Major Citizens bill could be hard to pass
The Legislature appears to be on a path to make it harder for non-homesteaded homes, often owned by people living out-of-state, to be added to or remain under the umbrella of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
However, the Florida Insurance Council, one of the leading lobbying groups for the private insurance industry, is not overly optimistic there will be other lasting or meaningful changes in the coming session that could quickly spin Citizens back to being an insurer of last resort.
"The Senate bill is comprehensive, the Senate bill would reduce Citizens to an insurer of last resort, so it's probably impossible to pass," said council Executive Vice President Sam Miller.
"The House is not even considering anything that comprehensive at this point," Miller said.
The Senate bill, still in a draft form, comes as Citizens, with about 1.3 million policies, has been working to shed itself of the least risky polices.
For the insurance council, the pace isn't fast enough.
Also, what passes through the Legislature will have to be signed by Gov. Rick Scott, who is up for re-election and has generally opposed rate and fee increases that impact Florida's families.
Last Thursday, a trio of Senate Democrats — Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale), Jeremy Ring (D-Margate) and Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) — urged Scott to consider expanding the risk to neighboring hurricane-prone states to establish a "regional approach for addressing the issue."
Meanwhile, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee under Chairman Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) has been considering a number of sweeping changes to speed those efforts, including raising the 10 percent cap on rate increases and reducing the maximum policy from $2 million to $600,000.
Among the proposals still on the table are making homeowners ineligible for Citizens if coverage is available at a near similar price from a private firm; setting rates for new customers to be more actuarially sound or less competitive with the private market; creating a "clearinghouse" to make the least risky policies available to private companies; requiring the state Office of Insurance Regulation to establish new guidelines for homes valued at more than $300,000 to qualify for Citizens; and prohibiting out-of-state homeowners and secondary-owned homes from being eligible.
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee is expected to meet next week, the first week of the regular session, to discuss the proposed bill.