Make us your home page

Push to reform Citizens Insurance hits roadblock in Legislature

TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers' push to reduce the size of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by allowing unregulated out-of-state insurers to take over its policies hit a political brick wall Tuesday.

Consumer-focused lawmakers approved an amendment to House Bill 245, the so-called surplus lines bill, forcing insurers to get a signature before taking over a policy from Citizens. The amendment, which passed the House in a close vote, killed plans — at least for this year — to reduce the number of policyholders with the state-owned insurance giant.

Proponents of the original bill say the amendment amounts to a "straitjacket" that strips down the bill and will discourage private insurers from coming to Florida's helter-skelter market.

"With this amendment on, I don't think a surplus company is going to come in," said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. "I think they'll put their capital elsewhere."

Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who sponsored the measure in the House, said the amended bill "might as well be dead," and temporarily postponed it before the House could vote to send it to the governor.

With 1.5 million policies, Citizens is the state's largest insurer. Industry fiscal hawks warn that a major hurricane could sap its resources, leading to billions of dollars in charges for insurance policies in the state.

Many private insurers have shunned Florida because of its precarious position between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Richter said the original bill had plenty of consumer protections — including a $50 million surplus requirement and a solid financial rating.

A bipartisan coalition in the Senate and the House disagreed, voting to add the language requiring consumers to approve the policy takeover with a signature.

Consumer advocates say the "opt-in" amendment is crucial because surplus lines insurers don't have the same protections as licensed carriers in the state.

Before the amendment, the proposal was expected to affect up to 50,000 of Citizens' 1.5 million policyholders.

The House vote on the amendment was the closest floor vote in the Republican-dominated House this year. The measure passed, 63-52, with support from nearly all Democrats and about a third of House Republicans.

"The policyholders of Florida won," said Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who was among the most outspoken critics of the original bill. "At the end of the day, they were represented. We did the right thing."

With little legislative help in its effort to slim down, Citizens has launched its own plan to move policyholders off its rolls.

Citizens' risk-reduction effort includes last year's premium increase for sinkhole coverage, a roof-inspection requirement for old homes and a statewide reinspection program for homes receiving wind-mitigation discounts. Last month, the company scrapped wind coverage for homes worth more than $1 million.

This week, the state-run insurer appointed a new interim president to replace Scott Wallace, whose resignation will take effect next month. Tom Grady, the commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, will take the helm of Citizens on an interim basis.

Push to reform Citizens Insurance hits roadblock in Legislature 03/06/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 10:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday


    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes


    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community over the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]