State Affairs Committee.

AIF supports the proposed measures in this bill to hold all rental car services accountable, regardless of how the vehicle is accessed.


SB 1668 – Relating to Damages

On Tuesday, February 11, SB 1668 by Senator David Simmons (R-Longwood) was heard by the Senate Health Policy Committee and was reported favorable with 5 yeas and 4 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

A tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy. The purpose of tort law is to fairly compensate a person harmed by another person's wrongful acts, whether intentional or negligent. In a negligence action in Florida, the compensation a plaintiff recovers is reduced to the extent the plaintiff or a third party contributed to the injury.

A healthy tort liability system benefits society by compensating injured parties fairly, resolving disputes, and discouraging undesirable behavior. 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.

The bill requires evidence of medical expenses in personal injury claims to be based on the usual and customary charges in the community where the expenses are incurred. The bill states that the amounts paid or to be paid through any public or private health insurance coverage on behalf of the claimant are presumed to be usual and customary medical charges.

SB 1668 will now move to the Senate Banking and Insurance.

AIF supports legislation that creates transparency and ensures accuracy in damages, thereby reducing the cost of insurance premiums for Florida businesses.


SB 1794 – Relating to Constitutional Amendments Proposed by Initiative

On Tuesday, February 11, SB 1794 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was reported favorable with 4 yeas and 2 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

The Florida Constitution is the charter of the liberties of Floridians. It may be amended only if the voters approve an amendment originating from the Legislature, the Constitution Revision Commission, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, a constitutional convention, or a citizen initiative.

The bill modifies several aspects of the citizen initiative process to increase transparency, strengthen the integrity of the ballot, and reduce costs for the supervisors of elections. Specifically, the bill changes the deadline for gathering signatures, the Fiscal Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) analysis process, the ballot language requirements, and the requirements for supervisors of elections.

SB 1794 will now move to the Senate Rules Committee.

AIF supports the measures contained in this bill to prevent interest groups’ circumvention of the legislature in revising Florida’s constitution.


HB 7071 – Relating to Contingency Risk Multipliers

On Thursday, February 13, HB 7071, sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee, was heard by the House Commerce Committee and was reported favorable with 16 yeas and 7 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

In certain situations, after the resolution of a court case, the court may require one party to pay the opposing party's attorney fees. Several Florida and federal statutes, known as "fee-shifting statutes," entitle the prevailing party to a "reasonable" attorney fee as a matter of right. When a fee-shifting statute applies, the court must determine what constitutes a "reasonable" attorney fee.

Florida courts calculate reasonable attorney fees under the "lodestar amount.” The lodestar amount, in this context, is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate for the attorney’s services on behalf of the insured or beneficiary.

Federal case law states that a contingency fee multiplier may only be used in rare and exceptional circumstances, and that the multiplier is completely unavailable under certain federal statutes. Contrary to Federal case law, the Florida Supreme Court in 2017 ruled that the contingency fee multiplier in Florida courts is not subject to the "rare and exceptional circumstances" requirement. Thus, there is now a difference between Florida and federal law with respect to this issue.

The bill prohibits a court from using a contingency fee multiplier when calculating an attorney fee award unless an applicable statute expressly allows use of the contingency fee multiplier.

HB 7071 will now move to the House floor for consideration.

AIF supports legislative efforts that prevent unscrupulous actors from taking advantage of property insurance disputes which will keep insurance rates low and allow growth in Florida businesses.