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Out of running for FAU presidency, Atwater has $1.1 million for CFO re-election

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 by George Bennett

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater was not one of a Florida Atlantic University selection committee's three finalists for the president's job.

A Florida Atlantic University search committee on Friday tapped former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and two academics — John W. Kelly of Clemson University and Christopher Earley of Purdue University — as finalists for FAU’s vacant presidency, bypassing Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Here’s reporter John Lantigua‘s article on the FAU presidential sweepstakes.

The setback for Atwater is also a setback for politicians who were hoping to have an open CFO race in 2014.

In a post on his Facebook page Friday night, Atwater made it clear he’ll now focus on his re-election bid.

“As I said to my staff about accepting an invitation to apply, my passion for serving as Florida’s CFO and my commitment to working with my great colleagues for years to come remains undiminished,” Atwater wrote.

Also Friday, Atwater’s campaign posted its December fundraising totals. Atwater raised $355,120 during the month and has collected $1,169,876 overall. He has spent $58,931 so far, leaving more than $1.1 million in his campaign account.

The only announced Democrat in the race, William Rankin of Broward County, raised $5,025 in December, primarily from two out-of-state donors who gave $2,500 apiece.

FAU presidential search panel invites Atwater, LeMieux, 8 others for interviews

Monday, January 6th, 2014 by George Bennett

An FAU search committee took about an hour to select 10 presidential candidates for interviews from a list of more than 60 applicants.

BOCA RATON — Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux were among 10 candidates invited today by a presidential search committee to come in for interviews later this week.

The selection committee plans to winnow that field to three after interviews Thursday and Friday. FAU trustees are slated to interview the finalists and choose a president on Jan. 17 to replace Mary Jane Saunders, who resigned in May amid a series of public relations embarrassments.

The idea of a politician at the helm of the 30,000-student university rubbed a few selection committee members the wrong way, however.

“I have no personal ax with Jeff Atwater. I hear he’s a tremendous guy and if he would run for governor I’d be happy to support him,” said selection panelist Dick Schmidt, whose family has been major benefactors to the university. “But I don’t think a politician is sending the right message, certainly to the academic community at large, as to where this university wants to go in the future.”

When LeMieux’s name was brought up, selection committee member Abdol Moabery, a member of FAU’s board of trustees, voiced similar concerns.

“I don’t want to be criticized for this becoming a political race. And it looks like that’s where we’re headed, a political race. If we fill this thing with politicians, it’s my opinion that this process is going to get ugly and I don’t agree with it,” Moabery said.


Former Sen. George LeMieux applies for Florida Atlantic University presidency, draws Scott praise

Sunday, January 5th, 2014 by George Bennett

Former Sen. George LeMieux has submitted an application for president of Florida Atlantic University. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

On the eve of a selection committee meeting to consider candidates for the vacant Florida Atlantic University presidency, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux said today that he has submitted an application for the university’s top job.

LeMieux is the third political figure to announce an interest in the job. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Saturday that he’s applying. State Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, is also seeking the job, along with at least 48 other applicants.

Gov. Rick Scott, who offered glowing words for Atwater on Saturday, praised LeMieux today.

“George LeMieux’s pursuit of the FAU presidency is further proof that Florida’s high-caliber universities attract the best and brightest talent in the country. FAU is fortunate to add to their list of presidency candidates someone like George who has a great vision for our state and would do an outstanding job as president,” Scott said.

LeMieux, 44, served 16 months as a Republican in the U.S. Senate after being appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist to complete the term of former Sen. Mel Martinez, who resigned in 2009. LeMieux didn’t run for the Senate seat in 2010, but opened a campaign in 2011 for the seat of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson before dropping out in 2012.


After CFO Jeff Atwater announces bid for FAU president, Gov. Rick Scott offers praise

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 by George Bennett

Scott praises CFO Atwater after Atwater announces he's pursuing the presidency at Florida Atlantic University.

It’s not an outright endorsement, but it’s a pretty strong statement about the vacant presidency at Florida Atlantic University as a selection committee and trustees prepare to make a choice in the coming weeks.

Gov. Rick Scott praised Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today a few hours after Atwater announced he’s applying for the president’s job at FAU.

“Jeff Atwater has the experience and the skill to be an outstanding president at Florida Atlantic University,” Scott said in a statement this afternoon. “While the school will no doubt consider multiple, qualified, prestigious candidates for the job, FAU would be well served to have a leader like Jeff at the helm.”

Game-changer: Florida CFO Jeff Atwater to seek Florida Atlantic University presidency

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 by George Bennett

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater at a Forum Club of the Palm Beaches luncheon. (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATED with copy of Atwater’s e-mail to staff at end of post.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is applying for the presidency at Florida Atlantic University, according to an e-mail he has sent to his top staffers today.

North Palm Beach Republican Atwater’s decision shakes up FAU’s presidential search as a Monday deadline for applications approaches. If Atwater gets the FAU job, it will open up the race for CFO this year and have implications for 2018, when Atwater has been seen as a likely candidate for governor.

In an interview today, Atwater said he was reluctant to discuss his application because he wants to respect FAU’s selection process.

“I believe whoever has the great privilege to serve as the next president will have the honor of a lifetime,” Atwater said.

In an e-mail sent to staffers in the CFO’s office, Atwater says he was “approached” about applying for the top job at the Boca Raton-based school and decided to do so after “much thought and discussion with my family.” Atwater is the father of two FAU grads and has a daughter attending the school now.


With Florida donors allowed to write bigger checks, Crist takes advantage

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 by George Bennett

Charlie Crist visited the kitchen help during a recent stop in West Palm Beach, but he also made sure to tap donors who can stroke $3,000 checks for his Democratic campaign for governor.

Charlie Crist was quick to take advantage of a new Florida law that allows donors to write much fatter checks to candidates.

Of the $777,925 former Republican Gov. Crist collected in November for his Democratic quest for governor, $432,000 came from 144 contributors who wrote checks for the new statewide maximum of $3,000. Through Oct. 31, the most a contributor could give to a candidate was $500 for a primary and $500 for a general election.

Crist’s Democratic primary foe, former state Sen. Nan Rich, collected two $3,000 checks in November. She raised $31,230 for the month and has raised $255,320 overall.

Gov. Rick Scott officially launched his reelection campaign on Tuesday. His first contribution report will be due next month.

Scott signed a law this year allows a contributor to give up to $3,000 per primary and $3,000 per general election for statewide races. For state legislative and local contests, the new limit is $1,000 per primary and $1,000 per general election.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater collected 43 checks for $3,000 in November. Attorney General Pam Bondi logged 13 contributions at the new $3,000 maximum and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had 10 donors who wrote $3,000 checks.

In Palm Beach County legislative races, Democratic state House candidate David Silvers snagged 13 contributions at the new $1,000 limit in his bid to unseat state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton. State Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Stuart, had nine contributors who wrote $1,000 checks in November.

October money round-up: Nan Rich’s negative cash flow, cabinet members pad totals, Magar rocks

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 by George Bennett

Democratic governor candidate Nan Rich at last month's statewide Democratic convention in Lake Buena Vista.

Fresh Florida campaign finance reports filed this week mark at least two milestones: the beginning of monthly, instead of quarterly, filings and the likely end of Nan Rich‘s status as the Democratic fundraising leader in the 2014 governor’s race.

Rich raised $8,291 in October while spending $8,788. Since April 1, former Senate Democratic Leader Rich has raised $102,419 and spent $135,701. For her entire campaign, which began in April 2012, she has raised $224,065 and spent $161,805.

Rich remains the top Democratic fundraiser for governor in current Division of Election records because former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist didn’t open his Democratic campaign for governor until Nov. 1 and won’t file his first money report until next month.

Crist might have passed Rich’s 18-month fundraising total in his first week as a candidate. At an event in Broward County last week, former Democratic state Sen. Steve Geller said Crist raised about $500,000 combined for his campaign and for the political committee Charlie Crist For Florida. Geller, who helped organize the event, said he didn’t know how much money went directly to Crist’s campaign and how much to the committee.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s “Let’s Get To Work” committee raised $824,835 during October and has about $17 million in cash on hand.

Some other highlights from the October money reports after the jump…


Another Democrat steps forward to take on Atwater

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

With this weekend’s Florida Democratic Party conference at Disney World marking the unofficial start of campaign season, a newly minted Cabinet contender is trying to catch some attention.

We comply.

William Rankin, 53, of Fort Lauderdale fired off a round of news releases late Tuesday announcing that he is challenging Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a former North Palm Beach state senator and banker.

“This campaign is about us, the people of Florida, and bringing the voice of the people back to Tallahassee,” Rankin said. “We must promote ideas and actions that benefit our economy and restore public trust in our government.”

Rankin is a former director of asset management for the state of Ohio who has lived in Florida since 2000. He’s also a former U.S. Army special agent who specialized in economic fraud investigations.

Atwater, who is seeking a second term as CFO, has raised more than $500,000 for the campaign. An earlier Democratic contender, Allie Braswell, ran a four-day campaign before bowing out after acknowledging a history of personal bankruptcies.

Advocates blast Scott for fanning fear of ObamaCare

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by John Kennedy

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act pushed back Wednesday against Gov. Rick Scott and Republican Cabinet members who a day earlier raised concerns that the privacy of uninsured Floridians could be compromised when they sign-up this fall for health coverage.

“The governor of a state with more than 4 million uninsured should not be discouraging people from getting care,” said Monica Russo of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is assisting non-profit organizations contracted with federal authorities as “navigators” in getting the word out about enrollment beginning Oct. 1.

Nick Duran, the Florida director for Enroll America, which is leading the effort, said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday that surveys show 55 percent of uninsured Floridians are unaware of the enrollment requirement.

Meanwhile, the Republican-ruled Florida state government has taken few steps to advance enrollment, advocates said. Florida had earlier spearheaded an unsuccessful legal campaign by two-dozen states looking to block the Affordable Care Act from taking effect.

“We have not had much help from the state, to tell you the truth,” said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida CHAIN, a statewide health advocacy organization that will receive federal grant money as a navigator. “It’d be helpful if they got the word out.”

By contrast, Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater raised concerns at a Cabinet meeting in Miami on Tuesday, warning that the enrollment process could lead to privacy violations and identity theft affecting many low-income Floridians.

Bondi also is among 13 Republican state attorneys general who last week demanded that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius answer questions about the navigator program.

“Federal safeguards that should be in place to protect our privacy are behind schedule and inadequate,” Scott said. “It is unclear how the federal government will protect personal information from being stolen or otherwise misused.”

Advocates say that many of the nonprofits doing the outreach already contract with the state for various programs. State legislators during the 2013 session approved a health law (SB 1842) that requires navigators hired in Florida to be registered with the state, be U.S. citizens or legal aliens and undergo background checks by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Stung by bankruptcy revelations, Democratic CFO candidate withdraws after four days

Monday, August 19th, 2013 by George Bennett

Four days after launching a 2014 candidacy for Florida chief financial officer with the backing of the Florida Democratic Party, Allie Braswell is withdrawing from the race.

Braswell’s campaign was reeling from revelations, first reported by the Florida Times Union, that he filed for bankruptcy three times in two states since the 1990s.

“The bright spotlight of a statewide campaign has cast the ups and downs of my life into harsh relief, and I now know that this campaign is not the way I was meant to serve my community,” Braswell said in a statement released this morning.

Hoping to unseat Republican CFO Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, the Florida Democratic Party threw its support behind Braswell, a former Marine who was a Disney executive and president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League.

“I am thrilled that Allie Braswell is running for Florida’s CFO, because he’s exactly the kind of leader we need in Tallahassee,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant on Thursday.

Democratic strategist Kevin Cate, who was press secretary to former CFO Alex Sink, applauded Braswell’s quick departure.

“Good call by Allie Braswell. I’ve never seen a worse candidate roll out in my life,” Cate told Twitter followers.

Read Braswell’s entire statement after the jump….


Atwater gets Democratic challenger

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A Democratic candidate said Thursday he plans to challenge Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a former Palm Beach Gardens state lawmaker in his first term.

Allie Braswell, president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League and an ex-Marine, plans to take on Atwater, who was Florida’s leading statewide vote-getter in the 2010 election. Atwater also is a robust fund-raiser but Braswell says he will run against Tallahassee.

“We need a leader who will help protect taxpayers by cracking down on huge contracts that politicians are handing over to their supporters and political allies,” Braswell said. ”I’ll be a fiscal watchdog who will hold our government and politicians accountable and fight to shift the focus of our leaders away from helping their friends and back to attracting good jobs to Florida.”

An Atwater spokesman, Brian Hughes, said Democrats are jumping the gun with Braswell’s announcement.

“Mr. Braswell and Democrats want to focus on politics well over a year before Election Day,” Hughes said.  “Jeff Atwater is focused on serving Floridians by working to bring relief to insurance ratepayers and fighting the consumer fraud that steals from seniors and families.”




With almost $500,000 settlement, Scott and Atwater achieve dubious victory

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Tuesday that state offficials have agreed to an almost $500,000 settlement with a Tallahassee art gallery and a construction firm ensnared in a controversy stemming from the new First District Court of Appeal building.

The settlement still must be approved by the Legislative Budget Commission. And even though the state is paying not only the full amount owed Signature Art Gallery and Peter Brown Construction — plus the private companies’ legal fees — Republican leaders cast the settlement as a victory for taxpayers.

The companies will be paid the $392,658.56 owed them, along with $122,224.14 for litigation and other costs, according to the settlement.

“Our most important goal is to protect taxpayer dollars to best meet the needs of Florida families,” Scott said. “It was right to ask for a rigorous and thorough review of the tax dollars
committed to this project.”

Atwater, a former North Palm Beach legislator, said, “With this settlement, the parties now agree that it is appropriate for the Legislature to determine the legitimacy of the payment request.”

The stand-off with the contractors began in 2010, when Atwater’s predecessor, Democrat Alex Sink, completed an audit of the First DCA project a month before her defeat by Scott in the governor’s race. She  said a “perfect storm” of wrongdoing helped run cost of the project – which she dubbed the Taj Mahal – to $48.8 million, about $17 million more than initial estimates.

The courthouse, she said includes 20 miles worth of imported African mahogany, granite countertops and other luxury fixtures.

It had become a “travesty,”  Sink said, because of a lack of oversight by the state Department of Management Services and bullying by appeals court judges – particularly Chief Judge Paul Hawkes. Hawkes has since stepped down from the court.

Sink froze payments to Signature Gallery for 369 framed, historic photos for for the courthouse. The hardline stance was continued by Atwater after he was elected that fall. The construction company included in the settlement had contracted with Signature Gallery to provide the art work.

According to the settlement announced Tuesday, the photos don’t sound destined for the First DCA building. Instead, the artwork involved in the settlement will go to the Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs.


New TV spot defends Florida justices

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 by John Kennedy

An organization supporting three Florida Supreme Court justices facing merit retention this fall began running a TV spot Tuesday blasting the “politicians in Tallahassee” for looking to overhaul the court.

The ad, by Defend Justice from Politics, a political spending committee, is airing a spot in West Palm Beach, Miami and Tampa markets that condemn the push to defeat the last three justices appointed by a Democratic governor. The spot calls it a “political power grab.”

Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince are facing what is shaping up as the most vigorous merit retention fight in Florida history.

A small tea party group, Restore Justice 2012 began criticizing justices last year over decisions that blocked measures pushed by the Republican-led Legislature, but the billionaire Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity also recently weighed in with an ad attacking the court.

When the Florida Republican Party’s executive board voted last month to oppose the justices, that seemed to crank up the merit retention contest to a new level.

Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he has no problem with the GOP’s decision, although he steered clear of expressing any opinion about the justices being targeted. Another prominent Republican, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, though, said he was uneasy with the party stepping into the non-partisan retention fight.

Atwater said, “it wouldn’t have been certainly a direction that I would have recommended.”

 “We as a party hold certain principles and we look for policies and candidates who are going to shape those with the expectation that justices are going to just constitutionally use good judgment and rule,” Atwater said.

Here’s Defend Justices’ TV spot:

West, Atwater, Negron fire up crowd before Romney’s Treasure Coast appearance

Sunday, October 7th, 2012 by George Bennett

Allen West works the crowd in Port St. Lucie before this afternoon's Mitt Romney rally

PORT ST. LUCIE — U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, drew shouts of “West! West! West!” and at least one suggestion he run for president when he showed up this afternoon for a Mitt Romney rally at Tradition Square.

“You’ve already got a great candidate,” West said to a man who said he should run for the White House.

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, are among the elected officials on hand. Romney is expected to arrive and speak later this afternoon.

“How about that debate?” Atwater asked the crowd, drawing a big cheer. Romney was the consensus winner of Wednesday night’s first of three presidential debates.

Atwater also got a big response when he mocked former Vice President Al Gore for suggesting Obama’s performance might have suffered because he hadn’t had time to adjust to the altitude in Denver. Atwater noted Denver is where Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in 2008.

“Barack Obama had no problem four years ago standing in front of Greek columns telling us how he would fundamentally change America from Denver,” Atwater said. “It’s time we fundamentally change who sits in the White House.”

Atwater defends Romney, but says he should’ve been ‘on-game’

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Mitt Romney’s closed-door comments in Boca Raton about 47 percent of Americans not paying taxes and being “dependent on government,” were defended by a top Florida supporter Tuesday — although Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater also implied his party’s presidential nominee should have known better.

“Any one of us who believes there’s not a camera on or a recording device or a cell phone, you’re living yesterday,” said Atwater, part of Florida Catholics for Romney’s leadership team. “I think everyone has to be on-game, on-message all the time.”

Atwater said he hadn’t reviewed the tape of Romney’s comments, recorded surreptiously in May at a fundraiser at hedge fund manager Marc Leder’s home and made public this week by Mother Jones magazine. But based on what was reported, Atwater said at least some of Romney’s comments about which voters he could persuade — and which others were unreachable — made sense.

“It seems to me what he was expressing was ‘my job,”‘ Atwater said. “My job is to talk to those individuals I have a chance of persuading. My job is to talk to those folks who may still be open-minded to what I am talking about. If that was the intent of what he was saying, I think all of us have heard candidates speak in…that kind of language.”

Atwater added, “It may not been as artfully expressed…but every candidate has done this.”

But Atwater, a former Senate President from North Palm Beach, distanced himself from Romney’s assessment that almost half the American population is mooching off government.

“We have initiatives that we vote on here in this Legislature every year for people who on any given day are particularly challenged and facing an obstacle like Medicaid. But Medicaid rolls rotate. In two years, six-months, someone is new on and somebody is off. They got their footing again.” 


Atwater joins CNN in jumping the gun on health care ruling

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by George Bennett


With CNN and others initially reporting this morning that the federal health care law’s individual mandate had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater was one of the first elected officials in the state to issue a statement.

A minute later, Atwater was one of the first to issue a retraction.

At 10:10 a.m., Atwater’s office issued a four-paragraph statement commending the justices for striking down the mandate. At 10:11 a.m., Atwater’s office issued a “recall” notice.

Follow the press releases after the jump….


Mack supporters demand LeMieux go away to ‘benefit the entire party’

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Political and financial heavy-weights backing U.S. Rep. Connie Mack are asking George LeMieux step out of the U.S. Senate race, a “difficult and selfless step toward unifying our party now.”

Mack supporters sent a letter to LeMieux saying that with Mack leading in the polls, it’s time for LeMieux to drop out.

“Your withdrawal from the election and endorsement of Connie would be of great benefit to the entire Party as we turn now to the fall elections and unify behind our shared goal of stopping President Obama and Senator Nelson from doing any more damage to our state and country. We thank you for your dedicated service to our Party, and hope that you will not only recognize how important it is for conservatives to win in November, but that you will take the difficult and selfless step toward unifying our Party now,” the group wrote.

The ask comes just days after Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said some influential GOP’ers are trying to convince him to throw his hat into the race because they’re dissatisfied with both LeMieux and Mack and are worried that neither can oust incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

LeMieux spokeswoman Anna Nix responded with a swipe at Mack.

“With Mack the Fourth’s history of violence and financial misconduct, voters will no doubt realize he lacks the maturity to be a United States Senator. George LeMieux is the only candidate who can defeat Bill Nelson in November and end Harry Reid’s reign as Majority Leader,” Nix said in a statement.

Read the entire letter after the jump.

American Conservative Union endorses Mack in Senate race

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 by George Bennett


As Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater mulls a late entry into the GOP Senate primary, the influential American Conservative Union has weighed in for U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Cape Coral.

ACU puts on the annual CPAC conferences and issues yearly ratings of congressional conservatism (Mack got a 92 percent ACU score last year, compared to 100 percent for Sen. Marco Rubio and 88 percent for Reps. Allen West and Tom Rooney).

Mack is running against former appointed Sen. George LeMieux and businessman Mike McCalister for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Here’s the endorsement statement from ACU Chairman Al Cardenas, a former Republican Party of Florida chairman: “From his proven leadership on pro-growth economic policies and energy independence solutions to his courageous efforts to bring attention to dangerous and tyrannical regimes across the world, it is clear Connie Mack is the innovative, conservative leader ready to take on Bill Nelson this fall. Liberals in the Senate have rubber-stamped President Obama’s agenda, and now it is time for voters to hold them accountable. Congressman Mack is one of many great conservatives running for Senate across the country, and the American Conservative Union PAC is proud to endorse him. The ACU PAC urges all Florida conservatives to support Connie Mack for U.S. Senate, and we look forward to aiding his victory in both the primary and general elections.”

Jeff Atwater says he’s considering U.S. Senate run

Monday, April 16th, 2012 by George Bennett

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says he’s considering entering the Republican U.S. Senate primary after being “asked by a number of people who I have tremendous respect for in conservative circles around the state.”

Atwater, a North Palm Beach resident, said he has received several calls in the last few weeks asking him to consider a candidacy.

“I’m going to consider it. I’m going to take a look at it. To date, I haven’t made one outbound phone call,” Atwater said.

Republicans Connie Mack and George LeMieux are the leading Republican contenders to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. But some in the GOP have said they are underwhelmed by the party’s field and its fundraising.

Atwater says he expects to make a decision soon.

PIP overhaul looks like a longshot

Friday, February 24th, 2012 by John Kennedy

The Legislature’s latest bid to revamp personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance looks like it could collapse amid the same intra-industry squabbles that killed previous efforts over much of the past decade.

Gov. Rick Scott is an ardent advocate for reform — tucking the demand for action into his State of the State address in January.

Now, Capitol hall talk is swirling about the idea of a special session on the subject –that amounts to a rhetorical surrender on the idea of any deal being reached before the Legislature’s scheduled March 9 finish.

But House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said Friday that a special session isn’t part of his plans. Prospects for consensus also looks tough, he conceded.

“I don’t know whether we’ll be able to bring the House and Senate positions together before the end of session,” Cannon said. “But I’m not contemplating a special session on the issue.”

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, whose district includes parts of northern Palm Beach County, is sponsoring a bill (SB 1860) that would  enact a series of  reforms, including implementing medical fee schedules, licensing medical clinics that provide personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, and requiring insurers to promptly pay claims.

Negron says his approach is closest to that pitched by Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who are pushing hard to rid the system of fraudulent claims and shady clinics who operate to draw on the $10,000 insurance coverage every Florida motorist is supposed to carry.

The House proposal (CS/HB 119)  by Rep. John Boyd, R-Bradenton, would scrap the state’s PIP law, replacing it with a proposed emergency care insurance that maintains the $10,000 medical coverage, but would require all accident victims to be treated in emergency rooms or by their personal physicians — not clinics — within 72 hours.

Massage therapists, accupuncturists and chiropractors would be from receiving PIP payments for medical treatments, under the House proposal.

The two sides are also split over attorneys fees.


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