Florida Property Insurance Reform Could Happen This Week

April 26, 2010

The Florida Senate has got its property insurance reform bill back on the track for the final week of the legislatuve session.

After his bill became hung up in debate by amendments last Thursday, Sen. Garrett Richter ironed out some confusion on a timeline when homeowners would be paid on losses and also agreed to a sinkhole provision. The the bill (SB 2044) then passed the Senate Friday on a 32-4 vote.

While addressing insurers’ concerns over claims payments, the Richter measure would not give insurers complete freedom to raise prices but would allow them to raise rates as much as 10 percent a year to pass through their reinsurance costs. The bill also allows insurers to drop some policies if keeping them would threaten their solvency and it gives regulators access to some financial information on the affiliated companies of insurers that report they are losing money.

With only a week to go before lawmakers close this session, the bill must win approval in the House, which has been working on a similar measure (HB 447), and it must avoid a veto by Gov. Charlie Crist, who said he would have vetoed a measure to deregulate rates that has now been taken off the table.

Richter, R-Naples, believes his bill has a good balance for regulators, insurance companies and policyholders.

The progress on Richter’s bill came after its sponsor withdrew another more controversial proposal that would have deregulated rates for insurers. The sponsor of the deregulation legislation for the second straight year, Bradenton Republican Mike Bennett, decided it was not a good time to push the measure (SB 876) given that Crist had already told lawmakers he’d veto anything he views as increasing insurance costs.

The Senate’s budget chief, Republican JD Alexander of Lake Wales, said that Crist has the bully pulpit as governor and lawmakers don’t want to hand him something he can leverage politically.

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