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Property Insurance’

House ‘opts in’ to Citizens surplus lines, killing bill

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The House sponsor of a bill aimed at reducing the number of homeowners covered by Citizens Property Insurance opted to kill the measure (HB 245) rather than allow the state-run insurers’ customers to “opt in” to switching to unregulated “surplus lines” carriers.

Consumer advocates cheered the apparent death Tuesday of what they called the backdoor deregulation of Florida’s property insurance market.

A bipartisan House coalition voted 63-52 in support of the Senate’s language requiring that Citizens insurance customers have a chance to sign off first before being moved to the “surplus lines” companies with unregulated rates.

The House refusal to strip the Senate’s “opt in” provision inserted a day earlier proved to be a deal-breaker for the bill’s sponsor, who said this year’s effort appears finished. Industry lobbyists preferred a system where customers of the state’s insurer of last resort would be automatically switched unless they took steps to “opt out.”

“We’re finished with it for this year,” sponsor Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said Tuesday.

- Palm Beach Post staff writer Charles Elmore contributed to this story.

Industry cheers Scott’s signature of property insurance overhaul bill

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law today a sweeping property insurance measure (SB 408) hailed by the insurance industry but denounced by consumer groups.

Critics say the new law, which goes into effect immediately, will allow insurance companies to raise rates up to 15 percent and make it harder for Floridians to collect on claims. Proponents contend the law will draw new insurers to the state and increase competition.

“A healthy, stable and competitive private insurance market is critical to the success of Florida, given the hazards we face,” Scott, whose staff helped craft the bill, said in a statement. “I commend the Florida Legislature, especially Senator Richter and Representative Wood, for bringing this important legislation forward.”

The new law undoes many of the changes approved by lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist in the wake of the catastrophic 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons.

Among other things, the new law:

- Shrinks from five years to three years the time homeowners have to file claims for hurricane damages;
- Lets insurers make homeowners to pay for repairs before getting reimbursed;
- Permit insurers to raise policyholders’ rates without prior approval from regulators;

Scott’s signature prompted a flurry of accolades from the insurance industry and business groups and a dour statement from Sen. Mike Fasano, who urged Scott to veto the measure.

“For an administration which vowed not to support new taxes or fees, this bill virtually guarantees a 15% premium ‘reinsurance’ increase for Florida policy holders. This is a backdoor tax and fee increase that will hurt most homeowners with a mortgage, consumers and small business owners at a time with very high foreclosure and unemployment rates, all during a fragile economic recovery,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said in a statement.

But supporters insist the new law will open up Florida’s insurance market.

“Despite what the critics say, signing this bill into law is the first step toward stabilizing Florida’s property insurance market. It will increase competition by attracting insurance companies that currently do not write property insurance policies in Florida,” said Mark Wilson, president Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Read some of the other blurbs after the jump.

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Crist tells CNBC Florida population decline “not that big a deal”

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist performed as the Sunshine State’s chief pitch-man, blowing off Florida’s historic population loss and touting the fine weather in a CNBC interview this morning.

Florida saw a drop of 58,000 residents last year, the first population decrease since military residents left the state after World War II.

“It’s not that big a deal, to be honest with you,” Crist shrugged off the decline on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” show today.

The governor then launched into a Sunshine State sales pitch, touting declines in property taxes and property insurance rates and the weather.

“And it’s Florida. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a gorgeous day today down here in South Florida. You just can’t beat the Sunshine State,” said Crist, who is in Miami. Florida I really think is on the rise and it’s a great deal for an awful lot of people, too.”



Although Florida’s unemployment rate is nearly 11 percent, Crist was upbeat about the job market and pointed to Palm Beach County as a shining example.

Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate was 11.7 percent in July, one percentage point above the state average.

“Even in the Palm Beach County area where Scripps and Torrey Pines and some of these other scientific institutes have located, Max Planck…it’s been great for that area of the state,” Crist said. “We’re very pleased with the direction things are going. We wish they were better, don’t misunderstand me. But we’re not sitting still. We’re on the move. And I continue to be optimistic and encouraged about where we’re going.”

Crist, who drew the wrath of fellow Republicans by urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, reversed that position on the health care reforms now being considered in Washington.

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