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Bills to alter tobacco settlements referred to committees

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A smoldering battle in the Florida Legislature affecting the manner in which four major tobacco firms will have to pay up more than 4,000 claimants has taken an early step toward its climax: bills by state Sen. Garrett Richter and state Rep. David Santiago have escaped the session slush pile and been referred to committees in both chambers.

The proposal’s original version, Richter’s SB 978, will face just two committee stops: Judiciary and Rules. The House companion sponsored by Santiago will also forgo the standard three-committee gauntlet, going before Civil Justice and House Judiciary.

The pithy one-page legislation provides that tort liability shall not apply in “all civil actions in which judgment has not been entered, regardless of the date on which the cause of action arose.”

This legislative approach follows maneuvering in the courts covered in a Florida Politics 2015 session outlook, whereby the defendants sought to decertify a class of claimants on technical evidentiary grounds.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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