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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Insurance reform advocates call for replacement of Citizens board

With proposals to increase rates for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., by up to 25 percent dead in the legislature this year, Barney Bishop, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida on Wednesday called on the governor, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos to replace the state-run program's board. Bishop and others at a news conference said the current board has acted irresponsibly, by failing to raise rates annually by the full 10 percent allowed under state law. Citizens officials have warned its premiums aren't high enough to cover potential losses if a massive storm or series of storms hits the states. If that happens, non-Citizens policy holders will have to pay the tab.

"Citizens Insurance company is in danger because it can't pay its debt, it can't pay the bills that will come in when a hurricane hits this state," Bishop said. "They won't charge rates that are actuarially sound. this must stop. if it does not then we face the potential bankruptcy of the state of Florida." 

Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, chairman of the House Banking and Insurance subcommittee, urged lawmakers to pass a bill that, among other things, will help Citizens and other insurers address a growing number of expensive sinkhole claims. The House is scheduled to vote today on the bill, but it's vastly difference from the Senate proposal, putting its fate in question.

"Hopefully the Senate will consider the House bill," Bishop said.

Former state Rep. Don  Brown, now a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, said he's deeply disappointed that the legislature failed to adequately address Citzens this session.

"It's a grave disappointment to me, and I'm sure it's a grave disappointment to the governor," he said. 

Gov. Rick Scott has said repeatedly that "fixing" Citizens is one of his top priorities. But as it looks now, there's no "fix" coming this session. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 10:13am]


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