Celebrating the Great Things of Our Country
Our July 4th celebration has come and gone again for another year. We hope that you, like us, had a plethora of good food, friends, family and fireworks. We do love this wonderful country of ours and while we are more careful than ever with the serious threats against our way of life, we decided to think about the light-hearted great things we love about living here. So we offer the top ten great things with a big smile on our faces. Enjoy!
- We are the masters of “hello”. “Ahoy!” “Aloha!” “Hey!” “Hola!” “Howdy!” “Hi ya!” “Well, look who it is!” “What’s happening’?” “Hello!” The variety and vibrancy of the American greeting is unrivaled, upholding a threshold of friendliness that Americans demand, Europeans find onerous and others find perplexing.
- Road Trips. If we’re talking about something that can be done while seated, Americans excel at it. Germany likes to lay claim to the world’s first road trip, but having come of age at the same time as the automobile, the United States was custom-built for it.
- Derbies. With all due respect to the English city, the U.S. is the home of the derby in all its forms, be it racing, smashing or Haber-dashing. Originating in the county fairs of the nation’s 1950s backwoods, demolition derbies pit early-model autos against one another in contests of ramming until only one remained. On the oval track, Louisville’s Kentucky Derby is a spectacle of horseshoed pageantry, while roller derbies from Austin to Seattle are cataclysms of people-wheeled fury.
- Beer. Not to keep taking shots at Germany, but there’s only so much you can do with barley and hops. By contrast, American brewers aren’t bound by purity restrictions on their craft, allowing them to push the pint glass with new additives, processes, styles, malt and hops strains moved through the largest number of breweries of any nation on earth. Whether it’s Oregon’s Hop works, Michigan’s Founders, or North Carolina’s Wicked Weed breweries, no country has more innovative beer.
- Diversity. We are the microcosm of nearly every world culture, climate, landscape and category of wildlife. Beaches extend from Cape Cod to Kaanapali; bayous encircle the Gulf of Mexico; alpine mountains streak the Rockies and Appalachians; rain forests span the Pacific Northwest; deserts stretch across the Southwest. But of course the Melting Pot concept was built on ethnic diversity. Despite the politics of immigration, the U.S. has and will continue to welcome the world’s huddled masses, making it as heterogeneous as any nation on earth.
- Canyons. Geo-diversity has pocked much of the landscape with vast gorges and canyons that create pure emptiness ringed by the most stunning rock formations and vegetation imaginable. Unbelievable until experienced, Utah’s Bryce Canyon is the closest you can get to another planet. The U.S. is the hands-down winner in this category.
- National parks. Overlooked during the westward expansion of the American frontier in the 1800s, Yellowstone was made the world’s first national park. Turns out it’s one of America’s great national treasures.
- Eating. No other nation offers the portions and varieties of culinary experimentation found in the U.S. Gastronomic breakthroughs occur regularly throughout our smorgasbord of diner delights. There’s nothing the home of super-sizing won’t deep-fry, roll in bacon or drown with some type of sauce.
- Sports. Most countries have a national sport. The U.S. has four. Some of the best places to catch a game in the U.S. are at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Boston’s Fenway Park for baseball; Baton Rouge’s Tiger Stadium, Wisconsin’s Lambeau Field, Florida’s Doak Campbell and Ben Hill Griffin Stadiums for football; and last but not least, North Carolina’s Cameron Stadium and Kentucky’s Rupp Arena for college basketball.
- Moving Pictures. From internationally beloved TV shows to movies like Avatar, Gone with the Wind and Dances with Wolves, we rule the day in the entertainment biz. It feeds our minds, souls and imaginations. Americans carry the winning statue when it comes to our television and movie entertainment industries.
The First DCA Rules … by Ben Keener, Hall Keener, Attorneys at Law, St. Pete
The First DCA issued an opinion affirming the OIR’s denial of Security First’s (see press release) request to amend a section of its policies restricting the ability to assign post loss rights without the carrier’s consent. In affirming the OIR’s denial of the request to amend, the 1st DCA held that making such an assignment contingent upon the written consent of the insurer would contrary to Florida Law.
627.411 Grounds for disapproval.
(1) The office shall disapprove any form filed under s. 627.410 , or withdraw any previous approval thereof, only if the form:
(a) Is in any respect in violation of, or does not comply with, this code.
(b) Contains or incorporates by reference, where such incorporation is otherwise permissible, any inconsistent, ambiguous, or misleading clauses, or exceptions and conditions which deceptively affect the risk purported to be assumed in the general coverage of the contract.
(e) Is for residential property insurance and contains provisions that are unfair or inequitable or encourage misrepresentation.
On “contrary to Florida Law issue” the First DCA noted that it “f[ound] an unbroken string of Florida cases over the past century holding that policy holders have the right to assign such claims without insure consent, citing W. Fla. Grocery v. Teutonia Fire, Lexington Ins. Co. V. Simkins, in addition to the very recent decision out of the Fourth in One Call Property Services, Inc. v. Security First.
The First DCA took notice of the policy concerns agreeing with the Fourth in One Call, that such policy arguments and the evidentiary basis for them is more properly addressed to the Legislature.
The court further highlights the chain of case law which it finds dispositive of the issue – further hampering carriers ability to challenge assignments in court as an alternative or stopgap to amending the policy. We will keep you updated to further developments in this regard as we continue to work on this public policy issue and goal of amending policies to avoid the abuses and inflation of claims through assignment of benefits.
Summer Storms Remind us of Why Flood Insurance is So Important
Along with the summer vacation, come summer thunderstorms that we see almost every day during the months of July and August. Arriving a little early this year, we certainly are experiencing some crazy weather in Tallahassee these days. As recently as last week, we had three big storms come through in one day, causing many, many downed trees, destroyed roofs, damaged automobiles and folks without power for more than 24 hours. While cleaning up afterwards, I could not help but think about whether people were prepared for the damage with good insurance coverage, including flood insurance, where needed. Flood insurance continues to be a major topic of discussion in Florida, as well as, nationally and we here at LMA are remaining on top of current events regarding flood insurance all the time. This past week the LMA team participated in an NFIP Webinar sponsored by the FAIA, and we were provided with reminders and news about some of the upcoming changes to the National Flood Insurance Program.
We include a few of these here:
Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA) – Signed by the President
Signed on 3/21/15, The federal HFIAA restores subsidized rates in most cases; allows for assumption of subsidized policies in most cases; restores grandfathering; retains 25% annual increase for subsidized non-primary dwellings and subsidized non-residential; introduces surcharges of $25 or $250 on all policies; modifies the 20% annual cap on increases to a lower number; modifies the PRPEE program; clarifies installment pay options; provides new deductible option; modifies mandatory purchase requirements for some detached structures; adjusts the substantially improved threshold; changes the escrow requirement; does not change the private flood insurance requirement imposed on lenders; and, provides refunds to some policyholders.
Maximum Premium Increases
The maximum premium increases allowed under the NFIP are 15% per class and 18% for any one policy (Exception: subsidized 25% non-primary, business, SRL). In addition, a reserve fund ratio will be applied to each NFIP policy, except PRPs and GRIPs. The reserve fund for policies effective on or after 4/1/15 is 15% of the total premium.
Minimum pre-FIRM – $1,500 for coverage $100,000 or less; $2,500 for coverage over $100,000. Minimum post-FIRM property – $1,000 for coverage $100,000 or less; $1,250 for coverage over $100,000. $10,000 deductible available for residential risks.
Top Ten NFIP Shortfalls
The 30-day waiting period; PRP not being written when eligible; Separate deductibles for dwelling and contents; 35% building only coverage policies; property not covered list very long; No ordinance and law coverage; ACV loss settlement most times; No business income; No additional living expense; and, Inadequate agency documentation for rejections.
In addition to this, we are also on top of the federal flood legislation that was introduced in Congress last week and want to share that news with you today. The Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act of 2015 were introduced by U.S. Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Dean Heller, R-Nev. A companion measure was also introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Dennis Ross (FL-18) and Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18). This bipartisan measure will allow private companies to offer flood insurance that would be recognized by lenders as meeting mandatory purchase requirements. The new legal definition of flood insurance will change to any “policy that provides flood insurance coverage issued by an insurance company that is licensed, admitted or otherwise approved to engage in the business of insurance in the state, in which the insured building is located.” Currently, only policies purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program are considered sufficient to fulfill mandatory purchase requirements. Representative Ross stated that, “Floridians and Americans across the country would greatly benefit from more choices when it comes to flood insurance policies. More choices can mean better coverage and cheaper policies for homeowners.” Rep. Ross’ goal is to allow states to be able to fully utilize their regulatory framework (like the one the Florida Legislature just approved) to license flood insurance policies.
Our readers know how we feel about opening up primary flood business to our property and casualty insurers in Florida. We are more than happy about this possible positive change in Federal law and will continue to be on the front lines to lead the way for our Florida insurers to provide this important insurance coverage.
Supreme Court Upholds Tax Subsidies Related to Obama Care
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the tax subsidies for health insureds across the country including those in states without health exchanges that use the federal health insurance exchange. The 6-3 opinion (King v. Burwell) written by Chief Justice Roberts, rejected a challenge based upon a four-word phrase that said tax credits would be available on an exchange “established by the state” and therefore, not available to states using the federal exchange to purchase insurance. The 6-3 opinion was joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissent in which Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito concurred. The court’s decision said that the phrase should be read in the broader context of the statute, thereby not limiting the availability of subsidies. The court further said that Congress made the guaranteed issue and community rating requirements applicable in all states, but those requirements only work when combined with the coverage requirements and tax credits. While President Obama welcomed the decision, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Oho) vowed that he and his fellow Republicans would continue their efforts to repeal or replace Obama Care, claiming the law is “fundamentally broken” and that it is raising costs for millions of Americans. The America’s Health Insurance Plans trade group issued a statement saying, “With the certainty provided by the Supreme Court’s decision, now is the time to focus on what matters most to consumers – ensuring access to affordable coverage and high-quality health care. Health plans will continue to lead in advancing this goal,” AHIP’s interim CEO Dan Durham said.
Workers’ Compensation Assessment Rate Reduced to 1.43%
In compliance with Section 440.51(1), F.S., the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Workers’ Compensation has issued Informational Bulletin DFS-02-2015. The Bulletin advises insurers, self-insurers and other related stakeholders that Florida’s Chief Financial Officer has issued an “Order Setting Assessment Rate for Workers’ Compensation Administration Trust Fund (WCATF) for Calendar Year 2016”. DFS’s Order and Informational Bulletin officially establish that the set rate has been reduced to 1.43%. This reduction is further indication that legislative reforms to Florida’s workers’ compensation system have met with success. In fact, the Workers’ Compensation Administrative Trust Fund assessment rate has steadily declined for multiple years. In 2012 the rate was 1.75%; 1.68% in 2013; 1.61% in 2014; 1.50% in 2015; and, for 2016 the rate will be 1.43%. If you would like additional detailed information, the Informational Bulletin and (Assessment Rate) DFS Order are available on the Division’s web site HERE, rates are available HERE.
Workers’ Compensation “Exclusive Remedy” Preserved by 3rd DCA
On 6/24/15, many involved in the workers’ compensation insurance and benefits delivery system breathed a major sigh of relief when judges composing Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal (DCA) reversed a Miami judge’s order from last summer declaring the Florida workers’ compensation law unconstitutional. The case, which throughout the judicial process didn’t have a specific case or any controversy between an employer or injured worker present and no records of facts in the proceedings, was declared moot by the court. Further, the court ruled that the trial lawyer advocacy groups advancing the matter did not have standing to push the judiciary for a constitutional review of a statute in this manner. We are relieved about what we believe is a fair and just ruling for Florida businesses, workers and other stakeholders. The courts declaration affirms the constitutionality of Florida’s workers’ compensation system as the exclusive remedy under which injured workers can resolve disputes with employers. We are extremely fortunate to be able to share further words of wisdom about this highly important court case from Associated Industries of Florida’s General Counsel, Tammy Perdue, Esq. Tammy has dedicated most of her professional career to advancing good worker’s comp public policy. In her own words, Tammy shares the following about this ground breaking decision.
FLORIDA’S WC LAW IS STILL GOOD
By Tammy Perdue, AIF General Counsel
Since the 3rd DCA recently reversed a Miami judge’s finding that the Florida workers’ comp statute was unconstitutional, and because the reversal was based on procedural grounds, the industry insiders have questioned if the state “really” has a good law. The answer is yes, in short because the law is valid and enforceable until it is declared invalid by the courts, and because it works so well to provide certain and swift benefits to thousands of injures workers each year. According to the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation, between 2003 and 2010, injured workers received over $13.6 billion in indemnity and medical benefits. Employees received those benefits through a self-executing system at no cost to themselves, regardless of fault. If the statute did not contain the exclusive remedy provision, significant adverse results are certain. An untold number of Florida’s injured workers would have no right to recovery in the tort system because their injuries are not caused by employer negligence. For those cases in which the employer is negligent, the employee who must seek relief in the fault-based tort system would face long and expensive litigation without any assured recovery. The fault-based tort system burdens the employee with not only proving the claim, but also introduces affirmative defenses such as assumption of the risk, contributory negligence, and potential sovereign immunity defenses for the more than 900,000 public sector employees. These hurdles to recovery do not exist under current Florida law.
The workers’ compensation system provides all employees who are injured on the job a certainty that they will receive reasonable and appropriate medical treatments and wage replacement payments during their recovery. That guarantee is not possible without maintaining a delicate balance among a myriad of competing interests that, when combined and examined, produce a system that fulfills its mission. Where this balance is reached should be largely left in the hands of the Legislature, and certainly should not be usurped by an advocacy association’s improper procedural manipulations without adherence to basic civil procedure requirements on issues like a case or controversy between parties with standing. If you are interested in reading the Court’s full opinion, go HERE.
Take a Break; it’s all About to Begin Again
Yes, the 2015 Legislative body has returned home just in time for us to get the schedule for the start of committee weeks for the 2016 Legislative Session. Those dates are:
November 30-December 4
We are planning a “little vacation” soon just to take a breath before we charge forward toward what’s next. We hope you do too. There’s always work to do but we all need a little R & R sometimes. Summer also means travel for us at LMA and we’re already having a great time visiting with you and chatting about what’s on your mind for the upcoming year. So, take a break and we’ll see you around the state.
Lisa and the LMA Team