Florida Legislature Faces Term Limits…CSE Makes Tort Reform an Important Issue. In Florida, 46% of the state House and 26% of the state Senate face term limits. This was an unprecedented general election: term limits are in effect for the first time in the history of the state.
55 term-limited seats in the House (minimum 46% turnover)
(35 of 55 term-limited seats voted for tort reform in 1999)
11 term-limited seats in the Senate (minimum 26% turnover)
(9 of 11 term limited seats voted for tort reform in 1999)
Much was at stake this year in these legislative races. Trial lawyers tried to use term limits as an opportunity to wrest control of the state House and Senate from pro-reformers. Not only did they run their candidates both in Republican and Democratic races, they are attacked pro-reformers through front groups and spending untold amounts of dollars to meet their goal. Using the recent Firestone/Explorer tragedies, they attempted to scare voters into voting against pro-tort reform candidates.
FL CSE Director Slade O’Brien surrounded by activists at a press conference in Tallahassee.
Similar to the 1998 elections, the trial lawyers’ best chance at creating a choke point was in the Senate, which made this a critical battleground for tort reformers. CSE’s activities included recreating our successful tort reform pledge campaign and building on last election’s results from these pledges. Our grassroots pressure resulted in 157 candidates for office signing our pledge.
Perhaps the best example of the success of CSE’s pledge strategy occurred in fall of 1999 when trial lawyers attempted to run a popular establishment businessman and trial lawyer in a Republican primary in Florida House District 82. CSE took the trial lawyers head-on, and exposed their agenda by educating voters on the issue of civil justice reform. The result as reported by The Stuart News, “Art Argenio upset Joe Negron, anti-trial lawyer sentiment fuels victory.”
CSE was the only group actively educating voters on this race and making the race about tort reform and trial lawyers. This year, Art Argenio again faced Joe Negron again in the Republican primary. Early in the race, Joe Negron bashed CSE and our tactics, but was booed off the stage by CSE activists who were in attendance at several events where he was speaking. This occurred at every campaign stop he made, causing Negron to request another copy of our 2000 pledge. Negron attended a Young Republicans meeting where most of the candidates speaking that evening had not only touted CSE as a whole, but also put civil justice reform in their stump speech. All of the attendees were wearing CSE lapel stickers, and tort reform and school choice materials were available at the entrance of the event.
After the event CSE received Negron’s signed pledge. Negron beat Argenio in the October run-off this year. But we will be sure to hold Negron’s feet to the fire in the legislative session this year.
One of the reasons Joe Negron encountered so many well-organized, well-educated CSE activists was our seminar, “Florida CSE Issues Forum 2000 & Campaign Issue Intervention.” For this event, CSE brought more than 400 statewide activists to Orlando over a weekend in July to learn more about ending lawsuit abuse and what is at stake in the upcoming elections. Not only did Sharkman make the trip, other champions of tort reform took time from their weekends to participate as well, including: Florida State Rep. Fred Brummer; U.S. Bill McCollum (R-8); Florida House Speaker-Designate Tom Feeney; and Victor Schwartz, senior partner, Crowell & Moring, LLP.
Last night’s elections kept Florida’s tort reforms on course. There were some setbacks, but overall pro-reformers dominated the key districts, holding the line against trial lawyer efforts in the Senate.
Reformers won 66% of the races in Florida’s Senate.
Florida’s Senate remains dedicated to protecting the 1999 reforms and will consider further limited reforms.
The Florida House remains pro-reform.
CSE activist of the year, Jim Kallinger, won House District 35, previously an anti-reform seat.
A strong majority of the House is dedicated to protecting the 1999 reforms and to passing more sweeping reforms.
Nearly 40% of Florida’s House has signed CSE’s pledge to protect the 1999 bill and abolish joint and several liability completely.
Our civil justice reform educational efforts included a wide variety of grassroots activities:
157 candidates sign CSE’s tort reform pledge. CSE was the only organization collecting pledges from candidates on tort reform. Borrowing from our 1998 voter education efforts, CSE successfully implemented a tort reform pledge campaign that involved our staff and grassroots volunteers. There was hardly a campaign stop for a candidate in our targeted districts where he/she didn’t hear about signing CSE’s tort reform pledge. Even Joe Negron (House District 82), after getting beat up in last Fall’s special election for not signing CSE’s tort pledge, signed our pledge after being pressured from our members and other voters to sign CSE’s tort reform pledge. All told, 40% of the total legitimate candidates signed our pledge to end lawsuit abuse.
CSE pressured more candidates to support ending lawsuit abuse. We attended hundreds of candidate events, club meetings, and campaign stops to fly the civil justice reform flag. In the weeks leading up to the election, CSE attended more than 50 candidate events and political events throughout the state (nearly two a day), educating over 8,000 voters on the need for civil justice reform. This was accomplished not with a significant mail campaign, but with real people—CSE volunteers and staff—taking the time to attend these events, talk about tort reform, and pressure candidates to support this issue. The flyers that CSE produced and distributed on who signed our tort reform pledge were widely disseminated by CSE staff and activists. In fact, several campaigns made their own copies of the flyer to distribute with their literature.
CSE engages clubs and advisory boards throughout the state. CSE currently has nearly 15 clubs/advisory boards throughout the state. These groups meet regularly on CSE issues. Their main area of focus over the past couple of months has been the upcoming elections. We have been meeting with each group, where they have advised on candidate forums, activities and opportunities to be on the radio in order to educate voters on where the candidates in their House and Senate districts stand on tort reform. They have continued to disseminate our information at the various organizations they are a part of and were a key component of our Election Day efforts on November 7.
CSE engages the media on this important issue. In order to highlight the fact that at the time, more than a hundred candidates had signed our tort reform pledge, CSE held a press conference on the courthouse steps of the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando on August 30. Additionally, the results of CSE’s Texas Tort Reform Study were released. Attending the press conference were, State Sen. Anna Cowin, State Rep. Allen Trovillion, and State Rep. Fred Brummer (who rescheduled a trip to Tallahassee in order to attend our press conference). The event was covered by the NBC and CBS affiliates, and by The Orlando Sentinel. Additionally, we were invited to be a guest on the second largest Spanish-speaking AM radio station in South Florida, which covers seven counties, including Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe, and Hendry. On the air, we discussed the need for civil justice reform. The host of the show is Armando Pomar, president of FLA-LULAC, and also a member of CSE.
Florida CSE’s Hard Work Made a Difference on the Issue of Tort Reform. By Election Day, CSE had distributed 4,250 yard signs in four critical Senate races and one key House race. We had traveled over 40,000 miles getting our message and materials into the hands of voters in key districts, and distributed nearly 12,000 tort reform pledge flyers and over 500 novelties. We could not have accomplished what we accomplished without the base of activists we have built over the last two and a half years.
Iowa Educates Voters in Important Legislative Races about Tort Reform. In Iowa, CSE was able to focus on the grassroots momentum we had build for tort reform through our efforts during the Iowa caucus as well as the legislative fight for tort reform. As part of our voter education, CSE distributed an issues survey to all legislative candidates, asking their views on ending lawsuit abuse. As a result, 65 candidates agreed with CSE and support tort reforms. CSE took the results of the survey and distributed it to media outlets statewide. Additionally, we leveraged every opportunity to focus the races on tort reform by attending nearly 30 events throughout the state, speaking to individuals about the benefits of tort reform. While traveling 2,500 miles across the state, CSE was able to distribute 2,400 pieces of literature on tort reform and over 3,000 end lawsuit abuse novelties. We also touched nearly 3,000 voters with our end lawsuit abuse message.
North Carolina Key House Races Pits Reformers Against Non-Reformers. In North Carolina, CSE has focused our efforts on two important state House races: House District 34 and House District 90. We distributed tort reform pledges and posted yard signs throughout these areas, letting voters know who signed the pledge and who did not.
CSE’s activists also walked precincts on weekends leading up to Election Day, distributing CSE’s educational materials to voters. As part of our overall effort, we recruited and mobilized activists to participate in our voter education efforts, which came to a climax in October when we: recruited more than 135 volunteer activists to help with pre-election activities; conducted precinct walks, reaching a total of 21,995 homes in targeted areas across the state; posted hundreds of yard signs throughout the districts; distributed over 1,000 pieces of literature; attended nearly 50 events; gave out over 400 novelties; traveled 2,000 miles and mailed nearly 6,000 households.
NC CSE Director Chuck Fuller with State Rep. Moran at NC CSE Day at the Capitol.
As one voter said to CSE staff while on a precinct walk, “thanks so much for the information because I am still undecided.” We are reaching out to an important voter base and continuing to build on that base.
Texas Senate Up for Grabs and Is All About Tort Reform. In Texas, both the leadership in the Senate and redistricting were at stake in these elections, with it all determined by one state Senate race in Texas: state Senate District 3. If Gov. George W. Bush becomes president, Lt. Gov. Rick Perry will become governor. The Senate will vote on his successor. The lieutenant governor decides what committees hear legislation, sets the agenda in the Senate, and oversees redistricting.
Republicans maintain a one-seat majority in the 30-member Senate. One of the state’s most closely watched races is Senate District 3. Candidates are state Rep. Todd Staples (R) and trial lawyer David Fisher (D). Todd Staples was the first candidate in the state of Texas to sign our tort reform pledge. You couldn’t go anywhere in this district and not run into either Sharkman, our tort reform literature, or one of our activists. We focused on attending as many events possible during the campaign. Additionally, because of the proximity, CSE was able to go into neighboring Senate District 2 as well to distribute our tort reform literature.
As part of our overall strategy, CSE distributed pledges to all candidates for office in Texas. We received 80 signed pledges for tort reform from candidates around the state. Although we were on the ground in every district this election, we made sure the media and policymakers in every district got the results of our pledge as well as the results of our tort reform study.
Candidate Todd Staples with CSE’s Sharkman.
In addition to distributing tort reform pledges to the candidates, CSE implemented our “flypaper” strategy following the candidates throughout the district pushing the results of our tort reform study and the message of ending lawsuit abuse. We also took advantage of the state GOP convention, where Sharkman hosted a tort reform reception. All told, in Texas we attended over 50 events, traveled over 10,000 miles, distributed 30,000 pieces of tort reform literature and novelties, placed tort reform yard signs, and mailed information to nearly 20,000 voters. We look forward to building on the solid work done in these key areas as we approach the 2001 legislative session in Texas.
Overview of CSE’s Efforts
State Supreme Court Results
State Legislative Results
We designed our multi-level efforts and independent strategies to coalesce into a long-term, sustainable asset that positions CSE to achieve its goals post-November. Our plan involves growth by building on existing assets. It involves a presidential, federal, legislative, and judicial strategy, each one building on the other.