Brandes takes first step to force special session on Florida property insurance

Gov. Ron DeSantis commends the St. Petersburg Republican’s efforts to spur a legislative session to tackle the state’s turbulent market.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said more than 30 of his legislative colleagues support his call for a special session.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said more than 30 of his legislative colleagues support his call for a special session. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Apr. 11, 2022|Updated Apr. 11, 2022

Sen. Jeff Brandes said Monday he’s gotten enough signatures from state legislators to begin the process of calling a special session on Florida’s property insurance woes without the sign-off of legislative leadership.

It’s the outgoing St. Petersburg Republican’s latest move to shake up the regular order of Tallahassee after a decade in office where he was known for being willing to buck his party.

Brandes sent a letter last week to Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls calling for a session dedicated to dealing with the state’s turbulent property insurance market. He told them in the letter that he’d try to spur a special session himself if they didn’t call for one.

Related: Brandes pushes property insurance special session

Brandes said he’d gotten declarations from more than 32 of his legislative colleagues in support of the special session. Collecting those signatures — representing at least 20 percent of the Legislature — is the first step under state law to begin the process for a special session without it being called by Florida leadership.

Brandes said he filed the signatures with the Department of State on Monday evening.

Next, the department will have seven days to poll legislative members. If three-fifths of the members of both the House and Senate vote in favor of the session, a special session is established, according to Florida statutes.

Brandes said he believes his effort will be successful.

“I don’t think anybody in an election year wants to be not supportive of lowering property insurance rates,” he said on Wednesday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis in a Monday news conference indicated he would support a property insurance special session, saying “l absolutely support what Sen. Brandes is doing.” He added, “We just want to make sure that we have a product that will pass muster and that we can get through, so I think that what he’s doing is the right thing.”

Brandes said the governor’s comments would likely help sway any legislator on the fence to vote in favor of a session.

Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, added to the calls for a property insurance special session by sending a letter to DeSantis’ office Monday.

Though bills reforming property insurance moved through both the House and the Senate this year, the legislative bodies couldn’t agree on a solution, killing both efforts.

Related: Florida Legislature leaves without addressing property insurance crisis

Homeowner rates have been increasing by double digits over the past few years, and several companies have either suspended their work or gone out of business in Florida in recent years.

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