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.

 

Potential 2016 Presidential Candidates Look to Florida’s Economic Successes

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

 

Florida Chamber Co-Hosts Governor’s
Economic Summit Event in Orlando

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (June 2 , 2015) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce today joined Let’s Get to Work in co-hosting Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Economic Growth Summit 2015, which included presentations from six GOP 2016 presidential candidates.

“The Florida story is one of recovery and success and today, we have been able to share that with six potential 2016 presidential candidates,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The path to Florida’s success was paved by a united businesses community that rallied behind a competitiveness agenda that focused on free enterprise. The Florida Chamber believes that Florida’s economic success can be used as an example on how to lead the nation and move our economy forward.”

In December 2010, Florida’s unemployment rate was more than 11 percent, more than 913,000 jobs were lost and more than $5.2 billion in debt was added. In 2014, the Wall Street Journal—the same publication that in 2007 asked if Florida was over—credited our state for finding the secret to saving the economy and called Florida the model for economic growth. And while Florida’s work is not over, our state’s successes can’t be ignored:

  • Florida unemployment is now at 5.6 percent, a decrease of 5.1 percentage points since December 2010,
  • Since December 2010, more than 865,000 private-sector jobs have been created,
  • High school graduation is at an 11 year-high,
  • Florida’s business climate is the second best ranked business climate in the nation, and
  • Florida’s fourth grade readers are ranked second in the world.

“The next president has to do what we’ve done in Florida to turn the economy around,” said Governor Rick Scott during the Economic Summit. “Florida is in the business of growing opportunities- the next president should focus on opportunities for the nation.”

Among the speakers included were: Governor Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida; Governor Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey; Governor Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas; Governor Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana; Governor Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas; Governor Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin; as well as a video presentation from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.

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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.

Court Sides With Students Over Unions Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Against Tax Credit Scholarships

Approximately 70,000 students will continue to receive educational opportunities thanks to a decision by a Florida judge to dismiss a lawsuit against tax credit scholarship and school choice programs.

This Florida Chamber-supported program, created in 2001 by former Governor Jeb Bush, allows businesses to provide scholarships for students from low-income families to attend high-quality private schools, helping to break generational poverty by providing students with exponentially greater educational opportunities for success.

“In Florida, we’re way beyond sitting back and letting the status quo roll over students’ opportunities and lives,” said Patricia Levesque, Executive Director of Foundation for Florida’s Future in a statement. “The unions do not speak for the tens of thousands of parents and teachers embracing choices that make success possible for more and more students every year.”

The Florida Chamber believes talent is quickly becoming Florida’s new economic development currency. The Florida Chamber will continue to support programs that empower parents, provide students with learning opportunities and help our state succeed.

Take Action Now

Join us at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Education Solutions Summit, June 9 in Tampa and hear form Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. Register today!

Court-Happy Unions Strike Again: Did They Think We Wouldn’t Notice?

In the ongoing battle against parental choice, Florida’s teachers union has once again showed their true colors when they took to the courts to sue against tax credit scholarships.

Tax credit scholarships, an effort passed during the 2014 legislative session, allow companies to provide the means for students to attend high-quality private schools, which more often than not provide exponentially greater opportunities for success.

“For many of Florida’s poorest families, zoned for some of the lowest-performing schools in the state, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program offers hope for parents and a life-changing education for children,” said former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, chairman of ExcelinEd. “This lawsuit is just the latest attack on parental choice by an entrenched education establishment more concerned about protecting the status quo than providing families the opportunities afforded by a great education.”

This status quo former Gov. Bush refers to is protected by non-other than Charlie Crist, another former Florida Governor. In an article issued earlier this month, an influential Panhandle civil rights leader, Rev. H.K. Matthews, spoke about the response he received when he asked Crist to publically denounce the lawsuit:

“You cannot stay silent on this lawsuit,” Matthews wrote. “These families deserve to know if you support or oppose the lawsuit to evict 70,000 poor — and mostly minority — children from their schools.”

Asked about Matthews’ request to call on the unions to drop the suit, Crist said “I’m not going to do that. They have the right to sue for that if they want to.”

Matthews said Crist’s response left him “disappointed” because he recalled standing with Crist at the state Capitol in 2010 when the then-Republican governor expanded and pledged to support the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which gives corporations dollar-for-dollar tax credits to underwrite private education.

Now Crist is standing by a lawsuit that could undo that very program…

Florida’s education systems are on the right track. Minority graduation and achievement rates are number one in the nation and recent reforms in education have allowed our fourth grader readers to rank second in the world behind Hong Kong. The benefits of this program, and of allowing our students access to quality education, cannot be denied. According to a Northwestern University study, “program participants are keeping pace with students nationally.”

“This study once again proves that all children can and will learn when given the opportunity to attend the school that best fits their needs,” said Foundation for Excellence in Education CEO Patricia Levesque. “This program gives parents a choice in their child’s education they would be unable to afford otherwise. Yet, unions want to keep students from accessing these opportunities that are clearly working for kids. This program is providing some of our state’s most vulnerable children with a quality, customized education, and sadly we have a power-hungry organization trying to keep it from reaching more families.”

At the Florida Chamber, we believe a quality education is key for our state’s success. But the fact of the matter is, not every child has the opportunity to receive a quality education. And it would seem that instead of putting the needs of Florida’s students first, Florida’s teachers union once again places the needs of members first.

“It’s outrageous that the teachers union and school boards are suing to take opportunities away from children and their parents,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Perhaps they were hoping Florida’s parents won’t notice.”

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program is expected to serve 67,000 Florida students next year- and we hope for the sake of our state’s future their chances aren’t taken away.

Read the full story here.

Get Involved:

The Florida Chamber will continue to support parents in choosing the best educational options for their children. Learn more about our fight by contacting us at 850-521-1200. We hope to see you at our annual Future of Florida Forum, where we will continue discussions on how we can help secure Florida’s future.

 

Florida Chamber and Gov. Bush Join Don’t Let Florida Go To Pot Coalition

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and former Gov. Jeb Bush recently expressed concerns about Amendment 2 and the problems it could create by allowing large scale marijuana commercialization and sales in Florida, and added their voices to the Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot coalition.

“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” said Gov. Bush. “Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.”

The Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot coalition is a collective effort of local and state organizations working together to educate Floridians on the dangers of marijuana and efforts to allow marijuana for supposed medical uses in Florida.

“Normally we focus on creating jobs, improving education and making Florida more competitive, but this is the type of business Florida can do without,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “I find it curious that the largest funder of the push to legalize pot is a personal injury trial lawyer firm, yet such measures are overwhelmingly opposed by Florida’s medical and law enforcement community. Florida voters are smart and when the facts are on the table, I believe they will say no to drugs in Florida.”

Also joining the coalition are our partners at the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida and the Florida Trucking Association.

National drug policy expert Calvina Fay, Executive Director of the Drug Free America Foundation, raised another red flag that she says is most concerning. “Our greatest fear is that this will make marijuana much more available to kids and, worse, almost normalize it to them. They’ll see that it is legal and supposedly being used as medicine, so they think it is not big deal,” said Fay.

Learn more about why the Florida Chamber is saying No on Amendment 2 here and help us protect Floridians and our constitution.

Jeb Bush, Big Guns Oppose Medical Marijuana Proposal

BY: KEVIN DERBY

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida and the Florida Trucking Association announced on Thursday they opposed Amendment 2, a proposed state Constitution amendment expanding medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

Bush said on Thursday Amendment 2 would hurt efforts to lure tourists to Florida.

“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” said Bush. “Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.”

Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber, took aim at trial lawyer John Morgan who has been the point man behind efforts to get Amendment 2 on the ballot.

“Normally we focus on creating jobs, improving education and making Florida more competitive, but this is the type of business Florida can do without,” said Wilson. “I find it curious that the largest funder of this push to legalize pot is a personal-injury trial lawyer firm, yet such measures are overwhelmingly opposed by Florida’s medical and law enforcement community. Florida voters are smart and when the facts are on the table, I believe they will say no to drugs in Florida.”

Wilson noted the proposed amendment offered immunity to many participants involved in raising, using, selling and transporting medical marijuana, calling it a “red flag.”

Florida Chamber & Gov. Bush Join ‘Don’t Let Florida Go To Pot’ Coalition

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and former Gov. Jeb Bush today expressed concerns about Amendment 2 and the problems it could create by allowing large scale marijuana commercialization and sales in Florida, and added their voices to the Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot coalition.

“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” said Gov. Bush. “Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.”

Flyer_FL Chamber Joins Dont Let FL Go to Pot Coalition The Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot coalition is a collective effort of local and state organizations working together to educate Floridians on the dangers of marijuana and efforts to allow marijuana for supposed medical uses in Florida.“Normally we focus on creating jobs, improving education and making Florida more competitive, but this is the type of business Florida can do without,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “I find it curious that the largest funder of the push to legalize pot is a personal injury trial lawyer firm, yet such measures are overwhelmingly opposed by Florida’s medical and law enforcement community. Florida voters are smart and when the facts are on the table, I believe they will say no to drugs in Florida.”

 

Also joining the coalition are our partners at the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida and the Florida Trucking Association.

National drug policy expert Calvina Fay, Executive Director of the Drug Free America Foundation, raised another red flag that she says is most concerning. “Our greatest fear is that this will make marijuana much more available to kids and, worse, almost normalize it to them. They’ll see that it is legal and supposedly being used as medicine, so they think it is no big deal,” said Fay.

 

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