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.

Demotech’s Joseph Petrelli says insurers can cover Hurricane Michael claims

Hermine — $139 million. Matthew — $1.2 billion. Irma — 10.4 billion. Michael — who knows at this stage, but last week’s Category 4 hurricane, the most powerful storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in recorded history, will wind up costing the insurance companies plenty.

Still, Florida’s industry — uniquely dominated by smaller players since the big guys mostly skedaddled following Hurricane Andrew — has the resources to pay Michael claims, as the Insurance Journal reported this week.

We called Joseph Petrelli for his take on the situation. Petrelli is president of Demotech Inc., the Ohio-based ratings firm that oversees books at 52 Florida insurance companies. They include Universal Property & Casuality Insurance Co., which, with more than 9 percent market share, is the most significant player in Florida’s property insurance market.

His bottom line? Notwithstanding the communications challenges in the disaster zone, “so far so good. The industry’s responding — which is what it’s supposed to do.”

The remarks below have been edited for length and clarity.

Florida Politics: Are Florida’s property insurers in good shape to meet their obligations following Hurricane Michael?

Joseph Petrelli: Our companies are. I can’t speak to anyone else, but I think our companies are fine. Like the old Timex commercial — you take a licking and keep on ticking. They’re supposed to pay claims, and that’s how they’re set up.

FP: They’re sufficiently capitalized and reinsured?

JP: The reinsurance is the key. We’re in the process of collecting data, but we don’t expect anybody to push through the top of their reinsurance.

FP: Do see any changes to the marketplace coming out of this?

JP: From our perspective, once the storm season is officially over, sometime in early December, I suspect that for Demotech-rated companies, between the financial impact of Irma and some other storms there in 2017, and Michael in 2018, I suspect there’ll be some downgrades. That doesn’t mean the company‘s in trouble by any stretch of the imagination. It just means they haven’t had time to recapitalize, given two tough, back-to-back years.

FP: How does the rating process work?

JP: We work with companies on an annual basis. We review every quarterly financial statement — end of March, end of June, end of September, and the end of the year. We review their audits. We review their actuarial opinions. We review their preliminary reinsurance programs as to their vertical and horizontal rigor. We review their final reinsurance programs. We review their catastrophe reinsurance response. And we review their disaster recovery program — to name a few things. It’s all based on a 12-month cycle.

FP: Is there anything to look for in a time like this?

JP: From the companies’ perspective, their clients are contacting them. They’re contacting their clients. The companies are all out there making a good-faith effort to do what they’re paid to do.

FP: Any other information that would be germane at this point?

JP: We’re giving the companies some time to go out and see what’s going on. We’ll send out periodic requests for information. But at this point, we’re unaware of any situation where Michael created any financial distress.

Hurricane Michael claims begin streaming in to state insurance office

An “extremely preliminary” report from the Office of Insurance Regulation shows that roughly 38,000 Hurricane Michael-related claims have come into Florida carriers thus far, and that paid losses have reached $5.7 million.

“These numbers are extremely preliminary and will continue to rise in the days and weeks to come,” office spokesman Jon Moore said via email.

The office has ordered property insurers to submit claims data on a daily basis until further notice.

“Through Hermine, Matthew and Irma, Florida’s industry has indicated an ability to respond to these types of events, and we expect the response to Hurricane Michael from the industry will be strong,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said in a prepared statement.

My office will continue working to ensure every possible step that can be taken to assist those impacted by Hurricane Michael will be executed as soon as possible.”

Those efforts began well in advance of the storm, when Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, whose Department of Financial Services contains the insurance office, conferred by conference call with insurers likely to be affected.

The officials wanted to make sure carriers had resources in place to service claims, and to assess damage and pay quickly. The carriers are to report problems doing that as soon as possible, and report claims data to the insurance office.

Additionally, Gov. Rick Scott has invoked emergency authority to give policyholders — many still unable to return to their property, or to access records from the wreckage, 90 days to update carriers on their situations.

The same order bars insurance companies from canceling or non-renewing residential policies subject to Michael claims for at least 90 days, and freezes rate increases for the same period.

“OIR’s Incident Management Team remains fully activated and will have representatives at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee,” Moore said.

“OIR team members will be actively working throughout the recovery phase with consumer advocates, industry stakeholders and entities licensed under OIR’s regulatory authority.”

Note: This story has been updated to reflect fresh numbers from the insurance office.

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi in Tallahassee on Trump, lies and news

Newsman Ali Velshi defended his profession against complaints of bias against President Donald Trump Monday, but conceded that continually having to call out the president’s “lies” can give rise to the appearance of anti-Trump sentiment.

Velshi, a veteran business and foreign correspondent and anchorman for MSNBC, told members of the Economic Club of Florida that Trump routinely misrepresents the facts in intentional defiance of the truth.

News organizations talk to the administration all the time, and fact check the president on the air and in print. Administration officials are aware of actual facts, Velshi said. And yet the president persists in his version of things.

“That rally in Mississippi the other day? There were 63 straight lies. This guy lies with a velocity we’ve never seen before. Is that a bias against President Trump to point out times when the president of the United States lies?” Velshi said.

“I don’t know. It shouldn’t be. Right? It should just be my work. But if there was anybody else I was covering who lied that often, it would create a bias — it would create an impression just so you know the likelihood of what he says next will probably be a lie.”

That’s different than the pattern under Barack Obama, whose aides sought to spin news in favor of administration policy.

“The White House was mad at us for doing that then, too. Is that a bias? No. That’s what we do. When journalists tell you that somebody who you are there to hold to account isn’t telling the truth, that’s what we do.”

Velshi was reacting to a question from a member of his Tallahassee luncheon audience about negative news coverage of Donald Trump. One recent study found that Trump coverage on ABC, CBS, and NBC ran 91 percent negative.

“Do you think there could be some improvement where the media come in and start delivering a little more unbiased news?” the questioner asked.

Velshi differentiated between untruth and bias in the news.

“News bias has been around forever. Newspapers were never objective. They were owned by partisans,” Velshi said.

But “I don’t know what bias against President Trump means,” he continued.

“At some point media organizations like mine and The New York Times decided that there are some things that are lies. And the reason we know they’re lies is because President Trump says them, we then correct it, we indicate what the real truth is — that the United States does not have a trade deficit with Canada — we lay it out there,” he said.

There remains a legitimate question, Velshi conceded: “At what point does my being a fact checker turn into bias. I’m going to leave and consider that.”

Velshi urged people to seek out diverse voices in the news media, and especially social media. He confessed to an early — now discarded — enthusiasm for the democratizing possibilities of social media.

“I’m probably now toward the other side, where I think it’s fundamentally dangerous by design. I’m beginning to think that Facebook actually thought this through and realized that bad stuff was more profitable than good stuff,” he said.

“I don’t think they thought through that this was going to possibly affect voter turnout and affect elections and things like that.”

What we can do about it, he wasn’t sure — except to “triangulate your sources of news.”

That means consulting multiple news sources representing a cross-section of the political spectrum. And distinguishing between news organizations that observe standards of fairness and responsibility — and those that don’t.

He mentioned Alex Jones as an example of the latter.

People get ensconced in their echo chambers and “end up believing stories that aren’t true. And that ended up with a guy going into a pizza parlor in D.C. to shoot up people who were running a pedophilia ring that didn’t have a basement — that apparently was where the pedophilia ring was being held,” Velshi said.

“He could have killed somebody. If the guy had just found another couple of sources of news, he might have said, ‘That’s weird.’ Like the Washington Post would have ignored that?” he continued.

“If things seem stupid, check them.”

He recommended reading a variety of political outlets.

“That’s the beauty of living in America. We don’t have to live in these enclaves. We don’t have to live with people who are only our faith or whatever our political persuasion.”

Regarding the business climate, Velshi was asked about agitation to boost the minimum wage. Amazon didn’t raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour out of altruism, but because it had to, he said — up from about $13 for top wage earners, or about $30,000 per year.

That — and similar hikes by Wal-Mart and Target — “were brought on mostly by market conditions, because they were not able to attract enough workers. And, in some part, by the pressure brought on by progressive movements.”

But support for higher wages extends beyond progressives, he said. In 2016, voters in four red states that voted in minimum wage hikes.

Additionally, Amazon understands that its planned second headquarters will “suck up all the labor in that market, and it alone will raise wages,” he said.

“The point is not just to match wages of your competitors, but to go back to Henry Ford’s thinking: Sometimes this is horrible work that people have to do. You kind of need to make it worth it for them to not keep moving (to another job). Because churn is expensive.”

Citrus Co. Sheriff weaponizes physical fitness test against women, lawsuit alleges

A proposed federal class action lawsuit accuses Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast of using unnecessarily difficult physical fitness tests to discriminate against female deputies.

The lawsuit, filed in the Middle District of Florida’s Ocala Division, alleges eight counts of intentional gender discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation.

Few, if any, other law enforcement agencies in Florida subject female officers to such rigorous physical fitness requirements, the complaint says.

Furthermore, it alleges, the department denies women accommodations for injuries that it routinely provides for men. A request for comment to the sheriff’s office is pending.

It “has implemented these mandatory physical abilities tests despite knowing they have a disparate impact upon female employees. CCSO also retaliates against female employees who complain about this discrimination,” the complaint says.

“As a result of CCSO’s policies, patterns, and practices, female employees receive less compensation, are promoted less frequently, and are discharged at a greater rate than their male counterparts,” it continues.

The policies “systematically violate female employees’ rights and result in gender bias that pervades CCSO’s culture. The disadvantage to female employees in pay, promotion, and employment is not isolated or exceptional, but rather the regular and predictable result of CCSO’s policies and practices.”

The lawsuit alleges violations of Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Florida Civil Rights Act. It seeks an injunction ending the practices plus back pay and benefits, compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering, punitive damages, and payment of attorney fees for the class.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jay Lechner, of the Whittel & Melton firm’s St. Petersburg office, served notice to the sheriff’s office of the complaint this week.

According to the complaint, the fitness test — required since 2008 — features 17 elements, including quickly exiting a police car and simulating the firing of a training rifle; a 40-yard-sprint; leaping hurdles; and climbing stairs, a ladder, and a six-foot wall.

The requirement makes no accommodation for women’s physical abilities, as do similar tests administered in the military, the complaint argues, leading to a higher failure rate for them along with restricted job and promotion opportunities.

“At no time as CCSO conducted research to demonstrate why the CCSO is unique among all law enforcement agencies in Florida such that it requires its employees to be subjected to a more rigorous, nonstandard physical abilities test.”

Yet the office’s “one-size-fits-all” policy demands that even deputies assigned to nonhazardous, clerical and administrative jobs pass the test — even those “for which a physical abilities test is completely irrelevant to the successful performance of their assigned duties.”

Additionally, the complaint asserts that the office denies accommodations for female deputies who have suffered on- or off-the-job injuries that it does provide to men — such as light-duty assignments.

The three named plaintiffs — Dawn AlexanderLisa Ventimglia, and Michelle Tewell — either were suspended, fired, or forced into retirement under the policy, according to the complaint.

Prendergast was Gov. Rick Scott‘s first chief of staff and later became head of the state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs. He stepped down to run for Citrus County Sheriff, which he won in 2016.

Justices give the boot to appeal over late campaign paperwork

A deadline is a deadline, the Florida Supreme Court said Tuesday.

The justices rejected a law professor’s arguments that she should have been allowed on the ballot in a judicial election — even though she missed the deadline for filing her campaign paperwork.

The court appeared to accept arguments raised by incumbent Clay County Judge Kristina Mobley that Lucy Ann Hoover’s case was unworthy of consideration.

That’s because it didn’t affect a “class of constitutional or statewide officers,” but only Hoover herself.

“No motion for rehearing will be entertained by the court,” the justices said. Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Alan LawsonBarbara Pariente, Ricky Polston, and Peggy Quince signed the order.

Earlier, the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected Hoover’s bid for a place on the Aug. 28 primary ballot, finding “no special circumstance” that would justify her failure to file her candidate oath and financial disclosure form ahead of the noon, May 4, deadline.

The county supervisor of elections initially accepted Hoover’s paperwork, even though it was late, reasoning that she was physically in the office and filling out the paperwork.

However, Mobley, placed on the bench by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015, challenged Hoover’s candidacy. Hoover is a visiting professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of North Florida.

The Florida Constitution requires the Supreme Court to review certain cases, including the imposition of the death penalty. It gives the court discretion to take up other types of cases, including matters of “great public importance” and those involving the class of officers at issue in this case.

“There is nothing in the written opinion of the 1st District Court to trigger such jurisdiction,” attorneys for Mobley argued in a brief filed Sept. 13.

“Even if the court accepted petitioner’s position that (the relevant constitutional provision) applies, the court should not exercise its discretionary jurisdiction because the case is simply about a candidate who failed to qualify on time, and — likely for that reason — the only potentially affected constitutional officer in this case, the Clay County Supervisor of Elections, did not appeal,” the brief says.

No-fault insurer prevails in attempted class action over Medicare reimbursement

A state appeals court has rejected a class action filed by a Medicare Advantage organization seeking double reimbursements for its costs of providing care that should have been covered by a no-fault auto insurer.

In a unanimous ruling, the 3rd District Court of Appeal said such organizations would have to establish each claim separately against Ocean Harbor Casualty Insurance.

The court overruled Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen, who had certified a class potentially including 37 Florida Medicare Advantage organizations, or MROs.

The lead plaintiff was an entity called MSPA, an assignee of the defunct MRO Florida Healthcare Plus Inc.

“Proof that certain medical bills paid by MSPA’s alleged assignor should have been paid by Ocean Harbor as a primary payer will not establish that other medical bills paid by a different MAO should also have been paid by Ocean Harbor as a primary payer,” Judge Thomas Logue wrote.

“To the contrary, proof to establish liability will necessarily devolve into a series of mini-trials under Florida no-fault law … which precludes a finding of predominance and renders this case inappropriate for class action treatment,” Logue wrote.

“Accordingly, we reverse the provisions of the certification order under review in conflict with this opinion.”

MAOs are private companies that contract with Medicare to provide coverage at a flat rate per enrollee. They profit to the degree they provide the required coverage for less than the flat rate.

The coverage is meant to be secondary to other, primary, coverage, including personal injury protection policies.

Miami plaintiffs’ attorney John Ruiz argued that he could establish the common claims necessary to sustain a class action using an algorithm that analyzes police reports of accidents and other records that Ocean Harbor must report under state and federal law.

He argued that Ocean Harbor’s obligation to pay was automatic once his client established that it had made payments reimbursable by the insurer.

The 3rd DCA disagreed.

“We reject the notion that MSPA claims reimbursement rights are not governed by Florida law relating to the recovery of benefits under a PIP policy, and are therefore automatic,” Logue wrote.

“Instead, MSPA must demonstrate that, in addition to any requirements of federal law, Ocean Harbor was required to make the payment in the first instance under Florida no-fault law for each reimbursement it claims.”

William Large, president of the tort-reformer Florida Justice Reform Institute, praised the outcome.

“The plaintiff has filed dozens of copycat cases against Florida insurers raising the same claims — this case was simply the first to reach the class certification stage,” Large said in a written statement.

“In certifying the class, the trial court failed to rigorously apply Florida’s class action certification requirements, which are necessary to protect defendants’ due process rights. The 3rd DCA recognized this overreach and ruled appropriately.”

Supreme Court reinstates $8.5M verdict against Geico

A closely divided Florida Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated a bad faith judgment against Geico Insurance, concluding in a 4-3 decision that the insurer had improperly exposed a policyholder to an $8.5 million judgment in a wrongful death action.

Writing for the majority, Justice Peggy A. Quince emphasized insurers’ duty to zealously represent customers against potential lawsuits. That obligation is “not a mere checklist,” Quince wrote.

“An insurer is not absolved of liability simply because it advises its insured of settlement opportunities, the probable outcome of the litigation, and the possibility of an excess judgment,” she said.

“Rather, the critical inquiry in a bad faith is whether the insurer diligently, and with the same haste and precision as if it were in the insured’s shoes, worked on the insured’s behalf to avoid an excess judgment.”

Quince rejected arguments that the insured in the case, James Harvey, who ran his vehicle into motorcyclist James Potts in Palm Beach County in 2006, failed to turn over a statement of his assets.

“The focus in a bad faith case is not on the actions of the claimant but rather on those of the insurer in fulfilling its obligations to the insured,” she wrote.

Chief Justice Charles Canady penned a strongly worded dissent.

“By adopting a negligence standard in all but name, ignoring the controlling conduct of the insured and the third-party claimant, and relying on unsupported assumptions, the majority incentivizes a rush to the courthouse steps by third-party claimants whenever they see what they think is an opportunity to convert an insured’s inadequate policy limits into a limitless policy,” he wrote.

Justices Jorge Larbarga, Fred Lewis, and Barbara Pariente concurred with Quince’s opinion. Alan Lawson and Ricky Polston joined the dissent.

The majority cited evidence that a Geico claims adjuster — cited twice internally for organizational problems —  failed to timely pass information back and forth between the Potts estate and her client and his lawyer. Geico did offer to settle up to Harvey’s $100,000 policy limit, but the Potts estate turned that down and went to trial, winning the big jury verdict.

A jury sided with Harvey in his subsequent bad-faith claim against Geico. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the verdict, saying the evidence hadn’t established bad faith, even if Geico had mishandled the claim.

In her opinion, Quince said the 4th DCA misread the high court’s precedents and improperly cited an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that also got Florida law wrong.

The fact that Harvey never turned over the assets statement didn’t matter, Quince argued.

“Nothing in our precedent can be read to suggest that an insurer cannot be found liable for bad faith merely because the insured could have attempted on his own to avoid the excess judgment,” she wrote.

“In fact, our precedent states just the opposite, as it is the insurer who owes a fiduciary obligation to the insured to exercise such control and make such decisions in good faith and with due regard for the interests of the insured.”

To rule otherwise would allow insurance companies to “put forth any evidence that the insured acted imperfectly during the claims process” to absolve themselves of bad faith.

“This would essentially create a contributory negligence defense for insurers in bad faith cases where concurring and intervening causes are not at issue,” she wrote. “We decline to create such a defense that is so inconsistent with our well-established bad faith jurisprudence, which places the focus on the actions on the insurer — not the insured.”

Canady emphasized that Harvey and his attorney knew about the request for the asset information and never offered to provide it.

“It is not that the 4th District erroneously blamed Harvey for failing to do more to avoid the excess judgment. Rather, it is that Harvey and his attorney — not Geico — controlled the only relevant decision that needed to be made,” he wrote.

“Although Geico’s agent handled the claim less than perfectly, negligent claims handling does not equate to bad faith … The majority’s decision to reinstate the jury verdict muddies the waters between negligence and bad faith and bolsters contrived bad faith claims,” he added.

“The result of the majority’s decision is that an insured who caused damages that exceeded his policy limits by over 8,000 percent, who had assets that greatly exceeded his policy limits, and who at no time ever offered to provide his financial information to the third-party claimant despite knowing that the information was being requested even after the policy limits were tendered, has his $100,000 policy converted into an $8.47 million policy, while other insurance customers eventually foot the bill,” Canady concluded.

“Our case law does not support this result.”

In a separate dissent, Polston argued the high court never should have taken the appeal, because the 4th DCA hadn’t got the precedents wrong.

Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large issued a written statement condemning the outcome.

The ruling, “once again confirms that the legislature must set clear, objective standards in statute for avoiding bad faith while settling insurance claims,” he said.

“In this case, Geico tendered its policy limits in nine days, and the 4th District Court of Appeal concluded that Geico had fulfilled every obligation it owed its insured. Yet, the Supreme Court still found room under precedent to allow a jury to turn a $100,000 insurance policy into an $8.47 million judgment.”

Obamacare had little effect on timing of workers’ comp claims, study says

An insurance industry analysis undermines any assumption that employees delay reporting weekend injuries into the work week to take advantage of workers’ compensation benefits.

Were that true, one might expect the number of workers’ comp claims filed during the work week to have declined since the Affordable Care Act brought 8 million people into the ranked of the insured.

That didn’t happen, according to an analysis by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI — an industry data clearinghouse that recommends premium levels in states including Florida.

The study did find a slightly higher number of claims reported on Monday than any other day of the week. But there was no noticeable change after the ACA took effect — not any day of the work week.

The findings held up even accounting for whether a state saw large or small changes in its uninsured population under the ACA.

“Even though WC claim frequency continues to improve—following a trend that began long before the ACA — this study has not found any effect on claim frequency that can be reasonably attributed to the implementation of the ACA,” the study’s authors
reported.

The study compared workers’ comp claims filed between January 2012 and December 2013 — before the ACA — and those between January 2014 and December 2015.

Lost-time claim frequency declined by about 7 percent post-ACA. “This is in line with the long-term decline in WC claim frequency that extends back several decades, prior to the ACA,” the report says.

Monday claims ran slightly ahead of other days of the week. But the difference was minimal — 18.1 percent compared to 17.8 percent on Tuesday and Wednesday, with declining shares through the rest of the week.

The ACA had no effect at all on claims filed on Monday through Wednesday, and minimal changes to other days of the week.

Even when comparing states with high levels of ACA coverage with those with less, there was little if any difference.

“At the state level, there is no apparent relationship between the changes in Monday claim shares and changes in the shares of the population uninsured for health care,” the study found.

Even though it didn’t take advantage of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, Florida ranked among the high-coverage rates, with its uninsured rate declining by 6.8 percent post-ACA. The state’s decline in Monday claims was just 0.13 percent.

Panel seeks pay increase for Florida’s chief investment adviser

Ash Williams, who manages investments for the Florida Retirement System among other funds, would draw a $70,000 annual pay raise under a recommendation approved Monday.

The pay hike, by the state’s Investment Advisory Council, needs the approval of the State Board of Administration, comprising the governor, chief financial officer, and attorney general.

If they go along, Williams would earn $525,000 in base pay, plus incentives. At present, he earns $455,000 in base pay.

Williams thanked the council members — each one an investment heavyweight — following the vote, crediting the overall compensation program for building and retaining a talented group of investment staff.

“The pension funds and the other funds that the SBA manages are performing well,” he said. “Their business models are consistent with best practices, and they’re ahead of their benchmarks.”

Williams performed well against his own benchmarks, according to a performance review conducted by Mercer (U.S.) Inc., a consulting firm. He scored 3.9 overall, on a 4-point scale.

The spike would rank Williams within the 75th percentile of his money manager peers, “which I think is a little less than appropriate because I think he’s been spectacular,” said Michael Price, who chaired the subcommittee that recommended the raise.

View the meeting agenda here (scroll down to Item 8).

Agency staff oversaw $1 billion in growth in the defined-benefits plan for state employees during the past year — for total assets worth $163.1 billion.

Deal on local property tax rates helped stabilize Florida’s budget

A leading Senate budget writer claimed vindication Friday in a lingering dispute with House leaders over whether to allow local school boards to capture all of the value of rising property values when setting local tax rates.

Rob Bradley, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, underscored the point during a presentation on the state’s three-year fiscal outlook by Office of Economic and Demographic Research director Amy Baker.

Baker, the Legislature’s chief economist, expects state revenues to grow by 3.3 percent or so through each of the next three fiscal years. That works out to about $1 billion per year, suggesting a stable budget picture through the near future.

Baker attributed much of that stability to last Session’s legislative compromise on the required local effort, or RLE — the minimum that school districts must raise from property owners to support county schools.

“It would be the RLE decision, mostly — to allow the required local effort to absorb the benefit of new construction,” she said.

For the past four years, the House has insisted on reductions to local property tax rates that leave those taxes level, notwithstanding increases in property values. The Legislature sent state money to help compensate the districts for the revenue losses.

Under the compromise, the House agreed to let local school districts capture the value of new construction for classrooms.

“That one decision really fundamentally changed the nature of short-term and long-term financial outlook for the state budget in a positive direction,” Bradley told reporters following the hearing.

“We need to continue to focus on decisions related to RLE, and we need to very strongly consider going back to the policy of the Legislature from four years ago, whereby the (tax) rate remained the same — there were no tax increases — but there wasn’t a subsidy from the state government to local property taxes,” he said.

Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, took over the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee after Jack Latvala quit the Senate following sexual harassment accusations.

House leaders, by contrast, had argued that if property owners paid more, that would equal a tax increase — even if their tax rates remain the same.

Capturing the full increase in property values would raise an additional $300 million-$323 million dollars per each of the next three fiscal years, Baker said: “Over the three-year period, that would put you somewhere between $900 million and $1 billion.”

Bradley was asked if he had seen any indication that incoming House leadership might soften its approach to the issue.

“That’s why we have Session — to have these discussions,” he said, adding, “It’s not a tax increase. We’ve plowed this ground before, and I look forward to having those discussions.”

Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur, a leading House budget writer who’s term-limited, and who sits on the commission, said the report vindicated his side’s insistence on budget restraint.

Even though he’s leaving, Brodeur has picked up little enthusiasm among House members for significant spending increases on, for example, expanding Medicare eligibility, as Democrats including gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum have advocated.

Such ideas “are simply out the window,” Brodeur said.

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