Florida Chamber Urges Senate Committee to Support SB 396
The Florida Chamber of Commerce urges you to support SB 396, related to insurance coverage for windshield glass. This bill, proposed by Senator Dorothy Hukill, will be heard on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
Florida’s assignment of benefits problem extends beyond property insurance into automobile insurance and windshield glass. According to a report by the Florida Justice Reform Institute, there were nearly 20,000 lawsuits related to auto glass and windshields in 2016. Because Florida law allows for a $0 deductible to replace windshields, glass harvesters target auto owners to replace their windshield for free, which may or may not be damaged, and bills the insurance company at an inflated rate. If the insurance company denies the claim, they are then sued under the insured’s policy. SB 396 allows an insurance company to require an inspection of the damaged windshield before it can be replaced.
This bill is important to Florida’s business community because it:
- Protects consumers from unscrupulous glass harvesters that might sue under their name while maintaining a $0 deductible for windshield glass;
- Allows the insurance company to inspect the damaged auto glass prior to replacement; and
- Provides a solution to addressing assignment of benefits in auto glass.
The Florida Chamber urges you to support SB 396, and will consider votes on this legislation, and any substantive amendments to it in committee or on the floor, in our annual How They Voted report card. Because of the importance of this issue to employers across the state, our Board of Directors has determined that this bill, and any substantive amendments to it in committee or on the floor, will be counted twice on our legislative report card. The grade that you earn will be based on your voting record on the issues, such as this one, that are outlined in Where We Stand, a guide to Florida’s 2018 Business Agenda. We will make every effort to notify you prior to a vote that may be included in our annual legislative report card. If you have any questions about this or other issues on the 2018 Business Agenda, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Frank C. Walker, III
Vice President of Government Affairs
Senate Business Rent Tax Bill Clears First Committee Stop
The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauds the Florida Senate Community Affairs Committee for passing SB 484, sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) and co-sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), a bill that would save Florida businesses more than $300 million each year. Florida is the only state in the country that charges the business rent tax, putting Florida at a competitive disadvantage to other states, especially neighboring states, when attracting new businesses. SB 484 begins the process of reducing the business rent tax by reducing the state sales tax on these rentals by 1 percent.
The Following Lawmakers Voted on April 3 to Reduce the Florida-Only Business Rent Tax:
- Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon)
- Sen. Aaron Bean (R- Jacksonville)
- Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg)
- Sen. Daphne Campbell (D-North Miami Beach)
- Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville)
- Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs)
Take Action Now
This was the first of three committee hearings for SB 484. On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the House will consider their version of a tax package that includes a reduction of the business rent tax. Urge your lawmakers to reduce the Florida-only business rent tax.
Why Should You Support Cutting the Business Rent Tax?
Visit the Business Rent Tax Coalition’s website, www.CutMyBizRent.tax, to learn more about the effects of the Florida-only business rent tax.
Failure to Enact Meaningful AOB Reforms Hurts Florida’s Consumers, Coalition Says
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (March 11, 2016) – Florida’s property insurance policyholders face paying higher rates due to the Legislature’s failure this legislative session to pass meaningful reforms to rein in fraud and abuse involving Assignment of Benefits (AOB).
For the fourth straight year, legislators heard testimony about a rapidly growing scam in which shady home repair vendors pressure homeowners to sign away the rights and benefits of their insurance policies as a condition of performing work. This practice has led to grossly inflated claims and an explosion of AOB lawsuits against insurers, which is driving up the cost of homeowners’ coverage for consumers.
Last week, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. warned that its policyholders in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties face rate increases of 10 percent annually for years to come, and that rate decreases for its other policyholders across the state are now jeopardized, due to a huge increase in water damage claims and AOB lawsuits. Citizens said it is now receiving an average 650 new lawsuits a month. The mounting losses are threatening the state insurer’s financial strength and jeopardizing its efforts to move policies to the private market.
Earlier in the session, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation issued an analysis showing that AOB abuse and lawsuits are also a growing problem for private insurers. State insurance regulators said if the trend wasn’t stopped, private insurers also could be forced to raise rates by 10 percent or more annually just to break even.
The Consumer Protection Coalition, led by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, praised state Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) and state Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) for introducing bills at the start of the 2016 session that contained strong consumer protections. However, their bills died in committee. Among the common-sense consumer protections that failed to win acceptance with legislators were provisions allowing the consumer to rescind an AOB within three days, a requirement that the home repair vendor provide written disclosure to the policyholder that they might be signing away important legal and policy rights and a prohibition against vendors interfering with the right of the insurer to communicate directly with their own policyholder.
Hukill’s bill also sought to reform the use of one-way attorney fees in AOB lawsuits, which are fueling the dramatic surge in AOB lawsuits. One-way attorney fees that exist in state law today were intended to ensure a level playing field for policyholders forced to sue their own insurance company. Instead, shady home repair vendors are obtaining the right to these one-way fees, incentivizing them to file lawsuits – because they don’t have to pay attorney fees to insurers, even if they lose.
“Unless the Legislature takes real steps to address one-way attorney fees and stop the lawsuit free-for-all, consumers will continue to pay the price of inaction in the form of higher insurance rates,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the coalition. “The fraud and abuse involving AOBs is real, it is getting worse and it is spreading statewide. While we are disappointed that the Legislature did not agree to a cure this session, we are 100 percent committed to ending the abuse and protecting consumers in 2017.”
The Florida Chamber and Consumer Protection Coalition, which includes a wide array of consumer advocates, construction firms, realtors, bankers, business associations, insurance agents and insurance companies, said it will continue to work to educate consumers, legislators and other stakeholders and press for real reforms over the next year.
Florida Chamber-Backed Manufacturing Bill Passes Committee
The Florida Chamber of Commerce applauds the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee today for passing a Florida Chamber-backed manufacturing bill by a 6-1 vote.
SB 98, sponsored by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) will ensure a permanent reduction of the state’s Sales Tax on Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment and allow companies to more easily invest in additional equipment.
In 2013, the Florida Chamber, thanks to efforts by Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature, led the charge with the Manufacturers Association of Florida to help create a program that would reduce the Sales Tax on Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment for three years. But Florida’s manufacturers need a more permanent solution. In order to provide Florida manufacturers with predictability and certainty and help continue growing Florida’s manufacturing industry, the Florida Chamber will continue to support permanently eliminating the Sales Tax on Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment.
Did you know manufacturing contributes more than $40 billion to Florida’s economy? Learn how you can get involved in the Florida Chamber’s efforts by contacting us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Urge Lawmakers to Help Improve Florida’s Insurance and Legal Climates
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear two bills – one that would improve Florida’s insurance climate and one that would make Florida’s legal climate even worse than it already is. Please email these key legislators on the Senate Judiciary Committee and urge them to support SB 1064 and oppose SB 794.
SB 1064 sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), allows insurance companies to write policies that prohibit the post-loss assignment of benefits or rights other than for purposes of payment. This protects the homeowner by allowing them to maintain the rights of their policy but allows the contractor or subcontractor to be directly paid by the insurer.
SB 1064 is Important to Florida’s Business Community Because the Bill:
- Protects insurers against inflated claims by insuring the homeowner maintains control of the repair and mitigation process
- Balances the rights of the homeowner and the insurer when a loss occurs
- Clarifies that insurers can prohibit the post-loss assignment of benefits as a part of an insurance policy
SB 794 (Prejudgment Interest) allows interest to be charged on damages from the date the injury or tort occurred, not from the date the legal decision was made. Delays in the legal system, which might not be due to the defendant, will only further drive up the cost of personal injury lawsuits. The result is that more companies will be forced to settle to avoid increased legal costs as a result of additional interest in a drawn out legal system.
Please take a moment now to contact these key legislators and urge them to VOTE YES ON SB 1064 and NO ON SB 794 during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
Share your opinion with key Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee.