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Senate PIP legislation ready for floor

After hours of debate stretching over two days, the Senate's Budget Committee approved reforms to the no-fault car insurance system. Massage therapists and accupunturist are still left out of the personal injury protection, or PIP, program as senators rejected several amendments related to these two professions.

The committee approved SB 1860 on a 15-5 vote in which Republican Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton joined four Democrats voting "no." Before the vote, Bennett said the measure was destroying companies and costing people their jobs without getting at the core issue of ending fraudulent claims.

"I want to clean up PIP, too, but what we're doing here is absolutely wrong," he said.

The Senate legislation had been unanimously approved at its two previous committee stops, but heavily lobbying by interest groups has caused it to lose support in recent days. After the vote, Committee Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, cited the heavy role of special interests in

"Most everybody in here are special interests of one sort or another that are making money out of this process," he said. "Finding that balance between the rate payers who are mandated to buy this stuff and the folks who make money is always a balance."

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he was happy with how the legislation has turned out and will continue working with House leaders to come up with a final compromise. Both versions of PIP reform, including HB 119, are now ready for floor action.