Lawmakers Vote to Protect Florida’s Constitution

Provide Floridians Greater Transparency on Proposed Amendments

TALLAHASSEE, FL (March 11, 2020) – Today, the Florida Chamber of Commerce applauds the Florida Legislature for passing a bill that will provide Florida voters with greater information about proposed constitutional amendments and better protect our state’s foundational document.

Today’s bill passage comes on the heels of polling showing broad bipartisan consensus among Florida voters that it’s too easy for special interests to pass amendments to Florida’s Constitution.

While the Florida Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis have enacted measures that have brought greater transparency to the constitutional amendment signature gathering process, given voters more information at the ballot box, and protected our state’s foundational document from constitutional clutter, more work was needed.

With today’s passage of SB 1794 by Senator Travis Hutson, important safeguards will provide further protections, including:

-Allowing the Florida Supreme Court to clarify if a proposal violates the U.S. Constitution,
-Ending the state subsidy of petition gathering firms by requiring that a sponsor pay the actual cost of validating signatures incurred by Supervisors of Elections,
-Giving voters more information about the proposed measure, which is effectively permanent, when casting their vote, and
-Saving government resources and reducing uncertainty by requiring a higher threshold for Supreme Court review.

“For far too long, special interest groups have bought their way into Florida’s Constitution, by placing poll tested proposed amendment titles that do little to explain what the amendment actually does onto voters’ ballots. Now voters will have stronger facts and information to better understand the amendment before casting their vote,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President, Florida Chamber of Commerce.

According to Florida Chamber statewide survey results released last week, when asked about the process for getting an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot, 76 percent of 800 likely voters said adjustments are needed compared to only 14 percent that said the process works very well and needs no adjustment.

The bill now travels to Governor DeSantis for his action, and the Florida Chamber is encouraging the Governor to sign the bill into law.

The Florida Chamber thanks both bill sponsors, Senator Travis Hutson and Representative James Grant (HB 7037), for their leadership on this legislation.

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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 Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

New Statewide Survey Shows Broad Bipartisan Support for Protecting Florida’s Constitution

Likely Voters Say It’s Too Easy to Pass Amendments to Florida’s Constitution & Lawmakers Should Take Action

TALLAHASSEE, FL (March 5, 2020) –There is broad bipartisan consensus that it’s too easy to pass amendments to Florida’s Constitution, and the legislature must take action to prevent special interests from taking advantage of the system, according to the latest statewide survey of likely Florida voters released today by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“While the Florida Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis have enacted measures that have brought transparency to the signature gathering process, given voters more information at the ballot, and protected our state’s foundational document from constitutional clutter, Floridians recognize there’s still more work to be done to improve this process,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President, Florida Chamber of Commerce.

When asked about the process for getting an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot, 76 percent of 800 likely voters said adjustments are needed, compared to only 14 percent that said the process works very well and needs no adjustment.

Right now, the Florida Legislature is considering two bills, SB 1794 by Senator Travis Hutson and HB 7037 by Representative James Grant, that would provide stronger transparency by allowing voters to have more information about the measure when casting their vote.

When given a detailed description of SB 1794, 60 percent of voters said they support the bill. Again, survey results show this is far from partisan, with strong majorities of both parties, as well as independents, expressing support for the reform:

  TOTAL DEM IND REP
FAVOR 60% 55% 57% 69%
OPPOSE 21% 27% 24% 14%

Support for SB 1794 is largely driven by the perception that it’s too easy to take advantage of the current system due to the ease of amending the state constitution. When asked whether they agree or disagree that the Florida Legislature needs to do more to stop special interest groups from abusing the process, 78 percent of voters agreed.

  TOTAL DEM IND REP
AGREE 78% 75% 84% 78%
DISAGREE 15% 18% 11% 14%

“This robust response makes it clear that voters are ready for the Florida Legislature to act on what they see as an abuse of the constitutional amendment process,” Hart added.

SB 1794 is on the Senate Special Order Calendar for March 6, while HB 7037 is on the House Special Order Calendar for today, March 5.

ABOUT THIS POLL: The Florida Chamber of Commerce survey was conducted on March 1-3 by OnMessage, Inc. during live telephone interviews. The survey consists of 800 likely voters and was stratified to reflect historical turnout and the margin of error for this survey is +/-3.46%.

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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 Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Florida House Passes Bill Cracking Down on Assignment of Benefits Consumer Abuses

The Florida House of Representatives today passed a bill cracking down on Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse against consumers – a Florida Chamber of Commerce top priority.

House Bill 1421, sponsored by Rep. James “J.W.” Grant, includes consumer protections that would curb abusive AOB practices that are driving up the cost of insurance and threatening the affordability of home ownership for many Floridians.

“The House’s action is a big step toward ending costly AOB abuse and protecting Florida’s homeowners and businesses,’’ said EDIE OUSLEY, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, we urge the Senate to recognize the impact that AOB abuse is having on consumers’ wallets and approve the House bill before another year passes without protections for Florida families.’’

Why It Matters

Florida insurance regulators and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. have provided legislators clear evidence of the growing problem of AOB abuse, its impact in driving up costs for consumers, and the dramatically rising number of AOB lawsuits. Without reforms, homeowners – especially those in the tri-county area of South Florida – can expect to see their homeowners’ insurance premiums increase by thousands of dollars over the next five years.

HB 1421 contains commonsense provisions to protect consumers against unscrupulous repair vendors who, working in cahoots with litigious trial attorneys, pressure homeowners into signing over their insurance policies, and then inflate the cost and scope of repair work and file lawsuits against insurers that refuse to pay. While the legislation does not eliminate one-way attorney fees, which are the single biggest factor driving the explosion of AOB lawsuits, it does provide some restrictions on their use aimed at reducing incentives for third parties to sue insurers over inflated claims.

Here’s How You Can Help

The Florida Chamber and its Consumer Protection Coalition are actively advocating to stop AOB fraud and abuse. Add your name to the nearly 2,000 homeowners that have signed a petition encouraging lawmakers to pass meaningful consumer protections.

Florida Chamber-Backed Assignment of Benefits Bill Heads to House Floor

The Florida Chamber of Commerce today applauded the House Commerce Committee for moving forward House Bill 1421, which takes positive steps toward stopping Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. James “J.W.’’ Grant (R-Tampa), contains commonsense consumer protections that would curb abusive AOB practices that are driving up insurance premiums and threatening the affordability of home ownership for many Floridians.

This bill is a strong starting point for addressing AOB abuse and the resulting rising insurance rates caused by unscrupulous repair vendors and trial attorneys. We are encouraged by the House Commerce Committee’s action to keep AOB reform efforts alive this session and are calling on lawmakers in the Senate to follow the House’s lead.

The Florida Chamber continues to affirm that any legislation to reform AOB should eliminate one-way attorney fees, which create incentives for third parties to sue insurers over inflated claims without financial risk.

Both Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. CEO Barry Gilway have testified that one-way attorney fees are the single-biggest factor fueling the explosion of water damage claims and AOB lawsuits that are driving up insurance costs for consumers. While HB 1421 does not provide an outright ban on one-way attorney fees, it does provide some restrictions on their use, which is an improvement over the current situation.

While we continue to believe strongly that AOB reform efforts must eliminate one-way attorney fees, we are pleased that the House bill acknowledges that one-way attorney fees are a serious problem and must be addressed. The attorney fee provisions in Rep. Grant’s bill are a clear step forward.

The Florida Chamber noted that legislators have heard testimony for five consecutive years about the growth of AOB abuse. Legislators have also received clear data and evidence from the state’s insurance regulator and from Citizens that homeowners – especially those living in the tri-county area of South Florida – will see their annual homeowners’ premiums rise by thousands of dollars over the next five years if the Legislature fails to enact reforms.

Failing to take action this session to protect consumers will only worsen the AOB problem, leading to more lawsuits and higher insurance rates for consumers, not just in South Florida, but in many other areas of the state.

Take Action Now

Support Assignment of Benefit reform by signing this petition.