Calls falling on deaf ears
There are growing calls this morning for the Florida Legislature to hold a special session to address meaningful property insurance reform that failed to pass when it adjourned two weeks ago. So far, legislative leaders and the Governor are hesitant to do so.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, a former House Minority Leader in the legislature, wrote Governor DeSantis urging him to show leadership by calling a special session “to address Florida’s skyrocketing windstorm insurance rates,” he wrote. “The issue touches millions of Floridians yet went wholly ignored this last legislative session. While there hasn’t been a major hurricane in Florida in years, somehow insurers continue to persuade lawmakers and regulators that double-digit increases are warranted. Homeowners, and renters who feel the pass-through cost of insurance, are feeling the pain of massive increases. For our fixed-income seniors, these costs are as unexpected as they are unaffordable.”
Gelber’s sentiments were echoed last week by current House Minority Leader, Rep. Evan Jenne (D-Hollywood) who also says a special session is necessary. Some of the state’s major media outlets are also calling for a special session: Fix property insurance — and put consumers first (Orlando Sentinel) and Jeff Brandes is right to push for Special Session on insurance rates (Florida Politics).
Governor DeSantis, when asked last week, deferred to House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) and Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), telling reporters “If they can get an agreement, they should do it.” Speaker Sprowls, an attorney, has no interest, saying he wants to wait another 12-18 months to see how the legislature’s 2021 reforms with SB 76 may help the marketplace. (You can watch Speaker Sprowls’ commentary here from March 2.) Senate President Simpson, who supported meaningful proposals within SB 1728, the main reform bill this session, initially said reconvening legislators was “a possibility” but right after session he wobbled, telling reporters “we decided it would be better for the next Legislature to take that issue up.”
“The bottom line is that homeowners lost, and that’s what troubles me,” said Senator Jim Boyd (R-Sarasota) an insurance agent who sponsored SB 1728. So what happened? In the last week of session, House leadership reportedly insisted on modifying the bill’s 2% deductible requirement for any roof repair claim except for total losses, hurricane damage, or a repair not requiring replacement. They balked at making it mandatory, wanting it optional for insurance companies to offer, but it already is optional. Sprowls mischaracterized SB 1728 this session and even afterward and his position to wait to see any effects from last session’s SB 76 doesn’t acknowledge that the entire bill is being challenged in federal court, its roofing solicitation requirement has been temporarily enjoined from enforcement, and any hearings resolving those challenges likely won’t occur until this summer.
Meanwhile, consumers will continue to suffer from a lack of competition among insurance companies and affordable homeowners premiums. We would remind the Governor that his chief challenger for re-election this fall, Charlie Crist, successfully ran for Governor in 2006 on a platform of property insurance reform.
LMA Newsletter of 3-28-22