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Workers’ Comp Could Return Next Session

Apr 13, 2018
Originally published on April 13, 2018 7:35 am

Expect efforts to revamp workers’ compensation insurance laws to return as new House and Senate leaders take over for the 2019 legislative session, according to Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier.

Altamier, who has been commissioner for nearly two years, said this week “a lot of people” continue to believe that a 2016 Florida Supreme Court ruling that tossed out strict caps on attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases will “have a negative impact on rates in the long run” and that changes are necessary to prevent employers’ premiums from increasing.

Altmaier, though, conceded that the legislative will to tackle workers’ compensation will depend on several things, including proposed rates that the National Council on Compensation Insurance will file with the Office of Insurance Regulation.

The Legislature also will have new leaders, with Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano slated to become Senate president and Miami Lakes Republican Jose Oliva poised to become House speaker.

The leadership change, which will formally happen after the November elections, will impact whether issues are addressed, Altmaier said.

“Just purely speculation on my part, I would imagine that workers’ compensation will be a discussion topic for the Legislature next year,” he said. “They’ll obviously have new presiding officers next year and new committee chairpeople, presumably, so what their priorities wind up being, I’m not sure at this point. It’s pretty early to tell.”

It’s not even clear that Altmaier will have the same position for the 2019 legislative session.

The insurance commissioner works at the pleasure of the governor and the state chief financial officer. Moreover, a majority of the state Cabinet also must agree to keep him in charge of the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam all face term limits this year, though Putnam is running for governor.

CFO Jimmy Patronis --- appointed by Scott to fill the vacancy left by Jeff Atwater, who resigned last year for a job at Florida Atlantic University --- is running for a full term and could return to the Cabinet. Altmaier shrugged when asked whether he would be heading the Office of Insurance Regulation next legislative session.

“I have no idea,” he said. “We are focused on the rest of this year, and we’ll think about next year when next year gets here.”