Fla. Senate Committee Postpones Insurance Bill Until Next Week; Industry Hopes for ‘More Balanced’ Approach

March 30, 2005

Insurance industry representatives hope the announcement of the postponement until next week of an insurance bill now before the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee signals that a “more balanced” bill will be presented.

The bill called for more choices for hurricane deductibles, creating standard insurance policies that would make it easier for shoppers to compare coverage and competitive rates for Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Sen. Rudy Garcia, committee chairman, said he’s considering possible changes to his bill based on input he recently received at a meeting with insurance industry representatives. An updated version of his legislation should be released Monday.

“I’m very, very concerned that we do the right thing before we move this forward,” Garcia, R-Hialeah, told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Insurance industry representatives were leery of many of the bill’s provisions, particularly those that changed deductible offerings and eliminated insurance companies’ right to appeal rejected rate increases to an arbitration panel.

Guy Marvin III, president of the Florida Insurance Council, said it’s difficult to tell at this point what changes Garcia might consider. But representing the industry’s interests, he said he hopes whatever comes out next week would be more “balanced.”

Steve Burgess, the state’s insurance consumer advocate, also said he wasn’t sure what would happen with the revised bill. He said he hoped that in reworking the bill, Garcia would retain requirements for standardized policies and for a checklist that explains what is covered in an insurance policy — measures he thinks would help consumers.

“It’s important to have in order for consumers to shop intelligently,” Burgess said.

The Senate committee did approve another measure that would put on the 2006 ballot a constitutional amendment that allows money in the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to be used only for paying claims to insurance companies from catastrophic losses, paying off revenue bonds or other administrative expenses. The measure still needs approval from both the Senate and the House of Representatives before it could be placed on the ballot.

The measure wouldn’t allow a repeat of last year’s special session, where legislators used more than $150 million from the Catastrophe Fund toward a program to help hurricane victims who paid more than one hurricane deductible after 2004’s four-storm season.

“This keeps the politicians out of the money and keeps it for the proverbial rainy day,” said Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lakeland, who proposed the joint resolution.

Topics Catastrophe Hurricane Market Politics

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