Rough Week Last Week!

Working in the political arena isn’t for the faint of heart. This past week in the Florida legislature, two senators lectured the Senate Judiciary Committee audience and appeared frustrated that those speaking on behalf of the insurance industry couldn’t answer their questions.  There was so much irony in the senators’ discussion.  First, it occurred after presentations by nefarious vendors discussing how insurance companies don’t pay claims and are the reason that vendors NEED to use an assignment of benefits (AOB) document. Next, these two senators asked why the insurance industry couldn’t answer “to the penny” how rates would decrease if AOB reform passed but, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), could calculate exactly how much rates would increase if no changes were made (see OIR’s projections here). Neither senator realized that Florida law already requires insurance companies to sign their rate filings under penalties of perjury, so if AOB reforms meant cost and claim expense reductions, then that MUST be reflected in the rates.  And neither Senator recognized the fact that sitting on their desks awaiting a committee hearing was a bill that would drop rates because it would shrink Florida’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

After the committee meeting, I met with one of the key senators who is laser focused on passing AOB reform legislation and provided some vital information to him that may have a significant impact on this issue when it comes to judicial negotiations and attorney fees. So wading through “the insanity of it all,” coupled with the uncertainty of the federal government shutdown last week and the stock market drop, it was a stressful week!

And in case our readers didn’t follow the “patch” that was passed to avoid a full shutdown, Congress approved a $400 billion budget deal that included $89 billion for disaster relief. It also included disaster tax relief and residential energy property credit for a variety of energy efficiency features. Whether it’s state or federal government happenings, we do our best to keep you apprised and take bullets for you as they are fired! Please tell us what your thoughts are about state and federal government happenings and with that, enjoy this week’s read!

Bill Watch
Recap of Week Five & Preview of Week Six of Session

The Florida Legislature resumes its session this morning with the good news that it has more money to spend – or save – than it thought. The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference met this past Friday and General Revenue estimates were revised upward by $181.3 million in FY 2017-18 and by $280.5 million in FY 2018-19. The estimate for sales taxes, the state’s largest revenue source, was increased by $359.4 million over the two years—more than two-thirds of that is from hurricane rebuilding.  Changes in most other revenue sources were relatively minor.

We’re past the halfway point in the 60-day Florida legislative session, with 25 days left to the scheduled end on Friday, March 9.  The House and the Senate last Thursday approved their own versions of a state budget for the year beginning July 1.  Although they’re only $100 million apart (in $87+ billion budgets), they are miles apart philosophically, with the House budget linking the education budget to an education “conforming” policy bill containing major education policy changes.

Meanwhile, there is compromise to report in the Senate’s current version of Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform, just not enough apparently to persuade insurance interests to support it.  And there’s a new report that says the House’s version of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) auto insurance reform will actually cost – not save – the average driver money.   These stories and more in this week’s 2018 Bill Watch:



Assignment of Benefits (AOB)
The Florida Senate’s version of AOB reform passed its second of three committees last week, after an amendment was offered by sponsor Senator Greg Steube (R-Sarasota).  The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 to pass SB 1168 with Steube’s amendment that removed an original provision barring insurance companies from including the costs of attorney fees paid in losing cases into their rate base or future rate requests. But the amendment wasn’t enough to sway the insurance industry, which continued to oppose the bill because it doesn’t address one-way attorney fees, which is driving rising consumer rates within AOB.   The bill would continue current practice to allow such fees to the prevailing party in a lawsuit or settlement – whether that be the policyholder or a third-party vendor exercising an AOB.  This is contrary to the intent of Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute and to the advice of Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier.

Senator Steube countered that his bill has a provision allowing insurance companies to recoup their attorney fees if the plaintiff refuses a good faith offer of settlement and then loses later in court.  The Senator wanted to know why that process wouldn’t work, discussion ensued, and he committed to continue to work on the issue. Representatives from insurance companies, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), and Citizens Property Insurance still oppose the bill because it doesn’t bar one-way attorney fees for repair contractors. Sen. Steube asked that opponents come talk to him about how to address the one-way attorney fee language without outright repealing it.

One speaker was questioned about why the insurance industry cannot guarantee that rates will go down if a satisfactory bill passes that reforms the assignment of benefits issues.  The speaker responded that too many variables dictate rates and just because AOB reform passes, there are still other unknowns.  Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) discussed her frustration and those of her 500,000 constituents who have rates going up;  she is adamant that no one will say what rates will do if a bill passes to reform AOB.   She cited OIR’s website that shows how much rates will go up “to the penny” if there’s no AOB reform bill that passes, but she said there’s no precision as to how rates will go down, should a bill pass.  Senator Steube closed by saying that this was his 8th session and in every insurance bill that he has voted on since, there have been promises that rates will go down.  You can listen to Senator Flores & Steube’s impassioned pleas by clicking here and going to timecode 1:03:35 (for Flores) and 1:11:47 (for Steube).

There was a puzzling amendment, that was later withdrawn, that dealt with redefining sinkholes; specifically, it would require that “the insured’s structure being condemned and ordered to  be vacated by the governmental agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure, or being declared dangerous,  as defined in the Florida Building Code, by written notice of  the real and imminent threat to public safety which is from a licensed professional engineer…”  Some committee members voiced concern that this change in the sinkhole law didn’t “fit” in the assignment of benefits bill and was too complicated to be included in this bill.  It was removed from the bill.  SB 1168 now goes to the Senate Rules Committee, but as yet is unscheduled.

See Bill Watch Backgrounder: Assignment of Benefits for more details on the history of AOB reform and this bill, current data, and past committee and stakeholder discussions.

The Florida House on January 12 passed its version of AOB reform, with HB 7015 by Rep. Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City).  The bill addresses AOB abuses and enhances consumer/policyholder protections.  While one-way attorney fees would continue to exist for first-party claims filed by a policyholder against an insurer, this bill sets special two-way attorney fees for third-party claims.  Its purpose is to discourage frivolous and abusive claims and lawsuits.  Please refer to the above Backgrounder for further details on the House measure.   

Meanwhile, Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona), who has been a champion in the fight against the abuse of assignment of benefits for the past several years, has a catch-all insurance bill (HB 465), known as an “omnibus” bill to change several provisions of the insurance code.  The bill has been revamped as CS/CS/HB 465 and passed the House Commerce Committee on February 1st and awaits a final vote by the full House.  Among the changes in this bill is the addition of the Intelligent Mail Barcode or other similar tracking methods used or approved by the United States Postal Service as an acceptable delivery method under a policy’s proof of mailing requirement.  Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues questioned Rep. Santiago on the veracity of the process, noting it tracks a package to the mail center and then the mail truck, but not to someone’s home.  Rep. Rodrigues said he knows from personal experience (and those of his neighbors) that mail mix-ups occur and said something as important as an insurance notice should have a traceable delivery abilities.  Look for more discussion about this when the bill is debated on the House floor.  Previous changes to the original bill included elimination of a provision that would have excluded from the Department of Financial Services complaint registry complaints filed by third parties who are not satisfied with an insurance company’s claims handling when an assignment of benefits is involved.

A revamped companion, Senate Bill (CS/SB 784) by Senator Brandes was passed last week by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.  It contains a new provision that mediation may be requested only by the policyholder, as a first-party claimant; a third party, as assignee of the policy benefits; or the insurer. However, an insurer is not required to participate in any mediation requested by a third party assignee of policy benefits.

Windshield AOBThere’s no further progress to report from this past week on this issue.  There were ruffled feathers from some windshield repair shops following passage of Senator Dorothy Hukill’s CS/CS/SB 396 by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on January 29.  The bill would allow auto insurers to require an inspection of a damaged windshield of a covered motor vehicle before the windshield repair or replacement is authorized.  The bill addresses what Sen. Hukill has called “the proliferation of damaged windshields in Florida by bad actors, waiting in parking lots and car washes, offering free windshields and incentives for their services, whether needed or not, and it’s driving up costs.”  The bill includes requirements that the inspection take place within 24 hours from the notice of a claim – but must be skipped if the damage has impacted the vehicle’s structural integrity or otherwise would be a violation to drive on the roadway.  The bill is also meant to cut down on the number of AOB lawsuits by out-of-network windshield shops.  Those lawsuits, according to the state Department of Financial Services, have grown from 397 in 2006 to 19,513 in 2017.

Prior to the meeting, Hukill filed an amendment that eventually passed which would prohibit windshield shops from offering incentives to customers to file insurance claims for damaged windshields.  The bill has been revamped several times and is returning to the Banking and Insurance Committee where it first passed unanimously on January 16.

Hukill’s bill has an identical companion bill in the House (HB 811) by Rep. Plasencia, which is still awaiting its first of three committee hearings.

Workers’ CompensationThere’s no further progress to report from this past week on this issue.  Like AOB reform, Workers’ Comp reform is another issue being fast-tracked by the Florida House while the Senate still has no formal bill.  The House, on January 12, passed HB 7009 by Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills).  It’s a near replica of HB 7085 from last session that died over disputes on maximum hourly attorney fees.  This is by far one of the most contentious – and by court rulings, most immediate – issues facing the legislature after the state Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling that our workers’ comp system was unconstitutional.  While the bill has no Senate companion, Senate President Negron has been quoted as saying his chamber is eager to pass something this session.

Last year’s House bill came on the heels of a 14.5% average increase in workers’ comp rates – adding to the urgency.  This fall, however, OIR approved decreased rates averaging 9.5%.  Rep. Burgess has warned that those decreased rates don’t reflect the lagging cost increases still anticipated from state Supreme Court decisions throwing out limits on attorney fees and extending certain disability payments.  Recent statistics do show increases in workers’ comp legal fees, as previously reported in the LMA Newsletter.  Rep. Burgess said it was important to be proactive and pass reforms now, before the next rate increase.  The bill eliminates fee schedules but puts a cap of $150/hour on plaintiff (workers) attorney fees.  Yet business groups’ support of the measure has been lukewarm, saying it could be “premature and ultimately, inadequate” especially in restricting attorney fees.

HB 7009 is one of the five most-lobbied bills in the legislature according to a recent report by the Tampa Bay Times.

Workers’ Compensation for First RespondersHB 227 by Rep. Matt Willhite (D-Royal Palm Beach) will have its second committee stop tomorrow before the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.  The bill and a similar one moving in the Senate, CS/SB 376 by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation), remove the requirement on some first responders that there be a physical injury in some circumstances in order to receive medical benefits for a “mental or nervous injury”, so long as the responder witnessed a specified traumatic event.  These efforts are inspired, in part, by the city of Orlando’s refusal to pay such benefits to a police officer reportedly diagnosed with PTSD after responding to the Pulse nightclub shootings.  The Senate bill still awaits its final hearing before the Appropriations Committee.    SB 126 by Senator Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee), which would require treatment begin within 15 days, has not been heard.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP), also called No Fault InsuranceA new report out this past week by the actuarial firm Milliman reports that eliminating PIP under the House’s HB 19 would increase, not decrease coverage costs based on likely motorist scenarios.  The Milliman Report, done for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, says an increase of 5.3% or $67 is likely under relevant variations in coverage and sample size, as more drivers will buy uninsured and underinsured coverage for protection against motorists who skip buying insurance altogether.  The report says the increased costs result as well from the addition of non-economic damages under bodily injury and uninsured lines that don’t exist today under no-fault PIP.  Combining HB 19 with the Medical Pay provisions of the Senate’s CS/SB 150 would see average coverage costs rise 6.4% or $80, said Milliman.

Meanwhile, efforts continue behind the scenes to add Bad Faith provisions into both the House and Senate versions of bills that would do away with PIP insurance.  The bills under consideration would eliminate the state requirement that motorists carry $10,000 in PIP insurance and put responsibility for vehicle accidents on the party at fault.  While the House has passed its PIP repeal bill and the Senate is working its version through committees, some insurance interests are withholding formal support because neither bill provides protections from bad faith lawsuits that will likely go with the territory of returning to a tort system.  At this point, it’s anybody’s guess whether we will see PIP eliminated this year.

The House chalked up another quick victory on January 12 with passage of HB 19.  The bill eliminates PIP and would require motorists instead to carry Bodily Injury liability insurance at a minimum $25K/$50K level.  Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) who is sponsoring this bill for second year in a row, has noted that despite various PIP reforms in the past, costs keep going up, driven partly by fraud.  OIR and committee staff analysis show auto rates would go down (5.6% overall) if the bill passes and should encourage those driving illegally without proper insurance (22% of Florida drivers she has said) to get coverage.  The bill also revises the uninsured and underinsured coverage legal damage thresholds.

HB 19 is one of the five most-lobbied bills in the legislature according to a recent report by the Tampa Bay Times.

The Senate’s answer to PIP reform took its first formal step forward on January 10 with the Banking and Insurance Committee passing CS/SB 150, by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon), but appears stalled.  It goes beyond the House bill and replaces PIP with mandatory $5,000 of Med Pay coverage (and loses the consumer savings as a result) plus varying amounts of Bodily Injury liability limits which appears to give consumers choices. Senator Lee revamped his original bill to now focus Med Pay coverage solely on emergency hospital treatment and within two weeks after the accident.  The bill was further amended to allow less expensive treatment by other practitioners, including chiropractors.  Some senators expressed concern that the bill will effectively raise auto insurance rates for those motorists who have just PIP policies.  But Senator Lee refuted that, noting that mandatory BI will cost $49 per $1,000 of coverage versus the current $121 per $1,000 of PIP coverage.  As an example, he said a scenario of PIP + minimum BI + Med Pay would cost just $4 more, proof of a more efficient system without PIP.

SB 150’s Bodily Injury liability coverage choices are:

  • 20/40/10 minimum coverage from 1/1/19-12/31/20 or a Med Pay and motor vehicle liability policy with a combined property damage and bodily injury coverage of $50,000 for one crash;
  • 25/50/10 minimum coverage from 1/1/21-12/31/22 or a Med Pay and motor  vehicle liability policy with a combined property damage and bodily injury coverage of $60,000 for one crash; and
  • 30/60/10 minimum coverage from 1/1/23 and thereafter or a Med Pay and motor vehicle liability policy with a combined property damage and bodily injury coverage of $70,000 for one crash.

Senators are facing pressure by Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano to “get ‘er done” this session before he takes over in the fall.  The bill is still awaiting its next hearing before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

Hurricane Irma Damage – The legislature and the Governor are busy reviewing and putting into motion specific recommendations by the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness from Hurricane Irma’s impacts.  Included are a number of evacuation-related proposals, including an extension of the Suncoast Parkway north from the greater Tampa area to the Georgia state line. Other proposals include using passenger rail to evacuate citizens and looking at converting portions of highways during emergencies into all one-way traffic, a process known as “contraflow.”  Here’s more on some specific bills and directives to date:

Trash Pickup – The House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee on January 29 passed CS/HB 971 by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) that would prohibit a municipal or private garbage service from charging customers for missed trash pickups, unless the trash is removed within three days of the normally scheduled date.  The bill also prohibits telephone or cable companies from charging their customers for service that was interrupted for longer than 24 consecutive hours, unless it was the customers fault.  The bill opened a broader discussion on the timing of garbage and yard waste both after and before a storm.  Trash haulers who spoke said there should be no collection of garbage or yard trimmings 48 hours before a storm, as they can become projectiles in high winds.  Afterward, in the case of Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville, one hauler testified many areas of the city were still flooded seven days later, preventing trash trucks from garbage pickup. Committee members expressed concern about the complexity of the bill and that it would create new costs that would inevitably fall on customers.  Although the bill passed committee, many members said their ultimate approval was dependent on the bill improving.

Underground Utilities – Legislation (HB 405) giving the state Public Service Commission the sole ability to require underground transmission lines passed the House in late January and awaits action in the Senate.

Nursing Home Emergency PowerCS/SB 1874 by Senator Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) would require the Agency for Health Care Administration to adopt and enforce rules requiring each nursing home and assisted living facility to have an emergency power source and fuel supplies to last at least 96 hours during a power outage.  The bill was prompted by the deaths of residents of a Hollywood nursing home that lost its air-conditioning system during Hurricane Irma.  The bill passed the Senate Health Policy Committee on January 25 and goes before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services this Wednesday.

Fuel Emergencies –   The state agriculture commissioner would be empowered to lower gas prices during an emergency under an amendment that was added last week to CS/HB 553, a House omnibus bill on regulations by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The bill, with the amendment, passed the House Commerce Committee on February 1 and is ready for consideration by the full chamber. The measure’s specific intent is to require gas stations that run out of lower octane fuel to then sell their higher octane fuels at the lower octane price.  A representative from the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association said the measure would place Floridians at greater risk of predatory pricing in the longer term, because the big oil companies can afford to sell 93 Octane gas at 87 Octane prices while the smaller mom and pop operators cannot.  Representative Jamie Grant (R-Tampa) pointed out the measure would help consumers immediately prior to and after a disaster, when they need it most, in what was a very good debate among members.

The Senate meanwhile, through its Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security on February 1 passed CS/SB 700 that would create a Florida Strategic Fuel Reserve Task Force within the Division of Emergency Management. The task force would recommend by April 30, 2019, a strategic fuel reserve plan to meet the state’s fuel needs during emergencies and disasters.

Governor Directives – Governor Scott in early February issued a series of directives to state agencies, mostly the Department of Transportation, to begin immediate work implementing some of the House Select Committee report’s recommendations.  This includes the DOT by this July, identifying areas along major evacuation routes where more fuel services are needed and looking at options to expand fuel capacity for first responders. Other directives include expanding emergency shoulder use along key interstates, a strategy used during Irma last September as traffic backed up while motorists fled north on I-75 ahead of the storm.  The Governor also directed that cameras and message signs be installed along I-75 from Ocala north to the Georgia state line and enhancements be made to the state’s “Florida 511” traffic information website for motorists.  The DOT’s previous review suggested emergency shoulder plans for I-75 northbound from Alligator Alley in Fort Lauderdale; on the turnpike northbound from Orlando; on Interstate 95 northbound from Jupiter to south of Jacksonville; and on Interstate 10 westbound from I-75 to just east of Tallahassee.

The House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness issued its final report on January 16 with 78 recommendations to make Florida a safer and better prepared state when the next big hurricane hits.  They include extending the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to the Georgia line to aid in evacuations, strengthening the power grid, and better protecting vulnerable populations housed in shelters and senior care facilities.  The report is now in the hands of House Speaker Corcoran who has made clear the House spending priorities this session will be for hurricane relief.  Both chambers have bills that would make backup generators mandatory and nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, one of the report’s recommendations.  How to help the industry pay for it is still being debated.  Among the proposals are increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates or offering tax incentives. The report capped 20 hours of committee meetings over two months hearing various ideas from government and private interests.

Better management of local shelters was another priority in the report with recommendations to provide more training and better coordination. Developing a better communication process between local emergency management officials and electric utilities to identify restoration critical to public safety was suggested.  As for fleeing Florida prior to storms, the report recommends the state develop and implement a real-time, web-based evacuation route/destination resource tool to assist the public in making informed decisions relating to the selection of evacuation routes and destinations. Also, better utilization of rail lines before, during, and after an event to bring gasoline and diesel fuel and likewise, using expanding passenger rail service for evacuations.

Other recommendations of note to insurance interests: investing in plans that cost effectively mitigate flood risks to developed areas, including protection of greenways and blueways that act as flow ways or provide temporary storage during high water events.  Also, to provide incentives, such as civil immunity, for parking garage owners to make their garages available to the public during a hurricane. Rep. Holly Raschein’s suggestion that high-risk areas not be rebuilt after storms and instead, could be part of a state buyout program, did not make the final list.  The report’s full list of 78 recommendations are in Appendix 3 beginning on page 43.

Hurricane Flood Insurance – There are other bills prompted by Hurricane Irma’s aftermath.  CS/CS/HB 1011 by Rep. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) would require homeowners insurance policies that do not include flood insurance (most don’t) to so declare and would require policyholders to initial that declaration in acknowledgment.  The bill and its Senate counterpart, CS/SB 1282 by Senator Taddeo (D-Miami) were prompted by two realities: upwards of 60% of Irma’s damage here was caused by water and up to 80% of Florida flood victims may not have either NFIP or private flood coverage.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee tomorrow will hear SB 1282, which now has two amendments that 1) require the policies to acknowledge that private flood coverage is available for those homeowners with property valued above the National Flood Insurance Program’s $250,000 coverage limits; and 2) push the effective date of the measure to 2019 to allow insurance companies enough time to change their forms.  The House Commerce Committee on February 1 passed CS/HB 1011 but removed the specific reference to the National Flood Insurance Program.  That measure is now ready for consideration by the full House.

Florida Hurricane Cat FundThere’s no further progress to report from this past week on this issue.  CS/HB 97 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) received its first hearing January 23 before the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and was passed after interesting debate.  The bill addresses the growing balance – until Hurricane Irma – of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. The Fund provides reimbursements to insurers for a portion of their catastrophic hurricane losses.  Insurers pay premiums into the fund each year and pass the costs along to their policyholders, just like reinsurance.  But in quiet years, the fund has grown beyond its current statutory requirement of $17 billion, prompting the question: Should you reduce collections and thereby reduce premiums to policyholders?

The bill attempts to do that by changing the premium formula through changes in the rapid cash build-up factor based on the projected fund balance each year.  The factor would vary, from 25% when the fund balance is less than $14 billion, to 0% when the fund balance is at least $16 billion.  (A previous amendment to gradually reduce the Cat Fund limit of $17 billion to $14 billion by the year 2022 was withdrawn.)  The elimination of this “hurricane tax” as the rapid cash build-up factor is often described, will reduce rates approximately 4% but may be offset by other rate increase drivers like the assignment of benefits.

Jay Neal of the Florida Association for Insurance Reform supported the bill, noting the average policyholder pays an extra 4% now for the rare possibility of a catastrophic event.  “When fund balances are high, we don’t see the need to have the assessment and instead let the consumer spend that money elsewhere in the economy,” he said.

Other groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida urged caution, saying the bill too dramatically reduces the rapid cash build up, creating the risk of special assessments on policyholders if the fund is caught short after a big hurricane.  Indeed, the representative for the Cat Fund testified that they are projecting a $2 billion hit to the Fund from Hurricane Irma.  If Irma had been a direct hit on Florida, the Fund would have been exhausted, requiring such special assessments to build the fund up for the next season.

Bill sponsor Rep. Santiago admitted more debate is needed.  Although acknowledging that the “safety valve” in the bill wouldn’t produce consumer savings this year due to the $2 billion hit from Irma, “that safety valve would work, so that in quieter years, there would be savings…to help constituents avoid what I consider a tax year after year.”  CS/HB 97’s still awaits its final stop before the Commerce Committee.

SB 1454 by Senator Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) has key similarities but would eliminate the rapid cash build-up factor resulting in immediate rate savings.  It still awaits its first hearing.

Direct Primary Care   There’s no progress to report from this past week on this issue.  Informally dubbed “concierge medicine for the masses”, HB 37 by Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) passed the House on January 25.  The bill allows doctors to enter into monthly fee for service arrangements directly with individuals or employers, essentially bypassing health insurance organizations.  Burgess, in explaining the bill on the floor, said a lot of doctors don’t enter direct primary-care agreements because of regulatory uncertainty. The bill would make clear direct primary care is not subject to insurance regulations.  Burgess said the agreements are more affordable than insurance (typically costing about $75 month) and co-sponsor Rep. Mike Miller (R-Winter Park) said the bill gives the “ultimate decision-making process” to doctors and patients. “We’re trying to lower the cost of health care and improve the outcomes,” he said.  Two amendments which would have essentially added Obamacare provisions by preventing a primary care practice from declining a new patient because of health status or discontinuing care to an existing patient due to health status, as well as eliminating refunds to an employer paying on behalf of an employee, directing the refund go instead to the patient – failed to pass. A companion bill, CS/SB 80 by Senator Lee, passed by unanimous votes in October out of the Banking and Insurance, as well as the Health Policy Committees and still awaits action in the Appropriations Committee.

HB 37 is one of the five most-lobbied bills in the legislature according to a recent report by the Tampa Bay Times.

Health Insurer Authorization Efforts are progressing.  CS/CS/SB 98 by Senator Steube was passed by the Senate on January 31.  It and a revamped companion bill CS/CS/HB 199 by Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa) would require insurers and Medicaid HMOs to approve or deny prior authorization requests as well as appeals from denials of care within three days in non-urgent situations and one day if the care is urgent.  It would also prohibit prior authorization forms from requiring information not necessary to determine the medical necessity or coverage for a treatment or prescription.  Health insurers and their pharmacy benefits managers would also have to provide requirements and restrictions on prior authorizations in understandable language and to make them available on the internet, along with a 60-day notice of any changes.  It also defines “step therapy” and prohibits insurers and HMOs from requiring patients repeat step therapy protocols. In recognition of the current opioid crisis, the Senate previously approved an amendment requiring insurers waive step therapy requirements if the treatment being recommended is a non-opioid alternative.

Meanwhile, there was quiet, but dramatic testimony on CS/CS/HB 199 before the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee on January 30.  A schizophrenic patient testified that getting on the right medication and staying on it are crucial.  She hinted she had to start over with step-therapy protocols when her psychiatrist of 10 years retired.  Denying a drug, even temporarily, she said, can lead to hospitalization and death.   A representative from America’s Health Insurance Plans warned that disregarding step therapy protocols could impact patient safety.  An amendment was added that clarified that this applies to insurance in both small group and large group plans.  There was a question on whether this will increase rates for consumers. Rep. Harrison said possibly, but that it hasn’t happened in other states with this requirement.  The bill passed and awaits its final stop before the Health & Human Services Committee.

Senator Steube is also sponsoring SB 162 that would prohibit health insurers and HMOs from retroactively denying insurance claims under certain circumstances. The bill passed its last committee stop on February 1 and had a second reading on the Senate floor this past week and may be scheduled for a final vote this week.

TelehealthCS/SB 280 by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) will go before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services this Wednesday, its third of four committee stops.  It’s part of a continued effort to put remote health practitioner visits via the internet on an equal footing as in-office visits, in order to reduce health costs and provide parity of care to rural patients.  A state panel in 2016 executed a list of legislative directives to help smooth the kinks and establish recommended procedures to help make this bill a reality.  SB 280 would establish the standard of care for telehealth providers; encourage the state group health insurance program to include telehealth coverage for state employees; and encourage insurers offering certain workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance plans to include telehealth services.  A companion, HB 793 by Rep. Massullo, was filed in late November and has been referred to the House Health Quality Subcommittee and the Health and Human Services Committee, but has not been scheduled for consideration.

Texting While DrivingThere’s no further progress to report from this past week on this issue.  Moving Florida’s current ban on texting while driving from a secondary offense (where you can be ticketed during a traffic stop made for another reason) to a primary offense continues to steadily advance, with a vote possible soon by the full House.  The House Government Accountability Committee on February 1 passed a revamped CS/CS/HB 33 by Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa), which now includes an amendment its Senate companion had adopted two weeks ago requiring that the driver’s race and ethnicity be recorded by law-enforcement officers when ticketing for texting while driving.  The amendment passed out of concerns about racial profiling of minorities.  Under the bill, first-time violators would face a $30 fine plus court costs for a non-moving violation. Second-time offenders would face a $60 fine plus court costs with a moving violation. Those involved in crashes or texting in school zones face additional penalties.  Like its companion, SB 90 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), the bill requires the officer notify the driver of the constitutional right not to have their cellphone examined by authorities. Neither applies to stationary vehicles.  Florida is one of four states where texting while driving isn’t a primary offense.  The House bill is now ready for a floor vote and the Senate bill is awaiting its last hearing before the Appropriations Committee.

Controlled SubstancesEfforts to address accidental drug overdose deaths have been stalled by doctors who are concerned about prescription limits of Opioids to a three to seven days’ supply.  SB 8 by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers) was supposed to have its last committee hearing this past Wednesday before the Rules Committee but was shelved for a second time.  Senator Bill Galvano, slated to be the next Senate President, said last week he’s in talks with the Governor’s office to loosen those limits.  SB 8 would restrict an opioid supply to three days for standard prescriptions but would allow doctors up to a seven-day supply in certain medical cases. Additionally, it provides for more continuing education for responsibly prescribing opioids and requires participation in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program by all healthcare professionals that prescribe opiates. It specifically requires doctors to check the database before writing prescriptions, to avoid enabling “doctor shopping” multiple-prescription patients.  Speakers at past hearings have included doctors and patient groups and were very positive and supportive of the bill.  Pain doctors and ER physicians have expressed some concern about the three-day limit, but overall, the bill’s concepts have been favorably viewed.  The Senate’s budget provides $53 million for the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction.

A similar bill in the House (HB 21) by Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) is still awaiting its last stop before the Health & Human Services Committee.  It has the same prescription limits as the Senate version. It would also authorize the state Department of Health to share data with other states to avoid patient abuse in filling multiple prescriptions. The House earmarked about $50 million to address the opioid crisis, with more than half of that to come from federal funding.  The House also wants to spend $1 million on the statewide prescription drug database.

Governor Scott has requested the legislature appropriate $53 million toward the fight against opioid abuse, something state Attorney General Pam Bondi earlier in the session called “a great start” but nowhere near enough given the funding that will be necessary for treatment.  She serves on the President’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission.  She’s also conducting a multistate investigation into potentially unlawful practices by drug companies in the distribution, marketing, and sales of opioids.

HB 21 is the most-lobbied bills in the legislature according to a recent report by the Tampa Bay Times.

Trade Secrets in Public Records CS/HB 459 & CS/HB 461 by Rep. Ralph Massullo (R-Beverly Hills) together eliminate trade secrets and its various definitions found in statutes and then restore them under a uniform definition and treatment.  They passed their final committee last week and are ready for a House floor vote.  CS/HB 459 repeals all public record exemptions for trade secrets in current law, all associated processes for designating a trade secret, and all references to trade secrets contained in definitions for proprietary business information.  This includes the trade secret process used in the insurance code, Section 624.4213, Florida Statute.  Then, its “sister” bill, CS/HB 461 enacts a new trade secret process that is not unlike current law regulating insurance entities use of trade secrets now.  It clearly defines the term and specifically excludes from the definition any of the myriad contracts and agreements between agencies and outside vendors that Speaker Corcoran has been critical of.  So in essence, CS/HB 459 repeals the current insurance entity trade secret practice and CS/HB 461 restores it.

At last week’s House Government Accountability meeting it was clear that these trade secret bills are aimed at state agencies who contract with private businesses. Caught up in this debate was State Farm’s successful court decision to have their quarterly data not be available to the public as all other property insurers are required to do into the OIR QUASR system.  In fact, State Farm was successful at this committee meeting to include an amendment to HB 459 that specifically preserves its data and company information as trade secret, along with information that is part of research activities at universities and teaching hospitals.  Contained in HB 459, however, are provisions to make transparent catastrophe modeling information and that will have the effect of modelers shielding that information rather than sharing it with the hurricane methodology commission as they do now.

CS/HB 459 has companion SB 956 and similar bill SB 958 (both filed by Senator Mayfield in November) and CS/HB 461 has a similar bill in SB 958.  Neither Senate Bill has progressed.  Again, these bills have not had a single hearing in the Senate which appears to indicate this subject will be a source of negotiation as we near the end of session in the next few weeks.

A Leon County judge recently ruled as well that a TV production/PR company had to release its records surrounding a state contract involving Emeril Lagasse’s $11.6 million Visit Florida contract.  These bills and this judicial dispute arise from House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s October press conference about his objection to state agencies who claim trade secret to shield contract and vendor information.  Corcoran said that agencies should not be entitled to trade secret privileges if they “spend one penny of taxpayers’ dollars.”

HB 37 is one of the five most-lobbied bills in the legislature according to a recent report by the Tampa Bay Times.



Assignment of Benefits (AOB)
There are other AOB bills in the Senate, but they are all stalled. They include SB 62 by Senator Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange).  The bill prohibits certain attorney fees and requires those vendors that execute the AOB to comply with certain requirements prior to filing suit.  HB 7015, which passed the House on January 12 has some elements of this bill.

Likewise stalled is SB 256 by Senator Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale), which would prohibit insurer managed repair programs and prevent most property insurance policies from prohibiting or limiting AOB.  But it would also require the AOB be in writing, be limited to an accurate scope of work to be performed, and allow the policyholder to cancel the AOB within seven days without penalty and otherwise, be shared with the insurer within seven days of execution. A final repair bill would be required to both policyholder and insurer within 7 days of work completed.  Referral fees would be limited to $750 and require water damage remediation assignees to be ANSI certified. Insurance companies would be required to offer any settlement within 10 days of assignee filing suit over an AOB dispute.  It also prohibits insurers from including the costs of attorney fees paid in losing cases into their rate base or future rate requests.  Under the bill, OIR would be required to conduct an annual AOB data call beginning in 2020.  HB 7015 which passed the House on January 12 has some elements of this bill, but not the attorney fee rate recoupment.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) There are other PIP bills, but they are also stalled. HB 6011 by Rep. Julio Gonzalez (R-Venice) deletes the requirement for policyholders & health care providers to execute disclosure & acknowledgment forms to claim personal injury protection benefits.  It had its first reading on January 9 but remains unscheduled for committees.  These requirements were originally established to help prevent fraud and include verification that actual services were rendered and weren’t solicited by the provider.  HB 6011 has no Senate companion.

Regulation of Workers’ Compensation Insurance Filed by Senator Lee on the Friday before Session began, SB 1634 authorizes the Insurance Consumer Advocate to intervene as a party in certain proceedings relating to the regulation of workers’ comp insurance or to seek review of certain agency actions before the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).  The bill also specifies requirements and procedures for the consumer advocate in the examination of workers’ compensation rates or form filings.  There is no House companion bill.

Property Insurance –  Filed by Senator Lee on the Friday before Session began, SB 1652 would prohibit property insurers who fail to make inspections within 45 days of notice of claim from denying or limiting payments for certain hurricane-related claims under certain circumstances.  It also restricts insurers from requiring proof of loss and requires all these changes be added to Florida’s Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights and provided to the policyholder.  The bill also requires property owners to disclose the sinkhole report in lease or lease/purchase agreements when an insurance claim has been paid for sinkhole damage. It has no House companion bill.

Florida Building Commission – The Florida Building Commission, which oversees state building codes – some of the toughest in the nation due to Florida’s susceptibility to hurricane damage – would be downsized under HB 299  by Rep. Stan McClain (R-Ocala), who is a residential contractor. The bill would cut the board more than in half, from 27 to 11 members, removing representation from several sectors in the building industry.  The bill removes members representing: air conditioning, mechanical or electrical engineering, county code enforcement, those with disabilities, manufactured buildings, municipalities, building products, building owners/managers, the green building industry, natural gas distribution, the Department of Financial Services, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, the Governor appointee as chair, and reduces from three members to one municipal code enforcement official and would no longer require a fire official. The bill also changes the qualifications of the architect member, removing the requirement of actively practicing in Florida. Rep. McClain said the bill is meant to remove any Commission members that aren’t directly involved in the building process but that he’s open to suggested changes. An amendment that would have removed the insurance representative was withdrawn this fall.  HB 299 would leave the Commission comprised mostly of contractors. The bill is on its way to its last stop at the Commerce Committee but has no Senate companion.

Contractors Without InsuranceHB 89 by Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview) requires that contractors lacking public liability insurance shall be personally liable to a consumer for damages that having the proper insurance would have covered.  The bill passed the Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee in early November but has two more stops.  Its Senate companion SB 604 by Senator Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) hasn’t had a hearing in any of its three committees yet.

Insurance Rates Like he’s tried to do with AOB, SB 258  by Senator Farmer would prohibit insurance companies from including the costs of attorney fees paid in losing cases into their rate base or future rate requests in Workers’ Compensation and Life policies.   Farmer’s similar bill in the 2017 session failed.  SB 258 has been referred to the Committees on Banking and Insurance, Appropriations, and Rules but has not been scheduled to be heard.  It is stalled and has no House companion.  

Insurance Reporting Filed by Senator Farmer on the Friday before Session began, SB 1668, follows the same bent as his previous bills on verifying insurance litigation costs.  It would require insurers filing rates with the Office of Insurance Regulation provide specified information and projections relating to claim litigation in their rate filings.  This includes litigation costs and total dollar value of denied or limited claims where either party prevailed (insurer or insured) and those claims that reached settlement, along with attorney fee breakdowns for all parties. This information would be culled from the year prior to the rate filing, as well as projected costs for the following year.  It has no House companion bill.

Insurance Credit Scoring and Redlining SB 414 by Senator Farmer would ban the use of credit scores as a determining factor in calculating auto insurance premiums.  Currently, insurers are permitted to use a customer’s credit history as a justification for higher insurance rates.  Statistically, drivers with poor credit scores pay more and according to Farmer “the use of credit scores as a determining factor for auto insurance rates has been found to disproportionately affect minority populations, with African American and non-white Hispanic policyholders often paying higher premiums, and is not a reliable indicator for increased risk.”  Similarly, SB 410 would prohibit the use of zip codes as a determining factor in calculating auto insurance premiums, which Farmer called “de facto discrimination.”  HB 659, which passed and became law in 2016, allows single zip code rating territories if they are actuarially sound and the rate is not excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory.  Neither SB 414 nor SB 410 have had a hearing yet, and with no House Companion, their future is very uncertain.

Patient’s Choice of ProvidersDubbed the “Patient’s Freedom of Choice of Providers Act”, HB 143 by Rep. Ralph Massullo (R-Beverly Hills) prohibits a general health insurance plan from excluding willing and qualified health care provider from participating in a health insurer’s provider network so long as the provider is located within the plan’s geographic coverage area.  The bill has been referred to the Health Innovation Subcommittee, but has stalled.  There is a Senate companion, SB 714, which is also stalled.

Autonomous VehiclesA revamped CS/HB 353 by Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) authorizes the use of vehicles in autonomous mode “regardless of whether a licensed human operator is physically present in the vehicle.”  It unanimously passed its second hearing stop on January 22 before the House Appropriations Committee and awaits a hearing before the Government Accountability Committee.  There was acknowledgment by various parties in the meeting that Florida is in a race with other states to legalize so-called “self-driving cars” together with the impact that would have on our existing AV research projects here.  The autonomous technology would be considered the human operator of the motor vehicle and provides that various provisions of law regarding motor vehicles such as rendering aid in the event of a crash do not apply to vehicles in autonomous mode where a human operator is not physically present as long as the vehicle owner promptly contacts law enforcement. The bill also addresses the applicability of laws regarding unattended motor vehicles and passenger restraint requirements as they relate to vehicles operating in autonomous mode where a human operator is not physically present in the vehicle.  A Senate companion (CS/SB 712) by Senator Brandes unanimously passed the Transportation Committee on January 25 and awaits hearings in the Banking and Insurance, and Rules Committees.

Property Tax Exemption for Generators Designed to help those who want to help themselves the next time a big hurricane or other calamity hits and the power goes out, SJR 974 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) would place a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot for voters to consider a property tax exemption for the just value of a permanently installed stand-by generator system when assessing annual property taxes; a companion bill SB 976 (Brandes) would implement the measure.  Neither has been scheduled for committee hearings.

Flood Insurance and Mitigation SB 158 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) provides greater funding for flood mitigation so that more individuals and communities can meet NFIP flood insurance standards.  The bill would allow flood mitigation projects to be funded by the Florida Communities Trust to reduce flood hazards. Senator Brandes has for the past 5 years taken the lead in Florida in the flood insurance arena.  The bill has been referred to the Committees on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, Appropriations, and the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources but has not been scheduled to be heard.  An identical House companion, HB 1097 by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-St. Augustine) was filed in late December.  Neither has had its first hearing.

Helpful Links:

House Calendar for the Week of February 12-16, 2018

Senate Calendar for the Week of February 12-16, 2018

Medical Marijuana Causing More Conflict Between the Legislature and Health Department
Lawmakers growing impatient from being ignored

The Florida Legislature, already short on patience with the Florida Department of Health for ongoing delays implementing Florida’s medical marijuana law passed by lawmakers last June, expressed a new round of displeasure last week with the state agency and some of the rules it’s developed to implement the law.  The legislature’s Joint Administrative Procedures Committee formally objected to 17 items in the proposed rules and publicly chastised the head of the Department’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use for ignoring months of requests by the committee for more information.

The committee’s objections included a requirement that caregivers of sick patients be required to carry identification cards and a provision that bans applicants seeking medical-marijuana licenses from amending their applications once filed.  The committee pointed out that ban conflicts with state law requiring agencies give applicants time to correct errors and provide additional information.   Many of the 17 items are considered unauthorized regulation that “enlarges, modifies, or contravenes” the law passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Scott implementing the 2016 constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters.

The committee is responsible for overseeing whether state agencies have correctly implemented state laws passed by the legislature.  Committee Chairman Sen. Kevin Rader (D-Delray Beach) chastised Christian Bax, the head of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, who was there to deliver a presentation on the Office’s efforts to date.  Those efforts included numerous delays beyond an October 2017 deadline to ensure that at least 10 more organizations are licensed to produce and sell medical marijuana, which has been challenged in court.

“At some point I would hope the department would stop looking for a scapegoat and just do its job,” Rader said.  Senator Rader said the committee has sent numerous letters over the past few months to Bax and his office, all of which have been unanswered.  To make matters worse, when Sen. Rader invited Bax and other Health Department officials present to respond to the committee’s objections, all declined, with Bax simply saying “We have heard you and respect your position.”  He said his office is changing the way it goes about developing the rules, based on legislative input, and is holding a series of workshops next month for public input on rule language.

While the legislature doesn’t have the power to stop rules from going into effect, it does have the power of the purse over the agency.  The House last week froze $2.1 million in salary and expenses to Bax’s office for being incommunicado with the committee.  Also silent so far in this ongoing dispute is Governor Scott’s office, which oversees administration of most state agencies, including the Department of Health.

New Federal Grants to Bridge the Gap in Florida’s Irma Recovery Efforts
Homeowners and small businesses, infrastructure to benefit

Houston Flooding from Hurricane Harvey, August 2017

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced that the state of Florida will receive $616 million in funding to support long-term recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma.  The money is part of the $7.4 billion in disaster-recovery money Congress approved after Hurricane Harvey through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program.  It will be used to support long-term recovery, including infrastructure, seriously damaged housing, and economic recovery in key communities throughout Florida.

This funding is designed to address needs that remain after other assistance has been exhausted, including federal assistance as well as private insurance. HUD relied upon a wide variety of disaster-related information, including data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA), to determine the extent of unmet housing and small business needs in the areas most impacted by the hurricane. HUD’s analysis found homeowners and renters experienced damage to their residences and who were not adequately insured (or uninsured) for their losses. Similarly, businesses suffered damage that is not adequately covered by insurance or other resources.

Florida counties likely eligible to receive CDBG-DR funding include Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier, Lee Polk, Orange, Brevard, Volusia, Flagler, Clay, and Duval.  The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has been working diligently since Hurricane Irma made landfall to understand and address the recovery needs of families, businesses and communities around the state.   For more information on this program and the Florida HUD grants, you can visit DEO’s Division of Community Development special webpage or give us a ring and we’ll be happy to direct you to the right people.

Of special notice to flood mitigation interests is HUD’s requirement that states that receive this federal disaster money describe how they will “take into account continued sea level rise” in rebuilding efforts.  After the Trump administration last year announced it was eliminating an Obama-era rule requiring projects account for future impacts of global warming, some thought the worst.  It appears though that the directive remains the same – except the change in language from “global warming” to “sea level rise”.

State of Florida Auditing Insurance Dependents
Those who don’t participate could lose dependent coverage

Proper accounting of who deserves financial assistance, including health insurance, is more important than ever in this age of growing healthcare costs and required transparency.  It’s with that reality in mind that the Florida legislature last year ordered an audit be done of all state employees with dependents on their health insurance plans.  That audit is now underway and those who ignore requests for verifying information could lose their coverage – in a process that can provide an instructive lesson for private sector employers, too.

The Florida Department of Management Services, through its Division of State Group Insurance is conducting a Dependent Eligibility Verification Audit  for the State Group Insurance Program.  The audit is being conducted across all state agencies, colleges and universities, by third-party vendor Health Management System from this past December through May.  Its purpose is to make sure that dependents, such as spouses and children, who are listed on an employee’s benefits are indeed eligible for insurance coverage.  Those state employees who don’t respond or provide adequate documentation, risk having their dependents lose coverage.

Under federal law, dependents of eligible employees are generally eligible for coverage under a group plan.  Dependents include spouses, children, and in some cases, unmarried domestic partners. Dependents cannot enroll for coverage unless the employee has enrolled.

A Princeton University Study in 2013 noted that a large employer who implemented a dependent verification (DV) program saved about $46 per enrolled employee.  The study found that dependents were 2.7% less likely to be re-enrolled for benefits in the year the DV was introduced, indicating this percentage of dependents was ineligible for benefits.  The disenrollment was especially large for same-sex partners and older children.  A word to the wise!

Miami-Dade is Readying Autonomous Vehicle Infrastructure
by Luis Andre Gazitua with Gazitua Letelier

In last week’s newsletter, we brought you the story of how developing effective transportation plans remains a challenge for Miami-Dade County.  Thanks to Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas), we have this broader look at those challenges – and opportunities – for autonomous vehicle solutions over the next 20 years, in the following article written by Luis Andre Gazitua with the Gazitua Letelier firm in Miami:

Miami-Dade County is positioning itself to be a leader in smart infrastructure. Mayor Carlos Gimenez has concluded that the coming revolution of driverless vehicles is likely to dramatically change how people travel on roadways. These changes have motivated him to re-evaluate rail infrastructure programs in order to create infrastructure that can serve future transportation needs. To that end, Mayor Gimenez’s office has been working closely with local government agencies to advance the Strategic Miami Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan, Miami-Dade County’s largest transportation project.

The SMART Plan presents public transportation opportunities for autonomous vehicles through a new network of express buses which will connect six rapid transit corridors. These new rapid transit corridors will expand Miami’s existing transit system with high-tech infrastructure more conducive to autonomous vehicles.

With respect to private transportation, Miami-Dade County is already researching and planning for the future of autonomous vehicles. In June 2017, the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) released a report which evaluated existing and future technologies in transportation infrastructure.[1] The report estimates that autonomous vehicles will account for approximately 25 percent of all privately-owned vehicles by 2035.

The Florida legislature has also done its part in opening the door for autonomous vehicles. Florida’s most recent legislation, passed in 2016, limits regulation and expands the ability of autonomous vehicles to operate on public roads without a driver in the vehicle. With statewide and local support from government agencies and elected officials, Miami is one of the most ambitious and promising cities for autonomous vehicles.

Article Continues

Second Chances

This weekend was all about old movies and popcorn with friends as we watched Sea Biscuit, the early 2000’s movie about the small horse that became a racing champion. The last lines of the movie were spoken by jockey Red Pollard:  “You know, everybody thinks we found this broken-down horse and fixed him, but we didn’t. He fixed us. Every one of us. And I guess in a way we kinda fixed each other too.”

The movie’s setting is during the Depression and Sea Biscuit inspired Americans who were in desperate need of a second chance. Our readers comment often that we don’t see the leadership we wish for in our elected government circles and reflect how things “used to be.”  How do we as a nation fix each other and be inspired to improve? For starters we have to make an effort to do so. If a situation is floundering then we must step up, lead and provide direction for a positive outcome…and most important, have honest conversations and clear accountability for the journey. Sea Biscuit and his jockey were laser focused on and off the racetrack! And the fact this horse shared his passion and commitment with millions of Americans to send a unified message of how to win was exactly what America needed at the time. Sound familiar? See you on the trail!

Lisa & the Team