Senate prez gets earful from State Farm agentby Dara Kam | March 11th, 2009
Senate President Jeff Atwater got an earful from a combative State Farm agent at what was supposed to be a routine Q and A with T-Coast leaders.
State Farm agent Bill Knight peppered Atwater, who has been on the warpath against property insurers for what he believes are excessive rates, with questions about the state CAT fund and other insurance questions, often interrupting the president and ultimately shutting down the session.
State Farm recently announced it was leaving the state and canceling its 1.2 million clients over the next two years after state insurance officials turned down its request for a 47 percent rate hike.
The state’s catastrophe fund has about $8 billion in cash on hand, but needs to cover about $28 billion in losses if a major storm occurs.
“We are heading out and there’s no turning around at this point. Where are the dollars going to come from if we were to have a Category 4 or 5 storm hitting Tampa or Pinellas County or anyone else in the state?” Knight wanted to know.
“We would be in a world of hurt if this occurred,” Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said.
But that didn’t stop Knight.
“How are you going to get private companies to come into the state? We are being basically chased out of the state. I’ve got a real problem with it and I’d like to hear your solution,” he persisted.
“Well, probably, let me just say this. I think you have a valid point. My hope would be that as you see the state and our policies loosen the restrictions so that there is a greater sense of market rate being provided by these corporations in Florida that private players will validate that those things are working and they will come here,” Atwater offered.
Knight didn’t back down even after Atwater’s aide stepped in to close the meeting.
Atwater got the last word, however, after conceding that that the property insurance situation is a “huge problem” in the state.
“Let me just say we agree,” he said.