Advocacy: Special Report
The Legislature will have no shortage of input from business groups in the 2011 session.
? GROWTH MANAGEMENT
Reviving 360: Doug Buck, director of governmental affairs for the Florida Home Builders Association, says that dismantling the Department of Community Affairs won't mean anything unless the state makes significant changes to the overall growth management system. Buck favors returning oversight and decision-making to local governments, as SB 360, which was invalidated by a legal challenge, would have done. Other top association priorities include seeking funding forSadowski Affordable Housing and a septic tank study.
Cautious Growth: As lawmakers reconsider the state's approach to growth management, a coalition of environmental groups including 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon of Florida, Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy and the Tropical Audubon Society, recently sent recommendations to Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
Among their recommendations:
» Maintaining "an independent state land-planning agency to promote the most efficient use of essential regional and statewide resources."
» Lessening state oversight in urban infill and redevelopment areas but increasing scrutiny of rural and "edge" areas with significant natural resources.
» Requiring new development to cover the cost of associated infrastructure and services so taxpayers are not forced to subsidize development through higher taxes.
» Placing an increased emphasis on protecting Florida's most significant natural areas, including the Everglades, the Wekiva basin, aquatic preserves, viable wildlife corridors, river corridors and publicly owned lands.
Sinkholes: The Florida Insurance Council, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, the Florida Property and Casualty Association and other industry groups are pressing lawmakers to do something to stem sinkhole claims. A recent report from the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance stated that representatives with the state Office of Insurance Regulation, as well as insurers, "believe that a major driving force for the significant increase in sinkhole claims is the fact that many policyholders are incentivized to file such claims because they can keep the cash proceeds from the claim" rather than repair their property.
Another industry focal point is the state's bad faith statute. Katie Webb, whose firm Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, represents the Florida Property and Casualty Association, says that Florida has become a "hotbed" for bad faith litigation. Bad faith suits often arise when an insurance company denies or delays payment of a claim made by the insured. Webb, however, contends that plaintiffs attorneys seeking to pad settlements are abusing the process by engaging in "gotcha" tactics to "set the insurance company up" for a bad faith claim.
Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Naples) has already introduced a bill that would hit on some of these areas, including sinkhole reform. SB 408 would also:
» Shift the burden of proof in contested sinkhole cases to the policyholder.
» Require an increase in minimum capital and surplus from $5 million to $15 million for new insurers.
» Institute a three-year filing deadline instead of up to five years.
» Allow an insurer to pay actual cash value and hold back replacement cash value until there is a written contract for repairs.