In the second special session of the year devoted to the subject, Florida lawmakers started debating solutions on Monday to support the state’s faltering home insurance market.
By establishing a $1 billion reinsurance fund, lowering the cost of litigation, and requiring specific clients to leave the state-created insurer of last resort and return to the private market, lawmakers want to keep private insurers solvent.
Additionally, it would increase state oversight of insurer behavior in the wake of hurricanes and compel insurers to respond to claims more quickly.
The legislation should pass the Republican-controlled Legislature because the Senate and House GOP versions are identical.
In her opening remarks to the legislature, Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said, “We will continue to focus our efforts on fair costs and strong protections for consumers while adding reasonable guardrails for insurance companies against frivolous litigation and fraudulent claims that drive up rates for everyone.”
The 123-page home insurance measure was submitted late on Friday.
Legislators will also discuss lowering highway tolls for regular travelers and providing property tax assistance for Hurricane Ian victims during the three to the five-day special session.
Florida has fought for years to rein in rising home insurance costs and keep private insurers in a market where catastrophic disasters significantly negatively impact the cost of doing business.
This year, six insurers have abandoned the state.
The anticipated insured losses from Hurricane Ian, which struck the southwest coast in late September and severely damaged residences and businesses all over the state, ranged from $40 billion to $70 billion.
Although congressional leaders have cautioned citizens not to anticipate immediate rate savings from either bundle of measures, the GOP insurance bill tries to expand on legislation approved during a special session in May.
Democrats claim they were not involved in developing the Republican measures and have submitted their insurance legislation.
Democrats expressed their worries about the market becoming too costly for some homeowners again on Monday.
Property insurance in Florida is getting so expensive that some people cannot fulfill their American dream of owning a property since they can afford the house but not the insurance, according to House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell.
The state’s assignment of benefits legislation, under which contractors handle insurance company claims on behalf of property owners who sign over their claims to them, will be repealed.
This will speed up the claims process.
The Republican proposal would also require those with state-run Citizens Property Insurance policies to pay for flood insurance and would force them to switch to private insurers if those insurers offered policies up to 20% more expensive than Citizens.
The measure would end “one-way” attorney fees for property insurance, which obligate property insurers to cover policyholders’ legal costs when they win cases to recoup losses while exempting policyholders from covering insurers’ legal costs when they win.
Additionally, it would allocate $1 billion in public money for a program to offer companies storm reinsurance, which is protection purchased to assure they can cover claims.
In a market where businesses have voiced concerns about cost increases, it would provide “fair” prices.
Another plan discussed during the special session would exclude persons whose houses and businesses were rendered unusable by the hurricane from paying property taxes.
The House and Senate have offered identical legislation similar to the home insurance plan.
Additionally, lawmakers plan to offer commuters who use a transponder to pay more than 35 highway tolls monthly a 50% refund.