Handicapping insurance talks
As happens most years, property insurance legislation is now being negotiated in closed-door, back-room talks, mostly between Sen. Jeff Atwater and Rep. Dennis Ross, with insurance lobbyists running all-over the capitol.
But Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, who heads the House council that decides insurance policy, offered a sneak peak at what issues are in play and what issues are probably still non-starters in the House. The House has yet to produce a property insurance bill.UPDATE! Reagan now says there's no way the House will have a property insurance bill before next week.
Reagan says that there's still not much of an appetite in the House for the new anti-trust provisions in the Senate bill (which would allow insurers to be sued for anti-trust violations, unlike in federal law) nor provisions that allow Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to stop writing wind-only policies.
But there is an interest in extending Citizen's rate freeze. And House members are willing to extend temporary laws, passed last year under House Bill 1A, aimed at stopping insurers from using rates before asking regulators for them (use and file). They're also willing to talk about extending laws that have temporarily gotten rid of arbitration panels that used to be the way disagreements were settled on rate increases. Also, the House is also open to increased penalties and fines on insurers, as long as there are caps to the fines.
The House is holding strong on its move to borrow Citizen's Property Insurance Corp. money (currently $250 million) to fund a low-interest loan program for young start-up insurers. But the deal might get a new twist, like an assurance to never let Citizen's surplus "get below a billion dollars cash-on-hand," Reagan said.
Last week, Crist reiterated to the Buzz after the Tuesday, April 15th Cabinet meeting that he's not in favor of any such move, even if it is 'borrowing': "I don't want to weaken Citizens Property Insurance one bit."