Florida Supreme Court Archives - Page 6 of 47 - Florida Politics

Supreme Court denies Aramis Ayala’s first writ to win back cases Rick Scott reassigned

The Florida Supreme Court denied the first attempt by Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala to win back first-degree murder cases that Gov. Rick Scott reassigned to another state attorney.

In denying Ayala’s emergency, non-routine petition to overturn Scott’s executive orders reassigning the cases to Ocala’s State Attorney Brad King, the Supreme Court concluded that the matter “is more properly addressed” through her other legal challenge, a writ of quo warranto, which she later filed.

That leaves the matter where most expected it to be left, in her second challenge of Scott’s action, a case that has drawn broad support for both Ayala and Scott from a variety of outside groups who expect the ruling to be pivotal in determining the extent of powers in Florida of both the state attorney and the governor.

At issue are Ayala’s refusal to pursue death penalty prosecutions in her 9th Judicial Circuit, and Scott’s determination that she is derelict in her duties, giving him the responsibility to reassign potential death penalty cases to someone else, in this case to King in Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

In a ruling issued late Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied the first petition from Ayala, stating, “The Petition asks this Court to answer the same question of law, on a temporary basis, that the Court is asked to address in the separately filed Petition for Writ of Quo Warranto. That question is more properly addressed after both parties have been heard in the Quo Warranto action and will not be answered on a “temporary” basis.”

blackjack

Senate budges little in initial gambling negotiation

Saying he wanted to “start taking small steps,” state Sen. Bill Galvano on Monday tendered the first offer in the Legislature’s negotiation on a gambling bill this year.

The initial tender, though it largely maintains what’s in the Senate’s bill, also would classify contentious “pre-reveal” games as slot machines, and would limit two new slots facilities to either Broward or Miami-Dade counties.

A circuit court ruling last month against the state said entertainment devices that look and play like slot machines, called “pre-reveal” games, were “not an illegal slot machine or gambling device.” House leaders in particular feared that meant they would wind up in bars, restaurants, and even in family fun centers.

The Senate offer also would give the state more time, up to two years, to address any future violation of blackjack exclusivity brought by the Seminole Tribe of Florida with a legislative fix. That also was addressed to court rulings that create such “violations.”

The House and Senate are far apart on their respective gambling bills this session, with the House holding the line on gambling expansion, and the Senate pushing for new games.

A deal is pending to grant continued blackjack exclusivity to the tribe in return for $3 billion over seven years, though that money isn’t part of ongoing budget talks between the House and Senate. A request for comment is pending with the Tribe’s spokesman.

Galvano’s House counterpart, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, said he appreciated the offer “to get the conversation going,” specifically mentioning the 2-year provision in the context of court decisions on gambling.

“There are still plenty of threats out there and we’re constantly playing a game of catch-up,” he said. Diaz added that he expects to respond some time later this week: “There is some low-hanging fruit here and some more complicated issues to work through.” The 2017 Legislative Session is scheduled to meet May 5.

Galvano mentioned last Thursday’s Supreme Court decision that cleared the “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment for the 2018 ballot.

He surmised from Justices Ricky Polston‘s and R. Fred Lewis‘ dissent in that case that the court is ready to rule in favor of expanding slot machines to counties that approved them in local referendums.

“One can almost glean from the dissent that it’s a fait accompli just pending in the court,” Galvano said. “Either we do it or the courts are going to do it.”

“When I look at the dissenting opinion, it almost references (new slots in referendum counties) as if they’re existing,” Galvano later told reporters. “All of these things play into the big picture.”

He also has concerns that the amendment, if adopted, could retroactively quash new slots approved for Hialeah. When asked whether he were reading between the lines, he added, “That’s a good way of putting it.”

Gambling deal may come down to slots question

Seeing it as the “lesser of various evils” to pass a gambling bill this year, the House may give in to the Senate’s position to legislatively approve new slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them, according to those familiar with the negotiations.

As of early Monday, the Conference Committee on Gaming was set to meet later in the day at 1:30 p.m., though an official notice had not yet gone out.

The House and Senate are far apart on their respective gambling bills this session, with the House holding the line on gambling expansion, and the Senate pushing for new games. Both sides also want to see some new agreement with the Seminole Tribe on continued exclusivity to offer blackjack in exchange for $3 billion over seven years.

What’s becoming clearer as the 2017 Legislative Session’s May 5th end looms is House leadership’s distress at recent court decisions, the practical effect of which is opening up more gambling opportunities without legislative say.

Sources had said conference chair and state Sen. Bill Galvano had gotten “spooked” by a Supreme Court decision last Thursday that cleared for the 2018 ballot a “Voter Control of Gambling” amendment, giving voters the power to OK or veto future casino gambling in the state.

Vice-chair and state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz confirmed that Galvano, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, wanted to make sure the amendment “wouldn’t affect the Senate’s offer.”

But one representative of gambling interests throughout the state, who asked not to be named, said the House “was very careful in not taking the referendum counties issue off the table.”

A second person said that “(a)ll things considered, that was way down on the list of things that gave them heartburn.”

More concerning was a 1st District Court of Appeal opinion earlier this month against the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulated gambling, ordering the reinstatement of a South Florida casino’s application for a new “summer jai alai” permit.

Taken to one logical extension, the ruling could lead to “mini-casinos” in hotels, they say. Miami-Dade lawmakers in particular have been concerned about Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Hotel pursuing slot machines in the last few years. At a minimum, such permits allow a pari-mutuel facility to open a cardroom and offer simulcast betting.

Another circuit court ruling last month against the department said entertainment devices that look and play like slot machines, called “pre-reveal” games, were “not an illegal slot machine or gambling device.” Judge John Cooper reasoned that was because players “press a ‘preview’ button before a play button can be activated.”

That ruling’s applicability was, at first, unclear: Because Cooper is a circuit judge, some state officials said his order only applied in north Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit of Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties.

Later, attorneys in the industry argued Cooper’s decision applied all over Florida, because it was against the department that regulates gambling statewide. That had House leaders “freaked out” that pre-reveal games would start appearing in bars, restaurants, and even in family fun centers.

Meantime, Galvano and others in the Senate fixated on the dissent in the gambling amendment case, and its implication on what’s known as the “Gretna case.”

Justices Ricky Polston and R. Fred Lewis said the amendment’s “ballot title and summary do not clearly inform the public that the proposed amendment may substantially affect slot machines approved by county-wide (referendums).”

With Lewis signing on to the dissent, “that made us think there was another vote in favor of Gretna that we didn’t think was there,” said yet another person in the gambling industry.

The court has not yet ruled in a case, pending since oral argument was given last June, on Gretna Racing. That’s the Gadsden County track seeking to add slot machines; pari-mutuel interests have said Gretna and other facilities in counties where voters approved slots should be allowed to offer them.

If the court rules in favor, that could result in the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

“I think the House is fed up with it,” said the first industry consultant, referring to gambling-related court decisions. “The only way they can get a handle on (gambling expansion) is to get a bill done, and if that means throwing in the towel on slots in referendum counties, that’s the lesser of the various evils.”

If another SCOTUS opening occurs, will Charles Canady get a serious look?

According to Sen. Charles Grassley, the U.S. Supreme Court may need to fill another opening this summer. The Iowa Republican, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not name names, but rumors are swirling it could be the Court’s swing vote, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy.

If that occurs, President Trump will go back to his list of 21 potential nominees, now numbering 20 after the elevation of Neil Gorsuch. Rumored to be on the short list before Gorsuch’s selection was Judge William Pryor of Alabama from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Diane Sykes of Wisconsin from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

If those rumors are true, will those three again go to the top? How about some of the others? Also on the Trump list are Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady and Judge Federico Moreno from the Southern District of Florida.

The next nominee will be an appeals court judge or a state supreme court justice. Moreno and Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee are the only two not fitting that description. Moreno’s logical next step is a promotion to the court of appeals.

Will Canady receive serious consideration this time? He has similar educational training to the current Court.

All 9 current justices studied law at either Harvard or Yale (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started at Harvard, but earned her law degree from Columbia). Canady received his degree from Yale, while Pryor came from Tulane, Sykes from Marquette, and Hardiman from Georgetown. Gorsuch attended Harvard and Oxford.

As a former state legislator, four-term Congressman and General Counsel for Gov. Jeb Bush, Canady understands the separation of powers between the three branches of government. He was Chief Justice from 2010-2012 and along with Ricky Polston, comprise the Court’s reliable conservative minority.

If Gov. Rick Scott wanted to bend Trump’s ear about Canady, the President would certainly listen. There is no question Scott and Trump are of like minds on many topics in addition to jobs. Another Trump friend, Attorney General Pam Bondi, could do the same.

On the downside, Canady will be 63 years old in June. Next to Moreno (64) and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young, who is 65, Canady is the oldest on the list.

Pryor is 55, Sykes 58 and Hardiman is 52. The thought of having someone on the bench for 30 years is an appealing quality for a sitting president.

Confirmation hearings would certainly be lively. Millennials will not likely recall the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, but Canady was one of the House prosecutors. Would Democrats have fun with that?

How about being questioned by Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham? The South Carolina Republican was also one of the impeachment prosecutors (known as House Managers).

How juicy would it be for Canady to be tapped and for Charlie Crist to receive some credit for raising Canady’s profile? It was then-Governor Crist who appointed Canady to the Florida Supreme Court.

Perhaps Canady wound up on Trump’s list as a favor to Scott, or the president will actually give him a serious look. No one has retired yet, but that doesn’t stop playing the “what ifs” game in the meantime.

Families of homicide victims, ACLU, Janet Cruz join filers in Aramis Ayala case

Friends of the court are beginning to crowd into the Florida Supreme Court case pitting Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Gov. Rick Scott, with families of homicide victims siding with Scott, and the ACLU and House Minority Leader Janet Cruz siding with Ayala on Friday.

Several filings Friday are loading the case with friends. Also Friday, a group of more than 40 former judges and prosecutors filed a brief supporting Ayala’s case, and a group of Democratic Florida lawmakers filed their promised brief supporting her.

Now on the way is a brief from family members of homicide victims including those of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton and Sade Dixon, who asked the court for permission to file their brief supporting Scott.

And a coalition of several groups led by the ACLU asked to file on Ayala’s behalf Friday.

Cruz filed requesting to join the group of Democratic lawmakers, led by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, supporting Ayala.

Those are all in addition to amicus briefs filed or pledged by another coalition of groups supporting Ayala, and the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Florida House of Representatives supporting Scott.

Ayala and Scott are battling over whether she has the right to refuse to pursue death penalty prosecutions in her 9th Judicial Circuit, as she has declared; and whether he has the right to intervene and reassign her potential death-penalty cases to other state attorneys. He has reassigned 23 of her first-degree murder cases to State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit. She has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to determine if he can do so, and has sued Scott in federal court.

The homicide victims’ families include those of Clayton and Dixon, who were slain in January in a case that sparked outrage throughout Central Florida, and then fired a storm against Ayala when she announced in March that she would not seek any death penalty prosecutions, starting with that case against suspect Markeith Loyd. Others seeking to file in support of Scott include the families of 9th Judicial Circuit homicide victims Darrell Avant Jr., Jasmine Samuel, Elena Ortega, Alexandria Fransa Chery, and Teresa Ann Green.

The Supreme Court granted their requests Friday. They’ve promised to file their brief by May 3.

“The Family Members have special rights afforded by the Florida Constitution and statutes. The Florida Supreme Court would benefit greatly from the unique perspective of this group so seriously affected by the Petitioner’s refusal to consider their constitutional and statutory rights,” their filing states.

“Family Members can provide the Court useful insight regarding the Petitioner’s disregard of a homicide victim’s family’s rights and input in making prosecution decisions,” the filing continues.

The other new request for a friend of court brief came from a coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the Sentencing Project, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Earlier the Florida State Conference of the NAACP had filed a friend-of-the-court brief favoring Ayala, as part of a coalition that was formed and is led by The Advancement Project’s National Office.

The ACLU coalition request also was approved right away Friday.

“The proposed amicus curiae brief would address the crucial question of the Governor’s authority to reassign 23 capital cases from State Attorney Ayala to a different State attorney not elected by the people of the Ninth Judicial Circuit,” The ACLU request states. “It will further address why the Governor lacks authority to reassign the cases, as he claims, under Section 27.14, Florida Statute.”

 

More than 40 top judicial, prosecutorial officials to file in support of Aramis Ayala

A group of more than 40 former Florida Supreme Court justices, and judges, prosecutors and legal officials from throughout the country are filing an amicus brief supporting Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala in her power-struggle with Gov. Rick Scott, contending that the issues in their court battles are of national importance.

“By seeking to remove Ayala from all cases that might implicate the death penalty, the Governor does serious damage to the fundamental values of separation of powers and the democratic process, and threatens the bedrock principle of prosecutorial independence upon which much of our criminal justice system rests,” the brief argues.

The group includes former Florida Supreme Court justices Harry Lee Anstead, Rosemary Barkett, Gerald Kogan, and James E.C. Perry; former United States Solicitors General Walter Dellinger, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., and Seth Waxman; four former Supreme Court justices from other states; five current or former state attorneys general from other states, and dozens of current or former judges, prosecutors, and justice officials from throughout the country. Anstead, Barkett and Kogan are former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court.

Ayala and Scott are battling over whether she has the right to refuse to pursue death penalty prosecutions in her 9th Judicial Circuit, as she has declared; and whether he has the right to intervene and reassign her potential death-penalty cases to other state attorneys. He has reassigned 23 of her first-degree murder cases to State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit. She has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to determine if he can do so, and has sued Scott in federal court.

Scott’s action “is a dangerous, dangerous thing,” former Florida Chief Justice Kogan, who left the Florida Supreme Court in 1999, said to FloridaPolitics.com.

“Let’s assume for a moment that the governor did have the authority to move a state attorney or a district attorney off the case. What’s going to happen, it may not be limited in the long run to capital cases. It could be any case,” said Kogan, a former capital crimes prosecutor and criminal justice chief judge in Miami-Dade County. “So absolutely, you could have the governor as the one who is going to be running the prosecution in that particular state. That’s not what we have, with the balance of power and three equal parts of government philosophy.”

Such a precedent in authority could even lead to the point of the governor controlling prosecutions of overtly political cases, steering them to friendly prosecutors, he cautioned.

The group of judicial and prosecutorial officials intends to file their brief supporting Ayala in the Florida Supreme Court case, arguing that the traditional concept of prosecutorial independence is at stake, not just in Florida but nationally.

“The Florida Constitution establishes a decentralized prosecutorial system, which ensures that prosecutorial decisions will be made at the local level without interference from statewide officials,” the brief argues. Scott’s intervention, it charges, “usurps the will of Florida voters and the interests of justice.”

Written by Verrilli, former United States solicitor general under President Barack Obama and now a partner in Munger, Tolles & Olson in Washington D.C., the brief argues that Ayala has the discretion to decide whether to ever seek a death sentence and to establish an office policy on the matter.

It states, “Across the country, prosecutors routinely exercise their discretion by articulating a general policy regarding charging, diversion, sentencing, and enforcement priorities.”

The brief cites relevant policies created by head prosecutors in jurisdictions across the country, including Oregon, New York, and Chicago.

Oscar Braynon, four other Democrats, set to file in support of Aramis Ayala

Five Democratic lawmakers led by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon are preparing to file a brief with the Florida Supreme Court in support of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala in her effort to challenge Gov. Rick Scott‘s power to take cases away from her.

Braynon, state Sens. Jeff Clemens, Perry Thurston, and Gary Farmer, and state Rep. Sean Shaw all filed a request Thursday with the Supreme Court to enter an amicus brief supporting Ayala and opposing Scott. The court quickly approved it.

Braynon is from Miami Gardens; Clemens, Lake Worth; Thurston and Farmer from Fort Lauderdale and Shaw from Tampa.

They explicitly stated in their friend-of-the-court brief would “provide an alternative perspective to that of amici Florida House of Representatives.” The Florida House, under the leadership of Speaker Richard Corcoran, also has sought and received court permission to enter an amicus brief, theirs on the side of Scott. That brief has not yet been filed.

The matter involves Ayala’s announcement that she would not pursue death penalty prosecutions, and Scott’s response of signing executive orders to reassign 23 first-degree murder cases from her in the 9th Judicial Circuit to State Attorney Brad King in the 5th Judicial Circuit. Ayala filed a complaint with the Supreme Court last week seeking writ of warrento, seeking to force Scott to prove he has the authority to do so.

The Democratic lawmakers alternative brief, according to the request filed Thursday,  “would address whether Governor Scott acted within the authority provided under Article IV, Section 1, Florida Constitution, and Section 27.14, Florida Statutes, when he issued executive orders that assigned another State Attorney to discharge the duties of the Petitioner Ayala with respect to a specific case or class of cases is whether there is ‘any good and sufficient reason the Governor thinks that the ends of justice would best be served.’ Austin v. State, 310 So. 2d 289, 292 (Fla. 1975).”

The Democrats expect to have their brief filed by Friday.

 

 

Supreme Court OKs gambling control, felon voting rights amendments

The state’s highest court on Thursday gave its approval for proposed state constitutional amendments on voter approval of new gambling and restoring voting rights to ex-cons.

But there’s a big ‘if’ before either can be placed on the 2018 statewide ballot—both amendments still need hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Moreover, Justices Ricky Polston and R. Fred Lewis dissented on the gambling amendment, saying “the ballot title and summary do not clearly inform the public that the proposed amendment may substantially affect slot machines approved by county-wide (referendums).”

The Florida Supreme Court does not pass judgment on subject matter, but reviews proposed amendments only to make sure they cover only one subject and that their ballot title and summary aren’t misleading.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has approved the language of this amendment,” said John Sowinski, chair of Voters In Charge, the group behind the “Voter Control of Gambling in Florida” amendment.

“(W)e can move forward with our efforts to ensure that Florida voters – not gambling industry influence and deal making – are the ultimate authority when it comes to deciding whether or not to expand gambling in our state,” he added in a statement.

Voters in Charge wants to “ensure that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says.

The court, however, has not yet ruled in a case on Gretna Racing, the Gadsden County track seeking to add slot machines. Pari-mutuel interests have said Gretna and other facilities in counties where voters approved slots should be allowed to offer them.

If the court rules in favor, that could result in the single biggest gambling expansion in the state. The case has been pending since last June, when lawyers gave oral argument.

As of Thursday, state records showed the gambling amendment had 74,626 of the 766,200 valid signatures required for ballot placement.

“We will continue to collect the remaining petitions required to achieve ballot placement in 2018,” Sowinski said. “The expansion of gambling in Florida carries with it such significant consequences for our state that any decision to do so should rest with the people of Florida.’’

The “Voting Restoration Amendment,” backed by Floridians for a Fair Democracy, has 71,209 valid signatures. The court approved that amendment unanimously.

It aims to restore “the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation,” its summary says.

“The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis,” it adds.

“Today is a momentous day,” said Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and chairman of Floridians for a Fair Democracy. “The Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Voting Restoration Amendment to move forward marks a key milestone on our path to a stronger democracy and a fairer Florida … Those who have paid their debt to society deserve a second chance.”

ACLU of Florida Political Director Kirk Bailey said in a statement his organization was the “language approved today reflects the belief that those who have committed crimes should be punished, but once they have fulfilled the terms of that punishment, they should be restored to full citizenship.’

Florida is one of only three states with a lifetime ban on voting, he added: “This amendment modernizes Florida’s criminal justice rules by bringing our state in line with others nationwide.”

In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet ended the automatic restoration of voting and other civil rights to nonviolent felons after their sentences are up, requiring at least a five-year waiting period before ex-convicts can apply to get their rights back.

 

Florida prosecutors’ group to weigh in on Rick Scott’s side in Aramis Ayala dispute

The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association – which represents the states’s 20 state attorneys including Orlando’s Aramis Ayala – will be filing an amicus brief against her and supporting Gov. Rick Scott‘s power to reassign state attorneys’ cases.

The association filed a motion Wednesday morning requesting the chance to weigh in as a friend of the court on Scott’s side, and the Florida Supreme Court quickly approved it Thursday.

Using executive orders, Scott reassigned 23 first-degree murder cases from Ayala, of Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, to State Attorney Brad King, of the 5th Judicial Circuit, because Ayala announced last month she would not pursue death penalty prosecutions.

Ayala challenged the governor’s authority to do so last week in a write of quo warrento to the Supreme Court, and in a separate lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Her colleagues, apparently, agree that Scott has the power to intercede and reassign state attorneys’ cases.

The association promised it would file its brief by May 3.

Ayala did not oppose the association’s move. In addition to representing the 20 elected state attorneys, the association also represents more than 2,000 assistant state attorneys in Florida.

The association offered that its friend of the court brief, “would provide the Court useful insight regarding the role of state attorneys as quasi-judicial officers and their duties as prescribed by the constitution and the laws of Florida. The brief would also address the discretionary powers of state attorneys and their accountability for their conduct as well as the authority of the Governor to assign state attorneys to other circuits for the handling of certain cases pursuant to section 27.14 Florida Statutes.”

Section 27.14 of the Florida Statutes details circumstances in which a governor can reassign a state attorney.

 

Danny Burgess: It’s vital Florida workers get care they need

A lot of people talk about jobs. How to create them, how to save them, or how to move them.

No matter what side of the “jobs argument” you are on, one thing is certain. There can be no job without a worker to perform that job. That worker is – normally – a human being subject to the vicissitudes of life.

That’s why there’s workers’ compensation insurance – which is coverage purchased by an employer to provide benefits for job-related employee injuries. In Florida, virtually all businesses are required to carry it.

I’m sure you’ve heard in the news the dire situation our workers’ compensation insurance the State of Florida is in. Let me give you a little history on how we got here.

In 2003, Florida’s workers’ compensation insurance rates were the highest in the nation. The Florida legislature tackled the crisis and, since 2003, workers’ compensation insurance rates have fallen 61 percent for Florida’s job creators. This was all done without restricting access to courts as the percentage of workers’ compensation cases in which an injured worker was represented by an attorney remained largely the same before and after the reforms. In addition, these reforms ultimately saved Florida business owners over $3 billion in insurance premiums.

Enter the Florida Supreme Court. Last year the court invalidated a portion of the earlier reforms that kept costs under control.

Even the most ardent detractors of the 2003 reforms will admit that the elimination of those reforms will increase insurance premium costs to small business. We’ve already seen a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premium rates effective Dec. 1, 2016. That increase would eat away at $435 million of the $3 billion saved by the reforms.

To absorb that cost, employers may choose to shed jobs. Even assuming that each of these jobs pays the average salaried wage in Florida of $46,000, it would, currently, take nearly 65,000 jobs lost to absorb the cost of a $3 billion rate increase.

To put it in perspective, in the last year over 240,000 new jobs were created in Florida. Without fixing the workers’ compensation system a quarter of those jobs could be in jeopardy.

I’ve been fortunate, thanks to Speaker Richard Corcoran and Chairman José Felix Diaz, to lead an effort to prevent that job loss and fix the system. We’ve proposed, and this week will pass, the largest and most comprehensive set of reforms to Florida’s workers’ compensation system in 15 years.

It was vital to me that injured workers get the care they need, while protecting the jobs of the very workers who have been injured.

When we set out to reform Florida’s workers’ compensation system, there were three objectives I sought to achieve. First, the reform had to be constitutional; it would do us no good to pass a bill, and then have the Florida Supreme Court strike it down as unconstitutional. That would put us right back where we are today, with every business in Florida facing an unsustainable 14.5 percent rate hike. Our bill effectively addresses recent case law by not infringing on the injured worker’s access to courts while simultaneously combating the system’s biggest cost drivers, including excessive attorney involvement and fees. This will bring stability to the system and lead to more affordable and significantly lower rates for Florida’s business owners.

Secondly, I believe that we must strike a fair balance between workers and employers. The goal of most injured workers is to get back to work. We should have a system that encourages and medically targets that goal.

Thirdly, I want to ensure that the “Grand Bargain” is kept in place. Without the buy-in of the workforce and the business community — both at the heart of the Grand Bargain — I fear we’ll be right back in the same place next year — a very uncertain place.

This might not be the most exciting issue. The TV cameras won’t be beating down my door. But I’ll rest well at night knowing that real jobs of real families in real need were saved because of what we did. And it doesn’t get much better than that.

___

Danny Burgess represents District 38 in the Florida House of Representatives.

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