Attacks Continue on Florida’s Workers’ Comp System

While the Florida Chamber of Commerce continues to monitor the Florida Supreme Court for a decision on the three workers’ compensation cases before the Court, this week a decision was issued by the First District Court of Appeals that is disconcerting for the workers’ comp system.

Miles v City of Edgewater opens the door for other injured parties to hire their own attorneys, and for attorneys to start taking workers’ comp cases on a non-contingency basis. This could increase litigation, increase the amount of awards, and lengthen court battles.

The intent of the workers’ comp attorney fee statute is to prevent unnecessary and drawn out litigation from taking place, and ensure that claims have merit. While the result of the decision in Miles v. City of Edgewater is that the claimant or a third party has the right to contract and pay for an attorney beyond the contingency fee basis, a concern is that attorneys will prey on injured workers to pay their own fees and an increase in meritless lawsuits will occur.

It is unclear yet whether this case will be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, or if this could have an impact on rates. NCCI, the state’s rating agency, will be examining the financial impact of this case in the coming weeks to determine if workers’ comp rates will need to be increased.

Take Action Now

Florida’s business climate is a key factor in businesses expanding and relocating to Florida – that means we must ensure workers’ comp rates remain affordable. The Florida Chamber’s Economic Development Task Force, which will launch in May, will discuss important business climate issues driving business decisions. To learn more and to be part of the conversation, contact Carolyn Johnson at cjohnson@flchamber.com.

Urge Key Lawmakers to Support Legal Reform Efforts Today

On Tuesday, January 26, 2016, at 9 a.m. the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will take up important legislation that will improve Florida’s legal climate. SB 632, sponsored by Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples), requires written notice to an insurance company as a precedent to filing a bad faith lawsuit. The insurance company is then given 45 days to settle the claim and payout the provisions of the insurance policy.

Please click the “Take Action Now” button to email key lawmakers on this committee and urge them to support SB 632.
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A recent study by the Insurance Research Council found that bad faith lawsuits resulted in an additional $800 million in automobile liability claims payments, which breaks down to $79 per automobile policy. Not only does our litigious legal climate put Florida in the bottom 10 for favorable legal climates, but it’s increasing costs to Florida consumers.

This legislation is important to Florida’s business community because the bill:

  • Allows insurers to act in good faith prior to a bad faith lawsuit being brought forward;
  • Decreases frivolous litigation by trial lawyers; and
  • Improves Florida’s legal environment under which businesses operate.

Take Action Now

Click the “Take Action Now” button below now to urge key lawmakers to support legal reform efforts.

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Legislative Agenda Puts Jobs, Growth and Economic Opportunity in the Driver Seat

 

Urges Lawmakers to Put Florida’s Long-Term Competitiveness Ahead of Short-Term Political Fixes

TALLAHASSEE (November 17, 2015) – As the Florida Chamber enters its 100th year of fighting for business, the Florida Chamber of Commerce today unveiled its 2016 Competitiveness Agenda – a comprehensive legislative agenda that focuses resources and expertise to advance jobs, growth and greater economic opportunities for Floridians. Florida’s Competitiveness Agenda builds on 104 pro-jobs bills passed and signed into law in the last five years, and is helping position Florida to be America’s number one private sector job creator.

Although there are more than 30 scored items in the 2016 agenda, here is a sample of what will make Florida more competitive:

  • A tax climate that helps generate job growth (we support a $1 billion cut),
  • A talented workforce to fill those jobs (continued education reform),
  • A diversified economy, and further improving Florida’s business climate (we support the $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund and other improvements to EFI),
  • A quality of life that includes science-based water policy, and
  • Smarter healthcare outcomes through transparency, competition and ending the cost shift.

Looking at Florida’s economic horizon, it’s clear Florida is making positive strides. More than 941,000 private-sector jobs have been created since Governor Rick Scott was first elected, approximately 3,000 regulations have been eliminated or improved, more than one billion in taxes have been cut, and Florida’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in seven years.

Looking forward, Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Jerry Parrish projects that by December, Florida will have created one million net new private-sector jobs since Governor Scott was elected, and he projects that Florida will create 220,000 new jobs in 2016.

“While Florida is moving in the right direction, now is not the time to be complacent,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Florida is in competition for private-sector jobs with other states, and therefore we must ensure a tax and business climate that is welcoming to job growth, ensure that we have a talented workforce to fill those jobs, ensure that Florida’s quality of life provides sustainable water resource solutions and that we lower the cost of healthcare through better outcomes. Now is the time to put Florida’s long-term economic security ahead of short-term political fixes.”

Based on input from Florida Chamber members, local chambers of commerce, partner associations, research, and unfinished business from 2015, the Florida Chamber’s 2016 Competitiveness Agenda is a blueprint of legislative priorities that it will lobby, track and score this Legislative Session.

LOWERING THE COST OF LIVING ON FLORIDA FAMILIES AND BUSINESSES

To lower the cost of living and the cost of doing business, the Florida Chamber recommends approximately one billion dollars in targeted tax cuts as follows:

  • Phasing out the Business Rent Tax (taxes on commercial leases),
  • Continuing to phase out the corporate income tax,
  •  Permanently eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment, and
  • Supporting sales tax holidays on back-to-school items and hurricane preparedness.

CHAMPIONING A TALENTED WORKFORCE TO FILL JOBS

Talent is the new economic development currency. A quality education is the best way to ensure students can compete in a global economy, and therefore the Florida Chamber recommends:

  • Staying the course on school grades, and issuing school grades this year, and
  • Providing educational opportunities and economic independence for individuals with unique abilities.

DIVERSIFYING FLORIDA’S ECONOMY & IMPROVING FLORIDA’S BUSINESS CLIMATE

To build the perfect business climate, the Florida Chamber recommends:

  • Investing in Florida’s Enterprise Fund,
  • Fixing Florida’s broken legal system by addressing Assignment of Benefits and Fair Settlement lawsuit abuses, and
  • Engaging a workers’ comp legislative solution if the Florida Supreme Court rules against job creators and in favor of trial lawyers in pending court cases.

SECURING FLORIDA’S WATER FUTURE

To secure Florida’s water future, and avoid California’s mistakes, the Florida Chamber recommends science-based water policy that will:

  • Help ensure a clean and abundant water supply,
  • Reduce the prospect of “water wars” among users in resource-limited areas, and
  • Promote strategic partnerships between the public and private sector in achieving water resource development goals.

LOWERING THE COST OF HEALTHCARE

Whether or not the legislature expands Medicaid, the Florida Chamber recommends reducing the cost of healthcare by:

  • Greater transparency – whether pricing outcomes or value of procedures or facilities – provides greater competition and is a win for Florida families,
  • Eliminating healthcare fraud and abuse through innovative practices and technologies,
  • Allowing telemedicine to serve as an alternative healthcare delivery system to increase capacity, deliver high quality of care and control costs, and
  • Increasing the capacity and number of medical professionals by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to practice to their fullest potential.

 

A complete listing of the Florida Chamber’s 2016 Competitiveness Agenda which outlines more than 30 priorities the Florida Chamber will be lobbying, tracking and scoring this Legislative Session, is outlined in Where We Stand and available at www.FloridaChamber.com.

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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.

Continuously Challenged Medical Liability Laws Drive Up Costs

Earlier this week, the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a portion of the Florida Chamber-backed medical liability reforms that were made in 2013. At question was if “ex parte communications” violated the patient’s right to privacy in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In these cases, “ex parte communications” allow the defense attorney to receive medical information about the patient, including from other doctors who have treated the patient, without the patient or the patient’s attorney needing to be present. This allows the defense attorney to have a clear picture of any other factors that may have contributed to the patient’s medical injury.

This is not the first challenge regarding privacy in medical malpractice cases and “ex parte communications.”  A federal court last year upheld the 2013 reforms, saying that Florida’s addition of “ex parte communications” does not violate federal health care privacy rights.

Furthermore, trial lawyers have continuously attacked the caps for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, with a district court of appeal ruling earlier this month that these caps violated the equal protection clause. This follows a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court last year that also threw out caps on non-economic damages, allowing a patient to collect pain and suffering.

Medical liability lawsuits drive up the cost of doing business, not just for doctors, but for all. Doctors are more likely to order extra tests or procedures to avoid any malpractice, which drives up the cost of healthcare. This is why the Florida Chamber has included medical liability reform in its Smarter Healthcare Coverage in Florida plan.

What’s Next?

The Florida Legislature will start meeting again on September 16th, kicking off fall committee meetings, with a 2016 Florida Legislative Session start date of January 12th. The Florida Chamber will continue to advocate to reduce the cost of healthcare and reform Florida’s bottom-10 legal climate. To add your voice to the fight, contact Greg Blose at gblose@flchamber.com.

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!

Senate Committee Will Not Hear Anti-Business Bill This Week

Trial Lawyer-Friendly SB 794 May Be Heard Next Week

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which was scheduled to hear Senator Jeremy Ring’s (D-Margate) anti-business SB 794, will not meet this morning. After an overwhelming response by the business community to Sen. Ring’s anti-business bill, which had already been delayed once during a previous committee meeting, the trial lawyer-friendly legislation will now have to wait another week.

SB 794 seeks to make businesses pay interest on judgments in addition to the amount a judge or jury awards, thus driving up the legal costs for businesses. Another adverse reaction to this bill is that it would force many businesses into unfair settlements because of the fear of paying even more by fighting the lawsuit in court.

You may recall Sen. Ring referred to his bill as the “annual battle royale between the trial lawyers and the business community.” It seems as though the business community is winning the battle, but will you commit to helping us win the war?

We will keep you posted on when the next meeting is, but we need you to be prepared to contact key legislators at a moment’s notice.

Why is SB 794 Harmful for Florida Businesses?

This legislation is bad for Florida’s businesses because the bill:

  • Further deteriorates Florida’s legal climate (ranked 41 out of 50 U.S. states) and image as a “gotcha” state
  • Increases the cost of personal injury lawsuits, which is already a significant cost to Florida’s employers, by charging interest before a legal decision has been rendered
  • Forces more companies to settle, despite the merit of the claim, to avoid paying interest for ongoing litigation
  • Delays in the legal system, which might not be due to the defendant, will only further drive up the cost of personal injury lawsuits.

To learn how you can help make more of a difference by sharing your opinion on this and other issues, please contact Greg Blose.