Sinkhole amendment sinks in the Senate
In a last ditch effort, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, fought unsuccessfully on Wednesday to amend a sweeping property insurance reform bill so companies would still have to offer comprehensive sinkhole coverage. Throughout debate on Senate Bill 408, sponsored by Garrett Richter, R-Naples, the sinkhole issue has been contentious, with Fasano arguing that without the requirement, no insurers will offer the coverage.
"You will have people who want to buy a home in this state and can't get sinkhole coverage," he said. "Talk about an economic disaster. we already have a problem selling homes in this state."
The bill also requires that the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp., offer comprehensive sinkhole coverage.
"You're going to drive people into Citizens. I thought our goal and the governor's goal was to get people out of Citizens," Fasano said.
But Richter argued that the sinkhole coverage requirement has led to rampant fraud with property owners filing frivolous claims or collecting money for legitimate damage and not making repairs which drives down property values.
J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said the law benefits trial attorneys representing property owners in sinkhole suits. Some of the attorneys, he noted, have enough money to buy naming rights for entertainment arenas. (This is at least the second time Alexander has made this point, clearly a reference to the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheater in Tampa.) He noted that insurers would still have to offer coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse. (That represents about 1 percent of sinkhole claims, which Alexander did NOT note.)
Sen. Arthenia Joyner, R-Tampa, said it seems the biggest problem is how sinkholes are defined.
"Why can't we fix it that way?" she said. "If we inadequately define it we need to define it correctly."
She said she recognizes there are problems with fraud, but some people legitimately need help with sinkholes.
"I don't want to throw them under the bus," she said.
Fasano's amendment failed by a vote of 20 to 12.