2015 Legislative Session—Fourteen Days Down and Forty-six to Go
As we proceed through session, you will find the newsletter to be a clean and succinct recap of the prior week’s action and activities. A short overview will come first, and then as we did last week, an update on the bills that LMA is following for you. We hope you find this format informative and helpful as you work hard each week to keep your businesses running at their peak and remain up-to-speed on what’s happening in the Florida Legislature. Before we brief you on this past week’s activities, however, we need to make a correction. In last Monday’s newsletter, we inadvertently reported that HB 491 was on its way to the House floor after passage of committees, when in actuality, the bill has not been heard in committee. We apologize for the error.
When Florida’s 2015 Legislative Session convened on Tuesday, March 3, we knew we had sixty days (nine weeks) to do the work needed to have a successful Legislative Session. As of today, the fourteenth day of session, we have seen a considerable number of insurance-related bills filed but not a whole lot of committee action addressing those bills. However, this week it’s looking like some committees will have fairly full agendas and we expect to see lots more movement for a number of bills. We are fully staffed and on the ground, so we’ll be sending lots of information your way.
This Past Week’s Bill Action
Property & Casualty Insurance
(AKA Omnibus Insurance Bill)
CS/HB 165 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Volusia) and CS/SB 258
by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas)
This year’s insurance omnibus legislation is a “lighter duty” version of last session’s bill with proponents offering what they hope will be a more likely to pass measure. CS/SB 258 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee was unanimously approved by the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government on 3/4/15. The next stop for this legislation is the Senate Appropriations Committee which will consider the bill during its meeting this Wednesday (03/18/15) at 1:30 p.m. What could create head winds for the Senate version of the measure, however, is a FIGA-related amendment added to the bill that would repeal the prohibition against insurance companies advertising the existence of FIGA for the purpose of marketing their products to consumers. Some senators have expressed concern about allowing companies to use “FIGA” as an advertisement to sell their products.CS/HB 165 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Volusia), the companion to Sen. Brandes’ bill,has successfully moved through the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, but isn’t scheduled for its next committee stop as of today. As of now, the FIGA-related amendment referenced above is not in Rep. Santiago’s bill.
Florida Insurance Guaranty Association
CS/HB 557 by Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Hillsborough) and SB 836
by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Pinellas)
CS/HB 557 was previously approved by the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and now resides in the House Finance and Tax Committee.SB 836 won quick approval from the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and is now under consideration by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. While we do not expect to see much, if any movement on these bills the remainder of this week, we do anticipate movement on their part the following week. We’ll keep you posted.
Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)
CS/HB 757 by Rep. Bill Hager (R-Palm Beach) and SB 1298 by Sen. David Simmons (R-Orange) and CS/HB 817 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Walton) and SB 1326 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas)
These bills establish motor vehicle insurance requirements for transportation network companies & participating drivers as well as other regulatory requirements. With this somewhat new industry in Florida, these bills are taking a first stab at addressing some of the concerns that relate to the TNC industry, most specifically, the insurance liability exposures between the driver’s auto coverage and the TNC Company providing the service.
None of the bills (CS/HB 757, SB 1298, or SB 1326) moved forward last week. CS/HB 757 was originally referred to the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, and the Regulatory Affairs Committee. SB 1298 was originally referred to the Banking and Insurance Committee, the Judiciary Committee, and the Appropriations Committee. SB 1326 was originally referred to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. CS/HB 817, however, was presented to the House Transportation and Ports Subcommittee on 3/10/15 and after over two hours of discussion, received a vote of 9 yeas and 3 nays. Much of the conversation and debate on the bill surrounded whether the bill was clear on if/when liability coverage is provided by the TNC driver’s personal auto insurance policy. Rep. Hager was vocal in advising the committee that this issue was in fact very clear in the TNC law passed by the California General Assembly last summer and included in the bill he filed with the Florida Legislature (HB 757).
Considering the length/depth of the discussion on CS/HB 817 last Tuesday, the TNC issue has a ways to go. We also have learned that Uber has retained 22 lobbyists to represent their interests during this session and the Florida Taxicab Association has eight lobbyists on its team. It also appears that the issue in the bill involving fees being collected by local jurisdictions, in lieu of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, creates another problem to be address while these TNC bills move along.
SB 1006 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Dade) and HB 1087
by Rep. Michael Bileca (R-Broward)
SB 1006, which we explained in the last newsletter as a reversal of the current depopulation process, is still not scheduled for a committee hearing as today and
HB 1087 was referred to the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and the House Regulatory Affairs Committee on 3/8/15. We will continue closely monitoring these bills and let you know when either clears their first committee stop.
Assignment of Benefits (AOB) -As of this edition of our newsletter there continues to be no movement yet this session on this highly controversial topic. However, we do expect to see some discussions occurring this week among the AOB stakeholders but whether those discussions result actual movement on the issue remains to be seen.
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)
The bills on this topic (referenced above) prohibit award of attorney fees in certain suits brought by third parties which is the holy grail of this debate – insurers contend AOB lawsuits are a litigation for profit scheme and water mitigation companies/the trial lawyer association say the suits keep insurers in line to pay what is rightfully owed via the AOB process. As of this newsletter edition these bills have yet to see committee action.
SB 1094 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas)
This bill is a follow-up to Sen. Brandes’ successful legislation in 2014, SB 542, signed into law 6/5/14, continues the forward momentum established by Sen. Brandes in his attempt to bring a private, primary flood insurance market to Florida’s property owners. Sen. Brandes is an amazing visionary who never says we can’t do something – his belief is that if we as a state build it, insurers will come. The regulatory framework he establishes in this legislation and last year’s has consumer protections and all the makings for robust, free enterprise. On 3/10/15 Sen. Brandes’ measure was unanimously approved by the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee and the bill is now with the Senate Community Affairs Committee. The committee meets tomorrow; however, the bill (SB 1094) has yet to be placed on the agenda.
Quota Share Reinsurance-Citizens
SB 936 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) and its companion, HB 1307 by Rep. Dan Raulerson (R-Hillsborough)
These measures establish a program for private market insurers to remove risk from Citizens with Citizens serving as a reinsurer. The bills have received their committee references and both are waiting to be placed on the agendas for consideration by the Chambers’ insurance committees. We will keep you posted on their progress.
Sinkhole Activity Damage Improvement
SB 404 by Sen. Wilton Simpson(R-Hernando)
This measure declares that there is a compelling state interest in enabling property owners to voluntarily finance certain improvements to property damaged by sinkhole activity with local government assistance; ads as a qualifying improvement the repair of sinkhole activity damage under Section 163.08, FS, Property Assessed Clean Energy financing mechanisms; and expands the definition of “blighted area” to include a substantial number or percentage of properties damaged by sinkhole activity which are not adequately repaired or stabilized. The bill was on the agenda to be considered during the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting last Tuesday (3/10/15), however, it was temporarily postponed. The measure is scheduled to be considered again this Tuesday (3/17/15) during the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting at 9:00 a.m.
Property Insurance Appraisal Umpires
HB 491 by Rep. Frank Artilies
Creates the property insurance appraisal umpire licensing program including continuing education and disciplinary processes under the auspices of the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. The measure is waiting to be heard in its first committee of reference.
Similar Bill: SB 744 by Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Lee/Collier)- This highly similar measure to HB 491 is currently on the agenda to be heard by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee this Wednesday (03/18/15) at 4:00 p.m.
Insurance Fraud Reform
SB 1306 by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Clay) and HB 1127
by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Lake)
SB 1306 hasn’t moved forward since it was referred to the Senate Banking and Insurance, Criminal Justice, and Appropriations Committees on 3/2/15. HB 1127 was referred to the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, and the Appropriations and Health and Human Services Committees on 3/8/15. Both bills remain idle as of the release of this newsletter but we will continue monitoring and let you know when any movement occurs.
SB 1060 by Sen. David Simmons (R-Seminole/Volusia) and HB 1013
by Rep. Bill Hager (R-Palm Beach)
SB 1060 appears to be moving quickly through the process and was on 3/10/15 unanimously approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee after A delete-all amendment was filed to the bill by Sen. David Simmons (R-Seminole/Volusia), the bill sponsor. This measure now heads to the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee for its consideration. HB 1013 which was referred to the House Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee, the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and the Regulatory Affairs Committee was voted on favorably by the Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee on 3/11/15. The next stop for this bill is the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.
Insurer Solvency Reform
SB 1190 by Sen. Tom Lee (R-Hillsborough) and HB 1085
by Rep. David Santiago (R-Volusia)
Sen. Lee’s measure, SB 1190 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee during its meeting tomorrow (3/17/15) at 9 a.m. HB 1085 was referred to the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, and the Regulatory Affairs Committee on 3/8/15. We’ll let you know when this bill is scheduled for its first committee hearing.
So, all in all, week two provided a bit more action as session really starts to crank into high gear. This week promises to provide more bills being introduced and explained to committees by their sponsors and the work of those committees to become more and more intense. We’ll certainly stay tuned and you should also.
Until next Monday, be safe and stay in touch. Lisa and the Team