The Florida Chamber of Commerce released its jobs agenda for the 2018 legislative session aimed at strengthening the economy and creating new jobs.

“Year after year, the Florida Chamber has been at the forefront of solving issues that impact the competitiveness and future of Florida’s business climate,” said Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “Our focus remains steadfast in our efforts to be the driving force uniting Florida’s business community, creating economic opportunity and growing jobs.”

The Chambers’ 2018 Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda consists of 41 recommendations.

Among the items at the top of the list is reducing the cost of living in Florida by cracking down on fraud and legal scams that are helping to drive up insurance rates. Wilson says one way to do that is putting an end to what is known as Assignment of Benefits, or AOB’s.

AOB’s are a long-established legal tool intended to allow policyholders to sign away their insurance benefits to a third party contractor allowing for the quicker repair of their home. But the process has become an area for abuse by unscrupulous trial attorneys and contractors who, once the AOB is signed, fraudulently inflate claims and file thousands of lawsuits against insurers.

Another area that is a priority for the Florida Chamber is working to reduce the cost of workers’ comp insurance. Wilson says the state’s business community is facing a $1.5 billion impact from workers’ comp rates that are 14.5 percent higher than they should be. He says the Legislature needs to address “the cost drivers of the system, including attorneys fees.”

Wilson says Florida’s workers’ comp rates could soon be among the highest in the Southeast if the Legislature doesn’t do something to address the issues that are driving rates up. He says that would hurt job growth and business development in the state.

Wilson is also calling on lawmakers to tackle another legal issue in the state– “gotcha lawsuits.”

The Chamber estimates that lawsuit abuse costs an average Florida family $3,400 a year.

The Chamber’s job agenda  plan also calls for more competitive tax policies, building a qualified workforce by redoubling efforts on workforce education and improving the state’s infrastructure so it can handle more growth.

“At the end of the day, as I have said every year, there is no silver bullet that’s going to make Florida more competitive,”  Wilson said when asked to prioritize the 41 recommendations in the Chamber’s job agenda. “But there is a common thread..the common thread is that the big winner that doesn’t get fixed are the personal injury trial lawyers in Florida. Workers, homeowners and businesses lose if the Legislature doesn’t fix that this year.”