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Dueling PIP reform groups ramp up advocacy

Two competing coalitions advocating for PIP reform have ramped up their activities this week even though neither legislative chamber was scheduled to discuss no-fault auto insurance this week.

First, a cadre of business, insurance and law enforcement organizations released a TV advertisement featuring Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford urging viewers to contact legislators about personal injury protection reform. In the video, Rutherford blames trial lawyers for contributing to the issues plaguing PIP.

The “Put the Brakes on Accident Fraud” Coalition, which is associated with "Gear Up Florida," has taken pains not to mention specific legislation, but its materials, talking points and now the TV add appear to indicate support of the House's PIP legislation (HB 119). Rutherford, who serves as legislative chair for the Florida Sheriffs Association, said he prefers the House version over the Senate's.

"Put the Brakes on Accident Fraud" also hosted an event on Thursday at the Florida Highway Patrol academy in Havana, where demonstrations of staged accidents were held. Both Gov. Rick Scott, who supports the House proposal, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who has remained neutral, were scheduled to attend.

Meanwhile, a different coalition -- one representing trial attorneys, chiropractors, osteopathic physicians and consumer groups -- gathered at the Capitol on Thursday to rail against the House proposal and give glowing reviews of the Senate’s measure, Senate Bill 1860.

“Our bill, Senate Bill 1860 by Sen. (Joe) Negron presents a common-sense approach to stopping PIP fraud while protecting the rights and the interests of Florida’s drivers," said Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network.

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