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Politics and policy of PIP and the Senate

As they inch toward some accord on no-fault car insurance, the House and Senate point-politicians conceptually agree that they want a billing schedule to clear up payment disputes, lawyer-fee caps, more power for the attorney general to pursue tight-fisted insurance companies, protections for hospitals and clearer definitions of what's necessary and billable non-emergency care.

They concretely agree on one this: Any solution faces a tough slog in the Senate heading into the September special session.

"I’ve got my votes in the House," said Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale. "Go talk to the Senate. There is an interest group that says they can kill it in the Senate. They’re going to give it their best shot."

The interest group: the trial lawyers, a lobby that Bogdanoff's one-time political client, current Senate President Ken Pruitt, is rather friendly with. It's also a lobby that she suspects of running Republican candidate Darin Lentner against her.

Another reason any fix or overhaul for Personal Injury Protection won't pass easily in the Senate: It doesn't have the lemming-like tendency to charge over any cliff its presiding points out. And allowing PIP to go away with no good alternative could make for a rough landing, especially as the state budget, wind-insurance and property-tax woes bedevil legislators.

Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, acknowledged individual Senators have far more power in the process, especially under Pruitt's watch, and that "if there's a problem, it will be in the Senate." But the big problem is all the lobbying, he said.

"We have every interest group out there from the hospitals, to the insurers to the trial lawyers, doctors and chiropractors," Posey said. "If everybody hates it, it will probably be a good bill."

Said Bogdanoff: "We have State Farm and the trial lawyers on the same side. When the stars align like that, it's a scary proposition."