2016 Future of Florida Forum: Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater

Putting Injured Workers And Job Creators First, Not Trial Lawyers Is the Right Thing To Do To Keep Florida’s Workers’ Comp System Working

 

September 29, 2016

Attention Florida business owners—in case you missed it, you are about to be hit with a workers’ compensation insurance increase that you most likely haven’t planned for, all for the benefit of Florida’s billboard trial lawyers.

This week, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved a 14.5 percent workers’ compensation rate increase that takes effect December 1 for new and renewal policies, the fallout from two damaging Florida Supreme Court decisions, Castellanos and Westphal.

A rate increase this big, this sudden, hurts Florida’s competitiveness and employers large and small. Many businesses will be forced to delay hiring – or even cut existing staff – to cover this leap in their workers’ comp premiums.

The increase is also a direct blow to Florida’s business-friendly climate and jeopardizes the 62 consecutive months of private-sector job growth we’ve experienced.

Let’s rewind back to 2003. At that time, Florida had the second-highest workers’ comp rates in the United States. These rates were threatening our state’s competitiveness. In response, the Florida Chamber of Commerce joined with then-Governor Jeb Bush to pass a series of common-sense legislative reforms.

These reforms have become a national success story. Since enactment, Florida’s workers’ comp rates dropped approximately 60 percent, while at the same time injured workers got the care they needed more quickly and were able to return to work an average 10 days sooner than in the past.

But the Supreme Court rulings, issued earlier this year, have jolted job creators and threaten to unravel all the great progress our state has made over the past 13 years.

The most damaging of the two court rulings overturned reasonable attorney fee caps that were established to stop trial lawyers from using often minor workplace injuries as a means for suing businesses in hopes of hitting the jackpot on fee awards.

Florida’s insurance regulators had little choice but to approve the sudden rate hikes we’re seeing now because they forecast that the court’s approval of runaway legal fees is retroactive and will set off a tidal wave of trial lawyers refiling old cases and concocting new ones.

The worst part of this mess is that it isn’t about improving safety or care for injured workers. It’s been thoroughly documented that the 2003 reforms succeeded in getting workers well and back to work faster, while eliminating unnecessary legal costs. The only group benefiting from this ruling is the trial lawyers.

In fact, in Castellanos, the trial lawyer argued for $38,000 in attorney fees in a case in which the injured worker was awarded only $800 – and the Supreme Court now says those fees are acceptable.

We urgently need a legislative solution to address this looming crisis. Our goal must be to ensure that injured workers continue to receive access to quality care and the court system, while providing job creators cost controls and the benefits of reining in outrageous attorney fees.

The Florida Chamber is actively leading the charge to help lower workers’ comp rates once again. Our Workers’ Compensation Task Force has been engaging Florida’s highest elected leaders, working with the brightest legal minds and coordinating with other states to develop the right solution. We are also working closely with business leaders and local chambers throughout the state to ensure that Florida’s success story does not unravel and become a nightmare again.

Putting injured workers and job creators first, not trial lawyers, is the right thing to do to keep Florida’s workers’ comp system working.

 

CFOs from Florida’s Top Businesses Convene at Florida Chamber Foundation’s CFO Roundtable

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Melissa Roberts
(850) 521-1217
mroberts@flfoundation.org

CFOs from Florida’s Top Businesses Talk Data, Market Trends, Employment Law and Florida’s Financial Future at the Florida Chamber Foundation CFO Roundtable

TAMPA, Fla. (December 15, 2015) – CFOs from Florida’s top businesses are gathering today at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s inaugural CFO Roundtable to discuss the issues impacting Florida businesses and the state’s future economic prosperity.

“Florida is on the cusp of tremendous change and whether we are talking about the future of our state or your business, now is the time to put our long-term solutions ahead of short-term fixes,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “As we chart the path to a brighter future for all Floridians, it is important that our businesses have access to a strong work force, a business climate that promotes growth and innovation and a state economy that makes all this possible.”

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater delivered a keynote address highlighting the growth of Florida’s economy since the recession and how fiscal discipline can attract capital to businesses throughout the state.

“Six billion dollars a year are moving to Florida each year with our 800 new residents per day who are buying houses, groceries and getting their shoes repaired,” said CFO Atwater. “In successfully climbing out of the recession, Florida decided to be efficient, not cheap. It is that fiscal discipline that continues to make Florida more competitive than the 49 other states.”

Additional topics from today’s discussions included projections of market trends and long-term disruptors, updates to fiscal policy, navigating changing employment laws, and utilizing and protecting data. Click here for the full agenda.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Global Markets Create New Opportunities for Florida’s Economy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
eousley@flchamber.com

Trade with Asia Pacific, Middle East/Africa
Accounts for 19 Percent of Florida-Origin Exports

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (May 20, 2015) – Emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and Middle East/Africa provide Florida with incredible opportunity, with 19 percent of Florida origin exports shipped to these regions, the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced today.

“Florida is the gateway to international trade and our state is in a position where we can really take advantage of strong international relationships,” said John Walsh, CEO and Port Director of Canaveral Port Authority. “Emerging economies such as those in Asia, the Middle East and Africa really provide a unique opportunity for Florida to lead the nation in trade and logistics, manufacturing and more. At Port Canaveral, our ability to use highway, rail and air resources for distribution and logistics helps keep Florida a leader in international trade and logistics efforts.”

It’s these resources that allow Florida to take advantage of the opportunities emerging markets represent. Middle Eastern and North African economies (known as the MENA region) are one of the largest emerging market economic blocs. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that it will be the third fastest-growing region in the world over the next five years. The MENA region has one of the youngest populations in the world, helping to create a vibrant and energetic start-up culture. In Africa, this younger generation is also better educated and ready to meet the demands of global business.

The Middle East will be one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets during the next 20 years with an extra 237 million passengers flying to, from and within the region. A report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the UAE aviation market will lead the region with average annual growth of 5.6 percent.

The impact of international trade to Florida’s economy cannot be denied.

  • International business and foreign direct investment accounts for approximately 17 percent of Florida’s economic activity, and
  • Directly supports more than 1 million Florida jobs.
  • Florida is the seventh largest exporter of state-origin products with Florida-origin exports totaling more than $58.6 billion and exports from Florida supporting 275,221 U.S. jobs in 2013.

“Florida is in a unique position to take advantage of growing global economies,” said Alice Ancona, Director of Global Outreach for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Japan is one of Florida’s leading investors. Hong Kong alone represents $2.4 billion in Florida origin exports, with more than $653 million in high tech exports. Florida has a once in a lifetime opportunity to capitalize on the Panama Canal expansion and changing trade become the global hub for international trade.”

The Florida Chamber’s Global Florida Program’s mission is to educate and promote business opportunities, collaborate and advance policy initiatives in each of the four major geographic regions:  Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Middle East/Africa. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recently sponsored the Florida World Trade Month resolution, which was signed by Governor Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and CFO Jeff Atwater.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Governor and Cabinet Proclaim May as Florida World Trade Month

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
eousley@flchamber.com

 

 

Florida Chamber, Trade Partners
Champion Trade’s Role in Florida’s Economy

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (May 5, 2015) – Governor Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet today declared May as Florida World Trade Month, presenting a proclamation to the Florida Chamber of Commerce and representatives of the agriculture, manufacturing and ports communities.

“Global trade means high-wage jobs and economic prosperity,” Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber shared with members of the Florida Cabinet, including Governor Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater during the proclamation presentation. “Increasingly, international trade is one of Florida’s top strategies for economic diversification and long-term growth.”

Florida ranks eighth in the United States for “Fresh from Florida” exports of agricultural commodities, valued at an all-time record of $4.2 billion, supporting more than 109,000 jobs and representing an economic value of more than $13 billion. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam sponsored the Florida World Trade Month proclamation.

Economic Impact of Trade:

According to research from the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Trade and Logistics Study 2.0 (TL2), the importance of international trade cannot be denied:

  • International business and foreign direct investment accounts for approximately 17 percent of Florida’s economic activity, and directly supports more than 1 million Florida jobs,
  • Florida is the seventh largest exporter of state-origin products with Florida-origin exports totaling more than $58.6 billion and exports from Florida supporting 275,221 U.S. jobs in 2013,
  • VISIT FLORIDA numbers show more than 98 million visitors came to Florida in 2014,including more than 11 million overseas visitors  and nearly four million Canadian visitors,
  • Florida has more than 60,000 companies registered to export – more than 95 percent of them  are small-to-medium-sized businesses that produce two-thirds of Florida’s average of $64 billion in goods, and
  • Florida has more than 500,000 jobs in transportation, trade, and logistics – which pay 30 percent more than the statewide average!
  • Since December 2010, more than 21,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in Florida,
  • Florida is the leading U.S. state for trade with Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

Here’s What Others Are Saying
About Florida World Trade Month:

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam

“Our exports have recently reached an all-time high of $4.2 billion, supporting more than 109,000 Florida jobs and contributing more than $13 billion to our state’s economy. International demand for our ‘Fresh From Florida’ products continues to rise, proving that there is nothing better than what we grow right here in Florida.”

Secretary of Transportation Jim Boxold

“The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) joins Governor Scott and our partners in continuing our united efforts to make Florida the global center for freight movement and create jobs and opportunities for Florida families. FDOT will continue to invest in strategic assets that make our state the most competitive in the nation for the movement of people and goods.”

U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan

“The impact of international trade to Florida is undeniable – it’s one of the surest ways to turbo-charge long-term economic development and growth. I am proud to celebrate World Trade Month with the Florida Chamber, whose support of these important partnerships and trade agreements help make the Sunshine State the leader in this effort.”

Doug Wheeler, President and CEO, Florida Ports Council

“International trade is critical not only for Florida’s overall economy but for individual families and communities across the state, as well as visiting consumers. Increasing trade creates jobs and brings a better quality of life to our state.”

Nancy Stephens, Executive Director, Manufacturers Association of Florida

“During World Trade Month, the Manufacturers Association of Florida (MAF) recognizes the critical role international trade plays in boosting our economic growth. We support international trade as an essential part of our business plan ensuring job creation, business growth, and competitive advantages in the global market. In Florida, 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs depend on exports, so MAF works hard to promote trade opportunities with manufacturers to help them export to the 95% of consumers who live outside the United States. Florida has some of the most skilled manufacturers in the country and we look forward to utilizing every trade opportunity available.”

Charlotte Gallogly, World Trade Center Miami

“Our celebration of World Trade Month is targeted at assisting small- to mid-sized companies in Florida to identify new global markets for the sale of their products and services.”

John Hartnett, Endoscopy Replacement Parts, Inc.

“Leveraging and growing trade and logistics opportunities for Florida companies opens many markets for Made in Florida products and services. Committing to Made in Florida business and targeting worldwide expansion strengthens our long-term economic foundation and global brand.”

 

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Statewide Leaders Dive into Leading Insurance Issues at the Florida Chamber’s insurance Summit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
eousley@flchamber.com

CFO Jeff Atwater, Property Insurance and Expensive
Cost Drivers Exploiting Homeowners Take Center Stage

 

ORLANDO, FL. (January 27, 2014) – Statewide leaders are gathered in Orlando today for the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Insurance Summit  with one common goal- building on Florida’s successes by tackling remaining insurance-related challenges. Leading financial regulators, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Florida’s Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, kicked off the day-and-a-half summit that also included a discussion of leading cost drivers that are exploiting homeowners and consumers.

“[The Florida Chamber’s Insurance Summit] is an important gathering. In fact, I would say that the importance cannot be understated,” said Michael Carlson, Executive Director of Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). “The prominent thought leaders, prominent stakeholder groups, company executives and representatives, legislators, elected officials, academics all gather under the auspices of the [Florida] Chamber at this event to talk about the problems that we face in property insurance and other insurance markets and more importantly talk about solutions, smart solutions, to address these problems.”

Kicking off the day-and-a-half statewide summit, CFO Atwater applauded the Florida Chamber for bringing insurance industry leaders together to develop solutions that will make Florida more competitive.

“It matters that you’re having these conversations over the next couple of days to navigate ahead toward making sound public policy and advance Florida toward the attraction of capital and making Florida more competitive,” said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. “The debate will be about how these ideas will create a better environment for consumers to have choice for the best possible deal.”

Insurance Commissioner McCarty highlighted Florida’s insurance successes – especially with Citizens Property Insurance – and how insurers and consumers alike are saving money.

More than 250 insurance professionals gathered in Orlando to focus on a leaner Citizens Property Insurance and how the role of Florida’s financial backstop, the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, is evolving. Major cost drivers exploiting homeowners – exaggerated claims from unscrupulous contractors resulting in padded profits – also took center stage.

“Imagine this: You wake up to find your kitchen flooded from a broken pipe. You frantically call a water extractor who arrives and says, ‘Don’t worry. Just sign these forms and we’ll handle everything’,” Representative David Santiago, (R-Deltona), recently wrote. “The truth is, you’ve just signed away control of your insurance claim and may have permitted unscrupulous third parties to inflate the cost of the work. Ultimately, you could be sued or face a lien on your property for the difference between what your insurer legitimately owes the contractor and what was actually billed.”

Claims filed under an “assignment of benefits’’ or “AOB” form, which was intended to save homeowners money when having contracted work done, often get abused by unscrupulous vendors- which puts the insurer at risk of being unrightfully sued, driving up costs for businesses and homeowners alike.

“There’s no question that the assignment of benefit situation in Florida is out of control,” said Barry Gilway, CEO, President and Executive Director of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. He also shared with Florida Chamber Insurance Summit attendees that 85 percent of water claims come from an attorney, not the homeowner or an adjuster, which drives up costs through litigation.

Improving on Florida’s bottom-10 legal climate, PIP reforms and a checkup on Florida’s economy – as well as its electorate – round out today’s agenda.

On Wednesday, members of the Florida House and Senate will gather to provide a legislative overview of what to expect during the 2015 Legislative Session. Private flood insurance markets, as well as a discussion of major Florida Supreme Court cases that could impact Florida’s workers’ compensation system, will be a part of Wednesday’s conversation. Click here for a more complete agenda.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Florida Chamber of Commerce Congratulates Chamber-backed CFO Jeff Atwater on His Reelection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
eousley@flchamber.com

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (November 4, 2014) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce issued the below statement regarding Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater being reelected to office.

“The Florida Chamber of Commerce congratulates Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater on his reelection,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber.

“CFO Atwater has been a champion of small businesses, laser focused on cracking down on fraud and dedicated to streamlining costly government system to save taxpayer dollars. We look forward to continuing our working relationship with CFO Atwater to build on Florida’s efforts to make the Sunshine State the No. 1 state for private sector job creation.”

 

 

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.