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Initiatives on the Florida Ballot

Florida Florida Election 2004

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#1 Nick

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 10:33 AM

I just got my absentee ballot for the general election in the mail (I'm registered in a different county than I live, besides, it's WAY more convenient than going to the polling locations . . . doubly so in post-triple-hurricanes central Florida).  And there are a number of Initiatives on the ballot, some of which I'm having trouble deciphering or am torn over.  Some opinions and advice would be appreciated:

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Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to require the sponsor of a constitutional amendment proposed by citizen initiative to file the initiative petition with the Secretary of State by February 1 of the year of a general election in order to have the measure submitted to the electors for approval or rejection at the following November's general election, and to require the Florida Supreme Court to render an advisory opinion addressing the validity of an initiative petition by April 1 of the year in which the amendment is to be submitted to the electors.

Okay, the justices already provide their opinion on the amendments, but it's basically giving them a deadline of April 1st (yeah, April Fools! so appropriate considering the idiocy of some of these initiatives) as I understand it. (And Feb 2nd for the proposal) The current section just says they must provide their opinion "expeditiously".  

In general, I have no problem with that . . . but what's the real motivation behind this one?  I'd like to see it become much more difficult to amend this state's constitution . . . but by giving the justices a deadline . . . is this gunna allow more proposals to make it all the way to the ballot?

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Proposes to amend the State Constitution to provide that an injured claimant who enters into a contingency fee agreement with an attorney in a claim for medical liability is entitled to no less than 70% of the first $250,000.00 in all damages received by the claimant, and 90% of damages in excess of $250,000.00, exclusive of reasonable and customary costs and regardless of the number of defendants. This amendment is intended to be self-executing.

Here's a tough one.  There's a crisis in Florida, with malpractice insurance at such high rates it's forcing doctors out of the profession and chasing medical talent out of the state.  So, while I do think patients deserve major compensation for legitimate malpractice . . . there are a lot of frivolous lawsuits (and settlements that never go to trial) that are just wrecking the system.  This initiative was sponsored by (mostly) the Florida Medical Association (i.e. The Doctors) and is vehemently opposed by The Lawyers (Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers).

FMA claims it'll help fix the current crisis by giving victims their "fair share" from those evil greedy lawyers, and the AFTL claims it'll only make the problems worse and is really just a dirty trick being pulled by those evil malpracticing doctors so their victims won't be able to find a lawyer to take their malpractice case.

:unsure:

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Florida minimum wage.

I won't paste in the text, it's pretty simple:  Raises minimum wage to 6.15 and 3.15 for tipped workers, indexed to inflation.  I'm generally in favor of higher minimum wages . . . but I'm still unsure about all the effects here.  Employers will likely cut hours/postitions to compensate . . . so many aren't even going to see the increased pay (if they keep their job at all) . . . but there *are* a lot of undepaid workers here in Florida who  can hardly survive on actual minimum wage . . .

(and I'm actually against raising it for tipped workers since they're already covered by the "guarunteed minimum" and your average bartender makes a ton of money.)

Also, regarding the malpractice fees amendment, there are two others on the Florida ballot that I voted for, which I think does a better job of addressing some of the concerns of our malpractice crisis:

-A patient's right to know amendment--forces disclosure by healthcare facilities of malpractice incidents while preserving doctor/patient confidentiality.

-A 3-strikes law, revoking the license of doctors with multiple incidents of malpractice.

Anyway, I just wanted to hear some more opinions on these.  What are your thoughts?  (I especially want to hear how Lil feels about the lawyer fee-cap one)

-Nick

#2 Nonny

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 11:11 AM

I can't help but notice that medical doctors are making little, if any, effort to overcome the code of silence that allows them to stand by and do nothing as the incompetents among them continue to harm, maim and kill patients.  Attacking legal fees doesn't solve the problem.   Making it harder for the harmed, the maimed and the next of kin of the dead to get legal representation sure doesn't help the problem.  Considering the amount of work it takes to counter the strategy of the defense, which often includes frivolities, misinformation and red herrings, fighting a bad doctor can't be done on the cheap.  

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#3 Cardie

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 12:10 PM

The medical lawsuit initiative might reduce the judgments lawyers go after, but it might actually make juries award larger verdicts.  I've been on several personal injury juries, and one thing you often hear jurors arguing is that they don't want to award big punitive damages because most of it will go to the lawyers.  A jury knowing that 90% of a multimillion dollar verdict woud go to, say, the parents of a child severely brain-damaged at birth might be more likely to vote for it.

The practical effect would be to limit not only frivolous lawsuits but access to legal redress by those of little means.  The first thing lawyers would do is start charging whopping minimum fees upfront.  Taking cases on contingency is like playing the lottery.  Many billable hours and corollary expenses can be put in on a case that yields nothing.  So, yes, lawyers depend on perhaps overly large percentages of overly large jury awards or settlements to compensate for the odds that for every case they win on contingency, two or three might yield nothing despite hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work being put in on them.

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#4 Nick

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 12:46 PM

After doing some more research, I'm going to go ahead and support the amendment proposing deadlines to the initiatives.  The goal behind that particular initiative is in fact to make it more difficult to get things on the ballot and to provide a period for discussion and debate on what's going to be on the ballot, which I'm completely in favor of.

Although, I'm still not sure where I stand on the malpractice and minimum wage amendments . . .

-Nick

#5 Cardie

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Posted 02 October 2004 - 01:27 PM

I do know that every time there's an increase in the minimum wage, there are dire predictions of reduced hours and fewer jobs for service workers. I don't have my hands on any statistics, but I recall that those fears are usually highly exaggerated.

What you need to look at is the timing of the increases.  If the businesses are booming and there is a demand for workers, employers have little choice but to pay the mandated wage.  Some of it will be passed on to customers, some of it recouped by hiring more part-timers so as to recoup the increase having fewer workers qualify for benefits.  If there was some way to make health care benefits more affordable for small businesses to provide, then they could pay workers decently and still come out ahead.

Cardie
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