News from Tallahassee for 7/30/14

'Hurricane Tax' on Insurance To End posted on 7/23/14

by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

hurricane andrewTALLAHASSEE— An extra charge on property-insurance and auto-insurance policies to cover claims paid for the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons will end Jan. 1.

The Office of Insurance Regulation formally issued orders Tuesday for insurance companies to move up by 18 months the end of a 1.3 percent "emergency assessment" for the state-run Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which provides backup coverage to insurers.

The assessment has hit policyholders for $2.9 billion, which has gone to reimburse insurance companies for claims from the eight hurricanes that hit Florida in 2004 and 2005, the last time a hurricane made landfall in Florida.

"It's been nine years since (Hurricane) Wilma," said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council. "If anything, the assessment helps us remember how devastating these storms may be."

Miller said the industry had been waiting for the orders so it could begin preparing for the new end date for the assessment, which previously had been set for July 1, 2016.

The orders make official a decision Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet made last month to end the assessment, Amy Bogner, a spokeswoman for the Office of Insurance Regulation, said in an email.

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Gov. Scott signs hit-and-run law posted on 7/17/14

by Marc Caputo | Miami Herald

On Wednesday, under rainy skies near the scene of the crime that took Cohen’s life, Gov. Rick Scott held a ceremonial bill-signing to draw attention to the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, which increases penalties on drivers in fatal hit-and-run crashes.

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Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/16/4239809/gov-scott-signs-hit-and-run-law.html#storylink=cpy

Sinkhole Study Aims To Reveal Vulnerabilities Across Florida posted on 7/8/14

by nick evans | wfsu

State geologists have completed a survey of sinkhole formations in three North Florida Counties. Officials say this study will help predict which areas are most at risk for sinkholes in the future.

Over the past year, Clint Kromhout and Alan Baker of the Florida Geological Survey have studied sinkholes in Hamilton, Columbia, and Suwannee counties. Kromout says they chose the area because of its varied terrain.

“It was important to pick an area of the state that had a good amount of geomorphic diversity and it just so happens that Suwanne-Hamilton-Columbia has quite a bit of geomorphic diversity,” Kromhout says.

Kromhout and Baker have completed the initial study. The end result is a kind of heat map indicating which regions are most likely to get sink holes and a better understanding of the factors that could cause them.

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Florida's largest insurer votes to lower rates posted on 6/26/14

by AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's largest property insurer, which has more than 928,000 policyholders across the state, plans to drop its rates in 2015 after raising them the four previous years.

The board of Citizens Property Insurance voted Wednesday to lower rates by an average of 3.2 percent for single family homeowners in 2015. The state-created insurer says that nearly 70 percent of those with homeowner policies should see some sort of decrease.

For some customers, including those living in coastal regions from the Panhandle to the Atlantic coast, the drop could be as much as 10 percent.

"The rates approved today by the board indicate that Citizens is moving in the right direction," Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway said in a statement. "They also are a clear sign that Citizens and all Florida property owners will see clear benefits from improving financial stability in the private insurance market."

The decision to lower rates, which must still be approved by state regulators, is coming during an election year. It follows a push by legislators and Gov. Rick Scott to trim the number of policyholders of Citizens, which is allowed under state law to recover money from most insurance policy holders if it cannot pay off its claims.

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Citizens Property Insurance to reduce rates posted on 6/24/14

by zac anderson | herald-tribune

Citizen's Property Insurance logoCitizens Property Insurance, Florida’s largest home insurer, is expected to reduce average rates in 2015 for the first time in years, although many Southwest Florida customers will still see an increase because some of the most common policies sold locally are still considered underpriced.

The statewide rate reduction proposed by Citizens’ staff is an important milestone for Florida’s troubled property insurance market, which has the highest rates in the nation. It could be a sign that the industry is finally approaching equilibrium after years of steady rate hikes.

A typical “multi-peril” homeowner’s policy would see a price cut of 6.3 percent on average statewide, while a multi-peril mobile home policy would drop by 5.1 percent if Citizens’ board approves the proposal Wednesday. The state Office of Insurance Regulation must also approve the plan.

But the average premium reduction across all policy types at Citizens would only be 1 percent because rate increases are still proposed in many counties for commercial properties, “wind only” hurricane coverage and condo policies.

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