Michael Moline, Author at Florida Politics

Michael Moline

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

House pressing on with workers’ comp reform

A ‘clean’ workers’ compensation bill is headed to the House floor after the Commerce Committee rejected a series of amendments pitched as worker-friendly Tuesday.

The bill (PCB COM 18-01) cleared the panel on a vote of 18-8.

It closely follows legislation the full House approved during the spring Legislative Session, in that it encourages injured workers and carriers — and their attorneys — to attempt to resolve disputes amicably.

But workers’ comp insurance premiums have fallen sharply since the spring’s panic over last year’s 14.5 percent increase in rates. The Office of Insurance Regulation approved a decrease of 9.5 percent just last week.

“Last session, the logic was, ‘We’re in crisis.’ The logic this session is, ‘Let’s be proactive.’ I understand that those are two good reasons, but they are separate and distinct,” Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw said.

Bill sponsor Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, warned that the decrease doesn’t mean Florida, and companies that rely on consistent workers’ comp rates, are out of danger.

It reflects two years of declining insurer costs; it does not yet reflect Florida Supreme Court rulings last year scrapping the statutory limit on attorney fees and some total disability payments, he said.

“We won’t know what that looks like until 2019. But we do know that fees and hourly (attorney) rates have gone up about 191 percent,” Burgess said.

The committee rejected a series of amendments on voice votes, including ranking Democrat Evan Jenne’s bid to eliminate the bill’s $150 per hour limit on attorney fees, subject to a judge’s approval.

Jenne warned the high court might eventually rule the limit unconstitutional, as it did the statutory fee limits.

The amendment would cause rates to spike, as they did before the Legislature imposed drastic reforms on the system in 2003, Burgess said. The court rulings represented rejections of key elements of those reforms as unfair to workers.

“We need certainty and stability in our economy and in our market, and we don’t have that right now,” he said.

As was the case earlier this year, the bill pits labor unions, trial attorneys, and medical providers against the carriers, and their business allies.

The committee action leaves the House essentially where the chamber left off last year, before tentatively offering the Senate to raise the maximum attorney fee to $180 per hour.

“We have a solid product. It passed. It struck a balance. We’ve created some meaningful reform. I don’t know that we’ll ever strike a balance that everybody agrees with. But it’s our job to determine what that balance should be,” Burgess said.

National Federation of Independent Business Florida director Bill Herrle issued a written statement indicating no appetite for further concessions.

If the proposed committee bill “represents a final bill, then it deserves our fair consideration,” Herrle said. “If it represents just an opening bargaining position, then we’ll probably end up with a bill we cannot support.”

Trial lawyer Mark Touby, president of Florida Workers’ Advocates, saw a glass half full.

“Lawmakers have an opportunity to provide a constitutional approach to workers’ compensation reform that would bring rate stability to the market, increase transparency in ratemaking, spur free-market competition among insurers, and enhance benefits for injured workers. Unfortunately, the legislation passed by the House Commerce Committee would turn the workers’ compensation grand bargain to protect injured workers into a grand illusion,” he said in a written statement following the vote.

“As lawmakers consider this important issue, we will continue to work to ensure that increased competition, more transparency, and other essential components of meaningful workers’ compensation reform are included in any legislation that ultimately passes,” Touby said.

House AOB package clears committee despite some qualms

House assignment of benefits (AOB) legislation cleared its sole committee Tuesday and appears headed to the floor, despite reservations about its limits on attorney fees and lack of language directly sanctioning insurance fraud.

Judiciary Committee members also expressed skepticism about insurers pressing policyholders to accept their preferred vendors before approving the bill (PCB JDC 18-01) on a 13-5 vote.

“Once again, we end up in this room dealing with the actions of bad actors,” Rep. Erin Grall observed.

She complained that it’s not clear the legislation would allow policyholders and legitimate repair contractors to secure legal representation against low-ball claims offers by insurance companies — or would even solve the problems it seeks to address.

“The bad actors will be able to do the math in order to get paid at the end of the day. The insurance companies will be able to figure out the math to either pay claims or not pay claims,” said Grall, a Vero Beach Republican.

Echoing another point that Grall made, Democrat John Cortes objected to insurers pressuring policyholders to accept vendors of their choosing.

“It kind of irks me that I have to sign a piece of paper and then the insurance company undercuts me, then I have to sue my insurance company to get the money that’s owed,” he said. “How do I win?”

The legislation contains essentially the same language as a measure that cleared the House during the spring Legislative Session. A less industry-friendly version stalled in the Senate, but that panel is debating reforms including mandatory arbitration in AOB disputes.

The insurance industry and its business allies blame a spike in AOB litigation on fraud and other abuses. Attorneys and contractors blame bad faith largely by a limited number of insurers that make inadequate claims offers or delay responding altogether.

The House bill would attack the problem by imposing deadlines on contractors to file notices and invoices, and on insurers to respond. It would encourage parties to settle disputes out of court by limiting either’s ability to recover attorney fees, depending on how far out of whack settlement offers are from final judgments.

Panama City Republican Jay Trumbull is carrying the legislation this year, taking over from Tampa Republican Jamie Grant, who ushered last year’s version through lengthy hearings before the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and full Commerce Committee.

Trumbull was unaware of any additional committee hearings ahead of the 2018 session, but said members are fully aware of the arguments, he said. “There are some members who still have some concerns,” he conceded following the vote.

The main idea, he added, is to subject contractors to both the obligations and benefits provided by insurance policies they seek to enforce, rather than just the right to sue and recover attorney fees.

“I do believe that this bill is going to curb the issues of fraud. You’re going to have the bad actors who aren’t going to go through some of the hoops that we have created,” he said. But “we want to make sure the assignee (contractor) stands in not one but both shoes of the insured.”

“There is a reason why we went from 1,400 claims in 2014 to 28,000 claims in 2016 — and it’s not because it’s been raining harder,” committee Vice Chair Shawn Harrison said during debate.

“Everyone knows there’s a problem.”

House PIP repeal legislation clears its only committee

Legislation to repeal Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system handily cleared the House Commerce Committee Tuesday — the only committee slated to consider the measure.

The vote was 17-8, and support for the measure was bipartisan — even though some members confessed to qualms about overturning an insurance system that has prevailed since 1971.

“I know that this is a major change for Florida,” and that interest groups disagree about whether it’s a good idea, bill sponsor Erin Grall said.

“I would really like to see us make this change and see what the true rates are under a mandatory bodily injury system before we start to address the boogey man in the room.”

Pressure has been building to repeal no-fault — marked by mandatory personal injury protection, or PIP coverage — for years. Largely that’s due to rising premiums widely blamed on fraudulent claims.

HB 19, the Responsible Roadways Act, would repeal Florida’s mandatory PIP law effective Jan. 1, 2019. Instead, motorists would buy a minimum of $10,000 per person and $25,000 per incident in bodily injury coverage. Disputes over accidents would be decided in the courts.

The minimum coverage for property damage would be $10,000, or $30,000 in combined bodily injury and property damage policies. Policies already in effect would carry over until time for renewal. Similar legislation easily cleared the House during the spring Legislative Session. A Senate companion died in committee.

For 2018, legislation filed by Sen. Tom Lee would require bodily damage coverage of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per incident, plus $10,000 for property damage and $5,000 for medical payments. Additionally, the bodily injury coverage minimum would ratchet up every two years until it reaches $30,000 per person and $60,000 per incident.

Pinnacle Actuarial Resources has estimated repeal would save policyholders 8.1 percent in liability coverage rates, but only 5.6 percent overall, as exposure shifts to lines including medical insurance.

A parade of insurance industry representatives seemed sympathetic to what Grall hopes to accomplish, but declined to endorse her bill as written.

Mostly that was because they want the Legislature to rein in third-party claims, filed against covered motorists by people claiming accident injuries, alleging bad faith by insurers. Medical providers, meanwhile, fear swapping guaranteed payments under PIP for taking their chances in the courts.

Ninety-five percent of bad-faith claims are due to low-value policies, Grall said. Yet the average costs associated with traffic accidents are in the $16,000-$17,000 range — easily manageable with a $25,000 coverage minimum.

She also acknowledged the bill would require medical providers to change their business models.

“I understand that it’s going to be difficult and that change is hard. However … we will have more adequate levels of coverage for the severity of accidents on our roads.”

Contractors consider compromise in assignment of benefits battle

Corporate America has long looked to alternative dispute resolution — ADR, including mediation and arbitration — to avoid costly litigation.

Might that be a solution to Florida’s assignment of benefits (AOB) debate?

The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee is considering it. Sha’Ron James, Florida’s public advocate for the insurance industry, suggested ADR during recent hearings.

Assignment of benefits “allows a third party to be paid for services performed for an insured homeowner who would normally be reimbursed by the insurance company directly after making a claim,” as James’ website defines it.

The dispute over AOB pits insurers against repair contractors and attorneys. Insurance companies accuse contractors of inflating repair bills; contractors blame insurers for low-balling payout offers. The problem is particularly acute in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

We asked Foyt Ralson, a lobbyist representing the Florida Association of Restoration Specialists, and Dave DeBlander, owner of Pro Clean Restoration and Cleaning in Pensacola, whether ADR would be a good idea.

Q: ADR — Good? Bad? Indifferent?

Ralston: Ultimately, the devil is in the details. We’re certainly open to discussing that and seeing what it would look like.

Q: Did they make progress here today?

Ralston: We’ve come a long way in the discussion overall — not just in the past two committee meetings, but over the past few years. We’ve gotten away from a very simplistic view of where the problem is.

We have a number of companies that have been able to come up here and show the Legislature that an arbitrary across-the-board elimination of a tool, AOB, is not necessarily the solution to the problem.

Q: That we’ve been arguing over the wrong thing?

Ralston: We have, absolutely.

Q: And the right thing is?

Ralston: Insurance companies and contractors need to be able to talk. They need to be able to do it in a timely manner, to be able to adjust a claim properly. That’s how it used to be done, and that’s how it should be done now.

Q: It sounds like it’s a handful of law firms and contractors in one corner of the state driving this.

Ralston: The data have been pretty clear. It is a handful of insurance companies in the Tri-County area of South Florida that are causing the majority of the problems. If that’s where the problem is, that’s where the lawsuits are going to exist.

Q: Could you live with mandatory arbitration?

DeBlander: The problem with arbitration is that it costs money. They charge for it. I file $800, $1,700 (repair) bills. My claims are accurate. They’re true. I should get paid for them.

Ralston: If you have those conversations happening between the insurance companies and the contractors on the front end, and the claims are being adjusted, the sooner that happens, the less need there is for arbitration, lawsuits, the fewer disagreements there are going to be. We’ve got to get insurance companies’ adjusters out to the claims as soon as possible.

DeBlander: With the good insurance companies, we work it out. I don’t want to have to arbitrate with these really fraudulent, bad insurers. It’s their modus operandi. That’s how they operate, to shortchange the bill. Arbitration is not a fix.

Q: That was another focus of the committee members — they wanted to see whether they could target the bad actors.

DeBlander: Yes — the bad actors on both sides. The bad actors among the insurance companies — they’re driving the lawsuits. It’s a handful of the same insurance carriers. I don’t think there are that many bad restoration companies. If there are, we can deal with them.

Senate committee considers sending AOB disputes to mandatory arbitration

Alternative dispute resolution emerged as a possible solution to the political dispute over assignment of benefits, or AOB, agreements during a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee.

Sha’Ron James, Florida’s insurance consumer advocate, raised the possibility as the committee members questioned representatives of the trial bar, the insurers, contractors and other parties.

“I’m definitely a proponent of encouraging alternative dispute resolution, arbitration or mediation,” James said.

Disputes between AOB holders and insurers center not on broad principles but on dollar amounts that arbitrators are well-positioned to sort through, James said.

“If we encourage alternative dispute resolution, it would deter litigation, which is where a lot of the exorbitant legal fees are coming from,” she said.

Committee members, including chairwoman Anitere Flores, seemed open to the idea, although Flores said the details would have to be worked out.

“What would an alternative dispute resolution (system) look like? What would mediation look like? Are there precedents for other arenas where there is a formal mediation (system)?” she said.

It was the second time the committee invited the antagonists, plus Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, to seek consensus. A similar process produced legislation that passed the House during the spring Regular Session. The issue never reached the floor of the Senate.

One key sticking issue is fees for plaintiffs attorneys in disputes against carriers. SB 62, filed by Sen. Dorothy Hukill, would eliminate attorney-fee awards to parties suing insurers under those AOB agreements. Altmaier, the carriers and other observers blame abuse of such litigation for escalating property insurance rates.

“I expect that, before the bill-filing deadline, there might be a couple more pieces of legislation,” Flores said, adding that Senate President Joe Negron has been discouraging the filing of committee bills.

“This might be an example where what we’re trying to come up with is a consensus product that a majority of the committee members can get behind. Procedurally, what that would look like, I think we’re not 100 percent sure of,” she said.

“But my goal is certainly for there to be in this committee a bill that incorporates the ideas and the alternatives that we’ve heard here.”

Flores believed the hearing produced progress.

“While it was painful at times and certainly frustrating, there were some things that came out,” Flores said. The task now, she continued, is to settle the details.

“Other chairmen have sat in this chair, much smarter than me. And more experts have said they want to find a solution to this issue. We’re going to give it our best shot. Whether or not we get it right, guess we’ll find out at the end of Session.”

Flores wanted assurances that, whatever the committee does, rates will go down.

“I would be hard-pressed to support some of the more extreme solutions unless there is an actual result that would be beneficial to our constituents,” she said.

Sen. Oscar Braynon concurred, saying he’s been assured in the past that legislation would fix high insurance rates only to see a fresh scapegoat emerge.

“I don’t want to sit here and go through this exercise without us actually looking at how we solve the problem, which is higher rates for consumers,” he said.

Christine Ashburn, chief lobbyist for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., sought to assure committee members that cracking down on inflated water mitigation claims and related lawsuits would produce results.

“If we could get back to the averages we have seen for many, many years, the majority of our customers would stop seeing rate increases, and many of them would begin to see rate decreases,” she said.

Flores said that high insurance premiums have been her constituents’ top concern through the 16 years she’s served in the Legislature.

“How do we address this issue in a way that it doesn’t bubble up to become another issue somewhere else?” Flores said. “That might be biting off more than we can chew, but I’d like for us to at least try.”

Too soon to know? Regulators weigh worker’s comp rates

Regulators pressed representatives of a workers’ compensation insurance rating service Wednesday about whether two Florida Supreme Court rulings had in fact increased the cost of administering claims, as many had feared.

The answer: Still too soon to say.

Nor is it clear that carriers adjusted their reserves or other practices in response to the rulings to any degree of consistency.

“At this point, the data is too immature,” said Jay Rosen, senior actuary for the National Council on Compensation Insurance, which proposed rates for around 240 Florida carriers.

“Not much of the data that has been impacted by these court decisions has been reported to NCCI, and therefore it is not reflected in this particular rate filing,” Rosen said.

Rosen and other NCCI representatives said the 9.3 percent average premium rate drop the council has proposed is mostly driven by a downward trend in payouts to injured workers. In other words, notwithstanding the court, workplaces have been safer.

“This is really the major driver behind this proposed rate decrease,” said Jeff Eddinger, an executive with NCCI.

If approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation, the new rates would take effect on Jan. 1

The office approved a 14.5 percent average premium increase last year, blaming Florida Supreme Court rulings in Castellanos v. Next Door Co. and Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg that critics said would encourage litigation by claimants.

Steve Alexander, an actuary who studied NCCI’s numbers for Florida Workplace Advocates — that is, plaintiffs’ lawyers — argued NCCI’s proposal didn’t reflect carriers’ investment earnings. He suggested a rate decrease of 15.4 percent, plus the opportunity for insurers to deviate from NCCI’s rates or to earn discounts.

Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said following the hearing that he’ll consider those options, and otherwise look for ways to stabilize Florida’s workers’ compensation premiums.

Advocates president Mark Touby underscored Alexander’s argument in a written statement.

“The lack of transparency throughout NCCI’s process portrays the perception that its analysis is outcome-driven — rather than based on an unbiased presentation of the data,” Touby said. “What is clear is that NCCI’s unpredictable rollercoaster ride of rates is unquestionably bad for Florida’s businesses and the workers they employ.”

Bill Herrle, Florida director for the National Federation of Independent Business, issued a statement of his own, expressing anxiety about the lingering effects of those court rulings.

“While the possibility of a rate reduction is exciting for small business owners, NFIB members are very aware that the problem of out-of-control attorneys’ fees lingers, leaving rates and small business owners in a cone of uncertainty,” Herrle said.

“Lower rates are always good news, but NFIB remains cautious about the unknown ramifications of the Castellanos decision.”

Irma confounds already straightened state budget prospects, committee learns

Florida’s tax structure will produce only $52 million in gains on existing state spending during the coming fiscal year, and will leave lawmakers more than $1 billion in the hole during each of the two budget years after that.

That doesn’t count what the state needs to spend to recover from Hurricane Irma.

The news came Thursday as the Senate Appropriations Committee began sorting through the many demands on the government’s pocketbook.

“It’s grim,” Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala said.

“We don’t really have any extra money. We’ve had some money spent on our behalf lately that’s even making it a little tighter,” he said. “There’ll probably have to be a cut exercise, just like always.”

He referred to hurricane emergency spending ordered by Gov. Rick Scott.

Amy Baker, coordinator of the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research, reported to the committee on the budgetary picture.

“The budget they were building for next year had enough revenue for them to keep doing what they’ve been doing,” Baker said.

“But big problems in the following years, and growing,” she said. The Year 2 projection was for a $1.1 billion deficit and a $1.6 billion shortfall in Year 3.

And that didn’t account for “black swans” like Irma. Since the storm hit, Scott has used his executive authority to spend more than $141 million on hurricane response, including $25 million for emergency loans to citrus growers whose crops were wiped out.

Meanwhile, Monroe County, to name one example, likely will have to rebuild one of three hospitals in the Florida Keys. It’ll need a new or improved emergency operations center too — responders had to abandon the building because it couldn’t resist a Category 5 hurricane.

The full cost of Irma remains unclear. Visit Florida President Ken Lawson sketched out the agency’s plan to keep the tourists coming. Meanwhile, no one knows yet the full extent of the damage to state and local infrastructure, or whether the federal government will come through with emergency aid.

This, too: State pension investments are bringing in less cash. And the demands on the school system will grow, especially with the influx of new residents from Puerto Rico.

“Between what happened to the retirement system, and what they’ve already spent on Irma, you’re $140 million down,” Baker said.

“We’re going to be December before we have any confidence that we have good estimates,” she said.

“Some of these costs are certainly legitimate to be paid for from our reserves. We call it a Rainy Day Fund,” Latvala said. “And like Sen. (Joe) Negron said yesterday, if this wasn’t a rainy day, what is?”

As far as Latvala’s concerned, taxes increases are “off the table.”

As for opioids, Scott has called for $50 million to tackle the epidemic, with about half of that representing federal money.

Latvala wasn’t prepared to pass judgment on the request. “This is the very first week of committees, the very first meeting that this has been discussed. We have a lot of work to do before we make opinions like that,” he said.

He did note that he’d asked for an emergency $20 million to get opioid responders through the fiscal year.

“I’m still waiting, People are still dying. Nobody’s dying because oranges fell off of a tree. We need to treat the opioid crisis just like we’re treating the economic crisis from the hurricane, and move on it. He has the same ability on the opioid crisis, to deal with that through an executive order, as he has on the hurricane.”

Latvala did complain that Scott’s executive budget amendments circumvent the Legislative Budget Commission, a House-Senate panel empowered to authorize mid-year spending.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to get back into a regular process,” he said.

“In past hurricanes we’ve had legislation that has gone into direct capital efforts like that to restore communities. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do that this time, as well.”

 

House insurance chairman hopes to take up AOB, workers’ comp reform again

Hurricane Irma recovery clearly will dominate the 2018 Legislative Session, but the chairman of the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee hopes to find time to address a few of the state’s other problems.

Like assignment of benefits abuse, for example.

“I fully expect that to be a policy discussion,” Rep. Danny Burgess said following an extended briefing on Irma response.

At last count, Irma had generated 703,671 claims with an estimated value of nearly $4.6 billion — and both numbers will increase in the months ahead, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told Burgess’ committee.

With that many claims, and legions of repair contractors in the field, the potential for AOB abuse seems clear.

“We’re still waiting to get a lot of the numbers in relation to Hurricane Irma, and seeing if the AOB issue has increased, as some of us maybe expect it will,” Burgess said.

He foresees moving an AOB bill off the floor in 2018, as the House did during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Regarding workers’ compensation, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved a 14.5 percent average premium increase last year. Since then, the National Council on Compensation Insurance has proposed an average 9.3 percent reduction in rates.

Burgess still considers the matter “one of the most important, if not the most important” problems confronting the state long term.

“Thankfully, they have what appears to be a temporary reduction. It’s not a complete reduction. There’s still about a 5 percent increase. There’s still the unknown of an increase down the road.”

Republicans see Irma as an opportunity to review energy regulations

House leaders see the recovery from Hurricane Irma as an opportunity to investigate whether state regulations are getting in the way.

The issue came up Wednesday during hearings before the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee.

“Are there any regulations, whether laws that we’ve passed or administrative procedures the PSC might have put in place, that might be slowing down the recovery time or restoration time?” Republican Jason Fischer asked Florida Power & Light’s Bryan Olnick.

“And if there are, could you identify what some of those might be? I’d be willing to work with you to pull some of those back.”

Olnick thought not.

“Right now, I really don’t think that there are necessarily any rules or regulations I would say are a major hindrance when it comes to restoration strategy, restoration philosophy, prioritizing how we restore. I wouldn’t really say there are any major roadblocks,” Olnick said.

Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness definitely will look into the state’s regulatory climate, said Panama City Republican Jay Trumbull, chairman of the energy panel and a member of the select committee.

“We are absolutely going to be looking at those things in that select committee, as well,” Trumbill said.

That Florida has recovered as well as it has is largely due to regulations the Legislature ordered the Public Service Commission to write after Hurricane Andrew and the storms of 2004 and 2005. That’s judging by testimony from PSC officials and executives of three investor-owned utilities before Trumbull’s committee, and before a Senate panel on Tuesday.

The House committee also heard from a representative of the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association.

“This committee is going to focus on how we can get power to folks in Florida at the lowest price possible, and looking at the way policy is driven in the state,” Trumbull said of his subcommittee. “The select committee is going to focus on specific issues relating to hurricanes. And a lot of those things are going to flow from that committee to us. Because the majority of those things probably had to do with power.”

Trumbull, in his inaugural hearing as chairman of the energy panel, said he wants to see how well the existing regulations helped.

“Did all those things work? Did they stand up to Irma’s power? And how can we fix those things in the future?” he said.

It’s too early to know what regulatory reforms might be called for, Trumbull said, but a review would be in line with the Republican Party’s philosophical attachment to smaller government.

“We’re going to allow the select committee to really drill down on some things, and them absorb them as they come out,” he said.

The select committee was scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Senators eagerly waiting hard facts on how the power grid stood up to Irma

Will Hurricane Irma inspire the Legislature to light a fire under the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) efforts to buttress the electric grid against powerful storms?

Likely. But it’s too soon to know what changes might help.

That picture emerged during hearings before Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities: Regulators won’t have digested the data situation in time for opening day in January.

Chairman Aaron Bean put the question directly to Cayce Hinton, the PSC’s director for industry development and market analysis, during a presentation on that agency’s 10-year infrastructure “hardening” efforts.

“How did we do? Cut to the chase. Did it turn out? Did we get our money’s worth?”

The PSC has opened a docket to look into that very question, Hinton replied. This year marked the first time the improvements were really put to the test, he said.

“So we don’t know yet?” Bean said.

“We don’t know yet.”

“From what I’ve seen, there appears to have been some improvement as far as restoration times,” Hinton said. “The utilities, right now they’re the ones who have the stats.”

Representatives of three investor-owned utilities were on hand to brief the committee — Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light, and Tampa Electric Co. Each reported that his company’s response was vigorous, considering the extent of the damage.

Bryan Olnick, VP for distribution operations for Florida Power, for example, said it took 18 days to restore power to all customers following Wilma, but only 10 after Irma. Half the company’s customers saw power restored within one day post-Irma; it took five following Wilma.

More information here.

Following the hearing, Bean said some senators are eager to improve the grid.

“Session’s just around the corner. If we need to move or act, we need to do it sooner than later,” he said.

And if the PSC can’t make recommendations in time?

“I’m going to gently nudge them.”

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