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Medical malpractice session III called off

Published August 1, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday postponed a special legislative session scheduled to start next week, hoping to give lawmakers more time to negotiate a compromise in the medical malpractice debate.

In a statement, Bush said he was "disappointed" by the slow pace of negotiations, but encouraged by lawmakers' good-faith efforts to draft legislation to address the issue.

"Through compromise, we're building common ground between conflicting viewpoints. However, until we reach agreement on key elements of reform, including reasonable caps for noneconomic damages and bad-faith provisions, there is no reason to call an immediate special session," Bush said. He did not give a new date for calling lawmakers back.

Tuesday would have begun lawmakers' third special session on the medical malpractice debate, which has become the biggest political fight this year.

Bush and House Speaker Johnnie Byrd have sided with the Florida Medical Association and malpractice insurance companies in blaming runaway lawsuits for the hike in premiums. They have demanded a $250,000 cap on pain-and-suffering awards in lawsuits.

But Senate President Jim King and other senators have balked, saying that amount is not enough to compensate victims of egregious cases of malpractice.

Negotiators say the two sides have been able to agree on more than they disagree, but say they still lack an agreement on several points, including the cap.

Bush has vowed to keep calling lawmakers back to the capital until they pass a bill he's willing to sign.

[Last modified August 1, 2003, 01:17:59]

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