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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Proctor, Bennett try again on insurance rate dereg



Rep. Bill Proctor and Sen. Mike Bennett are reviving their attempt to deregulate large private property insurers' rates -- this time with proposed legislation that would open up the rate deregulation for all private insurers, big and small.

"This is to revitalize the private insurance market in Florida, which we know is eroding," Proctor said.

Proctor, R-St. Augustine, filed HB 447 this morning and is planning a press conference with co-sponsor Bennett, R-Bradenton, at noon in the Capitol. Their legislation last year passed the Senate and House but got the big red veto pen from Gov. Charlie Crist, who heard an earful from Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty about why the bill was bad, bad, bad.

"That got vetoed based on bad information," Bennett said, a dig at McCarty. "Anybody should be able to shop the rates and decide for themselves what they want."

Last year's bill was aimed at keeping State Farm in the Florida property insurance market and would have freed only large companies like State Farm from Office of Insurance Regulation rate approval. The current legislation does not include a threshhold of assets for insurers, allowing smaller companies licensed by OIR to enjoy the rate-setting flexibility.

The bill also includes a provision for anyone getting Citizens insurance to sign a waiver that they understand they would face a one-year 15 percent surcharge if Citizens runs out of money. And if that surcharge is implemented, the bill would ensure that Citizens holders are charged the extra amount -- even if they move to a private insurer.

Bill proponents say the idea is to let consumers and the market dictate rates rather than OIR. And insurers would still have to submit rate filings and data to OIR, so much regulation would remain in place.

They say home prices and mortgage terms are based on the market, so why shouldn't property insurance rates be the same?

Associated Industries chief Barney Bishop lauded the proposal, saying homeowners "should be able to decide for themselves if they want to have their home protected by a private insurer that they know and trust."

The proposal comes as State Farm continues to negotiate with OIR, and a deal could keep State Farm in the Florida market.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:08pm]


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