Let 2019 be the Year the Legislature Puts Consumers Ahead of Trial Lawyer Scams

Right now, your state legislators in Tallahassee have an opportunity to lower the cost of living for Floridians. That’s good news for everyone, but it’s particularly good news for those living in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that are artificially paying higher home and auto insurance rates than they should.

The reason rates are unusually high in the tri-county region is because Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are at the epicenter of a home and auto repair abuse scheme that’s sending rates skyrocketing. It’s known as “assignment of benefits,” or AOB, and last year there were more than 135,000 AOB-related lawsuits in Florida – up from just 1,300 in 2000. The numbers are real and alarming.

AOB abuse rewards a few at the expense of many. It’s become a cottage industry for trial lawyers and shady contractors and vendors who roam neighborhoods looking for their next victims.

 

Here’s How It Works

A homeowner wakes up to a water leak in their kitchen and calls a plumber. The plumber encourages the homeowner to hire a vendor for clean-up and damage mitigation. Often secretly, the vendor pays the plumber a “referral fee.”

The vendor then asks the homeowner to sign some forms, saying that they’ll take care of everything including dealing with the insurance company. What the homeowner doesn’t know is their signature transferred all of the rights to their insurance policy over to the vendor who doesn’t have their best interest in mind.

Far too many homeowners are left with shoddy repairs or no repairs made at all, and then the vendor submits inflated repair bills to the insurance company – setting it up to deny the claim because of the overpriced bill. When the claim is denied, the vendor teams up with a trial lawyer to sue the insurance company in the name of the policyholder – without you ever knowing!

 

It Gets Worse

Florida law allows for one-way attorney fees, meaning the vendor’s lawyer gets paid if the insurer settles the lawsuit to avoid a costly legal battle or loses by as little as $1 in court. Bottom line: Vendors are incentivized to sue because they don’t have much to lose.

The AOB scheme didn’t exist until several years ago when a few creative trial lawyers discovered a loophole and started teaching vendors how to use AOBs to pad their profits. From 2008 to 2018, AOB lawsuits increased by over 900 percent, while total lawsuits in that same period increased just over 400 percent. Five firms filed more than 20 percent of all property AOB lawsuits, and even worse, nine firms filed nearly 85 percent of all auto glass AOB cases.

According to the Florida Justice Reform Institute, AOB lawsuits are growing much faster than the population, going from little more than a few hundredths of a point as a fraction of Florida’s population to nearly a full three-quarters of a percent now.

Eleanor Posner of Delray Beach can attest to how bad the problem is. She became a victim of AOB abuse following a water leak in her laundry room. A vendor charged her insurance company $12,000 for the water removal and drying, then filed a lawsuit when the insurer disputed the inflated amount. Because she signed an AOB, she was powerless to do anything about it and lived in fear of the vendor coming after her for the balance or placing a lien on her home.

 

Helping to Stop AOB Abuse

The Consumer Protection Coalition, spearheaded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is leading the effort to help stop these abusive practices. AOB reform is vital to lowering the cost of living on families – Floridians that fill the jobs that keep our state’s economy growing.

We’ve joined in supporting AOB reform legislation in the Florida House and Senate – reform that the Wall Street Journal has for two years said is long overdue. Governor Ron DeSantis said recently he hopes lawmakers pass legislation to reform AOB, which has “degenerated into a racket.” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway also have warned that something must be done to stop the abuse.

 

Floridians Supporting a Legislative Fix March to Capitol

Shoring up that support are the voices of more than 10,000 Floridians who have signed petitions calling on lawmakers to close the loophole that lines the pockets of a few trial lawyers while it harms everyday Floridians.

With hurricane season only a few months away, Floridians simply can’t wait any longer.

Join Us in Calling on Lawmakers to Make 2019 the Year AOB Reform Finally Passes

  1. Contact your Representative and Senators – encourage them to pass AOB reform (SB 122 & HB 7065).
  2. Sign the petition for AOB reform.
  3. Be the first to know when registration opens for the Florida Chamber’s annual Insurance Summit taking place November 2019.

 

PS: Earlier this morning, the Florida House took an additional step toward AOB reform when it passed HB 7065 out of the House Judiciary Committee. It is expected to be heard by the full House soon.

 

 

March 28, 2019

Preparing Florida’s Infrastructure for Smart Growth and Development

Think about it. Florida is already the third largest state in America and we’re growing by over 1,000 new residents every day. We have 21 million residents and we’ll grow by five million more by 2030. By then, we’ll have three million more drivers on our roads, 50 million more visitors and we’ll need 20 percent more water. The good news is that Florida’s business leaders have a plan and it’s getting traction. This is good for Florida, good for job creation and it’s a great way to Secure Florida’s Future.

While we’re growing, Florida is also becoming more diverse. Aging Baby Boomers will continue to swell Florida’s elder population and at the same time, the Millennial and GenX generations are growing as a share of Florida’s total population. As Florida’s population changes, it is important that our infrastructure systems respond to their changing needs. Creating long-term investments in Florida’s transportation, energy, water, telecommunications and agriculture infrastructure is essential. Our infrastructure needs to support growing demand as well as a wide range of options – from sustainable water solutions to autonomous transportation systems.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 research outlines where Florida needs to be by 2030 to remain globally competitive. To secure Florida’s future, we must consider the water and energy needs for nearly five million more residents, be ready for the hard and soft infrastructure needs like broader telecommunications, improved roadways and railways, air, space and sea ports, ensure Floridians can connect to job opportunities, education, healthcare options, each other and the world, as well as support continued economic growth while preserving Florida’s essential environment and community assets.

 

How Do We Make Sure Florida Is Prepared for Smarter Growth?

The Florida Chamber’s Infrastructure Coalition, chaired by former Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, is focused on creating long-term investments in Florida’s energy, water, transportation, telecommunications, and agriculture infrastructure. With Washington, D.C.’s likely focus on infrastructure, the Florida Chamber’s Infrastructure Coalition aims to maximize Florida’s economic growth opportunities. And, here at the state level, double down on efforts to prepare for Florida’s growing population through infrastructure investments. As part of the Florida Chamber’s continuing efforts, we are working closely with state leaders like Senate President Bill Galvano to enact smarter growth policies that meet Florida’s long-term needs and will, this week, present recommendations the Florida Chamber’s Infrastructure Coalition has prepared for Florida’s elected officials to consider.

The Florida Chamber understands the importance innovation and technology play in Florida’s future- specifically as they relate to Florida’s infrastructure future. Florida 2030 research estimates that by 2030, more than 25 percent of all miles driven (including freight) could be by autonomous vehicles. With guidance and leadership from state leaders like Senator Jeff Brandes, Syd Kitson of Babcock Ranch and Grayson Brulte of Brulte & Company, the Florida Chamber created Autonomous Florida, a statewide initiative that works to ensure Florida continues leading the way in autonomous transportation. Our vision? To make Florida the autonomous capital of “all things autonomous” in North America.

I believe Florida will continue to grow and we can remain competitive if we plan better for the next five million residents than we did for the last five million.

 

This week, leaders from around Florida and the nation will gather at American’s first solar powered town, Babcock Ranch for the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2018 Growth & Infrastructure Summit, to discuss the future of Florida’s transportation and infrastructure systems, as well as outline the strategies needed to grow smarter. Governor-elect DeSantis, Senate President Galvano and House Speaker Oliva have all signaled an interest in keeping innovation and infrastructure at the core of Florida’s economic development future. This is great news as we fight to Secure Florida’s Future.

December 10, 2018

Florida’s New $1 Trillion Economy Creates Opportunities

July 30, 2018

Opportunities That Can Also Overcome Challenges

I’ll never forget where I was on September 29, 2007.

It was a Saturday, and I was in the Atlanta airport, walking to my next connection to catch a flight to D.C. for a meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As I was keeping pace with others focused on catching their next flight, I happened to look over and saw a Wall Street Journal newspaper box and was immediately frozen in time.

The front-page headline said, “Is Florida Over?” Well, as the CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, you can probably imagine that it was not the type of headline you’d want to see in one of the nation’s most widely read newspapers.

A few years later, Florida made an incredible economic turnaround, and soon, even the WSJ would notice and write part two of that story – Has Florida found the secret to saving the economy?

Florida has come a long way in the last 10 years. In fact, in the past five years, Florida’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by 27.2 percent, a rate that puts Florida’s GDP growth among the top five states in the country. And during the same time, Florida has produced more than 1 out of 11 jobs in the U.S.

 

As Will Weatherford, Managing Partner of Weatherford Capitol, former Speaker of the Florida House, and Florida Chamber Board member, recently wrote in Florida Politics:

“You would be hard pressed to find another economy with such robust growth. Florida has seen year-over-year GDP growth, jobs continue to be created and our unemployment rate continues to drop and has remained below the national average for the past several years.”

The good news is that Florida continues to break economic records. Earlier this month, Florida’s GDP topped $1 trillion.  Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish, just this past January, predicted that Florida would reach this new milestone during 2018. And just as Dr. Parrish predicted, Florida officially hit the new $1 trillion GDP in the last few weeks. To put this into perspective, if Florida was an independent country, our $1 trillion economy now ranks us as the 17th largest economy in the world – ahead of Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Argentina. Now, as Dr. Parrish explains, Florida is adding $2.74 billion each day to the state’s GDP.

“Becoming a $1 trillion economy means Florida is continuing to grow and create jobs, keeping unemployment lower than the national average, and creating economic opportunity,” Dr. Parrish said recently.

Florida’s GDP Milestone Garnered the Attention of National and International Headlines

  • Palm Beach PostU.S. News
  • Orlando Sentinel
  • Tampa Bay Times
  • The Capitolist
  • Atlanta Journal Constitution
  • MyFox Memphis
  • ForeignAffairsNZL
  • News4Jax
  • KISS 104.1
  • Dayton Daily News
  • Statesman
  • SpringfieldNews-Sun
  • WFTV9 ABC
  • Sunshine State News.

Of course, achieving a $1 trillion GDP is due in large part to Governor Scott, the Florida Cabinet and Florida Legislature. Consider that, until just a few years ago, Florida punished manufacturing investments twice (once at the state level, once at the local level). At the urging of the Florida Chamber, the legislature and Governor Scott removed the Machinery & Equipment (M&E) sales tax. Understanding that manufacturing jobs have the highest value added, removing this tax is making great strides and helping Florida climb in GDP rankings.

 

“This is an historic moment for Florida reaching a record $1 trillion in GDP. By working every day to create private-sector jobs, we’ve been able to increase Florida’s GDP by more than $270 billion – 37 percent – since 2010. When I came into office I made it very clear that we would get our economy back on track. Within seven and a half years, private-sector businesses have created more than 1.5 million jobs and Florida’s unemployment is at a low 3.8 percent. Florida’s growing economy is producing real results for families across our state and we now have the 17th largest economy in the world,” said Governor Rick Scott.

 

 

“Getting Florida’s economy out of the ditch and back on track has long been one of our state’s top priorities, and today’s announcement that our economy surpassed $1 trillion is incredible news for all Floridians. This milestone is further evidence that the pro-business policies and priorities championed by Governor Scott, the Cabinet and the legislature are working. Florida’s economy is on a roll, but complacency is not a strategy and we must continue to do all that we can to make the Florida’s economy as strong and resilient as possible,” said Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture.

 

 

“Florida’s strong economy is a testament to the work done over the past seven years to create an environment that keeps taxes low, reduces our debt, and makes Florida an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family. When we remove unnecessary burdens and overregulation, businesses can grow and create new jobs, while attracting new talent and companies to our state. It’s important that we continue this growth trend, and the policies that have helped us achieve this feat, to ensure Florida remains a top global economy,” said Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer.

 

 

According to TheFloridaScorecard.org, Florida has created 170,500 jobs over the past year, and has steadily kept unemployment rates below the national average. At the same time, achievement gaps are closing in Florida’s Pre-K-12 system, Florida continues to break visitation records, and our state is continuing to diversify its economy.

And while this growth is good news for Florida, challenges and opportunities remain. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 research initiative (being released this year) shows the gaps Florida must close in order to continue to be globally competitive and grow smarter by 2030 and beyond. Consider that while achievement gaps are closing, 43 percent of 3rd graders aren’t reading at or above grade level. And while 1 in 11 jobs in the nation in the last five years were created in Florida, our state’s 14.8 percent poverty rate includes 21.3 percent of children under age 18. While Florida is better suited than most states in these areas, the Florida Chamber will continue to lead reforms that create economic opportunity.

As former Speaker Weatherford has said, “A $1 trillion economy is proof that when we stay focused on Florida’s long-term future and remain stalwart in our commitment to quality education, free enterprise and an unmatched quality of life, it suggests that we can continue to be one of the most exciting economic stories in the world.”

While we can certainly pay tribute to Florida’s new $1 trillion GDP success, we must also stay focused. The challenges that remain should be viewed as opportunities to further secure Florida’s future. Your dedication toward the common goal of making Florida more competitive, will help ensure that future Wall Street Journal headlines focus on economic prosperity for all.

Join Us

Register today for Florida’s premier forum focused on growing Florida to its full potential – the 2018 Florida Chamber Foundation Future of Florida Forum.

Talent is Florida’s Best Economic Currency

Each month, I have the honor of being able to travel across Florida and meet with business leaders who are working hard to create jobs and economic opportunity for Floridians. Across the board, businesses tell me that the biggest issue keeping them up at night is having a talented workforce that will allow them to continue to create jobs and grow in the future. If we look at the jobs in Florida today there are 242,500 open jobs. Said differently, there are 242,500 jobs today looking for people. On the other side we have 391,000 people looking to fill those vacant jobs.

 

Earlier this month, the Florida Chamber Foundation held their annual Learners to Earners Workforce Summit, where they took a deep dive into how Florida can prepare for the future of work. And these conversations, which centered around building a workforce, are far reaching in scope — we can’t talk about a talented workforce without talking about prosperity, we can’t talk about investments in early learning without talking about Florida’s business climate and, perhaps most importantly, we can’t have any discussions on the challenges and opportunities Florida’s cradle to career continuum faces unless we have them together and work toward one goal.

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam at the Learners to Earners Workforce Summit

 

“What are the things we have to do to diversify our economy and truly become the launch pad for the American dream? First, I think we have to recognize that the diversity of our state is a strength,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said. “We need to recognize the successes when they are there. Not enough people know we have the number one state college system in America. There are not enough people who recognize that what they are getting for their families is a world class education.”

 

When it comes to economic development, talent has already replaced the tax incentive as the number one most important tool in an economic developer’s toolkit. If you don’t believe that, just look at California or Seattle and ask yourself- why would a business add jobs there? Despite their undesirable tax environment and regulatory climate, if that’s where the talent is, talent wins.

Today, if you ask a junior or senior in university or in any of our colleges, they’ll give you a place where they want to live and will bring their skills with them. If Florida can be the best place in the hemisphere in attracting and retaining high-skilled talent, families are going to want to stay here and move here, and businesses would never think of moving anywhere else.

However, in order for Florida to continue to grow we must acknowledge that Florida is changing. Our economics, our demographics and our politics are all changing and these changes are both opportunities and challenges.

What Florida has, is an opportunity to move forward. If we get early learning right, K-12 right, career training right, and lifelong learning right, we won’t have a skills gap in the future. I want to challenge the business community to do a better job communicating to the talent generators what we will need in the future. That might not mean a degree; that may mean a certification or more apprenticeship programs. I want us all to double down on the issue of how important talent is.

To help Florida move in the right direction, it’s vital that we look at what the data shows us. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s first Cornerstone Report in 1989 showed Florida ranked almost dead last in many K-12 metrics- just barely above Mississippi. Fast forward 20 years later and we are now in the top quartile for educational outcomes. We have come a long way with the help of our dedicated partners, a business community that is focused on outcomes and state leadership who is committed to excellence, however, we still have a long way to go. While Florida may be a leader in the United States in education initiatives, the real problem is that the U.S. is rapidly falling in comparison to other countries.

By 2030 Florida will have 5.7 million more people, 3 million new drivers on our roads, 50 million more visitors each year and will need to create at least 1.7 million new jobs over and above what we have right now. There is some great work being done in Florida but at the same time, Florida still has more than 1 million children living in poverty. And while job growth is increasing, Florida will lose more than 1 million jobs due to autonomation.

We Can’t Improve Without the Help of Florida’s Business Community

At the 2018 Learners to Earners Workforce Summit, we released the in-depth recommendations on Talent Supply & Education from our Florida 2030 research. These recommendations show where Florida is, where we need to be and more importantly, how we can work together to get there. I encourage you to take a look and provide your comments and thoughts.

Register today for the annual Future of Florida Forum where we will continue the conversation and release the full Florida 2030 report.

What Others Are Saying

The Tampa Bay Time’s Graham Brink wrote: Florida is in a must-win fight for talented workers. See the Florida Trend’s article about strategic thinking about Florida’s future. Check out the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s:  Early childhood learning dominates Tampa business summit.

 

Thank you to the Florida Chamber Foundation Board of Trustees, for your 50 years of providing leadership in Florida, and to the many partners and businesses who continue to make sure that the right things happen in Florida.

The “Florida Plan” for School Safety Should Become a National Model

Last fall, just two months before the start of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Florida Chamber of Commerce put forward the business community’s legislative recommendations designed to make Florida more competitive and help businesses create good jobs and economic opportunity for everyone.

And, while these priorities will need and deserve attention in the future, the truth is, nothing on Florida’s business agenda matters if Florida, in this new world we live in, is not doing what is needed to protect our children, and to provide them a safe place to learn, explore and grow. In the days since the Parkland tragedy, I’ve heard from business and local chamber leaders throughout Florida – each expressing concern, and urging us to unite for reasoned and positive action while balancing individual freedoms and security of our children.

In many ways, Florida is moving in the right direction. As the third largest state, Florida is creating one in every 10 new jobs in America. More than 21 million people from all walks of life call Florida home, and more than 112 million visit our great state. Florida will become a $1 trillion economy this year, and employers will create more than 180,000 jobs in 2018 – outpacing the U.S. economy in job growth for the eighth year in a row.

As you know, the bookends of the Florida Chamber’s Six Pillars for economic prosperity are education and quality of life. From championing the talent developed in our education system, to protecting Florida’s family-friendly brand, we’ve made it our business to ensure today’s learners become tomorrow’s earners, and that Florida is the best place to live, work, learn, raise a family and pursue the American dream.

Business and local chamber leaders throughout Florida are encouraging our Governor and legislative leaders to ensure Florida has the procedures and laws in place to give our children, as well as their parents, the assurances they need to learn. Frankly, nothing else matters. As parents, we also recognize that, but for the grace of God, it could have been our children.

In my view, what unites us is far greater than what divides us. From picking up the pieces after Hurricanes Andrew and Irma, to uniting after the Pulse and Parkland massacres, there are many things that make Florida a national leader.

Our character is being tested yet again as voters throughout America are waiting for politicians to put partisanship aside, and put Americans first. Right now, Florida has an opportunity to set a national example to balance quality of life, safety, and important constitutional rights.

Therefore, on behalf of employers throughout Florida, I have encouraged our state’s leaders to show our residents, employers and the nation that Florida leads regardless of the political consequences.

If members of the Florida Legislature do the right thing for our schools, for our future, and they lose an election because of it, that’s one of the most honorable things an elected leader could do. I believe Floridians will reward them for putting the long-term best interest of Florida ahead of short-term political fixes. I believe their actions, can begin to restore unity in a nation where so much polarization keeps good people from agreeing on smart reforms.

Last week I respectfully encouraged Governor Rick Scott, President Joe Negron and Speaker Richard Corcoran to pursue the following four guiding principles to better protect our most precious resources – our children and families.

  1. Expanding mental health services, improving background checks, and empowering law enforcement with the tools they need to keep our young learners safe.
  2. Hardening schools and increasing School Resource Officer staffing.
  3. Increasing the age to purchase certain long guns to 21 years of age.
  4. Ensuring accessories to convert semi-automatic guns to fully automatic status are illegal.

Additionally, toward their consideration of the guiding principles toward new or revised policies, we requested their support include appropriate investments to ensure immediate implementation.

Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature have put forth their recommendations, and those proposals are actively moving through the legislative process. You can read more about those efforts at www.FloridaChamber.com/Safety.

On behalf of Florida’s leading employers, the Florida Chamber encourages lawmakers to take action – sacrifice the day-to-day details of legislative activities and secure Florida’s future by putting the safety of our students, Florida’s global brand, individual freedoms, and the future of our diverse state first.

Our hearts and prayers remain with the families and victims of the Parkland tragedy. By putting security, common sense and Florida’s quality of life first, we can secure Florida’s future.

Fixing Florida’s Broken Lawsuit Climate

 

Survey: How Does Lawsuit Abuse Affect You?   “Judicial Hellhole Report” Report   Meet Mary

 

In many ways, Florida is on a roll.  Since 2010, we’ve seen more than $7 billion in reduced taxes, and more than 80 percent of businesses no longer pay a corporate income tax. On the talent development front, achievement gaps are closing, high school graduation rates are at an 11-year high, and third grade reading scores are improving.

Yet, the nation saw Florida’s weak point recently when the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) – for the first time in its history – named Florida as the nation’s worst “Judicial Hellhole.” The impact on Floridians who are trying to make ends meet is undeniable, and the time for action is now.

There have been six Wall Street Journal articles this year alone highlighting Florida’s lawsuit abuse problem. Read their latest report Florida’s Legal Tourism, Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the worst ATRA ranking (even worse than California,) the national Institute for Legal Reform named Florida the fifth worst legal climate in America. This abuse is driving up the cost of living on Floridians and translates into an approximate $3,400 ‘tax’ for Florida families each year. In fact, I encourage you to see how this ‘tax’ impacts families by watching this short employer-to-employee video called “Meet Mary“.

One of the most egregious examples of abuse right now is the increasing cost of property and auto insurance rates resulting from a cottage industry of trial lawyers that file Assignment of Benefits (AOB) lawsuits.

As Allen McGlynn, Florida Chamber Board Chair for the Tallahassee Region recently explained on our latest Series on Free Enterprise podcast, AOB lawsuits were almost non-existent 15 years ago, but have now spread across Florida. In 2006, there were 405 AOB lawsuits in Florida and by 2016 that number had risen to over 28,000.

Building on efforts to educate Floridians and lawmakers about these abuses, the Florida Chamber and our partners at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform have just launched a new consumer alert warning Floridians about the AOB lawsuit abuse scam and how it’s raising home and auto insurance rates.

Yet the trial bar’s attack on job creators is much broader. At the behest of plaintiff attorneys, the Florida Supreme Court has failed to prevent junk science in our courtrooms, thrown out attorney fee caps in workers’ comp cases, eliminated attorney fee caps in medical malpractice cases, and declared other portions of Florida’s workers’ comp system unconstitutional.  And that’s all within the last two years.

Now, trial lawyers that advertise on TV think businesses should pay even more.  Their latest idea and top legislative priority is what’s called “prejudgment interest,” which would require interest to accrue from the date the case was filed, not from when actual damages were determined at trial.  Interest would be charged on all damages and costs related to the case, including punitive damages and yes, even, attorney fees.  This is a classic sue and settle “gotcha” lawsuit scheme.

Reducing the Cost of Business

Watch this short video  to learn why reducing the cost of doing business – which includes fixing Florida’s broken lawsuit climate – is a priority of the Florida Chamber’s 2018 Jobs Agenda.

Senator Kathleen Passidomo Discusses Lawsuit Abuse Reform

Senator Kathleen Passidomo, is a Florida Chamber Distinguished Advocate for her past leadership on lawsuit abuse reform, yet her confidence that true reforms will take place during the 2018 Legislative Session is guarded.

“I wish I could give you some good news and say that we are on it and we’re ready to go, but I don’t see a whole lot coming out of this session for a myriad of reasons,” Passidomo said on the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line.

Florida is simply better than this. And given the successes we’ve seen in education, the environment, targeted tax reform, job creation, and so much more, Florida’s “Judicial Hellhole” black eye is a factor among companies considering expanding and growing their business in the Southeast.

As I shared recently with Governor Scott, Senate President Negron and Speaker Corcoran, the Florida Chamber stands ready to help. Whether it’s helping to resolve Florida’s workers’ comp problem, ever-growing AOB lawsuits, working to create a fair liability environment to attract and keep medical professionals, leveling the playing field in bad faith lawsuits or ensuring juries receive more accurate information when awarding damages in liability cases, we are committed to helping make Florida more competitive.

Year after year, the Florida Chamber has been at the forefront of solving issues that impact the competitiveness and future of Florida’s business climate. Our focus remains steadfast in our efforts to be the driving force uniting Florida’s business community, creating economic opportunity and growing jobs.

The Conversation Continues at Capitol Days in January

Register today for this two-day event which will include a focus on lawsuit abuse reform as well as the 2018 Jobs Agenda. In addition to an all-star lineup of speakers, the agenda will include conversations with members of the Florida Legislature and Florida Cabinet.

Click here  to see the complete agenda and register today.

Florida Chamber Jobs Agenda Seeks Workers’ Comp Fix

As a business leader, you know all too well the fight for free enterprise never ends. The cost of doing business is a daily reminder of the challenges job creators face.

Florida’s business community has faced a $1.5 billion impact from workers’ compensation rates that remain 14.5 percent higher than they should be. Florida’s bottom five legal environment is an open invitation for “gotcha” lawsuits that cost Florida families an average of $3,400 each year in lawsuit abuse costs. And discouraging and discriminatory tax policies, like the Florida-only business rent tax, are uncompetitive.

Despite the economic, political and demographic shifts that have placed Florida in a fragile position, I believe Florida’s best days are yet to come. By reducing the cost of living and cost of doing business, redoubling efforts on workforce and investing in infrastructure, Florida’s economy will continue to strengthen jobs, wages and opportunities for Floridians.

Year after year, the Florida Chamber has been at the forefront of solving issues that impact the competitiveness and future of Florida’s business climate. And the Florida Chamber’s 2018 Jobs Agenda – reinforced by the united support of Florida’s business community – once again will be the driving force to create economic opportunity and grow jobs.

Legislative leaders, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, more than a dozen members of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives, along with Florida Chamber Board Chair Bob Grammig joined us at Florida’s Capitol recently as we unveiled the jobs agenda, and called on lawmakers to strengthen Florida’s economy, spur smart growth, and create jobs and economic opportunity.

Among the 41 priorities on the 2018 Jobs Agenda is a fix to Florida’s workers’ comp system. By addressing the true cost drivers of the system, including attorney fees, Florida can experience stability to the system and lower unnecessary costs.

See What Others Are Saying

“I think workers’ comp is one of the biggest issues facing the state of Florida, especially if you put it in the context of working families. There is a tremendous amount of pressure for companies, like mine, that provide basic services to keep wages low.” – Senator Keith Perry, Florida Chamber Bottom Line.

 

“A competitive and predictable workers’ comp system that protects workers and job creators is vital to making Florida more competitive. Lawmakers should consider the long-term ramifications for the future of the state if they fail on reform this session.” – Carol Roberts, President and CEO, Bay County Chamber of Commerce.

 

“When it was first developed it had a good purpose. But, by the time you allow government to take over and attorneys to get involved, it has been completely run amuck. – Todd Gates, Southwest Florida Region Chair, Florida Chamber Board of Directors and Founder and Chairman of GATES.

 

The Orlando Business Journal, Florida Politics, WJHG News Channel 7, and more were among those talking about the 2018 Jobs Agenda.

Workers’ Comp Task Force

The 2018 Legislative Session begins January 9, and the Florida Chamber and its Workers’ Comp Task Force will once again be leading the charge to reform Florida’s broken workers’ comp system. As a leader in Florida’s business community, your help is needed.

 

Here are three ways you can help:

  1. Share this message,
  2. Join our Worker’s Comp Task Force, 
  3. Engage with our lead lobbyists on this issue, Carolyn Johnson (cjohnson@flchamber.com) for in-depth legislative details.

As always, thank you for your support of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

United Business Community Can Win the War

 

Voice of Reason

June 2017

For years I’ve been warning about the growing power of TV trial lawyers over the Florida Legislature. It was none more apparent than this year’s regular legislative session.

Throughout session, politicians put short-term politics ahead of Florida’s long-term security, and ignored rising workers’ compensation rates on job creators, and rising property insurance rates on Florida’s families and workers. The lack of courage demonstrated by some in the Florida Legislature was so apparent, it prompted the Wall Street Journal to ask, “Does Florida’s legislature exist to enrich plaintiffs attorneys or to serve the Sunshine State’s voters?”

Lawmakers were well educated on the problem early on. Leading up to the 2017 Legislative Session, Florida businesses were hit with $1.5 billion in increased costs due to a series of workers’ comp court decisions. And rising property insurance rates – as much as 10 percent higher – were being forced onto homeowners to cover the ever-increasing cost of water losses due to a “homeowner fraud tax” that’s become a lucrative niche industry for some TV trial lawyers and shady contractors. A similar scam is haunting auto owners.

During session, the Florida House passed Florida Chamber-supported bills that addressed both problems. Yet the Florida Senate opted to ignore the House’s legislation, and instead considered a bill actually written by trial lawyers that did nothing to tackle rising workers’ comp rates, the attorney fees at the heart of the problem, or rising property insurance rates.

The legislative session is now in the rear view mirror, but Florida small businesses, workers and families are now forced to deal with the rising cost of legislative inaction in the form of higher insurance premiums. At the Florida Chamber, we won’t give up.

Workers’ Compensation

A $1.5 billion increase in workers’ comp rates stunts economic opportunities and impacts employees who should be receiving the health care they need and getting back to work quickly. Many businesses are just now learning of the workers’ comp rate increase, and getting their first bill with the higher rates. The Florida Chamber and its Workers’ Comp Task Force will continue standing up for job creators, fighting to protect workers, and working with elected leaders to enact reforms to help make Florida more competitive. Add your voice to our work improving Florida’s workers’ comp system by contacting Carolyn Johnson.

Assignment of Benefits

We’re committed to protecting homeowners and auto owners from this rampant fraud and abuse. Far too often home and auto owners are unaware that by signing an AOB for repairs means they’re signing away their rights, and making themselves and their insurance carrier vulnerable to scam tactics and lawsuits. The Florida Chamber and our Consumer Protection Coalition continue to partner with leading organizations across Florida to raise awareness and seek legislative resolutions. In between now and the next legislative session, you’ll see our digital public service announcements designed to protect Floridians and strengthen our message. Join our mounting efforts to combat AOB fraud and abuse by contacting Edie Ousley.
We will continue our efforts to identify and elect pro-jobs, pro-business candidates to the Florida Legislature that will put Florida’s long-term economic future ahead of political quick fixes. And we’ll continue working with our partners, providing a united business community, to stand on the front lines fighting these battles on behalf of Florida small business, workers and families.

We can win this together.

The Fight for Jobs and Economic Growth

Voice of Reason

March 7, 2017

Today marks the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, and the fight to secure Florida’s future is more important than ever. That’s because jobs, and the future of economic growth in Florida, are under attack.

At the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we’re on the front lines and fighting for job creators. We’re carrying your message to #MakeFLMoreCompetitive through jobs and economic growth to lawmakers. In fact, the Florida Chamber’s 2017 Competitiveness Agenda provides a step-by-step legislative roadmap – focusing resources and expertise to advance jobs, competitiveness and economic opportunity for Floridians.

The road to securing Florida’s future won’t be easy. In fact, this week, the Florida House of Representatives will vote to end economic diversification efforts and eliminate Florida’s economic development toolkit, international programs, marketing and small business assistance programs (HB 7005). Worse yet, the Florida House is also fully prepared to gut VISIT Florida and withdraw investments originally intended for tourism marketing (HB 9).

At the Florida Chamber, we believe that our state must continue to invest in initiatives that support diversifying the economy and attracting visitors and businesses to our state. And we’re not alone in our fight.

 

“We have to keep diversifying our economy and investing in programs that actually help businesses grow jobs here in Florida,” GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT said today during his State of the State address which also expanded on his continuing efforts to never stop fighting for Florida families.

 

Throughout the next 60 day Legislative Session, the Florida Legislature can take additional steps to help ensure a stronger business climate that will grow jobs and the economy now and into the future. Chief among the Florida Chamber’s recommendations to #MakeFLMoreCompetitive are:

  • Fixing Florida’s broken workers’ comp system, and stopping the $1.5 billion jobs tax,
    Improving Florida’s Bottom 10 legal climate, which creates a $3,400 tax for a family of four each year,
  • Resolving Florida’s increasing Homeowners Fraud Tax that results from Assignment of Benefits abuse, which increases homeowners insurance premiums for families,
  • Protecting Florida’s family-friendly brand from expanded Las Vegas-style casino gambling,
  • Insuring Florida continues to attract and retain jobs, and
  • Preparing Florida’s workforce through continued improvements to our K-12 system, increasing educational opportunities in higher education and 21st century vocational trades – all to help ensure a talented workforce is Florida’s best long-term economic development strategy.

While there’s an awful lot of good going on in Florida, the truth is that things are fragile, and the Florida Legislature has the opportunity this session to ensure we #MakeFLMoreCompetitive for families and job creators. After all, people matter and jobs matter.

Free enterprise works, but it is never free. If you believe in business, support us. When we win, you win. When you win, Florida wins.

We look forward to working with Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Cabinet, Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and the entire Florida Legislature to continue making sure the right things happen in Florida.

Get Involved

Securing Florida’s Water Future, Together

July 8, 2016

WATCH: President and CEO Mark Wilson meets with local business leaders to talk algae solutions.

 

One hundred years ago, the biggest threat facing Florida’s economy was a parasite – the cattle tick. Times were dire – the entire state was under federal quarantine and the very safety and security of Florida’s economic core were in danger of collapse.

Much has changed in the last century. With 20 million-plus residents, Florida is now the third most populous state in the country, and our economy is thriving. In fact, if Florida was a country, we’d be the 16th largest economy in the world.

Much of Florida’s economic success is attributed to our state’s unique quality of life. From the Panhandle’s white sandy beaches to the distinctive natural resources of the Keys, ensuring Florida remains the best place to live, work, learn and play has been a top priority for the Florida Chamber for the last 100 years. We’ve long championed long-term, sustainable water policy—science-based water policy – to protect Florida’s natural and economic resources for the future.

In fact, it’s why – for more than 30 years – the Florida Chamber Foundation has hosted a continuing education summer school to focus specifically on Florida’s fragile environment. We believe, providing resources like the Florida Chamber’s Environmental Permitting Summer School highlights science-based research and best management practices to help ensure communities across Florida grow smarter.  Environmental experts from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nature Conservancy, local and state environmental leaders and more make a point of attending annually.

Recently, I walked along the edges of the Indian River Lagoon and witnessed first-hand the blue green algae that is impacting families and job creators in Florida’s Treasure Coast. Shortly after that tour, I sat down with business leaders from the Stuart are in Martin County to learn more about the algae and its impact on their businesses. It’s a message I also shared with CNBC and WPBF 25.

While there was indeed an algae problem, the tourists the national media claimed were all gone where walking on the beaches and filling up the hotels, and enjoying the natural surroundings. And, while business leaders in the community shared their frustration of some lost business, they also shared their sense of urgency to spread the word the region is open for business.

At the Florida Chamber, we share in the frustration blue green algae has created, and we continue our long-standing commitment to seek real solutions to help provide relief.

In fact, as part of our ongoing efforts to help secure Florida’s water future, the Florida Chamber has been working with one of the world’s foremost experts on water science. Dr. Brian Lapointe, Research Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has presented at the Florida Chamber’s Annual Meeting, appeared on our television program Bottom Line, and is helping us educate businesses and employees on the real causes – and solutions – to Florida’s water challenges.

With six million more residents expected to call Florida home by 2030, and our state’s water demand expected to increase by 20 percent by 2030, strong, science-based water quality standards will continue to play a vital role in Florida’s economy and quality of life.

While we should look at several possible solutions, one of the most promising and effective is septic tank conversions. Dr. Lapointe has extensive experience in water quality research in South Florida and the Caribbean region. His latest scientific research shows that septic tank sewage nitrogen is one of the threats to Florida’s waterways, including the Indian River Lagoon.

Over the years, Dr. Lapointe’s research has led to greater nutrient removal from sewage effluents in Monroe County, his long-term water quality monitoring at Looe Key reef in the Florida Keys represents the longest low-level nutrient record for a coral reef anywhere in the world.

While it may have been the cattle tick that brought Florida’s business community together 100 years ago and created the Florida Chamber of Commerce to protect the economic wellbeing of our state, protecting Florida’s water bodies and unique quality of life are vital to Florida’s future economy.

We’re proud to stand up for Florida families and job creators to do everything we can to ensure our economy is not only vibrant, but that it’s sustainable.