Make us your home page
Instagram

Stripped of big rate increases, Citizens reform bill heads to Scott's office

TALLAHASSEE — Homeowners have been spared from the threat of faster rate increases after the Florida Senate agreed Thursday to scale back a proposal to reform Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

In a final concession, the Florida Senate largely abandoned its aggressive campaign to hike rates at Citizens for new policyholders. Instead, a bill passed Thursday and sent to Gov. Rick Scott for approval will steer homeowners away from Citizens without boosting their rates.

After the Senate backed off from the rate-increase language, the Citizens reform bill passed with a bipartisan 32-1 vote.

"We're not getting a whole loaf here, members, but we're getting a lot," said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who had originally pushed for the faster rate increases. "I can call it Citizens, light."

The main reform in the scaled-back SB 1770 involves a "clearinghouse" at Citizens, a mechanism to steer policyholders into the private sector. Homeowners with Citizens who receive a comparable insurance rate from a private insurer through the clearinghouse would be forced into the private market.

Several senators from South Florida and Tampa Bay who voted against the more aggressive bill last week changed their votes and supported the new bill.

"I believe the bill we have today is a good bill," said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, who flipped her vote and supported SB 1770 on Thursday. "When (Sen. Simmons) assured me today that there were no rate hikes, I was very, very happy."

The Florida House, working with Gov. Rick Scott, played a major role in scaling back the pocketbook impact of the reform effort. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said throughout the session that he preferred an "incremental," rather than drastic, plan for fixing Citizens.

When lawmakers first proposed a plan for reforming Citizens in February, it brimmed with proposals that would help the insurance industry and hit homeowners hard. It included provisions to allow Citizens to raise rates by 13 percent each year for current policyholders, uncapped rates for new policyholders and additional charges and fees for all.

One by one, as political opposition to rate increases mounted, the controversial proposals were shed from the bill. The Senate bill faced further obstacles when Citizens president Barry Gilway said publicly that it would lead to rate increases of more than 60 percent in several parts of the state.

The proposal passed the Senate last week on a 25-14 vote, but the House stepped in and sent its own plan to the Senate, stripping out the 60 percent rate increases. That bill passed the House on a 111-6 vote.

The Senate agreed to concede to the House plan, which also includes several other reforms. The proposal prohibits Citizens from covering new homes built right on the water and reduces Citizens' maximum coverage limit to $700,000 over three years. The House and Senate plans also offer new accountability measures for Citizens.

The proposals require Citizens to have an inspector general and abide by state contracting rules, changes inspired by Times/Herald reports of corporate misconduct and overspending by executives last year. The company's board — which has been accused of enacting anticonsumer proposals in recent years — would gain another member who would serve as a consumer advocate.

With more than 1.2 million policies, Citizens is the state's largest insurance company and can levy "assessments" on consumers after a major storm.

A spokesperson for Scott's office said the governor was reviewing the proposal.

Stripped of big rate increases, Citizens reform bill heads to Scott's office 05/02/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 2, 2013 8:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA

    Agriculture

    Tony DiMare, a third-generation Florida tomato grower, has spent two decades contending with cheap Mexican imports, watching his neighbors abandon crops in their fields and sell off their farms when they couldn't match the price of incoming produce.

    Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms in Florida City. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images(2013)]
  2. Pinellas deputies go door-to-door at dawn to arrest unlicensed contractors

    Crime

    Pinellas deputies began pounding on doors at 5 a.m. Tuesday, part of a widespread roundup of contractors accused of working without licences and workers compensation.

    Pinellas Sheriff deputies J. Short, left, and T. Festa, right, arrest suspect Randy Ronchi, center, in Largo early Tuesday, as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  3. HQ2 watch: As deadline looms for Amazon headquarters pitch, one metro bows out

    Business

    If there's one national business saga to keep up on these days, it's the frenzy by metropolitan areas — including Tampa Bay — to make their best pitches to Amazon in the hope of being chosen as the new location for the giant online retailer's second massive headquarters. HQ2, as it is called, would create …

    Cities across the country are trying to land Amazon's second headquarters, known as HQ2. In Birmingham, Ala., giant Amazon boxes were constructed and placed around the city as part of its "Bring A to B" campaign. [Ali Clark/Bring A to B Campaign]
  4. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report

    Corporate

    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  5. Trigaux: Campaign aims to leverage tourism ads to recruit millennials, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay's unleashing one of its best weapons — a cadre of successful entrepreneurs and young business leaders — in a marketing campaign already under way but officially …

    Erin Meagher, founder of Tampa coconut oil products company Beneficial Blends, is part of a group of business savvy millennial entrepreneurs and managers who are helping to pitch the work-live-play merits of the Tampa Bay market in a new marketing campaign called Make It Tampa Bay. The campaign is backed by Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and aimed at recruiting more millennial talent to relocate and stay in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Visit Tampa Bay]