Recap of Week 3 & Preview of Week 4 of Session
The Florida House and Senate this past week released their first versions of the state budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1. The Senate’s budget totals $92.83 billion ($1.8 billion over current budget year spending), the House’s budget is $91.37 billion, as compared to the Governor’s proposed $91.4 billion budget plan. Negotiations now begin in earnest, as the General Appropriations Act (aka the state budget) is the only constitutionally required bill the legislature must pass each year.
Briefly, the Senate budget includes $500 million of the $600 million the Governor seeks for teacher pay increases, but doesn’t fund another $300 million he wants for teacher bonuses. It includes $15 million of the $20 million he seeks for the Canadian drug-import program.
The House budget would provide $650 million for teacher pay increases but no bonuses. It goes beyond the $635 million overall that he seeks for Everglades’ restoration and other environmental water restoration projects, including fighting algae blooms, but would reduce funding of the Florida Forever land conservation fund. The House again wants to eliminate all funding for Visit Florida, the state’s public-private tourism development agency. The Governor and Senate want to keep it open.
And while there are some very serious issues in the Capitol, one committee last week decided to focus its meeting on new varieties of license plates.
While we focus on consumer insurance related bills below, we found a narrative that the House Civil Justice Committee released this past Friday night aimed at curbing abusive legal advertising. It’s a six page proposed committee bill (PCB CJS 20-02) that we will watch to see if it grows into a House bill. It ups the definitions of deceptive and unfair practices, which are second degree felonies. Among other things, the bill requires that when recovery money is mentioned in an advertisement, it must clearly disclose the amount the client received after paying legal fees and costs. It also seeks to clear up confusion some ads create on whether a product has truly been recalled by the government. And not ironically, the bill includes the right to recover court costs and attorney fees from violations of it! We’ll be watching and will likely add it to the list below.
Here is a master list of the legislative bills we’re following so far in this 60-day session (you can click the link to go directly to the bill). “New” and “Updated” bills are so noted. Updates within each bill are noted in red font:
Assignment of Benefits (Windshield AOB)
Bad Faith Updated
Property Insurance (attorney fees) Updated
Contingency Fees Updated
Omnibus Insurance Bill Updated
Litigation Financing Consumer Protection
Public Records/Records of Insurers/Department of Financial Services Updated
Property Insurance (surplus lines) Updated
Consumer Protection Updated
Insurance Claims Data
Insurance Guaranty Associations Updated
Construction Defects Updated
Disposition of Insurance Proceeds Updated
Residential Property Disclosures (Flood)
Sanitary Sewer Levels
Florida Building Code
Motor Vehicle Insurance (PIP) Updated
Motor Vehicle Rentals Updated
Motorist Fines and Fees Updated
Credit for Reinsurance Updated
Genetic Information for Insurance Purposes Updated
Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) Updated
Criminal Justice Reform Updated
Tobacco and Nicotine Products Updated
Cruelty to Dogs Updated
Assignment of Benefits (Windshield AOB) – Unfortunately, the House version of the AOB windshield reform bill (HB 169) was withdrawn from further consideration. And as you read in our previous editions, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee showed no appetite to pass its proposed bill (SB 312), although the Senate sponsor vowed to keep an eye out on ways to get something passed.
While we never quit, it remains apparent that any reform of this insane practice of the flood of lawsuits against auto insurance companies will not occur this session. We will work with our colleagues who are working every day to bring some sense to this litigation insanity and will keep you posted. On my desk is a case where a lawsuit was filed for a $4 difference in what was paid by the insurer and what the glass shop charged. You decide if that makes sense or not!
You will recall that these bills are part of the ongoing effort to reform growing AOB abuse in automobile windshield repair and replacements. It was initially part of the 2019 session’s broader AOB reform, but was dropped during negotiations on final passage of HB 7065 which became law last year.
The House and Senate versions were drafted to put consumers back in charge…not windshield replacement companies and their favorite trial lawyers who are gaming the system, laughing all the way to the bank at our expense.
The Florida Justice Reform Institute released its latest Auto Glass AOB Data Update in November. Using Department of Financial Services’ data, it shows growth from about 400 auto glass AOB lawsuits in 2006 to 24,000 in 2017, with a leveling off last year to about 17,000 suits and holding steady for 2019. Orange (Orlando) and Hillsborough (Tampa) Counties are the most popular spots for such litigation, with 15 firms accounting for 90% of the litigation. One firm (Malik Law) is responsible for filing nearly 30% of all lawsuits. (Return to Top of Page)
Bad Faith – Reforming homeowner AOB abuse last year took care of part of the lawsuit abuse problem. Reforming Florida’s Bad Faith law will take care of the other part, in the view of many in the insurance industry. Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) has filed SB 924 that aims to do just that. The barely four-page bill requires that policyholders and claimants in third-party bad faith actions against insurance companies must prove that the company acted with reckless disregard.
The bill 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 is similar to one the Senator filed last session in response to a bill that would have repealed Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) no-fault auto insurance law, but didn’t address bad faith. A similar PIP bill has also been filed this session (see below in this Bill Watch).
This bill was on the agenda for the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and it was last on the agenda. There was 10 minutes left in the meeting and Senator Brandes asked for speakers that had come from out of town to come to the podium, as a courtesy to them, and because the meeting was scheduled to end at 6 o’clock. The bill was temporarily postponed and will be heard tomorrow (Tuesday) before the same committee. We will wait to see what the House does as we believe that House leaders are waiting on the Senate to make the first “move.” (Return to Top of Page)
Property Insurance (attorney fees) – SB 914 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) is designed to do away with enhanced attorney fees that came into being under a 2017 Florida Supreme Court decision. Courts have used the traditional Lodestar method for calculating attorney fees, where the court multiplies a reasonable hourly rate by a reasonable number of hours expended. But the Supreme Court decision noted that insurance claims are especially complex cases and allowed the use of a contingency risk multiplier to double and sometimes triple plaintiff attorney fee awards. The bill will be heard tomorrow (Tuesday) in the Judiciary Committee, its second of three stops.
The House Judiciary Committee last Thursday released its version (PCB JDC 20-03), which was amended to mirror the Senate bill. It passed the committee and we look for it to get a house bill number soon. There was lively debate with both insurance defense and plaintiff lawyers having polar opposite views, both using the same fact – that very few cases are awarded a multiplier. The plaintiff’s asked “if so few, why change”? The insurance defense urged, “with every claim demand, the multiplier ‘hammer’ has insurance companies writing claim checks that in many cases are for more than necessary, costing millions and raising rates, so we need to put in statute the federal attorney fee multiplier standard that it only be used in ‘rare and exceptional’ cases.” (Return to Top of Page)
Contingency Fees – There’s an effort underway as well to make sure that local governments aren’t contributing to exorbitant attorney fees or adding unnecessarily to state court caseloads, especially cases of statewide interest better pursued through the Attorney General’s Office. HB 7043 / SB 1574 would prohibit local or regional governments from a contingency fee arrangement in excess of $20 million with a private firm. The bills originate, in part, out of concern of the myriad local city and county lawsuits against Big Pharma for our statewide opioid addiction crisis. The House bill will have its first of only two committee hearings tomorrow (Tuesday) before the House Oversight, Transparency and Public Management Subcommittee. The Senate bill awaits its first of three committee hearings. (Return to Top of Page)
Omnibus Insurance Bill – HB 359 by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) has a variety of issues including an audit of the Cat Fund’s premium formula, requiring proper notice of a lawsuit including requiring the notice be mailed to the insurer’s address on file with DFS’ service of process unit versus a random address a plaintiff lawyer may find on the internet, and a host of other changes to insurance laws. Omnibus bills are aimed to be consensus bills with the aim to provide greater consumer protection including ways to drive down rate increases.
The bill passed the House Insurance and Banking subcommittee in mid-January unanimously, with very little debate, except with respect to the Statute of Limitations language to move all claims filing deadlines to 3 years across the board for “daily” claims in line with catastrophe claims. Rep. Santiago agreed to work with those who expressed concerns on the Statute of Limitations language and most likely we will see changes at the next committee stop, the Commerce Committee, as yet unscheduled.
Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) has filed a comparable bill, SB 1334 in the Senate, which leans more toward litigation reform. It will be heard tomorrow (Tuesday) before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
Litigation Financing Consumer Protection – The House Civil Justice Committee held a workshop to explore creating a regulatory framework for litigation financiers who provide capital to firms who take cases on contingency, similar to a “factoring” company that buys receivables and pays an upfront, discounted fee for the right to assume the receivable at full value. The workshop led to the release of HB 7041 by Rep. Tom Leek (R-Duval County) with a companion SB 1828 by Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman Doug Broxson. Both bills are awaiting formal hearings. (Return to Top of Page)
Public Records/Records of Insurers/Department of Financial Services – Consumers’ personal financial and health information, certain underwriting files, insurer personnel and payroll records, and consumer claim files that are made or received by the Department of Financial Services would be exempt from public records law under SB 1188, by Senator Ben Albritton (R-Bartow). The bill is a necessary consumer protection and would keep consumers’ confidential information away from over-zealous attorneys seeking prospective clients.
The bill would also exempt from public records law certain reports and documents held by the department relating to insurer own-risk and solvency assessments, corporate governance annual disclosures, and certain information received from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners or governments. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee in mid-January and goes before the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee tomorrow (Tuesday), its second of three committee stops. An identical House bill, HB 1409 by Rep. Michael Grant (R-Port Charlotte) unanimously passed the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee last week and will be heard tomorrow (Tuesday) before the Oversight, Transparency and Public Management Subcommittee. (Return to Top of Page)
Property Insurance (surplus lines) – SB 1760 by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City) addresses Surplus Lines regulation. This bill is directed at ensuring consumers have access to Florida based courts and dispute resolution processes based in Florida versus what many surplus lines policies include which requires disputes to be heard in states or countries outside Florida. But the bill affects the admitted market, raising concerns about overreaching regulation. An identical House bill, HB 1357 by Rep. Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) will have its first hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) before the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. The Senate bill still awaits its first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Consumer Protection – HB 1137 / SB 1492 prohibits certain charges for removal of security freeze; prohibits unlicensed activity by adjusting firms & bail bond agents; provides administrative & criminal penalties; revises actions against certain license, appointment, & application of insurance representatives; revises status, notice, & payment requirements for claims; revises classes of insurance subject to disclosure requirement before eligible for export under Surplus Lines Law; prohibits certain writing of industrial life insurance policies; revises Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights; removes certain deductible obligation of the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association; and revises unclaimed property recovery agreements & purchase agreements. Further discussion and work is necessary on these bills to prevent unintended consequences. (Return to Top of Page)
Insurance Claims Data – SB 292 by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola), who chairs the Banking and Insurance Committee, addresses disclosure of, and defines a “loss run statement” as a report relating to risks maintained by an insurer which contains the history of claims occurring during a policy term. The bill requires surplus and admitted carriers to provide a statement to a policyholder at no charge upon request. It will be heard Wednesday (2/5) before the Rules Committee, its last stop before heading to the full Senate. A similar bill in the House, HB 269 by Rep. Daniel Perez (R-Miami) passed its committees and is still awaiting scheduling before the full House. “The overall effect of the bill is to establish a statutory framework for an insurance practice that routinely occurs,” states the bill analysis. As such, we find it odd that a routine practice needs to put into law. (Return to Top of Page)
Insurance Guaranty Associations – Essentially a “Condo Parity Bill”, HB 529 by Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg) would provide an increase from $100,000 to $200,000 per unit as the payout to condominium and homeowners associations. The bill unanimously passed the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee in mid-January and heads to Ways & Means. An identical bill, SB 898 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), unanimously passed the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee in mid-January and now heads to the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee.
The Guaranty Association protects a traditional single-family dwelling for an up to $300,000 loss for the dwelling should the insurance company go bankrupt. The associations in favor of this year’s legislation argue that a total loss where a condo building is leveled would cost substantially more than $100,000 “per door” to rebuild and that the payout hasn’t been increased in over 30 years. This has been a point of conversation for many years and we look forward to the debate.
Another bill making its way through the process is HB 329 (also titled “Insurance Guaranty Associations) by Rep. David Smith (R-Winter Springs). This bill tweaks the major FIGA reform of several years ago, changing assessment calculations for both homeowners and workers compensation guaranty funds.
The bill has been on a fast-track, passing all of its committees, and is waiting scheduling before the full House. Rep. Smith said the bill had the support of CFO Patronis and Insurance Commissioner Altmaier. He said the bill clarifies the method that FIGA assessments are collected and remitted. Remittance would be quarterly, instead of the monthly remittance passed in the 2016 changes to the law. The bill also allows out of state adjusters operating under a licensed FIGA adjuster to adjust claims. An identical bill in the Senate, SB 540 will be heard Wednesday (2/5) before the Appropriations Committee, its last committee stop. (Return to Top of Page)
Construction Defects – SB 1488 / HB 295 specify that certain disclosures and documents must be provided before a claimant may file an action; revising the timeframes within which certain persons are required to serve a written response to a notice of claim; providing requirements for the repair of alleged construction defects; prohibiting certain persons from requiring advance payments for certain repairs; and requiring parties to a construction defect claim to participate in certain mandatory nonbinding arbitration within a specified time.
The Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and is awaiting its first hearing. A similar House version by Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona) passed the Civil Justice Subcommittee on a 9-4 vote, its first of three committee stops. There’s also a comparable Senate version, SB 948, recently filed by Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) awaits its first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Disposition of Insurance Proceeds – When the work is completed, contractors like to get paid as soon as possible and HB 999 by Rep. Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) is designed to do just that. The bill establishes requirements for disposition of specified insurance proceeds held by mortgagees, assignees, financial institutions, and subsidiaries, as well as notification to policyholders. Contractors need banks and mortgage companies to release those funds more quickly so they, in turn, can pay subcontractors. Banks are very careful though in protecting their financial interest in a property and like to send their own inspectors out to the site to confirm the job was done. The bill also codifies existing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rules requiring these funds be in interest bearing accounts. The bill is awaiting its first hearing. A similar bill, SB 1408 by Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) was filed in early January. There are two comparable bills, HB 895 and SB 1606 also filed in early January. HB 895 provides another option for force placed policies cat fund limit to allow for coverage for the amount of the mortgage, which is advantageous in conserving the cat fund’s capacity. HB 895 unanimously passed the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee last week, its first of three stops. None of the other bills have been scheduled to be heard yet. SB 1606 will have its first hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. (Return to Top of Page)
Residential Property Disclosures (Flood) – Sellers of residential property would have to specifically disclose any past flooding, present flood insurance coverage, and a host of other prescriptive conditions under SB 1842 by Senator Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach). The disclosure summary, whether separate or included in the contract for sale, would also require disclosure of any past insurance claim filings for flood damage, past FEMA or other federal assistance, and any flooding due to reservoir release. The disclosure also requires notice that the buyer should not rely on the seller’s current property taxes, as a change in ownership triggers reassessments. There is no hearing scheduled nor House companion bill filed yet.
The Miami Herald and others have reported that although current Florida law requires sellers and their real estate agents disclose known defects or anything that “materially affects” a property’s value, there are cases where someone bought not knowing they were in a flood plain or had suffered previous flooding. The idea has the support of the Federal Association for Insurance Reform (FAIR) and others in recent editorials.
While Realtors® are being targeted, can’t we get insurance agents to step-up? The piece that’s missing is the fact that insurance agents are not required to talk about flood insurance with their customers. Regardless of a home’s past experience or future flood propensity, insurance agents have a responsibility to TALK about flood insurance with customers at the time of initial property insurance policy issuance and on every renewal. A handful of agents do, but for those that don’t? The results are disastrous yet Florida’s law is silent when it comes to mandatory insurance agent documentation of a conversation with its customers. We hope the Federal Association for Insurance Reform can get behind this as well. (Return to Top of Page)
Sanitary Sewer Levels – SB 150 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas) would require a seller of real property to disclose any known defects in the property’s sanitary sewer lateral. The bill has unanimously passed two committees and awaits a hearing in the Rules Committee, its last stop before heading to the full Senate for consideration. As of yet, it has no House companion. (Return to Top of Page)
Florida Building Code – SB 710 is in reaction to the destructive damage created by last year’s Hurricane Michael and other recent hurricanes. Sponsored by Senator Ben Albritton (R-Bartow), the bill mandates the Florida Building Code require that the entire envelope of certain buildings being constructed or rebuilt be impact resistant and constructed with high wind-resistant construction materials; requiring that all parts or systems of a building or structure envelope meet impact test criteria or be protected with an external protection device that meets such criteria; and provides certain exceptions. The bill is still awaiting its first hearing and as yet, has no House companion.
(See Is Florida’s Building Code Protecting All of Us? and Why the Panhandle Wasn’t Hurricane Strong for Michael episodes for more details, from The Florida Insurance Roundup podcast.) (Return to Top of Page)
Motor Vehicle Insurance (PIP) – This is a perennial effort to do away with Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage under Florida’s No-Fault insurance law and replace it with bodily injury (BI) liability coverage. Similar bills failed last session. Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) is back with SB 378 which on January 21 passed out of the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee, which he chairs. It passed with no changes, including no revisions to Bad Faith laws which concern many. The prevailing opinion is that should PIP go away and be replaced with mandatory Bodily Injury Liability coverage, every auto accident will have a resulting lawsuit which would increase bad faith suits, often with little justification. There is a great staff analysis of this bill that is worth the read should our audience want to learn more. You can read it here. The bill is awaiting its second of three stops before the Banking and Insurance Committee.
A similar HB 771 by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) will have its first hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) before the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. A comparable HB 731 by Rep. Daniel Perez (R-Miami) will have its first hearing tomorrow before the House Health Market Reform Subcommittee.
(See LMA Backgrounder: Personal Injury Protection for more details on the history of PIP reform and the failed 2018 bills, data, and past committee and stakeholder discussions.) (Return to Top of Page)
Motor Vehicle Rentals – Just as you can rent out your home when you go away on vacation, likewise your car, with online services such as Turo (https://turo.com/). HB 377 by Rep. Chris Latvala (R-Clearwater) would insert government intervention to regulate another sharing economy company advance.
In a nutshell, if a car owner parks their car at an airport for any length of time, a Turo user could “rent” that car and drive it until the owner returns from their trip. The bill provides financial responsibility & insurance requirements and a host of other regulations on this emerging idea/market. Of course, the traditional rental car companies are in favor of the legislation and Turo opposes, calling the regulations unnecessary. The bill will have its first hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. Its Senate companion, SB 478 by Rep. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) unanimously passed the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee last week and will be heard tomorrow (Tuesday) before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. A comparable “peer-to-peer car sharing” bill in the House, HB 723, by Rep. Jason Fischer (R-Duval) passed its first hearing last week before the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and awaits its second committee stop.
Discussion this past week centered around how the peer-to-peer car sharing companies have partnered with used car lots so that those cars are part of peer-to-peer platforms. The car rental corporations are calling foul since there is no oversight, taxes or other government intervention that the car rental corporations must comply with. It does not appear however that the rental car corporations will be successful in moving the bills they support that put in place regulations over these peer-to-peer car sharing platforms.
Motorist Fines and Fees – Noting that there are almost 2 million people in the state of Florida driving daily on suspended licenses “because they don’t have the ability to pay the fines and fees in one lump sum,” Senator Tom Wright, (R-Volusia) is sponsoring SB 1328. The bill would require a uniform payment system in all 67 counties and allow those motorists to pay fines and fees by making partial payments or by through community service. The Senate Judiciary Committee last week unanimously passed the bill and it now awaits its second committee stop. A comparable House bill, HB 903 by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples) and Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando) will have its first hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. Another comparable House bill, HB 6083 by Rep. Anthony Rodriguez (R-Miami) and Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) will have its first hearing tomorrow before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. (Return to Top of Page)
Credit for Reinsurance – The Florida Legislature has begun the process to remove or reduce existing collateral restrictions on European Union and United Kingdom based reinsurers, to comply with the 2017 U.S. Covered Agreements.
HB 1211 / SB 1376 would amend section 624.610 Florida Statutes, to comply with the changes required by the Covered Agreements and provide the Financial Services Commission sufficient time to amend Rule 69O-144, Credit for Reinsurance.
The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park), the House Deputy Democratic Leader, and the similar Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola). The Senate bill unanimously passed the Judiciary Committee last week, its second of three stops, and awaits a hearing before the Rules Committee. The House bill unanimously passed the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee last week and will be heard tomorrow (Tuesday) before the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. (Return to Top of Page)
Genetic Information for Insurance Purposes – Did anyone get a “23andMe” or “Acestory.com” gift certificate for Christmas? When we listened to testimony last year about the issue of life insurers using genetic information in underwriting, many of us in The Capitol pondered the future of life insurance. We recalled that in 2008, a federal law called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) made it illegal for health insurance providers in the United States to use genetic information in decisions about a person’s health insurance eligibility or coverage, with certain exceptions. The movement is now in the life insurance arena. Legislators’ attempts last year to stop life insurers from using genetic information failed.
This year’s effort, HB 1189 / SB 1564, prohibits life insurers & long-term care insurers from canceling, limiting, or denying coverage, or establishing differentials in premium rates based on genetic information. It also prohibits such insurers from taking certain actions relating to genetic information for any insurance purpose. Florida would become the first state to enact such a law.
HB 1189 passed the full House last week and SB 1564 passed the Senate Banking and Insurance, its first committee stop in the Senate, with Senator Jeff Brandes voting against it. Senator Brandes’ objection is that consumers should have the choice to allow insurers to use their DNA, especially consumers who have the good fortune of a healthy family history.
The House bill is co-sponsored by incoming House Speaker Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater) and Rep. Jayer Williamson (R-Pace). Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) is sponsoring the Senate’s identical version. (Return to Top of Page)
Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) – While the federal government pursues tougher restrictions on PBMs in an ongoing effort to lower the cost of prescription drugs for consumers, there’s an effort underway in the Florida legislature to do the same. Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) has filed HB 961 that would regulate PBMs, targeting “predatory practices”. It’s inspired in part by a University of Southern California study that found that 23% of pharmacy prescriptions involved a patient copayment that exceeded the average reimbursement paid by the insurer by more than $2.00. The average overpayment was $7.69. Small pharmacies claim the system also creates an unfair competitive disadvantage with larger pharmacy chains.
There are mixed feelings about PBMs with some insurance companies seeking to manage their prescription drug costs owning a PBM vs. other insurers who believe PBMs are part of the drug pricing problem. This is another marketplace issue, where PBMs utilize sometimes monopolistic methods in their pricing and lawmakers and regulators have now decided they want more oversight.
Meanwhile, Senator Tom Wright (R-Port Orange) is sponsoring SB 1338, which would increase regulation of PBMs but appears to be more oriented toward data collection by insurance regulators for building future recommendations. It passed unanimously in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee last week and awaits scheduling before its second committee.
There does not appear to be any appetite to provide regulatory oversight of PBM’s. Independent pharmacists say that PBM’s are price fixing and raising prices and others say they function as the economy of scale/price aggregation solution to high drug prices. If any of our readers want to learn more about this fascinating debate between one of the last bastions of “the middle man” and main street America independent pharmacies, let us know! (Return to Top of Page)
Criminal Justice Reform – Led by Senator Jeff Brandes as chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, his bill SB 1308 authorizes resentencing and release of certain persons who are eligible for sentence review under specific conditions, including subsequent sentencing guidelines.
Senator Brandes’ guiding principal is that offenders should come out (of prison/incarceration) better than they went in. His passionate advocacy includes a more formal education system in correctional facilities, ready to work programs, updating the cleanliness and conditions of facilities and sentencing reform. Reform will come down to a matter of resources. The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper ran this op-ed: My son was sentenced to life in prison at age 19 for a crime in which no one was physically harmed that references his bill, which is awaiting its first hearing. A comparable bill, HB 1131 by Rep. Michael Gottlieb (D-Plantation) and Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) also awaits its first committee hearing.
In the meantime, the Senate is fast-tracking actual changes in mandatory minimum sentence laws. SB 346 by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) would give judges discretion in sentencing certain drug offenses if the defendant meets certain criteria. Not surprisingly, the bill has passed unanimously thru three committees and is awaiting a full Senate vote. Its companion, HB 339 by Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) and Rep. Mike Grieco (D-Miami Beach) has bipartisan support among a dozen or so bill co-sponsors has not been heard in the House.
The Senate under Jeff Brandes leadership is “leaning in” with the movement of SB 346 and its recognition that times change and locking ’em up and throwing away the keys may not necessarily be the best way to rehabilitate an offender. The Florida Sheriff’s Association doesn’t agree in many instances holding a press conference and releasing Truth in Sentencing report stating many of the criminal justice reforms Senator Brandes and others are calling for are based on “myths.” Our firm watches this debate closely for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is we need talent in many professions and perhaps there are individuals who can contribute to many of our employment openings. (Return to Top of Page)
Tobacco and Nicotine Products – SB 810 / HB 151 would raise the age to 21 for all tobacco products – smoking, chewing, and electronic/vaping. The bill reflects changes on the federal level and the penalty for states that don’t comply is withholding of FEMA disaster and non-disaster grants. Congress last year passed and the President signed legislation raising the national age for tobacco products to 21, which takes effect this summer.
The Senate bill sponsor, Senator David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) told the Senate Health Policy in January that evidence points to the harm created by tobacco and that “we know that if we don’t solve this problem, we are going to be in a health crisis and a financial crisis in the future.”
The bill would also ban cigarette vending machines from anywhere people under the age of 21 could access. The bill will be heard tomorrow (Tuesday) before the Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee, its second of three stops. The House bill, sponsored by Reps. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) and Nicholas Duran (D-Miami), is still awaiting its first hearing. (Return to Top of Page)
Cruelty to Dogs – People who leave their dogs outside and unattended on a restraint during a natural disaster would face a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty under SB 522 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota). The punishment would carry a potential $5,000 fine and be triggered any time there’s a hurricane, tropical storm, or tornado warning, or in the case of mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders. It passed the Criminal Justice committee unanimously in December and awaits a hearing in the Judiciary committee. It has no House companion.
Meanwhile SB 1044 by Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami), referenced as “Allie’s Law” would require veterinarians to report suspected animal cruelty in certain circumstances and provide immunity from criminal and civil liability for certain persons and entities. It was temporarily postponed last week but is on the agenda again tomorrow (Tuesday) before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow (Tuesday). A similar House bill, HB 621 by Reps. Dan Daley (D-Coral Springs) and Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) is awaiting its first hearing.
LMA Newsletter of 2-3-20