With Republicans holding all leadership positions in the Florida legislative and executive branches, plus a predicted budget surplus, the 2015 Regular Session was expected to advance smoothly. Yet, a disagreement on health care funding ultimately drove a wedge between the two presiding officers of the Legislature. With three weeks left to go, House and Senate budget chairs conceded they could not find common ground to bridge the almost $4 billion gap between the House and the Senate budget plans. The result was a historic act of the House that adjourned “sine die” on Tuesday, April 28th, three days before the scheduled end on Friday, May 1st.
The question remains, “How will the budget impasse be resolved”? Legislators must approve a budget by July 1st, which marks the beginning of the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year when the budget is supposed to take effect. The Senate has proposed a special session for June 1st-20th, but the House has yet to reply to the suggestion. In addition to the budget dilemma, lawmakers will also face an early start to the 2016 Regular Session. Instead of the customary begin date of the “first Tuesday, of the first full week in March”, the 2016 Regular Session is scheduled to begin January 12th. This means interim committee meetings will most likely begin in September.
Despite the debacle on the budget, a number of insurance issues were approved this session, including:
- Countersignature Requirement – Ensures that the absence of a countersignature does not affect the validity of a property, casualty, or surety insurance policy or contract.
- Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services– The Department of Financial Services (DFS) made several changes to the insurance agent and agency licensure laws, such as: reducing the number of lines the agent in charge must be licensed to transact; removing the general lines agent’s limitation to only sell health insurance when that health insurance is from an insurer that the agent represents for property and casualty insurance; and, eliminating the exam for customer representative licensing.
- Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) – Creates a uniform assessment percentage to be collected from policyholders to cover the cost of claims when a property and casualty insurer becomes insolvent; and, authorizes FIGA to use a monthly installment method for the collection of emergency or regular assessments.
Numerous bills did not pass this session due to the unanticipated early end, including:
- Bad Faith Actions – Would have required, amongst other provisions that before a claimant/insured could bring forth an action alleging bad faith, they must provide a written notice of loss to the insurer.
- Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) – Would have addressed the regulation of TNCs, as well as the insurance issues that emerged as a result of this new industry.
- Assignment of Benefits – Would have restricted post-loss assignment of benefits in homeowners’ insurance.