Legislative Session Shows Continuing Power Of Corporate Lobbyists

Legislative Session Shows Continuing Power Of Corporate Lobbyists

Coming into this year’s legislative session, we hoped Florida would finally ditch our outdated “no fault” auto insurance system. Several legislators wanted to change Florida to the type of fault-based insurance system used in most other states.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Insurance companies may complain about paying PIP benefits, but they love collecting PIP premiums. They fought the proposed repeal by circulating a report which predicted the repeal of no-fault would jack up insurance rates.

That report was based on some dubious assumptions, as we and many others explained at the time. Nonetheless, it appeared to damage the momentum no-fault repeal had been gathering. Lawmakers hesitated, and the bill failed.

That means we’re all stuck with a system no one else likes for at least another year. But insurance companies are happy in the meantime. They’ll keep receiving, and raising, premiums for PIP coverage. And Florida auto insurance consumers will pay more.

A similar thing happened in this session with a bill designed to deter human trafficking. The bill created legal claims for victims against human traffickers. It also gave victims the right to go after hotels or other places which enabled, or at least turned a blind eye, to trafficking happening on their premises.

The bill didn’t seem controversial. Victims of human trafficking provided powerful, moving testimony in support. No one criticized the bill in public, and no one voted against it as it went through committees. It seemed certain to pass.

Behind the scenes, the sailing was not so smooth. The lodging and restaurant industries (infamously including Disney World) quietly lobbied to kill the bill. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Lauren Book, withdrew it from consideration briefly in the face of opposition. She then tried to resurrect it at the end of last week. That effort failed because of procedural concerns, and the bill died. Thus, a bill which no one dared to even vote against initially quietly went away.

Of course, in the wake of the South Florida school shooting, it’s possible that the attention on firearm laws pulled lawmakers away from these issues. Even so, it’s hard to believe guns alone were enough to derail these bills. It’s depressing, but much more likely, that the titans of the insurance, hotel, and restaurant industries got what they wanted. They effectively deployed their lobbying power when they perceived a threat to each of their bottom lines.

Many have commented that there appears to be a crack in the NRA’s armor after the Parkland school massacre. However, when it comes to insurance and other corporate influence, it looks like things haven’t changed in our legislature at all. When it comes to those industries, the voting booth may be the only place where Floridians can put real changes in motion.

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