Welcome to the 2015 Legislative Session

No, you aren’t dreaming.  A year has come and gone since the beginning of the 2014 Legislative Session.  We’ve been watching and waiting (and working) for the Florida Legislature’s 2015 Regular Session to begin and tomorrow is the big day.  We, like some of you, will be there among all the pomp and circumstance of the first day, but mostly we are ready to get going with some hopefully positive legislation to improve our lives and add to good public policy. We’ve been tracking quite a few bills and are including just a bit of information on some of those in today’s newsletter.  Along with that, we are providing you with some great information and guidance on how to navigate through session. By using the  tips and tricks provided below for keeping track of events, bills, and your elected officials during the process, you can be “involved” as much as you care to be.  If that isn’t how you want to spend your time for two months starting tomorrow, know that we will be there every day and we mean, every day monitoring for you and representing your interests.

The Florida Channel

Located in the state Capitol building, The Florida Channel is a public affairs programming service funded by The Florida Legislature and produced and operated by WFSU-TV. It features programming covering all three branches of state government, and is Florida’s primary source for live, unedited coverage of the Governor and Cabinet, the Legislature and the Supreme Court. The Florida Channel is a great resource during session.  By simply visiting The Florida Channel homepage, you will find live streams of committee meetings, live feeds when our legislators are voting on the House and Senate chamber floors, and other broadcasts of public hearings. Simply navigate to the homepage and mouse over to the right to click on “Live Streams” to find committee meetings or floor sessions for that day.

The Florida House of Representatives

The Florida House of Representatives is comprised of 120 representatives from around our state, all of whom are led by the Speaker of the House, Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-District 51). The Florida House of Representatives hosts their own website that is full of resources that are helpful during session. Navigating to the House website will give you access to calendars for a certain day or week, contact information for House administrators, and historical information.

Insider Tip: If you have an elementary or middle school aged student at home, the House offers a Page & Messenger Program for one week during session for students to work directly with Representatives. This is a great opportunity for young Floridians to learn about our state government!

The Florida Senate

The Florida Senate is comprised of 40 Senators lead by the Senate President, Andy Gardiner (R-District 13). The Florida Senate also hosts their own website that is similar to the House website. Visiting the Senate’s website will give you access to all calendars, senate media and current events, and historical information.

 Insider Tip: If you have a high school student at home interested in state government, the Senate hosts a Page Program for older students. Like the House program, the Page will work with Senators for one week during session.

Looking Up Your Representatives  & Senators

Finding your local Representative or Senator has never been easier.  Visit the Find You Legislator link HERE, enter your address or zip code and you’ll quickly discover who will be representing you in Tallahassee this session.

Insider Tip: Once you’ve found your legislator, you can navigate to their own page to check out their biographical information, committee assignments, how many bills they’ve introduced this session, and their contact information!

Bill Tracking

Legislative tracking is a very useful tool during session. Tracking your bill gives you the opportunity to see real-time updates on where the bill is located in the process, where it is going next, and most importantly, whether the bill has successfully passed one or more of its committees of reference. Lisa Miller & Associates provides this service to our clients but keeping tabs from home is a great way to stay involved in the process. We’ve found that the legislative tracking feature offered on the Florida Senate website is user friendly and offers the ability to track both House and Senate bills. To create your legislative tracking account visit this LINK and follow the prompts.

Insider Tip: the letters HB following an odd number can identify House bills; conversely, the letters SB followed by an even number can identify Senate bills.

Online Sunshine

If you need to look up a current Florida statute, or our constitution, Online Sunshine is the place you need to go! Online Sunshine offers a website that is user friendly for navigating research. In addition to any legal research you’ll be doing, Online Sunshine also offers information on registered lobbyists in the State of Florida. The search feature allows you to search for a lobbyist by their name, or by the client’s name. Finally, lobbying firm compensation reports are available on Online Sunshine; the State of Florida mandates these reports for all lobbyists and lobbying firms.

Proposed Legislation that We Are Following

Property & Casualty Insurance (AKA Omnibus Insurance Bill)

CS/HB 165 by Rep. David Santiago

A non-controversial insurance bill that revises about a dozen sections of the Florida Insurance Code.

CS/SB 258 Bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes

This bill is almost identical to CS/HB165.  There are also a handful of other bills that have comparable provisions traveling through the process.

 Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA Reform)

 HB 557 by Rep. Jake Raburn

Defines term “assessment year”; revises provisions relating to levy of assessments on insurers by Florida Insurance Guaranty Association; specifies conditions under which such assessments are paid; revises procedures & timeframes for levying of assessments; revises provisions relating to assessments that are premium & not subject to premium tax; limits insurer’s liability for uncollectible emergency assessments; deletes requirement to file final accounting report documenting recoupment; revises exemption for assessments; requires charges or recoupments to be displayed separately on premium statements to policyholders & prohibits their inclusion in rates.

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)

CS/HB 757 by Rep. Bill Hager

Establishes motor vehicle insurance requirements for transportation network company & participating driver; requires transportation network company & insurer to cooperate with certain claims coverage investigations; provides for application of certain coverage requirements.Similar Bill: SB 1298 by Senator Simmons

 CS/HB 817 by Rep. Matt Gaetz

Provides requirements for operating as a transportation network company or for employment as transportation network company driver.

Similar Bill: SB 1326 by Senator Brandes

 Citizens Depopulation

SB 1006 Sen. Flores

Requiring Citizens to provide specified notice to a policyholder and to receive specified written consent from such policyholder before the removal of the policyholder’s residential property insurance policy; prohibiting an insurer that removes a policy from annually increasing the rate for the renewal of a replacement policy by more than a specified amount for a specified number of terms, etc.

Similar Bill: HB 1087 by Representative Bileca

 Assignment of Benefits

HB 669 by Rep. John Tobia

Prohibits award of attorney fees in certain suits brought by third parties.

Similar Bill: SB 1064 by Sen. Hukill; SB 1210 by Sen. Hays

Flood Insurance

SB 1094 by Sen. Jeff Brandes

Establishes an elevation certificate data repository and clarifies many of the provision of the 2014 flood insurance legislation – SB 542 signed into law June 5, 2014.

Identical Bill: HB 895 by Rep. Ahern

Quota Share Reinsurance-Citizens

SB 936 by Sen. Jeff Brandes

Establishes a program to remove risk from Citizens with Citizens serving as a reinsurer.

No similar House bills at this time.

Civil Remedies against Insurers

SB 1088 by Sen. Jeff Brandes

Requires those bringing a third party suit to provide an insurer with a written notice of loss as a condition precedent to the suit.

No similar House bills at this time.

Insurance Fraud Reform

SB 1306 by Sen. Rob Bradley

The bill is designed to better track incidences of fraud asking insurers to report data such as the insurers exposure for suspected fraud, how much may have been paid despite the fraud, and how much may have been recovered.

Workers Compensation

SB 1060 by Sen. David Simmons

Providing that a specified restriction does not apply to the adoption of maximum reimbursement allowances approved by the three-member panel, etc.

No related bills at this time.

Sinkhole Activity Damage Improvement

SB 404 by Sen. Wilton Simpson

This bill allows ads as a qualifying improvement the repair of sinkhole activity damage under Section 163.08, FS, Property Assessed Clean Energy financing mechanisms.

Property Insurance Appraisal Umpires

HB 491 by Rep. Frank Artilies 

Creates property insurance appraisal umpire licensing program including continuing education and disciplinary processes.

Similar Bill: SB 744 by Sen. Garrett Ritcher

Insurer Solvency Reform

SB 1190 by Sen. Tom Lee

Increases surplus requirements for new and existing insurance companies.

Identical Bill: 1085 by Rep. David Santiago

Back to Weekly Newsletter Publications

As we do every year, this edition of our newsletter is the first of our weekly releases during the Legislative Session.  While we focused on topics of general interest during the summer and fall months, we will now spend our time providing you with week-by-week updates on the action within committees, culminating with bills on the House and Senate floors. This is the fastest paced time of the year here in Tallahassee and we strive to cover all topics that impact our clients, friends and the citizens of our State.  We are up for the task, so be prepared to hear from us often.

Lisa and the Team