The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) business lobby is forming a “Florida Workers’ Compensation Strategic Task Force” after court decisions they said will collectively cost businesses in the hundreds of millions.
The task force evolved from a series of “Helping Florida Work” town halls in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami this summer “to foster ideas and initiatives,” the group said in a news release.
“After hearing from our elected leaders and business community from all corners of the state on how the recent Florida Supreme Court rulings have impacted our state’s workers’ compensation system, we were compelled to continue to help restore a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system in Florida as the Florida Legislature intended all along,” AIF president and CEO Tom Feeney said in a statement.
In recent months, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled on cases affecting the state’s workers’ comp system.
One struck down a law that limited payments to injured workers to two years and another struck down a law that limited attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases.
The National Council on Compensation Insurance, which submits rate filings on behalf of insurers, now is asking state regulators to OK a nearly 20 percent rate hike in workers’ comp beginning Oct. 1. A hearing on the request is set for Aug. 16, according to the Office of Insurance Regulation.
The workers’ comp system has long been caught in a tug-of-war between labor and business interests.
Opponents have criticized the 2003 changes put in place by Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature, saying they were draconian and favored employers at the cost of injured employees.
Companies said the new system cut costs, which helps businesses grow jobs. And the changes also were intended to reduce lawsuits over benefits.
The task force’s members include Feeney and:
— Bill Herrle of the National Federation of Independent Business, representing small employers.
— Marc Salm of Publix Supermarkets, representing large employers.
— Tom Koval of FCCI Insurance Group, representing domestic insurance carriers.
— Jeff Fenster of AmTrust Financial Services, representing national insurance carriers.
— Mike Costello of Tenet Healthcare, representing health care providers.
— Jim Tolley with Florida Professional Firefighters and Matt Puckett with Florida Police Benevolent Association, representing injured workers.
They will consult with noted workers’ compensation attorney Jim McConnaughhay, the release said. A schedule of meetings has yet to be determined.