So, Who’s On First and Who’s On Second and….Look’s Like Overtime…
At first I thought my eyes were deceiving me last Thursday as I watched that Florida House quarterback with only ten seconds left do a quick kick on third down, punted for 50 yards with the ball being downed on the three yard line and clock expired. Senate screamed. Supreme Court screamed. Game over! Now the ball is in the Governor’s and legislative leaders’ hands because as we all know, no budget by June 30, state government closes.
In all my years of following college ball, pro ball, and political ball, I don’t think I have ever witnessed anything more unexpected. As did you, we knew there was a massive $4 billion budget disagreement between the House and Senate “teams,” but we certainly weren’t expecting that from the House. This battle for the game ball has put many important efforts and lots of hard work on the losing side for all of us. With numerous bills killed and the contention between the House and Senate widening, we are concerned for Floridians. And quite frankly, is it really important who was responsible for the breakdown between the two bodies? We think not. Conversations regarding the budget started long before March 3, and certainly negotiations should have been in a better place long before the last week of session anyway. In my conversations with House and Senate members, if I heard it once I heard it over and over – “No one needs to win this standoff – we all need to talk”! Problem with House and Senate members talking is that in Florida no two elected officials can talk about business out of the sunshine, i.e., without the media present.
The latest in this unprecedented back and forth is a letter dated April 30 from Senate President Gardiner to Speaker Crisafulli, requesting an agreement to “begin a special session on June 1,” and the letter with the associated attachment has two signature lines – one for the House speaker and one for the Senate president. We can only hope both sign it! Click HERE to read the letter and proposed joint proclamation for the special session.
The clock is ticking loudly toward July 1, with the Constitution requiring an annual budget by that date to fund the ongoing concern we call our State of Florida. The Senate and House appear for the most part remain locked into their positions on how the budget should work, with the Senate insisting that a budget agreement must include the use of expanded Medicaid funding to help certain lower-income Floridians purchase private health insurance and the House (and the Governor) consistently in disagreement with that position. It appears that the preferred way our elected leaders “talk” is to send letters and leave voicemails because where you and I might sit down and settle a disagreement over coffee, it’s a lot tougher for that to happen when in elected office without inviting the media. Can you imagine what it would be like to settle a dispute with your spouse with the TV cameras rolling? So, as we wait and listen to the ticking clock, let’s get you up-to-date on the life or death of the bills we followed for you so closely throughout the regular session.
Legislative Activity Updates
Property & Casualty Insurance
(AKA Insurance Omnibus Bill)
CS/SB 258 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) and CS/HB 165 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Volusia)
As we reported in last week’s newsletter, CS/SB 258 by Sen. Jeff Brandes was laid on the table and final legislative approval was given to the House companion bill, CS/CS/CS/HB 165 by Rep. David Santiago. The bill, on its way to Gov. Scott, does the following:
- Establishes a uniform 120-day notification period for all property insurance non-renewals, cancellations, or terminations;
- Amends the law regarding pre-insurance inspection requirements for new, unused leased motor vehicles leased from a licensed motor vehicle dealer or leasing company;
- Limits insurance company notification to policyholders regarding the right to participate in neutral evaluation of sinkhole claims to only those policies with sinkhole coverage with claims received within the 2-year statute of limitations;
- Clarifies that the Medicare fee schedule used in personal injury protection insurance runs from March 1 through the last day of February of the following year;
- Increases the time insurance companies can use a hurricane model from 60 to 120 days;
- Includes commercial insurance provisions relating to rate certification and annual rate filings; and,
- Establishes in state law that federally licensed physical therapy and speech pathology clinics are exempt from PIP clinic licensure requirements.
Florida Insurance Guaranty Association
(FIGA) Reform Legislation
CS/SB 836 by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Pinellas) and CS/HB 557 by Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Hillsborough)
LMA is pleased to report that the FIGA bill (SB 836), as it is commonly called, is on its way to the Governor. This bill is a compromise among stakeholders, some who opposed having FIGA finance a deficit like other quasi-governmental entities do (through public financing) and those who supported changing the way FIGA does business. LMA and its strategic partners worked diligently on behalf of the entire Florida based insurance industry so that during catastrophic times, FIGA and the industry could work together to finance FIGA’s deficit as opposed to the present way where insurers simply stroke a check as the “bank” for FIGA. FIGA and OIR representatives were helpful to forge the compromise so that once the bill is implemented, if financially prudent, the insurers will be able to collect and remit FIGA assessments once the assessment amount is determined. And the assessment amount will be calculated using a methodology that is more fair to all consumers, instead of the current system where past market share dictated the amount to be collected. Lastly, no more FIGA rate filings! Under the new law, insurers will do what are called reconciliation reports and the over/under payments will be handled in a much more streamlined process. Hats off to Rep. Jake Raburn, who has been the champion of this bill for the 3rd year and never lost faith that this good public policy should become law. Sen. Jack Latvala was this year’s Senate sponsor and Sen. Tom Lee, last year, was responsible for leading the discussion to forge the compromise. We look forward to the Governor’s signature on the bill.
Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)
SB 1298 by Sen. David Simmons (R-Seminole/Volusia); and, CS/HB 817 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Walton)
This set of legislative bills certainly drew the attention of Floridians during the 2015 session, with four bills introduced at the beginning of session and two left standing (CS/HB 817 by Rep. Matt Gaetz and CS/SB 1298 by Sen. David Simmons) for House floor debate on Tuesday, April 28. In fact, the buzz was that “Uber wars,” would dominate Tuesday’s debate. At 1:15 pm when the House Speaker slammed down the gavel to end the chamber’s 2015 work, you could hear the moans of those who had worked hard to get this legislation to the finish line. There were about a dozen amendments ready to be heard on Tuesday, requiring various coverage minimums, and one that went so far as to exempt the TNCs from any regulation whatsoever, except what was in the bill being debated on Tuesday. Of course, we suspect this topic will be alive and well again for the 2016 Legislative Session, and maybe, before then. Hopefully, by then the kinks will be worked out and the best public policy for all will be the core of that legislation. For example, how the different insurance coverages will be applicable to the TNC driver, and for that matter, how AirBnB (the hotel alternative web based lodging company) would provide liability coverage for those in its network.
CS/CS/SB 1006 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami/Dade) and HB 1087 by Rep. Michael Bileca (R-Miami/Dade)
This was a close one but thanks to the timing of Sen. Flores’ bill being laid on the table on Wednesday, 4/27 and substituted by Rep. Bileca’ s House bill, which was passed on Thursday morning, 4/28 by the Senate, this legislation under Rep. Bileca’ s bill is headed to the Governor for his consideration.
The final version of the bill being sent to Governor Scott does the following:
- Allows consumers to elect not to be solicited for takeout more than once in a six-month period;
- Requires Citizens’ policyholders to be told of all take out offers when one or more insurer has expressed an interest in taking the policy out of Citizen
- Requires the takeout insurer to provide information, in a format set by Citizens, about coverage and rate differences between the takeout company’s policy and the Citizens’ policy starting July 1, 2016;
- Allows policyholders taken out of Citizens to return and be considered a renewal if the takeout insurer increases rates over 10% per year for the first three years;
- Allows policyholders to return to Citizens as a renewal if the initial premium from the takeout insurer is more than 10% of the premium estimated when the takeout offer is made;
- Authorizes entities that have received a permit to become an insurance entity to receive Citizens’ underwriting data to analyze risks for underwriting to determine if the entity wants to take policies out of Citizens, but prohibits use of the data for solicitation of policyholders;
- Allows the consumer representative on the Citizens’ Board to maintain employment in the private sector in a job involving business with Citizens and still sit on the Citizens’ Board; and;
- Requires Citizens agents to be appointed with an authorized insurer writing or renewing property insurance throughout an agent’s appointment with Citizens, rather than only writing property insurance at the time of an agent’s initial appointment.
Assignment of Benefits (AOB)
HB 669 by Rep. John Tobia (R-Brevard); Similar bills, SB 1064 by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Volusia); SB 1210 by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Lake County)
Unfortunately, for the past three weeks there has been no forward movement on these mission critical bills and there will be no legislative action to curb the major abuses occurring through the improper use of AOBs. LMA and associated stakeholders who have been working diligently throughout session to move this critically needed legislation will continue to fight the good fight and bring these measures forward again next session. In our post-session report we will make sure to share lessons learned about how we could have all improved our efforts to move this legislation. I was fortunate to provide a recap of what happened, why it didn’t happen, and what we need to do going forward at this link for a group gathered on May 1 in Tampa. Please give me your feedback after you have a chance to review this 10 minute recap.
SB 1094 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas); HB 895 by Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Pinellas)
As we noted in last week’s newsletter, this is the second session in a row that Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) has successfully passed legislation to largely complete his self-imposed mission of creating a private sector, primary flood insurance market in Florida giving property owners a choice over the NFIP. On Wednesday (4/22) the Senate passed Brandes’ flood insurance measure (SB 1094) and quickly sent the bill to the House via messages. On Thursday (4/23) in floor action, the House debated SB 1094, approved the bill and ultimately passed it sending it to the Governor on Friday, 4/24/15.
If you want to see the debate, please go to this link to access the Florida Channel’s video archives: http://thefloridachannel.org/videos/ It’s only about 10 minutes but worth watching.
Sinkhole Activity Damage Improvement/Economic Development
SB 404 by Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Hernando); Comparable, HB 933 by Rep. Mike La Rosa (R-Osceola/Polk)
As you will recall from last week’s newsletter, the important sinkhole repair language originally contained within HB 933 and SB 404 was moved from these bills to SB 1216, an economic development measure. After inclusion of the sinkhole repair language by amendment, SB 1216 was approved by the full Senate and then given final legislative passage by the House on April 24. SB 1216 is now headed to the Governor’s desk for his review and action. If signed in to law, the final version of the legislation will authorize communities having a substantial number or percentage of sinkhole damaged structures that are not adequately repaired or stabilized to qualify as a “blighted area” in order to create a community redevelopment area that can redevelop the blighted area pursuant to an approved community redevelopment plan. The bill also provides that the redevelopment could be financed through tax increment financing. We do not anticipate problems for the bill in the Governor’s office and will keep you posted on developments.
Property Insurance Appraisal Umpires
HB 491 by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami/Dade); Similar Bill: SB 744 by Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Lee/Collier)
These bills died because of the legislative meltdown this past week. They created the property insurance appraisal umpire licensing program including continuing education and disciplinary processes under the auspices of the Department of Business & Professional Regulation, which later changed to the Department of Financial Services in the latest version of the bill that didn’t make it. No doubt this bill will be back in 2016.
Insurance Fraud Reform
SB 1306 by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Alachua/Bradford) and HB 1127 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Lake/Orange)
As we reported last week, SB 1306 by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Clay) was laid on the table and substituted by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan’s bill, CS/CS/HB 1127. Rep. Sullivan’s bill unanimously passed the Senate on Friday, 4/24 and is in route to the Governor for his consideration. In general the bill:
- Repeals provisions relating to operation or reporting of unlicensed health care clinics;
- Revises provisions related to certain health care clinic charges or reimbursement claims;
- Revises & provides criminal penalties for unlawful charges, operating or failing to report unlicensed clinic, filing false or misleading information related to clinic license application, & other violations;
- Repeals provisions relating to establishment of motor vehicle insurance fraud DSO;
- Maintains current law on fraud reporting and SIUs; and,
- Focuses on PIP fraud and sunsets the direct support organization for PIP.
SB 1060 by Sen. David Simmons (R-Seminole/Volusia)and HB 1013 by Rep. Bill Hager (R-Palm Beach)
Neither the House nor Senate bill made it through this session. Even with the early end to the House session this year, we started seeing members question this good bill and surmised it was doomed. However, we do look for a return of this rule ratification issue in the 2016 Legislative Session.
Other Bills That Didn’t Pass
Because the budget stalemate stopped rational minds from agreeing, a small number of important insurance bills we were closely monitoring died and include the following:
- Civil Remedies against Insurers: HB 1197 co-sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Collier) and Mike Hill (R-Escambia/Santa Rosa); SB 1088 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas).
- Quota Share Reinsurance-(Citizens bill): SB 936 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas); HB 1307 by Rep. Dan Raulerson.
- Insurer Solvency Reform: SB 1190 by former Senate President Tom Lee (R-Hillsborough) and HB 1085 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Volusia).
We Were There So You Didn’t Have To Be
For the past six newsletters, we have titled our closing, “We’re there so you don’t have to be”! And frankly, some of you understandingly didn’t want to be there. But being there every day of session keenly representing your interests gave us wonderful opportunities to see and witness things that few ever have the chance to experience. We witnessed a first year Senate President and Speaker of the House each undertake his enormous responsibilities while hearing echoes of their legendary predecessors’ voices. No doubt an enormously difficult task for any new legislative leader. As we listened early last week to the bill debates on the House and Senate floor (and we invite you to do that as well by looking at www.thefloridachannel.org and checking out the links to the “live streams”) we were able to observe the elected leaders who are shaping our state’s future. Patriots like Rep. John Wood from Polk County who waxes eloquently on the floor about making sure the legislature respects the committee process and transparent lawmaking to Rep. Kathleen Passidomo who just plain “gets it” when it comes to unscrupulous actors who prey on insurance consumers. Then there’s Senator Jeff Brandes, an incredible leader from Pinellas County who has a vision for everything he does, and it doesn’t matter if it’s popular or not! He stands on principle every time. Please get to know who your elected officials are. Think about where you live and work and who represents you and this summer, PLEASE contact us and we will guide you on ways to connect with your legislators. For the next week or two think about a day in legislators’ shoes. During this past session we observed huge, multi-million dollar issues go unresolved in our state’s healthcare budget negotiations and it put a cloud over so many other critical issues that you could feel the acrimony between the House and Senate in the hallways. A lot of old timers like me talked to our special legislative friends to encourage them. A senator said to me a couple weeks ago, “we just need one senator to go sit with one House member and watch what happens – like the 2 fish and 5 loaves – the goodwill would multiply”! Unfortunately, the 2015 Regular Legislative Session didn’t end this way but as we know, our system is not perfect. However, we should all be thankful that we have the freedom in this great nation to make choices and engage in self and group determination. Let’s hope that goodwill and good public policy decision-making prevail during the upcoming special session and Florida has one of its finest hours in the legislative process.
Until next time,
Lisa and the LMA Team