Thursday, June 21, 2018
Business

Citizens bill in holding pattern as lawmaker looks for consensus on rate hikes

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

Bill sponsor Sen. 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.

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

Simmons said he would amend the bill 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.

Simmons defended his bill Wednesday, saying that the changes he had made would protect all current policyholders from any rate hikes.

"All I'm saying is let's dig ourselves out of this hole," he said, adding that he would present the bill for a vote today. "We're not raising anybody's rates."

Still, he said, some lawmakers were reluctant to vote for any insurance reform, given the sensitivity to rates.

"As soon as someone hears the possibility of rate hikes — even if it's just one person — some legislators run for the door," he said.

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 in recent years, generally oppose additional rate hikes. Lawmakers, including the Senate's 14 Democrats and at least 10 Republicans in districts where Citizens is a top insurer, are also wary of rate hikes. To pass, the bill (SB 1770) must garner at least 21 votes in the 40-seat chamber.

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 greater than 10 percent per year.

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

Comments
Days after buying Time Warner, AT&T launches new TV service

Days after buying Time Warner, AT&T launches new TV service

NEW YORK — AT&T is launching a new streaming service incorporating television networks from the Time Warner company it just bought. The WatchTV service, a cable-like package of more than 30 TV channels delivered over the internet, is an example of th...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Tampa tech firm Newgentek hiring 20 following expansion

Tampa tech firm Newgentek hiring 20 following expansion

TAMPA — Information technology company Newgentek plans to hire 20 new employees over the next two years following an expansion of its Tampa headquarters."In the last 90 days, the Newgentek team has grown 24 percent and is now operating at 80 percent ...
Published: 06/21/18
A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay home sales while prices keep rising

A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay home sales while prices keep rising

Tampa Bay’s two largest counties showed anemic home sales in May as prices continued to rise due to a tight supply. In Pinellas, sales of single-family home plunged nearly 12 percent from the previous May, the second-worst showing in a year. P...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Lucky’s Market is considering a move in to the old Albertsons box space in Clearwater, according to preliminary plans filed with the city. Lucky’s master broker, Rick Lewellyn, was listed on an agenda as discussing renovating the existing property wi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Eight passengers who were aboard a Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of its engines blew apart filed suit Wednesday against the airline, Boeing and the companies that manufactured the eng...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Tesla sued a former employee Wednesday, accusing the man of hacking the automaker’s computer systems and stealing company secrets, shedding light on what chief Elon Musk had suggested was the work of a secretive internal saboteur.But the employee, Ma...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

TAMPA — Mortar & Pestle, a fledgling Seminole Heights eatery with a mom-and-pop pharmacy theme, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Seacoast Bank was listed as the creditor with the largest unsecured claim: $1.4 million.The restaurant...
Published: 06/20/18
Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

LAND O’LAKES – A Sarasota developer is proposing to turn a vacant Winn-Dixie store in central Pasco into a Sprouts Farmers Market or similar specialty grocer.Benderson Development filed preliminary plans Monday with Pasco County to redevelop the form...
Published: 06/20/18
Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

CLEARWATER - Clegg Insurance Group of Clearwater announced on Wednesday it has bought Brandon-based Advanced Insurance Brokerage.The merger creates a firm with more than 2,000 customers and more than $10 million in annual premiums. Terms were not dis...
Published: 06/20/18
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18