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DeSantis announces May special session on Florida property insurance

The governor hinted other issues could be a part of that session as well, but he didn’t specify which ones.
Gov. Ron DeSantis prepares to sign the Parental Rights in Education bill during a news conference on March 28 at Classical Preparatory school in Spring Hill. DeSantis announced Monday that the Legislature will be called back for a special session in May to address the state’s property insurance system. It will be the second special session he has called this year. Lawmakers are meeting this week in Tallahassee to agree on a congressional redistricting map.
Gov. Ron DeSantis prepares to sign the Parental Rights in Education bill during a news conference on March 28 at Classical Preparatory school in Spring Hill. DeSantis announced Monday that the Legislature will be called back for a special session in May to address the state’s property insurance system. It will be the second special session he has called this year. Lawmakers are meeting this week in Tallahassee to agree on a congressional redistricting map. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Apr. 18|Updated Apr. 18

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Florida Legislature will be called back for a special session in May to try to address the instability currently roiling the state’s property insurance system — a problem that has led to huge rate increases and the loss of coverage for some homeowners.

The property insurance session will be the second special session called by DeSantis this year. Lawmakers are meeting this week in Tallahassee to agree on a congressional redistricting map after DeSantis vetoed the plan previously approved by the Legislature during the regular session.

Related: DeSantis takes over redistricting, bracing for legal battle

DeSantis, speaking Monday at a news conference in Jacksonville, said he hoped to “bring some sanity and stabilize” the property insurance market. He said he will sign a proclamation this week with more specifics, including the dates of the special session.

The governor said the special session could also include other issues, but he didn’t specify which ones. His office declined to provide further specifics.

“The citizens of Florida are his priority, and as insurance has become increasingly burdensome, he has taken notice — and now — taken action by issuing the call for a special session,” said Bryan Griffin, a spokesperson for the governor.

The property insurance industry in Florida has suffered a tumultuous last few years. Homeowners’ rates have spiked by double digits in some cases, and some companies have canceled policies or suspended business in the state. But legislators were unable to pass any reform efforts on the issue during their regular session earlier this year.

DeSantis has previously said he would “welcome” it if legislators opted for a special session on property insurance.

Before the governor’s announcement, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, had begun his own process of calling for a property insurance special session.

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

Brandes had first requested that legislative leadership call the special session, but told House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson that if they didn’t act, he would use a provision in Florida law that allowed him to poll legislators.

Legislators had until noon Monday to respond to the poll; Brandes would have needed three-fifths of the members of both the House and Senate to support the special session. According to a letter Monday afternoon from the Florida Department of State, that threshold was not reached, in part because of how few legislators voted.

Brandes said he wasn’t expecting the governor’s declaration Monday morning, but said he’s “incredibly excited.”

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The House and Senate were at odds during the regular session about how to address the property insurance problems, with the Senate trying to be more aggressive in bolstering private insurers.

As an example, the Senate proposed allowing new deductibles of up to 2 percent on roof damage claims — an outgrowth of complaints by insurers that questionable, if not fraudulent, roof claims are driving up costs. But the House rejected the idea, which would have led to increased out-of-pocket costs for homeowners who need to replace damaged roofs.

Related: Florida Legislature leaves without addressing property insurance crisis

Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, has previously said lawmakers should give more time for property insurance changes made in 2021 to fully take hold.

Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, plans to help craft the legislation lawmakers will discuss in May. An insurance executive by trade, Boyd said in an interview Monday that his colleagues must address the roofing issue.

“In order to get anything done that will make a difference in the market, we’re going to have to address roofs,” Boyd said.

Spokespersons for Sprowls and Simpson, R-Trilby, did not respond by Monday afternoon to emailed requests for comment asking what policy proposals they would consider.

Brandes said the governor coming into the fold should help the House and Senate bridge the differences that caused the bills to fail last session.

“I have no doubt with the governor weighing in that he will carry incredible weight in the resolution of this issue,” Brandes said Monday. “He has been the missing link so far in getting the House and Senate to focus on this.”

Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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