Monday January 27, 2014

 In The Capitol, On the Road And Around Town

It was an interesting and diversified two weeks for those of us at LMA.  We spent many hours in the Capitol attending various legislative committee meetings, the least of which were the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee and the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee.  We also traveled to Orlando to participate in the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Insurance Summit.  The Summit was well-done and presented a variety of excellent panels and speakers.  We will share lots of news from that event within today’s newsletter.  These events always provide a wealth of knowledge for our great friends and clients, as well as, opportunities to share who you are and who we are with industry greats.  We appreciate your support in helping us be a part of these important industry functions.

So with that, let’s get started with the topics of the last two weeks.

McCarty Touts Healthy and Expanding Property Market

Thursday 1/16/14- Orlando- Those attending the Florida Chamber’s Insurance Summit mentioned above had reason to be encouraged after hearing Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty’s address concerning the state of Florida’s insurance marketplace. McCarty noted that for the most part the various segments of the state’s industry are healthy and steadily growing.  Our Florida domestic property insurers ended the year in generally good shape. The lack of storms in 2013, softening in the reinsurance market, and the overall quality of risk management and underwriting, have allowed Florida domestic insurers to strengthen their capital positions and better manage their risks. As of the third quarter of 2013, our private domestic industry had over $4.5 billion in available capital and bolstered their ability to absorb hurricane losses with over $16 billion in reinsurance. The Commissioner also focused on take-out driven dwindling policy counts and exposure reductions at Citizens, as positive signs of an improving insurance environment. These factors, coupled with Florida’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund enjoying its best financial condition ever, lead McCarty to be “cautiously optimistic” about the health of our property industry and the vitality of our private markets moving forward. The state’s chief insurance regulator also referred to his January 15th report to CFO Atwater indicating that the softening reinsurance market is in part translating into lowering property insurance rates for consumers as a marker of improvement. This report was in response to two inquiries from the CFO in recent months requesting documentation as to whether the softening reinsurance market was indeed translating into rate reductions in homeowners insurance. The Commissioner also gave updates on commercial insurance, automobile insurance, workers’ compensation, life and health. You may read his entire address by clicking here.

Senate Still Considering Citizens Reforms, Wind-Only Policies Appear Safe

Tuesday 1/14/14- The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee met to consider a small number of bills and continue its dialog over potential additional reforms to Citizens Property Insurance Corporation during the upcoming Regular Session. One of the bills discussed, SB 416 by Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Hernando/Pasco/Sumter), would establish a mandatory Sinkhole Stabilization Managed Repair Program at Citizens in order to get a better handle on the astronomical claims funds being spent to resolve sinkhole claims. The bill, however, is not without controversy and was temporarily postponed in order for its detractors and the sponsor to engage in further dialog about the bill’s future. SB 444 by Senator Bill Galvano (R-Desoto/Glades/Hardee), which cuts bureaucratic red tape and allows businesses subjected to workers’ compensation insurance stop-work orders to return to work faster, passed with no opposition whatsoever. Also heard was SB 424 by Senator Tom Lee (R-Hillsborough), which would make it unlawful for insurance companies to discriminate against applicants for new or renewal personal lines homeowners or automobile insurance policies due to gun ownership. The bill, which is strongly supported by the NRA and its spokeswomen Marion Hammer, prompted considerable discussion among committee members with the vast majority being supportive of Lee’s legislation. After approving two relatively technical amendments, the committee overwhelmingly approved the bill. In casting the one dissenting vote, Senator Gwen Margolis (D-Miami-Dade) referred to the measure as being, “absurd”. We have also learned that the Florida Insurance Council (FIC) is raising concerns about the bill because of a prohibition on sharing of information on the lawful ownership of firearms by an insurer with affiliated entities and will be working to amend the bill. The bill now moves to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, while its companion, HB 255 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Okaloosa), is before the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. As noted above, committee chairman David Simmons (R-Seminole/Volusia) also continued the committee’s dialog regarding further potential legislative reforms to Citizens. During the committee’s meeting on January 8th, a workshop was held to consider six major reforms, one of which called for Citizens to cease writing wind-only policies and phasing out over time, the corporation’s existing 217,000 wind-only policies. This measure met with immediate opposition from Citizens CEO and President, Barry Gilway, who raised concerns about the stand-alone coverage’s private market availability. Chairman Simmons confirmed that the proposal to phase out wind-only policies issued by Citizens Property Insurance Corporation through the Coastal Account had been “removed from the package of options to further reduce Citizens’ size and post-hurricane assessment liability”. The issues that remained on the list and further discussed during Tuesday’s committee meeting were:

1. Allow Citizens 18 months to develop and deploy a Citizens Clearinghouse for commercial residential policies.

2. Stair-step Citizens commercial residential eligibility at no more than $10 million per building.

3. Remove from the glide-path all commercial non-residential (i.e. commercial/commercial) policies.

4. Shift 5% of the Citizens Policyholder Surcharge from the Personal Lines Account to the Coastal Account.

5. Allow surplus lines companies to participate in the Citizens Clearinghouse; however, any offer from a surplus lines insurer made through the Clearinghouse would not make a policy ineligible for coverage with the corporation.

We will continue to monitor the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee’s deliberations concerning these possible additional reforms to Citizens and quickly report their appearance in an insurance bill.

Although the above list of potential reforms is a trimmed down version of reforms released by Simmons earlier this month, the remaining items are not without controversy and some believe are simply not “do-able” in this election year environment. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Opponents Use Scare Tactics in Targeting FIGA Bill

Wednesday 1/15/14- The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee met to consider two bills.  The first was HB 321 sponsored by Representative Kathleen Passidomo (R-Collier) and co-sponsored by Representative George Moraitis (R-Broward), regarding title insurance. This bill specifies that only a licensed and appointed title agency or agent is authorized to sell title insurance, adds additional limitations on the name that a title agent/agency can use.  In addition, it revises application requirements for a title insurance agency license, terms relating to grounds for actions against licensees or appointees and terms relating to the determination of insurability/preservation of evidence of title search/examination.  It also deletes some bonding requirements/procedures.  The bill passed unanimously with little discussion.  Next on the agenda was HB 143 sponsored by Representative Jake Raburn (R-Hillsborough), regarding the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA).  This bill revises the duties of FIGA, authorizes the association to collect regular and emergency assessments directly from policyholders and clarifies that assessments are not considered premium for the purposes of premium taxation. There was much discussion, debate and positioning by the industry on this proposed bill.  Much of the discussion surrounded how an assessment directly from the policyholder could adversely impact Florida consumers, with Representatives Hager and Taylor expressing concerns that the bill would not help policyholders, with some of the reasoning presented being that insurers would be able to retain more dollars in their surplus and therefore, be able to write even more policies to protect Florida consumers. Throughout the lengthy discussion, it was obvious the bill’s opponents were using an “anti-consumer” label about the bill, placing the burden of assessments directly on the backs of policyholders instead of the insurance carriers, forgetting the fact that policyholders pay the assessments regardless of when they receive their bill.  On the other side of the debate, other representatives, including Representative Bronson, opined that since the decision to assess would still fall with the FIGA Board and the Board had demonstrated great responsibility over the last 50 years, the committee should have confidence in this bill. Representative Raburn echoed Representative Bronson’s comments and further stated that during Hurricane Andrew, the correct action was taken and that if the committee did not have confidence in the FIGA Board, the legislative body needs to address who sits on that Board.  Several industry groups supported the bill including the Florida Realtors, the Florida Property and Casualty Association, American Integrity Insurance Company, Security First Insurance Company and the Florida Association For Insurance Reform (FAIR), while others did not, including the Florida Insurance Council, and the American Insurance Association.  At the conclusion of much more debate and discussion, the bill was postponed for further discussion. In addition to the two bills taken up, there was a presentation by Jay Adams of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation detailing how a sinkhole repair program would work.  Some questions and comments were heard from the audience, however, the committee adjourned for the day without further comment.

State’s Hurricane CAT Fund Becoming a Popular Legislative Issue

There is a fascinating debate already underway in the legislature this year about Florida’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. Who knew that we wouldn’t have a significant storm in over eight years and during those years, the Cat Fund has built surplus of almost $10 billion.  As that surplus has grown, many who are laser focused on reducing the size of Citizens and moving some of the “tier 2” policies out of Citizens to the private market are saying “aha!  Let’s use the Cat Fund’s $10 billion in surplus as a way to shift policies from Citizens to the private market by allowing insurers to share the risk with the state for these challenging risks.  As Senator Tom Lee (R-Hillsborough) has said in debate, “we have two holes to fill – Citizens and the Cat Fund.  As one begins to fill, why wouldn’t we want to shift some of the fill from it to the other and they can fill together”?  In other words, it takes a long, long time to use $10 billion in capacity – a storm in size that Florida has not seen in many years. If that storm hits, the greater liability is Citizens, not the Cat Fund as we have been blessed to have surplus built up in the past eight years because the weather has been with us.  Since Citizens is the greater liability, then let’s use Cat Fund resources to reduce that liability.  By reducing the retention, insurance companies can use some of the cat fund’s resources to take less desirable and challenging properties out of Citizens and “share” the risk with the state. This is what Senator Lee’s bill (SB 610) attempts to accomplish. Senator Alan Hays (R-Lake/Marion/Orange/Sumter) has a different idea. His bill (SB 482) on the other hand is in disagreement with Lee’s idea. Sen. Hays has been steadfast in his belief that the Citizens risk should be born in the worldwide insurance markets and not at all by Florida, and that the Cat Fund should be preserved in such a way that it is strictly used as a “leveling” mechanism should the reinsurance markets’ volatility swing to harden the market.  Senator Jeremy Ring (D-Broward) has filed yet a third bill related to the Cat Fund. His bill (SB 228), which to-date has no House companion that we are aware of, is essentially a placeholder for the Senator who would like to prompt legislative discussion about a change in the way the Cat Fund is governed. The Senator does not believe that any one individual should be responsible for managing a financial entity (such as the Cat Fund) with $17 billion of exposure. Notwithstanding, his bill would require the State Board of Administration to negotiate a line of credit to reimburse insurers if payments exceed available assets and bonding receipts. The line of credit must be sufficient to cover projected receipts from a minimum of three years’ bonding and for second-event catastrophes. The bill would also, among other things, repeal the rapid cash build-up factor from the formula used for determining premiums which must be paid to the Cat Fund. We are following this debate closely as many of you are in the various Cat Fund “camps.”  One thing is for certain; it appears there is appetite to “do something” with the Cat Fund and as recently as last week at the Florida Chamber’s insurance summit, Cat Fund Executive Director Jack Nicholson said he would be bringing a proposal to the Florida cabinet in March to purchase $1.5 billion in private collateralized reinsurance, the first such purchase in the Cat Fund’s over twenty year history.

More On The CAT Fund, Should Ultra High Value Homes Be Covered?

The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund has been asked to evaluate a proposal to remove from coverage homes having a value of $2 million or greater. If such a proposal were approved by the Legislature during the upcoming Regular Session it would net about 10,300 homes and also reduce by $70 billion the Cat Fund’s $2.1 trillion exposure. This proposal is in addition to several other proposed Cat Fund reforms already being considered in the bills outlined in the article above. Cat Fund data reflects that about 1,500 covered homes have a value of $5 million or more and 293 are valued at $10 million or more. If the decision is made to remove from coverage those homes valued at $2 million or greater same will require a law change by the Legislature. Depending on when such a change became effective, it might be implemented this year via an amendment to the 2014-15 reimbursement contract, however, it is more likely that such a change would not be implemented until next year’s reimbursement contracts are effectuated. Your LMA team will closely track this issue, along with the existing Cat Fund bills and keep you posted as the Legislature deliberates.

Senator Brandes’ Flood Insurance Bill Finds House Companion NFIP Rate Increases Temporarily Delayed By Congress

Monday 1/13/14- Senator Jeff Brandes’ popular flood insurance legislation (SB 542) which was unanimously approved on January 8th by the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee has found its identical House Chamber companion. Filed by Representative Larry Ahern (R-Pinellas), HB 581 mirrors Brandes’ Senate bill in helping to create a private market alternative to purchasing flood insurance through the financially strapped National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Rep. Ahern’s bill should be heard soon in its first committee of reference, the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee. Meanwhile, this past Friday (1/17/14) Congress passed and President Obama signed, as part of the omnibus budget package, a delay of the implementation of Section 207 of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 (BW12) until September 30, 2014. Section 207 is the portion of BW12 which mandates significant rate increases for some existing and all new NFIP policyholders under certain conditions. The delay is purely a temporary measure while Congress entertains more extensive reform proposals.

Governor Fills Two Citizens Board Positions, One Remains

Friday 1/17/14- Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of James Holton and the reappointment of John Wortman to the Board of Governors overseeing Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Holton, 59, of St. Petersburg, is the president of Holton Companies. He has previously served as Chairman of the Florida Transportation Commission, and as a member of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors. He received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Boston University. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning January 17, 2014, and ending July 31, 2014. Wortman, 73, of Ponte Vedra, is a consultant with Wortman Capital Associates. Wortman has nearly five decades of experience in the insurance industry. Throughout his career, he has served as CEO of the American Mutual group of companies, Michigan Mutual and the Amerisure Companies, and Citizens of Louisiana. He has served on the Board of Governor of Citizens Property Insurance since September 2011. Wortman received his bachelor’s degree from Washburn University. He is reappointed for a term beginning January 17, 2014, and ending July 31, 2016. The appointment of Holton and reappointment of Wortman leaves one remaining position on the corporation’s Board of Governors. Established during the 2013 Regular Session by Senate Bill 1770 and vacant since the new law went into effect on July 1, 2013, the newly created board position is supposed to be primarily consumer advocacy focused. We’ll monitor this situation and let you know as soon as the Governor announces an appointee to this new role on the board.

Citizens’ Personal Lines Residential Clearinghouse Launches Today

Monday 1/27/14- Four private insurers have begun offering policies to new applicants for homeowners’ coverage as part of Citizens’ staged rollout of the Clearinghouse designed by state lawmakers in 2013’s Senate Bill 1770. Over the next five months, additional participating private-market insurers will be added to the list of approved-Florida companies able to write property insurance for Citizens applicants. The Property Insurance Clearinghouse, which will help match homeowners with private companies willing to write comparable polices at competitive rates, is the latest effort by the Legislature to reduce Citizens’ exposure and the risk of assessments for all Floridians. Homeowners who find private coverage through the Clearinghouse also will benefit by not being subject to Citizens policyholder assessments that can be as high as 45 percent in a single year. “The Clearinghouse offers dual benefits of helping homeowners find better coverage at comparable rates and reducing Citizens’ exposure,” said Chris Gardner, Chairman of Citizens Board of Governors. “We’re excited by the promise this initiative holds for helping to lower assessment risks for all Floridians.” Starting today, when a homeowner seeks new homeowners coverage with Citizens, their Citizens-appointed agent will enter their property information into the Clearinghouse, which will seek offers of coverage from participating private-market companies. If a participating company offers a policy at a premium that is within 15 percent of the Citizens premium for comparable coverage, the applicant will be ineligible for Citizens coverage. The homeowner will be given a list of all private offers extended through the Clearinghouse, and, in most cases, their agent will be able to bind coverage with the company of their choosing. The Clearinghouse is initially focusing on new homeowners’ (HO-3) policies. By mid-2014, current Citizens residential customers also should have their policies shopped through the Clearinghouse prior to renewal. Renewal policyholders will only be ineligible to renew with Citizens if an offer for comparable coverage is received with a premium that is equal to or less than their Citizens renewal premium. “I want to thank all those involved in this monumental effort,” said Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway in response to today’s Clearinghouse launch. LMA sends a big hearty “thank you” to ALL of the Citizens crew who have labored many long hours for countless months to accomplish this major endeavor!

The Good Guys May Be Winning The PIP Reform Battle, Finally!

For many years now the insurance industry and the state Division of Insurance Fraud have been waging a daily battle to curb the tide of fraud which has infiltrated Florida’s PIP System. In fact, fraud has continued to be the single largest cost driver within our automobile insurance industry, even after years of statutory tweaks and the dedication of additional resources in the law enforcement and prosecutorial realms. Staged accidents, bogus clinics and fraudsters in the medical imaging, chiropractic, massage therapy and legal professions have stolen millions upon millions of claims dollars meant to protect honest automobile insureds injured on Florida roadways. In 2012 the Florida Legislature took a hard swipe at the problem passing HB 119 which contained a series of serious reforms designed to get at the root of the problems. About as soon as the reforms became law did law suits begin flying in an effort to undermine the reforms and have them held unconstitutional by the courts? During the see-saw court battle over the past year or so a frustrated Legislature has even seriously considered completely throwing out the state’s no-fault PIP system and replacing it with a mandatory BI system including medical payments.  Fortunately, the litigation tide may have turned this past December when the Florida Supreme Court denied a plaintiff’s motion for rehearing in the primary case attacking the 2012 reforms’ constitutionality. A bright indicator that the legislative reforms may finally be paying dividends came on January 16th when Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty spoke at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Annual Insurance Summit in Orlando.  McCarty said the 2012 reforms have stopped the spiral in PIP auto insurance premiums and reduced PIP rates on average more than 13 percent. Although the court battle is likely not over, McCarty’s office is seeing some positive trends. At the end of 2013, the Office of Insurance Regulation performed a preliminary analysis to determine the impact that HB 119 had on personal auto rates and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) rates in particular.

Based on the recent rate history of the top 20 personal auto insurers, encompassing 75.3% of the Florida personal auto market, it appears that HB 119 has been successful in changing the upward trajectory of auto premiums we had been observing. Since the initial round of filings required by HB 119, the top 20 insurers have, on average, reduced PIP rates over 13.2%.  This will save the average Florida family $156 each year. These savings range from as high as $444 in Miami-Dade County to $89 in Leon County. While not all insurers have experienced decreases in PIP, all insurers have recognized the savings due to HB 119 when determining the changes needed in the rate filings. While the Commissioner’s report is certainly encouraging, we must remain vigilant and continue doing everything possible to stop those who are committing auto insurance fraud. We’ll continue closely monitoring the court system and let you know about any new developments.

DFS Arrests Couple in Hollywood for Auto Claims Fraud

Tuesday 1/21/14- The state Division of Insurance Fraud has announced the arrest of Miguel and Francheska Quintero of Hollywood for insurance fraud after Quintero falsely claimed that his vehicle was stolen from his home last July. An investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that Quintero and his wife arranged for the vehicle to be removed from the residence while they were away, after which they reported it stolen and filed a fraudulent stolen vehicle insurance claim. A statement given by the Quintero’s next door neighbor revealed that two men were working on and attempting to start Quintero’s vehicle on the day of the theft. He spoke with the two men and contacted Quintero by phone to alert him. Quintero shared that he was aware of the activity and attempted to dissuade his neighbor from talking to the authorities by saying, “you don’t know anything about this.” The neighbor confirmed witnessing the two men successfully jumpstart the vehicle and drive it away. Miguel Quintero reported to Hollywood police that his 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe was unlawfully removed from his Hollywood home. Quintero advised police that he left his vehicle locked and parked at his residence on the day of the alleged incident. The following day, Quintero’s wife filed a stolen vehicle report with GEICO (insurance company). Prior to the defendant initiating the police report, a Doral Police officer noticed an abandoned vehicle parked off of the side of the road, and research revealed that the vehicle, a 2011 Chevy Tahoe, belonged to Quintero. Francheska and Miguel Quintero were arrested and transported to the Broward County Jail without incident. At the time of the theft the couple owed $35,173 on their loan. It was confirmed that they were three months late on their car payments at the time of the vehicle theft.

South Florida Public Adjuster Facing Federal Arson Charges

Friday 1/10/14- According to a Miami Herald report a Dade County based public adjuster has been arrested on federal charges of conspiring to burn down at least three houses to bilk more than $2.3 million from insurance companies. Jorge Fausto Espinosa Sr., charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud and using fire to commit a felony, had his first appearance in Miami federal court today. Espinosa is accused of conspiring with another Miami-Dade man, Felipe Ruiz, who was recently sentenced to eight years in prison for committing both insurance and Medicare fraud. Ruiz was assisted by Espinosa in setting fire to Ruiz’s home and filing a fraudulent insurance claim, according to federal prosecutor Ron Davidson. An insurance company paid out $1.4 million on Ruiz’s false claim, he said.  Espinosa is the father of former Miami-Dade police officer Jorge A. Espinosa, who drew scrutiny in 2004 after he shot and killed an unarmed teenaged burglar. He wasn’t charged in that controversial case but resigned and took up work as a licensed public adjuster. In 2010, the younger Espinosa was charged by state prosecutors with theft, fraud and other schemes, including allegedly pumping up claims by tens of thousands of dollars. The case is still open.

Bill Will Empower DOT, Not Politicians to Set Speed Limits in Florida

Thursday 1/16/14-Current state law establishes varying speed limits on different types of roadways. The current limits are 70 miles per hour for interstates, 65 miles per hour for highways with a divided median, and 60 miles per hour for other roadways that the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees. However, today SB 392 by Senators Jeff Brandes (R-Hillsborough/Pinellas) and Jeff Clemens (D-Palm Beach) passed overwhelmingly in the Senate Committee on Transportation. The bill raises the maximum allowable speeds on certain state roads and interstates after review and consideration by traffic safety engineers at the Florida Department of Transportation. “I believe that speed limits matched to road conditions and motorist behavior will restore respect for the law and increase compliance, which is a viewpoint shared by 16 other states and consumer safety groups,” stated Senator Brandes. “This bill calls for traffic safety engineers rather than politicians to set speed limits.” “This is a cautious and well-reasoned approach to traffic control based on data, rather than emotion.” stated Senator Clemens. “The facts are clear. Raising speed limits over the past 20 years has not resulted in less safety.” “The passage of SB 392 through the senate transportation committee represents a good first step toward improving the safety and efficiency of Florida’s highways,” stated John Bowman, Communications Director for the National Motorists Association. “SB 392 facilitates the setting of safe and proper highway speed limits, and the National Motorists Association encourages all Florida lawmakers to support it”. The Brandes-Clemens bill proposes to increase these limits by 5 miles per hour. The highest speed limits in the nation are currently in Texas, which allows up to 85 miles per hour on certain roads, and Utah’s 80 mile per hour speed limit.

Governor Yields to Writ of Mandamus Threat, Appoints a Lieutenant

As you will recall, in our last newsletter edition we reported on a legal action filed January 6th with the Florida Supreme Court by Leon County resident Barbara DeVane requesting that the Court order Governor Rick Scott to appoint a Lieutenant Governor. The position had been vacant since March 13, 2013, when then Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll resigned amid state and federal gambling probes. On January 14th, Governor Scott announced Carlos Lopez-Cantera as Florida’s next Lieutenant Governor. Lopez-Cantera was born in Madrid, Spain on December 29, 1973. He was born two months premature and was returned to his intended birthplace of Miami, Florida once he was healthy enough to travel. He later graduated from Miami-Dade College and continued his studies at the University of Miami, where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration. In August 2012, the citizens of Miami-Dade County elected Carlos Lopez-Cantera as the Property Appraiser.  From 2004 through 2012, Carlos served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. Over the course of his 8-year term in the Legislature, Carlos served as a member of the Governor’s Property Tax Reform Committee, the My Safe Florida Home Advisory Council and the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force. In the Florida House of Representatives, he chaired the Committee on Business Regulation and the Government Affairs Committee. Carlos served as Majority Whip from 2009 through 2010 and as the Majority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives during the final two years of his term from 2010 through 2012.

DFS Seeks Amendments to Disciplinary Rules for Agents, Adjusters

Tuesday 1/21/14- The Department of Financial Services, Division of Agent & Agency Services, has provided Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Rule Chapter 69B-231.090, Florida Administrative Code, relating to penalties for violations of subsections 626.621(13) and (14), F.S. The notice has been filed with the Florida Department of State and was officially published in the Florida Administrative Register today. The revisions are intended to amend Rule 69B-231.090, F.A.C., to conform to section 626.207(8), F.S., which requires the Department to adopt rules establishing specific penalties against licensees for violations of Section 626.621, F.S.  In this rulemaking activity the Department intends to adopt specific penalties against its licensees when they have been the subject of disciplinary action by any other state or federal licensing or regulatory authority, including securities or commodities regulators. The DFS also intends to adopt penalties against licensees for when they fail to comply with any civil, criminal, or administrative action taken by the child support enforcement program under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. ss. 651 et seq., to determine paternity or to establish, modify, enforce, or collect support. If requested, a rule hearing will be held on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 116 of the J. Edwin Larson Building, 200 E. Gaines Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399. Please click here if you would like to read the Department’s entire Notice and draft rule amendments. If you have any questions about the rules or penalties the Department is seeking to adopt please call our office and we’ll be happy to answer those.

Whew…. And It Is Only Beginning

We think living in Florida is fun and exciting all the time.  However, as legislative committees ramp up their hard work on “all things good for the State”, we also ramp up the excitement at LMA in covering “all things good for the State”.  We all heard recently that the population of our great state is projected to pass that of the state of New York by the end of 2014.  This brings great new opportunities to those of us who love living in Florida and those wanting to live here.  We work hard to be “in the know” regarding new opportunities coming to our state and how to help growth those already blessed to be here.  We will continue to keep you in the know along with us.  In the meantime, stay tuned as the fun times come faster and faster the closer to Session’s start (Tuesday, March 4) we get…

Always there for all of you…Lisa