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    Cities call workers comp law unconstitutional

    ©Associated Press
    August 20, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- Twenty Florida cities sued the state Monday over a law that forces them to pay workers' compensation benefits to police or firefighters who suffer from hypertension or heart disease even if their medical condition is unrelated to their jobs.

    The Florida League of Cities pointed to a claim from a 37-year-old firefighter who suffered a heart attack five minutes after having sex as something cities shouldn't have to pay for. The suit targets wording that presumes the injury or impairment would have been suffered in the line of duty.

    League of Cities general counsel Chip Morrison wrote in a June memo that this presumption will be costly to municipal governments. He said it would cost $5,000 to $10,000 to demonstrate that the firefighter's heart attack didn't occur "in the line of duty" and noted that the insurer was also liable for the firefighter's legal fees.

    The suit also charges that the Legislature passed the bill (SB 108) on the final day of the session using unconstitutional logrolling: attaching a sometimes unpopular bill to one that has broad support.

    The suit, filed in Leon County Court, says the law violates a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992 that says the Legislature cannot require cities or counties to put in place a law that costs them money.

    "The Legislature is writing checks out of our checkbook and that's exactly what the voters intended to stop," Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle said Monday.

    Plaintiffs in the suit include the cities of Brooksville and Inverness.

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