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Florida Governor Signs Sweeping Property Insurance Bill

Source: Miami Herald

Posted on 18 May 2011

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Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a sweeping property insurance bill designed to control costs into law on Tuesday.

The bill allows insurance companies to pass on reinsurance costs to policyholders, shortens the window for filing sinkhole and storm-related damage claims, and limits claims for damage caused by sinkholes to primary structures.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce called Scott’s move a bold act of leadership.

“Despite what the critics say, signing this bill into law is the first step toward stabilizing Florida’s property insurance market,” said chamber CEO Mark Wilson. “It will increase competition by attracting insurance companies that currently do not write property insurance policies in Florida.”

Michael Carlson, executive director of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, cast the bill as good for consumers, commending the governor for recognizing the “value and importance of a vibrant private insurance market in Florida.”

Consumer advocates lamented the move, which came just six days after the governor received the bill. He had until May 26 to sign it.

“No one is shocked that Governor Rick Scott would sign an anti-consumer bill that raises rates and hurts our economy, but his eagerness is telling,”said Sean Shaw, founder of Policyholders of Florida. “There was growing and overwhelming opposition to this bill, which is probably why the governor rushed to sign it into law, to avoid more bad press about impending rate hikes in a bad economy.”

From May 6 to 12, the governor’s office received nearly 400 phone calls, emails and letters on SB 408, nearly every one of them opposing the measure.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, fought the measure throughout the legislative session. Some of the provisions he opposed — such as freeing insurance companies from a requirement to offer comprehensive sinkhole coverage altogether — were removed from the bill.

But until the end he objected to the bill, in part, because of its potential to lead to rate increases.

“Big business has triumphed over the needs of the consumer,” Fasano said Tuesday. “Insurance companies will only get richer because of this legislation, while policyholders will have to pay more of their hard-earned money for what will amount to less coverage.”

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, sponsored the legislation.

Business and insurance groups heralded the bill-signing as an important step toward increasing competition in the insurance marketplace.

Scott signed the bill without ceremony, issuing a brief news release afterward that said the signing followed through on his “campaign promise to allow competition that gives consumers more insurance choices.”

He characterized the bill as “addressing cost drivers associated with burdensome regulations, and confronting the sinkhole crisis.”