I am in Destin, FL this morning, at the Annual Conference of the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators, commonly known as SAWCA. I am scheduled to moderate a panel here Friday entitled “Things That Make Bob Go Hmmmm….”. It will be the second time I have done this for the group.

It is quite an honor to have a session named after you, and I can tell you there is some effort put into the process behind it. After all, it may just appear that I am generally unprepared and have climbed onto a stage with several regulators and industry reps to start slinging out any questions that pop into my vacuous mind, but that is not the case. My vacuous mind has to first define the difference between things that make me think “Hmmmmm” and things that make me think “WTF???”.  

No one probably wants the questions from the latter concept, so that is why I imagine they went with Hmmmm.

On the panel with me will be T. Scott Beck, Chairman of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, Ryan Brannan, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers’ Compensation, Abbie Hudgens, Administrator of Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, and Brian Allen, Vice President of Government Affairs for Optum.

Getting here this year proved to be a bit of a challenge. I was originally scheduled to fly to Pensacola, FL and then drive the 1 ½ hours to Destin. A delayed flight on Tuesday, however, meant that I would miss a connection, and since Southwest only has one flight a day into Pensacola, it meant that I was facing a full twenty-four hour delay in arriving. Instead, I made the decision to drive here from my home in Sarasota. It was a fascinating 7 hour drive; one in which I was pleased to discover that at least 30 feet of Interstate 75, the main west coast artery that traverses the state, is not under construction.

Of course, that is not as bad as it seems. Our construction zone speed limits tend to remain at the regular maximum limit, 70 miles per hour. There might be a ten or twenty foot stretch from time to time that has a 60 mile per hour top end, but those seem to be limited to where the road has been reduced to a barely definable condition. Generally, however, Florida does not seem overly concerned with the safety of its highway construction workers. That may be because in Florida, there never actually seem to be any highway construction workers. Our modus operandi in this arena is to tear up miles of road, alternately creating detours, lane shifts and barely passable lanes. After the workers line the route with thousands of concrete barriers, orange barrels and flashing information signs telling us we are in a work zone, they simply disappear – often for months on end. They leave lots of equipment behind, but I have no idea where the people go. 

It is yet another thing that makes me go Hmmmm, but we probably won’t discuss that here Friday. Mostly because it is actually in the “WTF?” Category.

I am looking forward to chatting with the panel on Friday. There are so many things that I am curious about, it has been hard to limit the questions to fit the allotted time. Of course, I am not sure what the allotted time actually is. The schedule tells us that we are on stage from 9:00 until 11:00AM, but the morning welcome from outgoing SAWCA President Judge David Langham is also scheduled from 9:00AM to 11:00AM. Now, I’ve seen Judge Langham welcome people before, but I seriously question whether he could go the full two hours. It is possible we will just all be talking over each other. They also will be installing new officers, making announcements and holding prize drawings during this time. We might need a ringmaster. I should have brought my megaphone.

Who am I kidding? I don’t need no stinkin’ megaphone. 

It’s going to be a lot of fun. I have even brought a special “thank you” acknowledgment gift for any panel participant who goes the distance and is still on stage with us at the end of the session; unless, of course, the paperwork for giving something to a state regulator is so onerous that we won’t even bother.

But that will be just another thing that makes me go Hmmmmm.

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