Fla. Officials Get to Work as Special Insurance Session Opens

By | January 17, 2007

In the hours leading up to the opening of a special legislative session in Tallahassee aimed at slowing Florida’s rising insurance costs, lobbyists, elected officials and citizens weighed in on ways to resolve the crisis.

The session began at 1 p.m. yesterday and is expected to last seven days.

Alex Sink, the state’s new chief financial officer, cited the state’s insurance market as “spiraling into full crisis over the past several years.”

Sink offered several potential legislative proposals including lowering the retention level of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, ending the Panhandle exemption to statewide building codes, repealing a requirement that Citizens Property Insurance Co. price its product by factoring in the cost of private reinsurance and using increased tax revenue to cover assessments.

Sink said her concerns go beyond the effects of the insurance crisis on homeowners.

“As we consider solutions to the insurance crisis, I would urge us to keep in mind that commercial insurance rates are also spiraling out of control,” Sink said. “As a former banker I am concerned that we are facing a threat to our economy the likes of which we have never seen before. We must encourage the business community of our state to collaborate and work wit legislative leaders to find solutions to the current commercial insurance crisis.”

Insurers chimed in that they, too, want to see the insurance market stabilized.

“All of us insurers, homeowners, businesses and government want the same thing: a healthy, stable and competitive insurance market that delivers economic security and peace of mind to consumers,” Tallahassee-based Assistant Vice President of Property and Casualty Insurers of America William Stander.

Stander said too often the political rhetoric gets overheated ,creating an “us versus them” situation: “The reality is that we’re all in this together,” he added.

While none of the involved parties is proclaiming that a fix can be achieved during a seven-day special session, the consensus from all sectors seems to land on the notion of “what’s good for insurers is good for the insurance consumers.”

“The special session is our chance to help Floridians who are struggling with rising insurance costs and to take comprehensive steps to reform our market,” said Speaker of the House of Representatives Marco Rubio.

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