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Columns

Conservativism Won in Tallahassee, no Thanks to the Florida Senate

July 17, 2017 - 12:30pm
Everett Wilkinson
Everett Wilkinson

Earlier this month, hundreds of laws enacted by the Florida Legislature went into effect. More notable than the laws that took effect were the laws that did not: policies championed by liberal special interests working hand in hand with some Republican members of the Florida Senate.

These left-wing policies were pushed in Florida’s upper chamber despite Senate President Joe Negron saying, “You are going to see very conservative proposals come out of the Senate.”

In the ensuing months since this comment was made, the “conservative” Florida Senate pursued a repeal of the insurance premium tax credit, attempted to raise taxes, proposed legislation that eroded property rights by calling for the purchase of private farmland that was not for sale through government condemnation, and pushed for a prejudgement interest bill that would have cost businesses millions in payments from frivolous lawsuits.

Eliminating the premium tax credit currently offered to Floridians would have hit families hard in the pocketbook, forcing the cost of insurance to rise to the tune of almost $300 million statewide. The plan was opposed by conservatives in the Florida House and fortunately, the bill died in the Senate.

Following the release of Senate Bill 10 to address issues with Lake Okeechobee, which was Sen. Negron’s top priority, the conservative James Madison Institute released a study showing the plan would significantly erode property rights and cost Florida as many as 4,100 farming jobs. When it became clear that Senate Bill 10 was a job killer and relied heavily on bonding, the bill was amended to use land currently owned by the state. This was a significant victory for defenders of property rights and a strong rebuke of the agenda of radical environmental activists. These activists spend millions annually attacking farmers and make them the scapegoat of nearly every problem involving water in Florida. Their radical beliefs have no place in a Republican agenda, let alone in the Republican-led Florida Senate.

In addition to the Senate’s crusade against property rights, it also dabbled in trial lawyer politics by pursuing a bill known as prejudgement interest. This bill would have cost Florida businesses millions by allowing Florida judges to award damages before a judgement is rendered. This was a top priority of the Florida trial bar and apparently also Joe Negron. It’s utterly disappointing that someone who calls himself a “conservative” not only allowed the legislation to be brought to the floor, but he also considered it a top priority.

Thankfully, the conservatives in the Florida House prevailed in passing a $25,000 increase in the homestead exemption, despite objections from moderate and liberal senators, including some Republicans.

Prior to approving an increase in the homestead exemption, the liberal wing of the Florida Senate Republican caucus attempted to not buy back the Required Local Effort (RLE), which would have resulted in a half billion-dollar property tax increase. Additionally, during budget negotiations, the Florida Senate attempted to raise property taxes on new construction by $143 million to pay for member projects.

Thankfully, all of these liberal proposals were defeated. It’s disappointing that a Republican-controlled chamber would spend so much time pursuing the priorities of the left, when the time should have been spent cutting government red tape, shrinking government, and limiting the influence of activist judges.

Republicans in the Florida Legislature have an opportunity to expand their majorities by adopting policies that uphold the principles of smaller government, lower taxation, and individual rights. Despite the Florida Senate’s resistance to these ideals, I am optimistic that we can continue to demonstrate the strength of conservative governance when members return to Tallahassee next fall.

Everett Wilkinson is an original founder of the Florida Tea Party. He resides in Martin County and is one of Joe Negron’s constituents.

 


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Comments

It certainly seems that the "JOHN MORGAN FAMILY" continues to both AFFECT and EFFECT the entire State of Florida. I see so much press on the "FOR the people" Kings that I can only conclude that they are pure SOCIALISTS. John needs to drop his 'suthin accent and speak in a Russian dialect. MY OPINION!

The conservative, common sense approach to governing is the main reason we moved back to Florida after spending 25 years in California, watching that state implode under liberal, unworkable government policies ruining my native state. So sad. We are so happy with Governor Scott and the legislators who support his and our new President's view of what is best for Florida and for America. It takes work but if we persist, there is no way but up for Florida's future. Thank you!

Judges cannot now nor has ever been able to "award damages" prior to a judgment being entered and the prejudgment interest bill did not change that. An award of damages comes after a verdict has been rendered and the judgment is the monetary award of damages. A business should only fear a judgment and prejudgment interest from "frivolous lawsuits" if they and their lawyers are so unbelievably inept that they cannot prove the case is truly frivolous. Fla. Stat. § 57.105 makes the plaintiff who brings a frivolous lawsuit against a business pay the business' attorney fees. . The statute provides in part: (1) Upon the court’s initiative or motion of any party, the court shall award a reasonable attorney’s fee to be paid to the prevailing party in equal amounts by the losing party and the losing party’s attorney on any claim or defense at any time during a civil proceeding or action in which the court finds that the losing party or the losing party’s attorney knew or should have known that a claim or defense when initially presented to the court or at any time before trial: (a) Was not supported by the material facts necessary to establish the claim or defense; or, (b) Would not be supported by the application of then-existing law to those material facts. Also, the lack of prejudgment interest gives the business defendant the incentive to drag out legitimate lawsuits as long as possible. I cannot tell whether this article is a deliberate attempt to obfuscate and mislead or is based on the failure of the writer to properly educate himself on the topic of prejudgment interest.

Must be a member of the bar ticked off he can't sue and get more money for his frivolous lawsuits that only result in countless expensive settlements. We all know the trial lawyers game - John Morgan and the Miami chapter of the bar have tuaght us how lawyers play the game. But lawyers know this - WE ARE ON TO YOU AND WILL NO LONGER SIT IDLY BY WHILE YOU PICK OUR POCKETS.

How about just pursuing laws that just make sense? The legislature proposes less gov't involvement in our lives, yet they have legislated how medical marijuana should be packaged, schools will be funded, how schools are graded, how schools will test our children, allowed special interests to raise power rates...again, allowed the insurance industry to pay them to pass 3 bills for them, and passed a bill on prayer in schools, which I am all for, however, it violates the constitution's separation of church and state clause and will be shot down in court. How about just doing some things that people want for a change, instead of all of those special interest groups giving them money?

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