Florida Senate Democrats tried dozens of times Tuesday morning, to no avail, to alter the course of a GOP-sponsored property insurance bill slated for passage that they say will not quickly help homeowners facing steep rate hikes and policy cancellations as hurricane season dawns.
Senate Bill 2-D, one of two bills highlighted during this special session, mirrors agreements brokered by GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Ron DeSantis before the session began on Monday. It is sponsored by Sen. Jim Boyd, a Manatee-Sarasota Republican and insurance broker, as is related legislation in Senate Bill 4-D.
While the bill aims to save Florida’s collapsing insurance market, including investing $2 billion of taxpayers’ money, Democrats say it does little to help consumers.
“What we’re doing is a $2 billion tax giveaway to insurance companies to prop them up and keep them solvent in the state of Florida, right?” asked Sen. Janet Cruz of Hillsborough, noting that insurers are not required to reimburse him.
Boyd, who handled the Republican side of Tuesday’s discussion, said, “I take issue with the words tax giveaway and support.” He said of the plan: “This is an effort to stabilize the market.”
Boyd said SB 2-D will eventually bring rate relief, but not anytime soon, and he persuaded the GOP majority to reject all Democratic amendments to keep the bill aligned with its counterpart under consideration in the House of Representatives.
“There will absolutely be relief. Unfortunately, that won’t come for another 12 to 18 months,” Boyd told the full Senate, insisting that the first step must be to pass measures to stabilize the collapsing insurance market. in Florida.
Democrats said that was not enough and tried, in a series of amendments, to impose a freeze on rate hikes and guaranteed rate cuts.
“I thought that’s what we were here to do,” said Miami-Dade Sen. Annette Taddeo, who sponsored an amendment ensuring that any bill savings would be passed on to policyholders. She also proposed an amendment to require insurers to write policies in all areas of Florida — not to be allowed to continue excluding South Florida.
“I think it is unacceptable that we allow companies to come and do business and specifically discriminate [against] areas in South Florida because they decided they weren’t as profitable,” Taddeo said.
Broward County Sen. Gary Farmer sponsored 10 amendments aimed at lowering rates for policyholders and increasing transparency between insurers. One would shift $1.23 billion in taxes collected on insurance premiums toward rate relief for policyholders.
“That’s money sitting there,” Farmer said in support of that amendment. “We just had the largest budget in the history of our state. We could easily take that $1.23 billion and give it back to the owners. This amendment puts money in their pockets.
Among Farmer’s other attempts: to require insurance companies to put more of their own capital at stake before they are allowed to underwrite policies in Florida; requiring longer notice of rate increase hearings so that affected parties have a better opportunity to participate; and require the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) to borrow from available public funds when needed following insurance company bankruptcies rather than imposing higher fees on policyholders across the country. ‘State.
Farmer said FIGA had to borrow $500 million last year to cover losses from the bankruptcy of two insurance companies, then imposed special assessments on policyholders to cover them.
“Let us borrow from ourselves. It would avoid future assessments,” Farmer explained, warning, “It’s a canary in a coal mine. There are 13 other companies in receivership right now. They will all fail. We’re going to have to bail them all out.
Farmer noted that such ratings are imposed on holders of all types of insurance policies, including auto and health.
“Everyone is going to feel it, not just the owners,” he said.
Additionally, Farmer — who is leaving the Senate this year — has sponsored an amendment requiring the state to collect data on how climate change is contributing to increasingly frequent and costly property losses in Florida and on the rise. cost and availability of coverage. He said climate change was still the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but needed to take center stage.
Those amendments and all other Democratic amendments were defeated in the Republican-dominated Senate, leaving the bill in the form Boyd wants, so it reflects what is likely to pass the House on Wednesday. Aligning the chambers allows legislators to adjourn without having to reconcile differences.
Boyd said some of the amendments are worth considering, but “not at this time,” which likely means they would disrupt deals negotiated before the session by the House, Senate and governor’s office. He said the best amendments could be dealt with in future legislative sessions.
Other features of Senate Bill 2 include:
- limit owners’ ability to sue insurance companies in the event of a dispute
- curb suspected fraud that insurance companies claim leads to inflated payments
- prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage for a home with a roof less than 15 years old.