State House members pass property insurance reform bill in special session

Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee
Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 5:32 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCJB) -With property insurance described as a “hidden tax” on homeowners, the Florida House on Wednesday gave final approval to a plan aimed at stabilizing the state’s troubled insurance market. The Republican-dominated House voted 84 to 33 along party lines to pass the bill on the final day of a special legislative session.

The Senate approved their version of the bill Tuesday, meaning it is ready to go to Governor Ron DeSantis. The bill includes wide-ranging changes that supporters acknowledge will not immediately lower insurance rates. At least for some homeowners, such as customers of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance, the bill could increase costs. But after two years of private insurers seeking hefty rate increases and dropping hundreds of thousands of customers because of financial losses, Republican lawmakers, including Mike Giallombardo, said the bill will bolster the market, spur competition and, ultimately, to bring down costs.

”Insurance companies are in business to make money too,:” said Rep. Giallombardo. “If they can’t make money here, if they can’t stay solvent, they are gone. It’s a business decision.”

Democrats opposed the bill, saying it helps insurers while doing little for residents struggling to pay insurance premiums.

”Right now, you are just pushing Citizens’ customers into the danger zone with very high rates,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, of Orlando. “You’re putting flood insurance on them, which you are not requiring for private customers, which seems weird to me. I’m just worried that when you do that, you are going to push people into dire economic situations.”

Democratic Representative Yvonne Hayes Hinson of Gainesville sent a statement on the matter. “This legislation puts homeowners on the hook for almost everything.  It will make hiring an attorney so cumbersome and costly that homeowners will not be able to afford it.  This in addition to the burdensome costs they have in property damage and rising premiums.  We need to stop bailing out the companies and start bailing out our Floridians so that they will be able to keep their most valuable asset, their homes.”

Legislative leaders and the DeSantis administration negotiated the bill before the special session started Monday. The bills await the Governor’s signature.

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