The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Citizens Insurance bill pulled right before vote--again

24

April

Voting on a major insurance overhaul was postponed again Wednesday, indicating that fear of skyrocketing rates is weighing down the bill in the Florida Senate. 

Bill sponsor David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said last week that he has enough support for the bill, but wanted more time to make amendments and build more consensus. 

He pulled the bill from the agenda right before the first scheduled vote last week. The same thing happened Wednesday, when the bill was again “temporarily postponed.” After cruising through the committee process, the bill has been delayed on the floor of the Senate three times in the last two weeks. It has been amended nearly 40 times.

Simmons said he would amend the bill in order to address concerns of lawmakers who are worried about the pocketbook impact on their constituents. 

The 100-page bill seeks to shrink the level of risk carried by Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by raising its rates and forcing its policyholders into the private market. The rate hikes are mostly focused on new policyholders at the state-run Citizens and those who have high-risk “wind-only” coverage. 

Citizens’ president Barry Gilway said earlier this month that the bill could lead to rate hikes of 60 percent or more in 11 counties across the state. Many of those large increases would be for the wind-only homeowners.

  Homeowners, who have already seen insurance costs increase by hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, generally oppose additional rate hikes. Lawmakers--including the Senate’s 14 Democrats and at least ten Republicans in districts where Citizens is a top insurer—are also wary of rate hikes. To pass, SB 1770 must garner at least 21 votes.

Simmons said last week that he would remove a provision of the bill that forces Citizens to charge rates that are higher than the top 20 private companies in a particular area. That concession could soften some of the rate hikes included in the bill. Gov. Rick Scott has already weighed in by stating that the bill should protect current homeowners from rate hikes above the current “glidepath” of 10 percent.

 A less aggressive House version of the insurance reform bill is scheduled to reach the floor soon.

 

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 3:23pm]

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