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The Rules: Claim Bills
What is a relief act or "claim bill"? from the House 2009 Guidelines to Bill Drafting
the larger sense, it is an act by which the Legislature seeks to
address the complaint of an aggrieved party. But in practice, nearly
every relief act or "claim bill" is legislation which compensates a
particular person (or persons) for injuries or losses which were
occasioned by the negligence or error of a public officer or agency. It
is a means by which an injured party may recover damages even though
the public officer or agency involved may be immune from attack by an
ordinary lawsuit. Historically, the state was absolutely immune from
liability and, therefore, the objective of a claim bill was to
satisfy the "moral obligation of the State...." Dickinson v. Board of
Public Instruction of Dade County, 217 So.2d 553, 560 (Fla. 1968).
Under the current statutory framework, there are two types of claim bills. There are those bills which seek to recover excess judgments pursuant to the waiver of sovereign immunity, s. 768.28, Florida Statutes. In those cases, there has been a trial, and the verdict rendered is in excess of the limitations on liability set forth in s. 768.28, Florida Statutes. The second type of claim bill seeks compensation for persons injured by the state who have no other legal remedy available. Pursuant to s. 11.065, Florida Statutes, a claim bill should be filed within 4 years from the date the claim accrued. A relief act may also be a local bill, and as such is subject to the "advertising" requirements for special acts. Determining whether a claim bill is a general bill or a special act is a critical distinction which turns on the question of who is going to pay the aggrieved party.
Because claim bills require special master hearings, all requests for drafting of claim bills should be submitted to the House Bill Drafting Service as far in advance of the upcoming legislative session as possible. It should be noted that the Senate has observed an August 1 deadline for the filing of claim bills since the 1999 Legislative Session.
Senate Rule 3.12 - Introducers of bills; introducers no longer Senators
(2) A Senator who is not seeking or is ineligible for reelection and, therefore, will not be a Senator at the next regular session of the Legislature may not file a bill for that session. Once a Senator is no longer in office, any bill filed by that Senator for a current or future session of the Legislature shall be deemed withdrawn from further consideration of the Senate unless the bill has a co-introducer who, within seven (7) days, is willing to become the introducer of the bill.
Senate Rule 4.81 - Claim Bills
(1) Claim bills are of two (2) types: excess judgment claims filed pursuant to section 768.28(5), Florida Statutes, and equitable claims filed without an underlying excess judgment.
(2) All claim bills shall be filed with the Secretary on or before August 1 in order to be considered by the Senate during the next regular session, except that Senators elected to the Senate during a general election or a special general election may have sixty-two (62) days from the date of that election to file a claim bill. Senators currently serving who are re-elected during a general election are not subject to the immediately preceding provision relating to sixty-two (62) days. A motion to introduce a claim bill notwithstanding the claim bill filing deadline shall be referred to the Rules Committee for a hearing and a determination as to the existence of an emergency reasonably compelling consideration of a claim bill notwithstanding the claim bill filing deadline. A House claim bill which does not have a Senate companion claim bill timely filed under this Rule shall not be considered by the Senate. Any motion to consider a House claim bill which does not have a timely filed Senate companion bill shall be referred to the Rules Committee for a hearing and a determination as to the existence of an emergency reasonably compelling consideration of a claim bill notwithstanding the claim bill filing deadline. The determination by the Rules Committee shall be reported back to the Senate. Upon a determination by the committee that an emergency does exist, the motion may be considered by the Senate and must be adopted by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of those Senators present.
(3) If the President determines that a de novo hearing is necessary to determine liability, proximate cause, and damages, a special master shall conduct such hearing pursuant to reasonable notice. Discovery procedures shall be governed by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and the Florida Evidence Code, as applicable. The special master shall administer an oath to all witnesses, accept relevant documentary and tangible evidence properly offered, record the proceedings, and prepare a final report containing findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations. The report shall be signed by the special master who shall be available, in person, to explain his or her report to the committees and to the Senate.
(4) All claim bills shall be referred by the President to one (1) or more committees for review. On receipt of the special master's report and recommendations, if any, the Secretary shall, upon the President's reference, deliver each claim bill with the report attached to the committee or committees of reference.
(5) Stipulations entered into by the parties are not binding on the special master, the Senate, or its committees.
(6) The hearing and consideration of a claim bill shall be held in abeyance until all available administrative and judicial remedies have been exhausted; except that the hearing and consideration of a claim that is still within the judicial or administrative systems may proceed where the parties have executed a written settlement agreement. This subsection does not apply to a bill which relates to a claim of wrongful incarceration.
House Rule 5.6 - Claim Bills
(a) The Speaker may appoint a Special Master to review a claim bill or conduct a hearing, if necessary. The Special Master may administer an oath to all witnesses, accept relevant documentary and tangible evidence offered as deemed necessary, and record the hearing. The Special Master may prepare a final report containing findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations. The report shall be signed by the Special Master, who shall be available, in person, to explain his or her report to any committee or subcommittee of reference.
(b) Stipulations entered into by the parties are not binding on the Special Master or the House or any of its committees or subcommittees.
(c) The hearing and consideration of a claim bill shall be held in abeyance until all available administrative and judicial remedies have been exhausted, except that the hearing and consideration of a claim that is still within the judicial or administrative system may proceed when the parties have executed a written settlement agreement.
House Rule 5.3 - Limitation on Member Bills Filed
(a) A member may not file more than six bills for a regular session. Of the six bills, at least two must be approved for filing with the Clerk no later than noon of the 6th Tuesday before the first day of the regular session. For purposes of this rule, the member considered to have filed a bill is the firstnamed sponsor of the bill.
(b) Bills not counted toward these limits include:
(1) Local bills, including local claim bills.
House Rule 5.5 - Local Bills
(c) All local bills, including local claim bills, must either, as required by Section 10 of Article III of the Florida Constitution, embody provisions for a ratifying referendum (stated in the title as well as in the text of the bill) or be accompanied by an affidavit of proper advertisement, securely attached to the original bill ahead of its first page.