House takes on PIP, Redistricting bills

Jan 11, 2012

The second official day of Florida’s 2012 Legislative Session was a flurry of activity at the State Capitol.  Tom Flanigan reports lawmakers jumped right into issues, both heavy and not-so-heavy.

In his State of the State message on the session’s opening day, Governor Rick Scott told lawmakers he wanted something done about auto insurance fraud and what that’s costing policyholders.

“These costs are being driven up each and every day all around the state by scams that are ultimately paid for by Florida’s working families.”

So bright and early on the second day of session, the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee dove right into the matter.  Members took up a bill from Bradenton Republican Jim Boyd that proposes to fight personal injury protection or PIP fraud on a number of fronts.  It would cap lawyer fees for one thing.  It would require accident victims to seek care, either at regular hospital emergency rooms or urgent care facilities associated with hospitals.  Victims would also have to get medical attention within seventy-two hours of the mishap to be eligible for compensation, although Representative Boyd said he could be flexible about that deadline.  Even so, the bill is drawing fire from both doctors and some attorneys.  It passed the subcommittee on a ten-to-five vote. 

Later in the day, the Senate Reapportionment Committee gathered for what Committee Chair, Republican Don Gaetz of Niceville said was probably the last time.

“Twenty-two hundred people have testified before this committee; over seventeen-hundred in person and over five-hundred have testified in writing and we’re delighted to have their input and it is based on their input that we presented a proposed committee bill.”

Actually, the committee was looking at two separate voting district bills. Senate Staff Director John Guthrie showed committee members the various district maps.  He said they were tough to draw, given the various legal requirements.

“Senate Bill 1174 establishing the congressional districts of the state and Senate Joint Resolution 1176, which apportions senate state legislative districts. Districts must be as nearly equal in population as practicable, must be compact, and must be, where feasible, shall use political and geographic boundaries.”

Not every committee member was totally happy with the finished product, though.  Weston Democratic Senator Nan Rich had filed an amendment that she said included some needed changes.

“I regret that these maps are not exactly where I would like them to be today in terms of the best reflection of the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, the Constitution and the will of the people of Florida.”

But Senator Rich also acknowledged that the overall will of the committee wasn’t in line with her amendment and she temporarily postponed it, effectively killing it.  The committee’s substitute bills passed easily and Committee Chair Don Gaetz said they could be voted on by the full senate as early as next week.  

Earlier in the day, the House Governmental Operations Subcommittee passed a bill from St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes that would bring a historic Florida publication to an end.

“House Bill 541 would eliminate the weekly publication of the Florida Administrative Weekly and begins the constant revision of the publication system that we call the Florida Administrative Register.  It designates the electronic copy of the Florida Administrative Code as the official copy.  It adds for electronic filing of adopted rules.”

Since 1975, it’s been the law that all changes in state rules and notices of state government public meetings be noticed in the Florida Administrative Weekly.  Now the Weekly, like so many commercial newspapers and other paper publications, will disappear into cyberspace.