Week #6 of the Legislative Session
With the Florida House’s version of Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform passed, the Senate version now goes before its final committee this week before being presented to the full Senate. How the two versions may be reconciled with one another is still in the works. But various other bills have already passed both chambers, including those restricting impact fees and workplace vaping, and await the Governor’s signature or veto.
As we enter this 7th week of the legislative session, reconciling next year’s budget – and with it, Hurricane Michael recovery funding – remains in deliberations. Here are the status of bills we’re following, organized by “In Play” and “Not In Play”. Bill updates, as always, are noted in red font.
Assignment of Benefits (AOB) – The House’s AOB reform bill, HB 7065 passed the full House last Thursday by a 96-20 vote with bill sponsor Rep. Bob Rommel (R-Naples) repeating that the bill targets “bad actors” that are taking advantage of consumers and insurance companies and driving up the cost of homeowners premiums around the state as a result.
Despite some insurance industry efforts to keep the automobile windshield AOB provision in the bill, it was taken out, leaving standalone HB 754 (see below) to address that specific abuse. The House bill includes a provision to force down rates to reflect expected savings from this AOB reform. Specifically, it would prohibit Citizens Property Insurance Corporation from implementing rate changes this year for HO-3 (Homeowners) and DP-3 (Dwelling-only) policies unless the rate filing reflects projected rate savings from this act. Such a rate filing must include an exhibit demonstrating the impact of this act on indicated rates for DP-3 and HO-3 policies. Citizens would have to provide policyholders with details on the projected rate savings from this act. (For further background on this and Citizens read “Projected Savings Required in Revamped AOB Bill” from the 4-8-19 newsletter.)
House Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Miami Lakes) remarked to reporters after the vote that AOB is “part of a negotiation” between the House and the Senate, but added “we feel strongly that we have a good bill.”
While the legislature can certainly influence the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, it sets a perilous precedent to try to manipulate the market, similar to the manipulations of Governor Charlie Crist with HB 1A in 2007. Citizens, the state’s “insurer of last resort”, currently serves 421,000 customers.
Under HB 7065, an AOB must provide the following:
- Policyholder can rescind the AOB within 7 days for any reason without penalty or fee but is responsible for payment for work performed to that point;
- Vendor must provide the AOB to the insurance company within three business days of execution or the date work begins, whichever is earlier;
- Contain a written, itemized, per-unit cost estimate of services;
- If services include water restoration, vendor must provide proof of certification by an entity approved by the American National Standards Institute;
- Clear notice of consumer rights and policyholder responsibilities involved in signing an AOB;
- Policyholder held harmless for signing an AOB with vendor waiving any and all fees and claims against policyholder, excepting policy deductible;
- Work performed must conform with current industry standards;
- Vendor must assume assignment of the responsibilities and the duties under the policy – not just the benefits – including filing proof of loss, producing records, and submitting to examinations under oath;
- Likewise, the burden is shifted to the assignee vendor to prove that any failure to carry out such duties has not limited the insurer’s ability to perform under the contract;
- Prior to filing suit, and if required by the insurer, vendor must submit to examinations under oath, participate in appraisal or other dispute resolution methods, and provide notice of intent to sue, with such notice specifying damages, amount claimed, and any pre-suit settlement demand, including a detailed itemized written invoice or estimate; and
- Insurer must respond to the vendor’s notice within 10 days.
HB 7065 also addresses attorney fees. The vendor is not entitled to attorney fees under 627.428 F.S., but instead under 57.105 F.S. The bill prescribes a formula for awarding fees, based on the difference between the judgment obtained by the assignee vendor and the insurer’s pre-suit settlement offer. If the difference between the judgment and the settlement offer is:
- Less than 25% of the disputed amount, then the insurer is entitled to reasonable attorney fees;
- At least 25% but less than 50% of the disputed amount, no party is entitled to an award of fees;
- At least 50% of the disputed amount, the assignee vendor is entitled to reasonable attorney fees.
If the insurer fails either to inspect the property or to provide written or verbal authorization for repairs within seven calendar days after the first notice of loss, the insurer waives its right to an award of attorney fees, except under certain circumstances beyond its control.
Under HB 7065, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) is required to conduct a data call with insurers to report specified data on claims paid in the prior year under AOBs by January 30, 2022, and each year afterward.
The bill also allows an insurer to offer a policy prohibiting assignment, in whole or in part, provided the insurer gives specific notice. This is significant – the House version would allow insurers to offer policies that prohibit AOBs. Rep. Rommel has noted that doing so is a “free market option” by insurance companies that could lead to lower policy premiums.
The Senate’s AOB reform bill, SB 122 has been sidelined for nearly a month, while the House amended its bill above and proceeded to a final vote. The bill’s sponsor Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola), himself an insurance agent, has been huddled with various parties and as of this Sunday night writing, there have been no amendments filed to remove automobile windshield AOB or add the Citizens Insurance projected rate savings as the House did. We do, however, expect further amendments. The Senate and House bills also address attorney fees differently (see below).
SB 122 is scheduled this Wednesday at 2pm before the Rules Committee, its final stop before being presented to the full Senate.
The bill was originally crafted to simply remove the incentive of one-way attorney fees for anyone other than the named insured or named beneficiary on the policy. It faced opposition and was revamped in late February to take a broader approach and passed the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee on March 4.
The changes made clarified protections for the consumer and also for the vendor, based on complaints made by some vendors at the previous committee meeting. They argued that they would not be adequately protected from an insurance company’s failure to pay or underpay for work performed. The Judiciary Committee approved the bill on March 18 by a 5-1 vote.
“Our constituents are watching, and they want an affordable premium,” Broxson told the committee prior to the vote.
SB 122 prescribes what a post-loss AOB can contain:
- Must be in writing and identify the work to be performed and the applicable charges and the dates by which the work will begin and be completed;
- Maximum payment of $3,000 or 1% of a homeowners coverage limit when the AOB is used for emergency home repairs;
- Agreements under emergency circumstances must be in writing and identify the work to be performed and applicable charges;
- Additional AOBs can be used for permanent repairs;
- Policyholder can rescind the AOB within 14 days or 30 days after the scheduled commencement date if substantial work has not commenced;
- Vendor retains the right to payment for work performed prior to any AOB rescission;
- Policyholder held harmless for signing an AOB with vendor waiving any and all claims against policyholder;
- Vendor must provide the AOB to the insurance company within three business days of execution;
- Communication is allowed between policyholder and insurance company (something current agreements do not allow);
- Third-party vendor taking an AOB is prohibited from adjusting or negotiating a loss.
- Windshield AOBs would be capped at $500 or 1% of coverage limit.
SB 122 also addresses attorney fees, by allowing attorney fees to the prevailing party, defined in the bill as the “party that prevails on significant issues of the case” as so determined by the court. The bill defines the legislature’s intent as addressing the dramatic increase in assignment of benefits litigation by nonparties to property and auto insurance. The intent was included as future guidance to a court of law that may have to rule on its use.
The one-way attorney fee law (627.428 F.S.) requires insurance companies to pay the attorney fees of policyholders who sue their company and prevail – even if the award or settlement is just one-dollar more than a previous payment or offer. It was meant to protect policyholders’ legal rights but has been used and abused by third-party contractors and attorneys to sue carriers with or without a policyholder’s permission. Under SB 122, the vendor is not entitled to attorney fees under 627,428, but instead under Chapter 713 which is the property section.
In determining if there is a prevailing party, SB 122 requires the court to consider (1) the issues litigated; (2) the amount of the claims by the service provider versus the amount recovered; (3) the existence of setoffs and counterclaims, if any; and (4) the amounts offered by either party to resolve the issues prior to or during litigation.
Senator Broxson earlier in the session noted “I asked the Florida Bar about taking a proactive stance on one of their members and I wanted to understand how the Bar handles their members.” CFO Jimmy Patronis sent a letter in early March to the head of the Bar asking her to address the problem with the handful of firms (Citizens Property Insurance has identified 20 law firms that file the bulk of AOB suits in Florida) handling the lion’s share of cases, writing the firms are “weaponizing” the one-way attorney fee statute.
Automobile AOB. SB 754 by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) prohibits motor vehicle repair shops or their employees from offering anything of value to a customer in exchange for making an insurance claim for motor vehicle glass replacement or repair, including offers made through certain persons. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on March 18 after doing the same in the Banking & Insurance Committee the previous week. It has yet to be scheduled before its third and final committee (the Rules Committee). Should the automobile AOB provisions currently in SB 122 be struck, this SB 754 would be the only remaining legislative bill to address windshield AOB fraud. An identical bill in the House HB 323 by Rep. Richard Stark (D-Weston) has seen no action since passing its first committee in mid-February.
All of these House and Senate bills are subject to further change depending on stakeholder input/feedback and other negotiations. We are following all of these AOB bills and will report on developments as they occur.
For the complete picture of AOB Abuse in Florida and what we’re doing about it, visit our AOB webpage.
Tort Damages – HB 17 originally limited jury awards to $1 million for “pain and suffering” in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits but has gone through significant changes. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Leek (R-Ormond Beach), had also dealt with product liability and how medical damages are calculated. It had also specified that an individual contract between a healthcare provider and an insurance company or HMO is not subject to discovery or disclosure in certain actions. All of those provisions, except for the medical damages calculation, have been stripped from the bill. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee last week, its last committee stop before going before the full House. A similar Senate bill (SB 1320) by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) has still not been heard.
During a previous hearing, Rep. Leek noted that Florida has the highest tort system costs among U.S. states, as a percentage of state gross domestic product, at 3.6% vs. the 2.3% U.S. average. But the real nugget? The total paid in costs and compensation amounted to $4,442 per Florida household in 2016.
Omnibus Insurance Bill – This session’s “catch-all” bill for everything else insurance is HB 301 filed by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona). The bill passed the full House last week after several amendments were adopted, including one to conform the bill to the Senate version below.
Some items in the bill have major policy implications, like lowering the threshold for surplus lines insurers to continue their push into admitted markets, capping Citizens Property Insurance rates in Monroe County to 5% versus the current 10%, and provisions on Personal Injury Protection (PIP) deductibles. There was much discussion among the trial lawyer groups this session about their disagreement with the bill’s provision providing for the appraisal process to serve as an alternative dispute resolution platform, triggered when a civil remedy notice is filed. The insurance industry has argued that the Civil Remedy process has become an indicator of litigation, not of consumer dissatisfaction, pointing to Insurance Commissioner Altmaier’s discussion of the low complaint ratios post Hurricanes Irma and Michael.
A similar bill in the Senate SB 714, by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas), was revamped during the week of April 1 and was back before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee last week, which passed the bill. Discussion included one element of the bill that would raise the loss adjustment expense (LAE) that the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund reimburses to insurers from 5% to 10%. The bill now goes on to the Appropriations Committee.
Citizens Property Insurance – Lowering Citizens rates in Monroe County is likewise what SB 1476 by Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) is all about. The bill caps annual rate increases in Monroe County only to 5%. The cap would be in effect for two years while the Office of Insurance Regulation takes another look at the disparate models to decide if risk on the Keys is exaggerated and deserves a lower rate. It also extends the 10% cap on rate increases for the rest of Citizens’ policies from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2024, except for sinkhole coverage. The bill is awaiting scheduling before its last committee (Rules) before going to the full Senate. An identical bill in the House (HB 1145) has been filed by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) but has not been heard.
Construction Bonds – SB 1200 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) & HB 1247 by Rep. Daniel Perez (R-Miami) attempt to improve prime or general contractor – subcontractor disputes by providing more transparency to a subcontractor’s complaint of nonpayment by the prime or general contractor. The bills require a notice of nonpayment to be verified and to contain certain statements; require a claimant to attach certain documents to a notice of nonpayment; and specifies that a claimant who serves a fraudulent notice of nonpayment forfeits his or her rights under a bond.
SB 1200 unanimously passed its last committee stop last week and may go before the full Senate this week. HB 1247 is scheduled to go before the full House on Wednesday.
As with many bills this year, these bills are attempting to take away the gaming of the one-way attorney fee statute that is in play with these disputes.
Blockchain Technology – This measure would create a state working group to provide recommendations about the expansion of the blockchain-technology industry in Florida. HB 735 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) and Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) is awaiting scheduling before the House State Affairs Committee, its last committee stop. The similar SB 1024 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) likewise is awaiting scheduling before its last committee, the Senate Rules Committee. This fascinating distributed ledger software technology and its application to insurance lines and Florida consumers was the subject of a recent Florida Insurance Roundup podcast Driving Blockchain Home.
Motor Vehicle Insurance – HB 733 by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) and the comparable SB 1052 by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) would, in essence, do away with Personal Injury Protection coverage (PIP) and ramp up bodily injury (BI) liability coverage.
SB 1052 repeals PIP insurance under the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, eliminates limits on damages for pain and suffering, and requires insurers to offer motorists “minimum security requirements” for BI liability and property damage. Insurers would also have to offer $5,000 coverage for medical expenses and a minimum $5,000 death benefit. The bill also allows private passenger motor vehicle policies to exclude certain identified individuals from specified coverages under certain circumstances. It also revises the minimum net worth requirements to qualify as a self-insurer. The bill does not address Bad Faith accusations against insurers, a non-starter for some legislators, but could be included in the bill at a later time.
SB 1052 passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee last week and awaits scheduling before the Appropriations Committee, its last stop before heading to the full House. HB 733 hasn’t had a hearing. Like AOB reform, PIP repeal has been introduced each year but has failed to pass. The Senate seems to have some appetite for this idea but since the House bill hasn’t moved, it doesn’t look like the House wants to weigh in. (See LMA Backgrounder: Personal Injury Protection for more details on the history of PIP reform and the failed 2018 bills, the latest data, and past committee and stakeholder discussions.)
Hurricane Michael Reimbursement – There’s finally been some significant movement in key hurricane recovery legislation. Panhandle Senators Bill Montford, George Gainer, and Doug Broxson in early March premiered SB 1610 which would provide $300 million in loans to local governments for debris cleanup and infrastructure rebuilding and $15 million in loans to the area’s devastated timber industry. It also establishes a Hurricane Housing Recovery Program to provide incentive funding to local governments to create partnerships to preserve and build affordable housing. Similar to the state’s existing State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP), the program targets very low, low, and moderate income families with much needed single and multifamily housing.
SB 1610 also establishes a task force under the direction of the state Division of Emergency Management to report back by December 15 with additional recommendations on long-term recovery needs. Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley has said state spending on Michael will likely reach $2.7 billion. The bill passed its first hearing last week before the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee. Sen. Montford said he expects the bill to be amended to reflect the Senate’s position on the budget, which currently has about $220 million for added hurricane relief.
Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) whose district includes some of the worst hit areas of the storm, previously filed SB 376 that would allot up to $50 million a year from the state Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the 14 counties that suffered damage. The trust is funded by doc stamp taxes for land and water conservation and last year brought in $870 million. The bill was passed unanimously on March 5 by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and is still awaiting its next committee stop. A similar bill in the House (HB 555) has seen no movement.
In the House, Rep. Brad Drake (R-DeFuniak Springs) filed HB 191, to create the Northwest Florida Rural Inland Affected Counties Recovery Fund. The fund would provide grants in the inland counties of Calhoun, Gadsden, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty and Washington counties using 5% of the $2 billion BP Oil Spill Deep Horizon settlement, which is $100 million. The bill got a boost in January from Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, who expressed willingness to consider a broader use of oil spill funding. HB 191 has not been heard. But a similar bill SB 1162 by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) which has the same title, will go before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, its second committee, tomorrow at 1pm.
Rep. Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) filed his 44th bill in late February relating to Hurricane Michael recovery. HB 1101 requires that certain sales & use taxes be transferred to a trust fund devoted to recovery efforts. In all, Trumbull’s bills provide more than $280 million in relief. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.
Non-admitted Insurance Markets – HB 387 sponsored by the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and Rep. Colleen Burton (R-Lakeland) relates to the non-admitted insurance markets (surplus lines). It removes the price cap on per policy fees that surplus lines agents may charge for certain policies; requires such fees to be itemized and enumerated in a policy; deletes the requirement that surplus line agents file an affidavit with the State Surplus Lines Service Office; and revises the requirements for surplus lines agents tax remittance. The bill passed the full House in late March and was sent to the Senate. The Senate’s own bill, SB 538 passed its second committee stop unanimously last week and now awaits scheduling in its final committee, Appropriations. The Senate could simply adopt the House bill or continue forward with SB 538 for later reconciliation with the House.
So it appears this bill’s provisions will pass the full legislature but for the most part, it is bad public policy to delete the affidavit that has a section indicating that the surplus lines agents is accepting business that should be placed in the admitted regulated market. We are working with legislators on ideas to continue to hold surplus lines agents accountable.
Public Construction – SB 246 sponsored by several committees and Senator Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor), relates to public construction and revises the requirements for the Department of Management Services rules governing certain contracts. It also revises the amount of funds that certain public entities, especially banks and contractors, may withhold from progress payments for any construction services contract. Complaints have abounded that banks are slow to release authorized funds in order to take advantage of interest on the money. SB 246 was on the fast track having already passed two of its three committees but is still awaiting its final stop before the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill in the House, HB 101, sponsored by a subcommittee and Reps. Andrade, McClure, and Sabatini, passed the full House last week.
Genetic Information Used for Insurance Purposes – As interest in commercially available genetic testing kits continues to rise, the legislature has been considering a proposal that would ban genetic test results from being used to deny or limit someone’s life, disability or long-term care insurance coverage. The full House last week passed HB 879 by Rep. Jayer Williamson (R-Pace), by a 88-26 vote despite opposition by some in the insurance industry. The bill has faced opposition by some lawmakers and insurance lobbyists, who say the potential ban would hurt the industry’s ability to anticipate and calculate future risk. Supporters say the bill protects people’s privacy and falls in line with the federal government’s ban on health insurers using that information to make a decision about someone’s health coverage. An identical bill in the Senate, SB 258 by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) passed the Senate Health Policy Committee last week and is awaiting scheduling before the Rules Committee.
Courts – SB 328 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) seeks to shift court cases that are now heard in county court to be heard in the circuit court. Reactions are mixed with some saying that circuit court dockets are more jammed than county court dockets so it will take longer to get cases resolved; others say it will force more settlements because of the delay. The bill passed its second committee last week and is already scheduled to be heard tomorrow at 9am by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, its third of four stops before going to the full Senate. HB 337 by Rep. Tom Leek (R-Daytona Beach) is similar, with both bills looking to shift the docket makeup of county and circuit courts with the aim to redistribute caseload to purportedly make the court system more efficient. HB 337 will be heard tomorrow at 1:30pm before the House Judiciary Committee, its last stop before going before the full House.
Autonomous Vehicles – HB 311 represents the on-going quest to balance proper regulation with encouraging Florida’s developing autonomous vehicle (AV) market. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville), himself an engineer, covers a lot of ground. It allows fully AVs to operate regardless of the presence of a human operator; provides that the automated driving system is deemed the operator when the system is engaged; authorizes the Florida Turnpike Enterprise to fund & operate test facilities; provides requirements for on-demand AV networks to operate; and revises registration requirements for AVs. The bill was passed last week by the State Affairs Committee and is now ready to be scheduled before the full House. SB 660 in the Senate by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) is comparable but has not been heard.
Red Tide – Taking on Red Tide in Florida in a more organized and dedicated fashion is the purpose behind SB 1552 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota). The bill establishes the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative. The bill unanimously passed its second hearing last week and is awaiting its final stop before the Appropriations Committee. An identical bill (HB 1135) in the House by Rep. Michael Grant (R-Port Charlotte) is awaiting scheduling before the State Affairs Committee, its last stop.
Driving While Distracted (formerly Communications While Driving) – Where efforts failed last year to make texting while driving a primary offense (from the current secondary offense, where you can be ticketed only during a traffic stop made for another reason), this year’s efforts are concentrated on the much broader distracted driving problem beyond just smart phones.
SB 76 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and HB 107 by Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa), now make texting while driving a primary offense that a police officer can pull you over for. Both bills originally proposed to bar any hand-held devices while driving. The revamped bills take out that specificity, making it a noncriminal violation for “Driving While Distracted” – defined as the inattentive operation of a motor vehicle. Inattentive or distracted driving includes reading, writing, performing personal grooming, applying a beauty aid or similar products, interacting with pets or unsecured cargo, using a personal wireless communications device, or engaging in any other activity, conduct, task, or matter that is considered distracting the driver’s attention from the road. Hands free use of cellphones would be allowed. The bill provides for verbal warnings for violators during the last three months of 2019, with citations issued to violators beginning January 1, 2020.
SB 76 has its last committee stop this Wednesday at 2pm before the Senate Rules Committee before being presented to the full Senate. The bill was previously amended to remove provisions that would allow police to stop motorists for potential distractions such as talking on the phone, eating, or grooming. HB 107 unanimously passed the House State Affairs Committee last week and is ready to be scheduled before the full House.
Attorney Fees in Injunctions – HB 297 by Rep. Chuck Brannan III (R-Lake City) would prohibit attorney fee awards in certain protective injunction proceedings, including domestic violence cases. It awaits scheduling in the Judiciary Committee, its final stop before the full House. Its Senate companion, SB 768 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) is scheduled for its second of three hearings tomorrow at 9am before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.
Homeowners Insurance Policies – SB 380 by Senator Brandes is a “glitch bill” that fixes an oversight in last year’s HB 1011 which said that property insurance policies must prominently display that they don’t provide flood or other coverages. HB 1011, however, didn’t contemplate “endorsement” of coverages onto property insurance policies, so SB 380 fixes this, as would its House companion bill, HB 617 by Rep. Wengay Newton (D-St. Petersburg). SB 380 has its final stop this Wednesday at 2pm before the Senate Rules Committee, before going before the full Senate. HB 617 is scheduled to go before the full House on Wednesday.
Red Light Cameras – Efforts resume in the Florida legislature this year to ban the use of red-light cameras by local law enforcement in Florida’s 67 counties and 435 municipalities. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year, clarifying the right of municipalities to use third-party contractors to assist in the traffic infraction process. The Court found that local governments have the right “to contract with a private third-party vendor to review and sort information from red light cameras… before sending that information to a trained traffic enforcement officer, who determines whether probable cause exists and a citation should be issued.”
HB 6003 by Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) would do away with the equipment and the trained officers currently allowed under the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Program. The bill was passed on January 23 by the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee and is still awaiting a hearing in the Appropriations Committee. There’s a similar bill (SB 622) in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Brandes, that has now been temporarily postponed for the last two weeks in a row, the latest at the Senator’s request. No re-hearing date has been set. Last July, a federal judge sided with more than 70 cities and counties in dismissing a class action seeking refunds for motorists who had been ticketed after the cameras photographed those running red lights.
Possession of Firearms on School Property – People, presumably including students, would be allowed to carry a gun in a vehicle on school property under HB 6005 by Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) and Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont). This includes any preschool, elementary, middle, junior high, secondary school, career center, or postsecondary school, whether public or nonpublic. The bill passed the House Criminal Justice Committee on March 12 but has not been scheduled for its next stop.
An identical bill in the Senate, SB 996 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast), hasn’t had a hearing.
Animal Welfare – Everyone knows LMA’s love of animals and this session, it looks like the House and Senate are taking note as well. Several proposals to protect animals are moving, with provisions that allow veterinarians to report suspicious pet owner behavior to authorities, making it a misdemeanor to leave an animal unattended during a manmade or natural disaster, and another provision requiring horse acquisition contracts to spell out continuing care for a horse. We envision that some type of animal welfare language will pass this session but will know more in the coming weeks.
Nationally, members of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) C Committee heard final comments from regulators and interested parties on a drafted white paper, “A Regulator’s Guide to Pet Insurance.” The white paper provides an overview of pet insurance but does not make recommendations regarding data collection, regulation or licensing requirements. The white paper provides context regarding the origination of pet insurance and identifies recent market growth, industry trends including marketing strategies, branding and underwriter identification, coverage options, the current regulatory environment, claims history and regulatory concerns especially in regard to market conduct. We look for significant growth in pet insurance and of course, with that, future proposed legislation in some way, shape, or form.
SB 1738 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) would create a first-degree misdemeanor for leaving pets restrained or unattended during a natural or manmade disaster.
HB 379 by Rep. Sam Killebrew (R-Winter Haven) authorizes a veterinarian to report suspected criminal violations relating to dogs or cats to certain officers & agents without notice to or authorization from the client.
SB 1646 by Senator Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) authorizes a contract for the sale of a horse to include a covenant for the continuing care of the horse.
Another AOB bill, HB 357 by Rep. Brett Hage (R-The Villages) reduces the time period from 90 to 30 days within which a contractor must begin to perform certain work on residential real property after receiving initial payment; it also reduces from 60 to 30 days the time period for the contractor to perform substantial work on such property – work equal or greater to the amount already paid. It also removes an exemption from permitting requirements for certain solicitors, salespersons, and agents using sample catalogs or brochures. It has a similar bill in the Senate (SB 420) by Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake). Neither bill has seen action.
Also filed as AOB is HB 359 by Rep. Javier Fernández (D-Coral Gables) which has a lot in common with some of the AOB consumer safeguard bills of the 2018 session. The bill requires the third-party who was assigned the AOB to send a copy of the AOB to the insurance company within 3 days after being executed “by all named insureds”; maintain records of services provided; cooperate with the insurance company in its investigation of the claim, including providing copies of records within 7 days; and provide a written, itemized, per-unit cost statement of services actually performed. Prior to filing a lawsuit, the third-party must participate in an appraisal or other alternative dispute resolution method in the policy and submit to carrier examinations under oath. They must also agree to hold all named insureds harmless for payment beyond the policy deductible, regardless of whether the AOB is later deemed invalid. The bill also shifts the burden onto the party seeking relief to demonstrate the insurer wasn’t prejudiced in handling the claim. The bill has seen no action.
Property Insurance Coverage for Explosions – Insurance companies writing or renewing property insurance policies in Florida would have to provide explosion coverage under SB 1288 by Senator Oscar Braynon (D-Miami). The bill defines the term “explosion” for purposes of the Florida Insurance Code, including “an intense ground vibration caused by drilling or blasting for mining or quarrying. The bill also provides options for exclusions of coverage. The bill has not been heard.
Bodily Injury Liability – SB 896 by Senator Jeff Brandes is titled, “Responsible Roadways Act,” and eliminates Personal Injury Protection coverage after a certain date. It includes a provision “providing that, under certain third-party claims, a motor vehicle liability insurer is not liable beyond available policy limits if it meets certain conditions.
Bills to repeal PIP passed the Florida House over the past two years only to die in the Senate. A recent study shows Florida drivers pay the third-highest auto insurance premiums in the country. Repealing PIP would save Florida drivers about $81 annually. Florida remains one of two states that do not require bodily injury coverage, under our current nearly 50 year-old “no-fault” auto insurance system. SB 896 has not been heard.
Fair Settlement Act – This act, incorporated in SB 1464 by Senator Jeff Brandes would revise the circumstances under which an insurance company and the Department of Financial Services are notified prior to filing litigation. It requires policyholders, claimants, or anyone acting on their behalf to notify the insurance company in writing before filing a Bad Faith action. It also limits an insurance company’s liability to third-party claimants under certain circumstances, if it files an interpleader action within a certain time period. The bill was scheduled to be heard on March 18 before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee but was not considered.
Insurance Proceeds Held by Mortgagees – SB 1392 by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) would limit the amount of time that banks can hold insurance company proceeds in order to take advantage of float in accruing interest. The bill also provides that the policyholder or borrower is entitled to any accrued interest. The bill has not been heard.
Concealed Weapons Licenses – SB 108 by Senator Lauren Book (R-Plantation) transfers the concealed weapons licensing program of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The bill has not had a hearing and has no House companion bill.
Property-Assessed Clean Energy – HB 63 by Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers), would allow the use of Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funds to get folks off septic tanks and connected to municipal sanitary sewer systems or to retrofit to an advanced onsite treatment system. An identical bill, SB 282, has been sponsored in the Senate by Senators Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) and Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota). Neither bill has had a hearing.
Smoking on Beaches – Smoking on public beaches would be prohibited under SB 218 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) who hails from an area consistently on the Top 10 list of beaches in the country. Doing so would be a civil infraction with a maximum penalty of $25 or 10 hours of community service. The bill has not had a hearing.
Disclosure of Sinkhole Activity – Landlords would have to disclose sinkhole activity to renters under SB 392 by Senator Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale). This includes suspected, known, or reported activity. The bill has not had a hearing.
Licenses to Carry Concealed Weapons or Firearms – Rep. Sabatini is also sponsoring HB 6007 which would remove the current prohibition against those with concealed carry permits from taking their gun to school. The bill would allow such licensed college and university students to carry guns into the classroom. Sabatini has been quoted as saying “it’s a natural corollary to begin allowing good people to arm themselves on college campuses to prevent the next mass shooter,” following the state’s effort to allow trained teachers to carry guns in the classroom in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day 2018 mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The bill is opposed by some parents, administrators, and the union representing faculty, which has fought efforts to repeal the campus gun-free zone law. The bill has not had a hearing and there is no Senate companion bill. Senate President Bill Galvano was quoted in early March as saying “I’m not sure that it will make it through” the Senate.
Tiny Homes – The Florida Building Commission would have to adopt certain regulations and standards for Florida’s newest craze of homes under SB 1268 by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation). The bill provides for the incorporation of certain codes into the Florida Building Code as well. The bill has not been heard nor has its identical bill in the House, HB 801.
Pet Leasing – Calling it a predatory and deceptive practice, Senator Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) last week filed SB 316 which would regulate the contracts for the sale or lease of pets. Just as with expensive cars, a lease-to-own practice allows people to make payments on pets, usually expensive pure breeds, until they own them. The ASPCA says all but six of the roughly 65 puppy-selling stores in Florida offering leasing options. The bill has not had a hearing.
LMA Newsletter of 4-15-19