Legal & Judicial
SB 1794 – Relating to Constitutional Amendments
On Monday, March 9, SB 1794 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) was read a third time on the Senate floor and passed with 23 yeas and 17 nays.
On Wednesday, March 11, SB 1794 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) was read a third time on the House floor and passed with 73 yeas and 45 nays.
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 go to the Governor.
AIF supports the measures contained in this bill to prevent interest groups’ circumvention of the legislature in revising Florida’s constitution.
HB 519 – Relating to Private Property Rights Protection
On Monday, March 9, HB 519 by Representative James Grant (R-Tampa) was read a third time on the House floor and passed with 83 yeas and 36 nays.
The Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from depriving a person of his or her private property for public use "without just compensation." However, not every government action burdening private property amounts to an illegal "taking" under the Takings Clause. Florida law provides legal remedies when a local government burdens property rights in a manner that does not amount to a "taking.”
The bill requires a local government, when settling property rights claims, to treat similar properties similarly. If the government settles or the property owner secures a judgment declaring an inordinate burden, there is a presumption that similarly situated parcels are also inordinately burdened and entitled to the same settlement terms or judicial determination. The bill also makes it easier for a private property owner to challenge a local regulation burdening his or her property.
Additionally, when a local government is poised to impose an exaction upon private property, the bill allows the property owner to sue without having to wait for written notice of the exaction.
HB 519 will now go to the Senate for consideration.
AIF supports private property rights which create a prosperous business climate in Florida.
SB 810 – Relating to Tobacco and Nicotine Products
On Wednesday, March 11, SB 810 by Senator David Simmons (R-Longwood) was read a third time on the House floor and passed with 99 yeas and 17 nays.
- Increases the minimum age to lawfully purchase and possess tobacco products from 18 years of age to 21 years of age.
- Repeals exceptions allowing persons in the military and emancipated minors to possess or purchase tobacco products under current law.
- Prohibits smoking and vaping by any person under 21 years of age on or near school property, regardless of hours of the day.
- Limits the sale of tobacco products through a vending machine to a location that prohibits persons under 21 years of age on the premises.
- Requires age verification before a sale or delivery to a person under 30 years of age. (This complies with recently enacted federal law.
SB 810 will now go to the Governor.
AIF supports moving the legal age of purchasing these products to 21 to align with Federal law.
SB 1582 – Relating to Asbestos Trust Claims
On Wednesday, March 11, SB 1582 by Senator David Simmons (R-Longwood) was read a third time on the House floor and passed with 86 yeas and 31 nays.
On Friday, March 13, the Senate on third reading concurred with the House amendment and voted with 38 yeas and 0 nays.
Asbestos is the name given to six naturally occurring fibrous minerals resistant to chemical, thermal, and electricity damage historically used in construction, manufacturing, and fireproofing. When handled, asbestos separates into microscopic particles, exposure to which causes cancer and other diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, which can take 20 to 40 years to develop following initial exposure.
Workers exposed to asbestos began falling ill and in turn sued the corporations responsible for their exposure. As the suits against these corporations piled up, many filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, which in turn stayed all current suits against the respective corporation.
The bankruptcy court faced a unique scenario, where corporations were able to reorganize while shielded from future suits. These suits would instead be filed against a trust fund formed by the company seeking bankruptcy reorganization.
Presently, where liability for an asbestos injury comes from both a trust and a solvent corporation, an injured person may sue the solvent corporation to recover its share of the harm, and a court may offset the judgment by the amount of trust payments the plaintiff received for the same injury. However, where a plaintiff files a trust claim after obtaining a judgment in a civil action alleging the same injury, a court loses its ability to offset the judgment against the solvent defendant. Plaintiffs use this loophole to increase their compensation for a single injury, essentially double-dipping.
The bill requires a claimant filing an asbestos injury lawsuit to notify all parties to the action of any claims made against and funds received from an asbestos trust. The bill states that a defendant in an asbestos claim may obtain through discovery certain materials the claimant has filed with an asbestos trust. The bill bars asbestos claimants from claiming that the materials filed with the trust are privileged. Additionally, the bill allows a trial court to adjust an asbestos claim judgment to reflect payment received by the plaintiff from an asbestos trust, if the plaintiff filed the trust claim after he or she obtained a judgment but before that judgment was satisfied.
SB 1582 will now go to the Governor.
AIF supports legislation that curbs “double dipping” of the asbestos trust fund which ensures that all Floridians affected may be adequately compensated.