Make us your home page
Instagram

Key lawmaker wants Legislature to review Citizens plans

TALLAHASSEE — The plan to loan $350 million to private insurers from the surplus account of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. hit a major roadblock Friday, when the incoming speaker of the Florida House asked the state-run insurer to halt the program and submit it for legislative review.

Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, wrote a letter to Citizens Board chairman, Carlos Lacasa, calling for him to delay moving forward on the so-called "surplus note" loan, which was lobbied for by private insurance companies and approved last month with little public input.

"I am concerned that Board's aggressive timeline will result in the program's implementation before the two chambers of the Legislature complete hearings on this important matter of state policy," Weatherford wrote in the letter.

Citizens' board unveiled the plan last month and quickly voted to support it, despite backlash from some Republican lawmakers and concerns from the state's insurance consumer advocate and the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Board members also voiced concerns about the legality of the $350 million loan and asked that independent lawyers take a closer look at the legal ramifications of approving the plan without permission from the Legislature.

The plan would take up to $350 million from Citizens' record $6.2 billion reserves and lend it — under favorable terms — to private insurers who agree to take over policies and keep them for 10 years.

Business and insurance industry groups have come out in support of the low-interest 20-year loans, and Citizens president Barry Gilway on Friday said enacting it was in "the best interest of Citizens, its customers and Florida's insurance consumers."

But criticism has intensified this week, with Florida's Insurance Consumer Advocate sending a lengthy list of questions about the financial soundness of the unprecedented loan.

On Friday, Weatherford joined the growing group of officials expressing concerns about the program and the vetting process used to approve it.

"This is not an indictment of the idea, but an opinion that the proposal needs more vetting," Weatherford said in a statement.

A Citizens spokesperson declined to comment on Weatherford's letter, stating she had not yet spoken with Lacasa. The board is scheduled to meet over the next two weeks to approve the program, which could begin taking policies out of Citizens in early December.

One lawmaker, Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, has threatened to file a lawsuit to stop the program, which he called an "inside deal" written by insurance lobbyists.

"In the past, when we've approved these programs it's gone through the Legislature," said Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who has been critical of Citizens' growing independence from the legislative process. The Legislature created Citizens in 2002.

Gilway has responded to critics by stating that the program could help shrink the size of Citizens by 300,000 policies and significantly reduce the amount of fees Floridians have to pay after a once-in-a-century type hurricane. Gov. Rick Scott has championed the effort to shrink Citizens and reduce its risk, sparking controversial and unpopular coverage changes for many of the company's 1.4 million policyholders.

Key lawmaker wants Legislature to review Citizens plans 10/05/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 5, 2012 11:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24

    Retail

    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights

    Business

    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.

    Yet.

    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]