Senator warns of tough times

first_imgSenator warns of tough times September 15, 2003 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Senator warns of tough times Senior EditorA state senator painted a sobering picture of recent policy decisions made by the legislature, as well as budget challenges facing lawmakers.Sen. Dennis L. Jones, R-Seminole, spoke at a joint August 22 luncheon of the boards of governors of The Florida Bar and its Young Lawyers Division. Both boards were meeting in Clearwater Beach for their first business meetings of the 2003-04 Bar year.Jones, the majority leader, noted that even before the session starts next spring, the state faces an expected $2 billion shortfall, and it hasn’t helped that lawmakers have used one-time revenues to patch budget holes for the past two years.That $2 billion figure includes about $500 million to continue implementing the class size amendment approved by voters in 2002, $625 million for the Pre-K education amendment approved the same year, an undetermined amount to begin building the high-speed rail, and hundreds of millions when the state takes over more funding of the trial courts from the counties, due to Revision 7, he said.The state is likely to cut other funding for counties to make up for new spending on the courts, Jones said, but he cautioned the overall picture for funding of the third branch is not rosy.He noted this year the legislature did not fund any of the 56 new judges requested by the Florida Supreme Court, and cut $13 million in other funding for the courts, mostly in staff, administration, and attorney ad litem programs.And despite a variety of budget shifts and tactics, the budget approved earlier this year “did not meet the needs of the state,” Jones said.He said he had a three-page list of important needs that were not funded, and he cited several examples:• State university and community colleges received no funding for enrollment growth.• The state cut matching funds for challenge grants for higher education, which has cost millions in gifts that have been rescinded or placed on hold.• Funding for public education was increased minimally on paper but after inflation, paying for enrollment growth, and other costs, most school boards had less money. Jones noted that Pinellas County had an effective $20 million reduction in funding, which resulted in several layoffs.• 10,000 families with autistic children are on waiting lists for home services that will cost $10,000 to $15,000 per child. Jones said if those families give up waiting and turn their kids over to state custody, those costs would be $85,000 to $100,000 per child.On policy matters, Jones said insurance matters seemed to dominate the regular and special sessions.It began with calls for nursing home insurance reform. But Jones said the legislature addressed that issue last year and there was an agreement that no further laws would be passed until the effect of those changes could be determined.After haggling for the entire regular session, in a special session the legislature did pass a complete rewrite of the workers’ compensation system, which Jones said had among the highest rates in the country and lowest benefits for injured workers.The impact, he said, is a projected 11 percent reduction in rates. Of that, 9 percent is projected savings on attorneys’ fees and 2 percent from reduced benefits for injured workers.“That’s basically the bill we passed,” Jones said. “If that will be held constitutional, I don’t know. We passed that and the governor signed it.”Another rewrite came in the automobile personal injury protection insurance area. Lawmakers heard testimony that fraud was so prevalent with PIP that it amounted to 25 percent of the average automobile insurance premium.The final bill prescribed several solutions, including data collection and reporting systems, and sunsetted the measure in October 2007. Jones said the Senate was losing patience with the no-fault system that uses the PIP program.“The Senate president [Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville] said if we can’t fix it, then flush it,” Jones added. “If by 2007 this hasn’t improved, it will go away and we won’t have no fault in this state.”Of course, the biggest insurance issue came over medical malpractice premiums, and Jones, a chiropractor, headed up the Senate’s efforts.“It’s basically a bill that at this point apparently nobody likes,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it will be held constitutional or not. There are lots of parts of that bill that I do not like. . . . “I still have problems saying one shoe fits all. We do have litigation in this state, because we do have cases of medical malpractice.”One of the holdups was Gov. Jeb Bush’s adherence to a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, although there were never more than 10 votes in the Senate for that position, Jones said. He also said many of the claims about the medical malpractice “crisis” evaporated when the Senate put witnesses under oath.And Jones remains skeptical that a crisis exists. He noted that in the past 10 years, only 673 medical malpractice claims had been filed in Pinellas County, and only 23 resulted in verdicts that exceeded $1 million. He added, “A lot of the rhetoric you read about these large awards just isn’t true.”As for the future, Jones noted the legislature will be back in October to consider legislation on parental notification when minor women seek abortions “and then we’re back in the budget crunch.”Lawmakers will be meeting two to three weeks each in January and February, he said, to get ready for the regular session, which begins in March.last_img read more

Pensions minister asks schemes for copies of ESG statements

first_imgThe UK pensions minister has written to pension schemes to request they submit the sections of their statement of investment principles (SIPs) that set out how they take account of financially material considerations arising from environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors, including climate change.He also wants to see the sections that set out the pension schemes’ policy on stewardship and taking member views into account.The aim, according to a press release from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), is to compile a record so Guy Opperman, the minister, could monitor compliance with new regulations that “compel funds to pay greater attention to environmental, social and governance considerations”, as well as highlight best practice.The minister also wants to know if the schemes report in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. Source: PLSAGuy Opperman addresses the PLSA conference in October 2018In the press release, Opperman is quoted as saying: “Pension funds are a powerful weapon in the fight against climate change. Despite some good work by a number of schemes, some are not acting. We need urgency on this vital issue from trustees and investment managers.“New regulations came into force last week,” he added. “I’m demanding that the remaining pension schemes and the fund managers they appoint stop shuffling their feet.“They must meet their responsibilities to savers now and in the future, and to protect the future of the planet.”Under 2018 regulatory changes, trustees of UK defined benefit and defined contribution schemes had until 1 October to update or prepare their SIP to make sure it included their policy on:How financially material factors (including but not limited to ESG considerations such as climate change) are taken into account in the context of investment activity;The extent, if at all, that non-financial matters such as members’ views are taken into account; andEngagement and voting activities in respect of investments, which includes engagement with asset managers employed by the trusteesAccording to the DWP press release, Opperman has told schemes that circumstances in which climate and ESG risks are not financially material are likely to be “extremely limited”.Therefore, according to the minister: “It is part and parcel of trustees’ fiduciary duty to take account of these risks when setting out investment strategy and to explain that clearly to investors.”A spokesman said the idea behind the minister’s asking for the relevant sections of their SIP is to give the pension funds the chance to “show themselves in the best possible light”.News of Opperman’s letter comes after the UK’s main pension fund trade body last week referred to the new regulations as being merely the first step on a “journey” for trustees. Caroline Escott, policy lead for investment and stewardship at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA), today said the announcement from the pensions minister “emphasises that this shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise for trustees, it’s not just a compliance exercise”.“Schemes of all shapes and sizes need to think about how they meaningfully implement ESG across their portfolio and also how they tell the story, communicate what they’re doing to scheme members,” she told IPE.Lorna Blyth, head of investment solutions at mutual insurer Royal London, said ESG issue were increasingly in the spotlight, and that Opperman’s move “sets a clear direction of travel from government and policy makers”.  Most UK pension trustees were prepared for the new rules regarding responsible investment, according to a survey by Hymans Robertson that was publicised a few weeks before the 1 October deadline. A survey from law firm Sackers indicated there was still lots of confusion about the extent to which trustees should take account of member views. This article was updated to add a comment from Caroline Escott at the PLSA. The request was set out in a letter to 50 of the UK’s largest pension schemes in which, according to the press release, Opperman spelled out what pension schemes must do under the new regulations. A copy of the letter was not made available.According to the press release, the minister also “probed” the schemes about “what substantive measures they have made – and when – to their investment strategies to take account of environmental, social and governance [sic] and climate change, and what substantive changes they have made to their stewardship policies to ensure that trustees act as engaged investors”.last_img read more

Swedish government calls for review of ‘excessive’ gambling advertising

first_img LeoVegas hits back at Swedish regulations despite Q2 successes August 13, 2020 StumbleUpon Share Svenska Spel delivers on social mandate despite COVID-19 impacts July 20, 2020 Submit Betsson outrides pandemic challenges as regulatory dramas loom July 21, 2020 Related Articles Share Hosting a press conference, Sweden’s Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi has confirmed that the government will undertake a review of ‘aggressive marketing practices’ attached to licensed gambling incumbents.The Swedish government has sanctioned the Gaming Market Commission – Spelmarknadsutredningen to carry out the review – assessing whether to implement new tools or restrictions on ‘overly aggressive’ marketing practices.In its mandate, Spelmarknadsutredningen will be asked to consider whether the introduction of new ‘advertising control tools/functions’ will reduce harmful gambling.The commission will further be asked to assess whether standard operator marketing functions such as bonuses, jackpots and free spins should be limited or restricted.In addition, Spelmarknadsutredningen will be tasked with detailing regulatory guidance on the introduction of stricter controls on gambling advertising and marketing – assessing potential product bans and broadcast restrictions.Addressing national media, Shekarabi stated that the Spelmarknadsutredningen review had been sanctioned to address concerns attached ‘excessive advertising, witnessed in Sweden’s newly reformed gambling marketplace’.In previous updates, Shekarabi had warned licensed incumbents of excessive advertising, calling for betting leadership to present a responsible advertising roadmap.Three months into Sweden’s new regulatory framework, concerns have arisen with regards to problem gambling controls and the gambling industry’s image.This April, Svenska Spel Chief Executive Patrik Hofbauer ordered the state-owned operator to terminate all casino related advertising immediately.Hofbauer branded industry advertising as unstainable, stating that Svenska Spel could not support the advertising a vertical labelled as the ‘most harmful for Swedish consumer’ by the Swedish Public Health Authority.last_img read more