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President's Report - January 2021

Joe Catrambone, Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO

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The week of January 11, 2021 marked the first week of interim committee meetings in Tallahassee  prior to the official beginning of the 2021 legislative session on March 2, 2021.

 

As a point of reference I’ve decided to use an excerpt  from my January 2020 President’s Report; “a recent  forecast predicts  200,000 new jobs will be created this year and that Florida’s population growth will rebound from a bit of a slowdown in 2019 to return to a rate of adding about 900 new residents every day.”

In the House, the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee and Health & Human Services Committee held hearings related to COVID-19 liability and how businesses might be impacted.

On Wednesday, January 13 the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee heard HB 7, filed by Representative Lawrence McClure (R-Plant City).  The bill creates liability protections for business entities and other groups that are not grossly negligent and are substantially complying with government-issued standards and guidelines in order to keep employees and customers safe. The intent of HB 7 is to protect businesses from frivolous litigation and allow them to keep their doors open, employees paid and customers safe, all of which are important in helping the economy recover.  HB 7 is backed by the Florida Chamber; it passed 11-6 and likely has two committee hearings remaining before heading to the House Floor.

At this time, HB 7 excludes healthcare providers and institutions; however the House Health & Human Services Committee held a workshop Thursday on how best to protect our frontline workers from unnecessary litigation arising from COVID-19 and its consequence. The Health & Human Services Committee heard testimony on the challenges the health care industry is facing during the pandemic and how those unique and largely unprecedented challenges expose them to liability.  Providers had to deal with the potential exposure to COVID-19, both by patients and employees, and had patients entering their facilities without knowing if they had COVID-19.  Due to executive order there was a delay in elective procedures, which in some instances delay diagnosis. A universal shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the beginning of the pandemic also allowed for additional exposure to liability.  Like in HB 7, the healthcare community is not requesting blanket immunity, but instead is seeking a heightened standard for liability, or proof of gross negligence.

Stay tuned for additional updates as they become available.

Source: Florida Chamber

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