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Weekly Legislative Update from February 28, 2020

Legal & Judicial

HB 903 – Relating to Fines and Fees

On Tuesday, February 25, HB 903 by Representative Byron Donalds (R-Naples) was heard by the House Appropriations Committee and was reported favorable with 27 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Each of the 67 Florida counties has a clerk of court, an elected constitutional officer who oversees judiciary functions as the clerk of the county and circuit courts. The clerks are authorized to charge fees for performing various functions and collect court costs and fines related to a court disposition.

An indigent person may ask the clerk of court to allow them to enter into a payment plan for outstanding financial obligations owed to the clerk. If a fee, service charge, fine, or court cost remains unpaid for 90 days, and the clerk has attempted to collect the unpaid amount through an internal process, the clerk may forward the unpaid accounts to an attorney or collection agent.

Under current law, a person's driver license can be suspended for various reasons, including:

  • Failure to a pay a court fee or fine.
  • Failure to comply with or appear at a traffic summons.
  • Having unpaid citations in another state.

The bill requires clerks of court to actively attempt to collect fines, service charges, fees, or costs owed before revoking the driver license of the person who owes the funds. Specifically, a clerk of court must notify a person owing funds of the potential to enroll in a payment plan to defer the payment of the amounts owed before revoking the person’s driver license. Once a payment plan is established, the clerk may provide a person who does not make a required payment with a delinquency notice and a grace period before revoking the person’s license. Additionally, the bill gives courts authority to waive, modify, or convert the outstanding amounts to community service, if the individual is indigent or due to compelling circumstances is unable to comply with a payment plan.

HB 903 will now move to the House Judiciary Committee.

AIF supports legislation that clarifies regulations and keeps Florida businesses operating on our roadways.


HB 9 – Relating to Damages

On Wednesday, February 26, HB 9 by Representative Tom Leek (R-Daytona Beach) was heard by the House Judiciary Committee and was reported favorable with 10 yeas and 8 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 as a whole 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 modifies the damages recoverable in certain tort actions by requiring a jury to consider an estimated value of medical services based on an independent database reporting medical costs charged and paid. This ensures the jury does not rely solely on the amount billed by the provider of medical or health care services to determine damages.

HB 9 will now move to the House floor.

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

On Wednesday, February 26, SB 1794 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) was heard by the Senate Rules Committee and was reported favorable with 10 yeas and 7 nays. AIF 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 floor.

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


HB 7041 – Relating to Litigation Financing Consumer Protection

On Thursday, February 27, HB 7041, sponsored by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, was heard by the House Commerce Committee and was reported favorable with 20 yeas and 3 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Litigation financing is a non-recourse transaction in which a third party (“litigation financier”) provides funds to a person bringing a civil action or claim in exchange for an assignment of the person’s contingent right to receive an amount of the civil action or claim’s potential proceeds

The bill establishes various requirements, such as registering with the Department of State and posting a bond, on litigation financers. The bill also establishes requirements regarding the contracts, disclosure to consumers, and prohibited conduct. Specifically, the bill caps the fees for any civil action or claim, regardless of the number of contracts of a litigation financier. Lastly, it provides that violation of the Act is a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

HB 7041 will now move to the House floor.

AIF supports efforts that create transparency and accountability to prevent malevolent litigation financiers from driving up litigation costs, and; therefore, driving up the cost to do business in Florida.


HB 1165 – Relating to Beverage Law

On Thursday, February 27, HB 1165 by Representative Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) was heard by the House Commerce Committee and was reported favorable with 12 yeas and 11 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Representative Holly Raschein on HB 1165


In Florida, the Beverage Law regulates the manufacture, distribution, and sale of wine, beer, and liquor by manufacturers, distributors, and vendors. Since the repeal of Prohibition, regulation of alcohol in the United States has traditionally been based upon what is termed the “three-tier system.” The system requires separation of the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages. The manufacturer creates the beverages, and the distributor obtains the beverages from the manufacturer to deliver to the vendor. The vendor makes the ultimate sale to the consumer. Generally, only licensed vendors are permitted to sell alcoholic beverages directly to consumers at retail, and manufacturers, distributors, and exporters are generally prohibited from holding a vendor’s license.

The bill provides that a manufacturer or importer of malt beverages and a vendor may enter into a written agreement for brand-naming rights and associated cooperative advertising if negotiated at arm’s length and only at specified venues in the state such as theme parks.

HB 1165 will now move to the House floor.

AIF supports legislative efforts to revise outdated laws that impose burdens and restrictions on any sector of the business community, including vendors and distributors of alcoholic beverages.