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Insurance regulators appeal workers' comp ruling

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation said Tuesday it is appealing a circuit judge's ruling that would block a 14.5 percent increase in workers' compensation insurance rates.

The office filed a notice of appeal, a move that is expected to allow the rate increase to start taking effect Thursday as originally planned.

Though Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers issued an order to block the increase, appeals by state agencies typically lead to legal stays of such orders. The effect would be that the rate increase would move forward while the appeal is pending.

Gievers issued a 72-page ruling Wednesday that said the state's Sunshine Law had been violated during deliberations about the rate hike.

Gievers ruled, in part, that the National Council on Compensation Insurance -- an organization that files rate proposals for the insurance industry -- did not comply with legal requirements about holding public meetings during its deliberations on the hike.

Also, she wrote that the organization, commonly known as NCCI, held improper closed-door meetings with staff members of the Office of Insurance Regulation. 

The ruling came only eight days before the effective date of the rate hike, which had been approved in October by regulators.

The increase, which has been closely watched by business and legal groups, stems largely from two Florida Supreme Court rulings this year that found parts of the workers' compensation system unconstitutional.

NCCI also said last week that it planned to appeal Gievers' ruling.