News By Industry
News from Tallahassee for 3/7/14
Senate panel moves on bill to shrink Citizens as 75,000 policies targeted for take out posted on 3/6/14
by Gray Rohrer | Florida Current
The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee continued to shape a proposal (SB 7062) to further shrink state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. on Wednesday afternoon, just hours after state regulators announced approval of plans from three private companies to take over up to 75,000 Citizens policies. The bill, however, was postponed before a vote.
The bill would shop condominium and apartment complexes covered by Citizens on the clearinghouse marketplace to place them with new private companies by Oct. 1, 2015. The bill would also increase possible assessments on coastal account policies after a major hurricane from 15 percent to 20 percent but lower them for personal lines account policies from 15 percent to 10 percent...
Across the Capitol, other insurance bills were progressing. The House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, passed several bills, including HB 391, which would reduce the total coverage in the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund by $3 billion to $14 billion but provide alternative optional coverage.
A bill (HB 879) designed to encourage private companies to write flood insurance after the large rate hikes from the National Flood Insurance Program thanks to federal legislation from 2012 also cleared the committee. The bill would not allow companies to cover only the amount of the outstanding mortgage on a home, however, unlike the Senate version of the bill, SB 542.
Legislation (HB 143) to lengthen the period of time companies have to pay assessments to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association after a different company goes bust also passed through the House panel.
U.S. House votes to stem tide of big flood insurance hikes posted on 3/5/14
by charles elmore | Palm Beach Post
The U.S. House voted late Tuesday to stop a deluge of big, immediate flood insurance premium hikes, drawing enough bipartisan votes from coastal states including Florida to overwhelm the protests of GOP hard-liners.
Backers hailed it as welcome relief from skyrocketing premiums paralyzing real estate markets, with the biggest jumps affecting more properties in Florida, 268,000, than any other state. Opponents scorned it as a retreat from reforms designed to get the National Flood Insurance Program out of $24 billion in debt.
Owners of primary homes not already paying full flood rates would see average increases of 15 percent a year, capped at 18 percent. That’s a sharp contrast with increases of 200 percent, 300 percent or even 1,000 percent for some properties under 2012 changes approved by Congress. Those who already paid higher amounts would get refunds.
The bill “forces 96 percent of Americans to subsidize 4 percent” including millionaires with beachfront vacation homes, lamented Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. He called it “misguided.”
Large numbers of Republicans in Florida and other states broke ranks with that narrative, achieving a necessary two-thirds majority to suspend the rules and pass the bill, 306-91.
Lawmakers Look to Pass Far-Flung Gun Bills posted on 3/3/14
by DARA KAM | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
What do Pop-Tarts and property insurance have in common?
For anyone who has been paying attention to the Florida Legislature recently, the answer is easy: Guns.
Bills dealing with toaster pastries and insurance policies are just two of more than a dozen gun-related measures lined up for the 2014 legislative session that starts Tuesday. As in previous years, many of them will go nowhere, especially if Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association's powerful Florida lobbyist, doesn't like them.
But in an election year, whether the bills actually pass or not may not really matter to politicians looking to score points with voters.
"Certain legislators will file legislation they know will not pass because they will be able to demagogue during their campaigns and say, 'I filed it but couldn't get it passed.' This happens in every state in the union and on the federal level," said Hammer, a former national president of the gun-rights organization. "People use bills to accentuate their beliefs on certain issues. And those who want to be able to stand up and say, 'I support the Second Amendment, I support the rights of law-abiding gun owners,' are going to want to be able to vote on some pro-gun legislation and sometimes against anti-gun legislation."
A viewers’ guide to the 2014 Florida Legislature session posted on 3/3/14
by Steve Bousquet | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE -- The 2014 session of the Florida Legislature opens Tuesday with the usual upbeat tone, but it won’t last.
It can’t in an election year. Gov. Rick Scott wants to win a second term, Republicans want to help him and Democrats want to undermine the GOP’s agenda at every turn on education spending, school vouchers, Medicaid reform, a proposed pension plan overhaul and other issues.
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, have proposed a bolder agenda than Scott, whose top priority is a package of tax and fee cuts totaling $500 million....
FIVE BILLS TO WATCH
Concealed weapons (SB 544, HB 523): Floridians could apply for concealed weapons permits at county tax collectors’ offices where they renew their vehicle tags to ease the growing backlog of applications, but it would cost more. Likely to pass.
Flood insurance (SB 542, HB 581): To address the crisis in flood insurance, private insurers would be encouraged to market policies to homeowners, but costs have not been fully addressed. Passage uncertain.
Speed limits (SB 392): Motorists on rural interstate highways where the speed limit is now 70 mph could go 75 mph. Passage uncertain.
State Farm seeking new homeowners' policies in Florida again posted on 2/28/14
by Gray Rohrer | Florida Current
Four years after State Farm stopped writing new homeowners' policies in Florida - after first threatening to quit the state altogether - the insurance giant has quietly begun to seek new business in the Sunshine State.
State Farm Florida is now writing new homeowners' and renters' policies throughout the state on a "limited basis".
"While we are limited in our ability to discuss specific details about future plans (due to constrictions of antitrust laws), we have shared business information with agents about State Farm Florida's efforts to expand our offering of new Homeowner (HO-W) and Renters (HO-4) policies on a limited basis," State Farm spokeswoman Michal Brower said.
The decision represents a significant shift in Florida's property insurance market. State Farm was the second-largest property insurer in the state when it threatened to leave in 2009, behind only state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
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