Florida lawmakers are on the verge of passing property insurance reform in hopes of reducing rates over the long term and preventing more insurance companies from going belly up.
Despite Senate Democrats’ best efforts to guarantee rate savings in the legislation Tuesday, their efforts ultimately failed.
Democrats put forth more than 20 amendments, many of which attempted to either mandate rate reductions or freeze rates for a period of time.
One by one Democrats saw their amendments shot down.
“My constituents, who I have spent quite a bit of time with over the last several weeks and months, are in desperate, desperate need. Not for 18 months from now, but today, tomorrow, the next day,” said Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book (D-Plantation).
Senator Book pushed for guaranteed rate savings in the bill, but Republicans pushed back, arguing such measures could force even more insurers into bankruptcy.
“Sadly, it can’t happen today or tomorrow. We have to allow carriers to charge actuarily sound rates in the environment they’re in,” said Senate sponsor Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton).
Instead, the preferred approach taken by GOP leaders: Tackling frivolous lawsuits.
Florida accounts for 9% of homeowners claims nationwide, but 79% of lawsuits.
State Senator and roofing contractor Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) told us even with the measures in the bill, lawmakers’ work is far from finished.
“It’s kind of cottage industry. It moves. Remember when we were talking about sinkholes and it moves from one thing, iron pipes, to another thing,” said Perry.
But State Senator Jason Pizzo (D-Miami) told us he fears without quantifiable savings, Florida policyholders can’t trust relief is truly coming.
“It’s a little scary that we couldn’t come to terms on at least being able to tell all of you and everybody watching we’re pretty sure where we’re going to land this. So you can talk about the efficacy and positives of this bill, but you can’t quantify what the savings or what the positive benefits are going to be for homeowners,” said Pizzo.
While insurance companies are getting many of their biggest asks in the special session, especially on litigation reform, lawmakers don’t expect those savings to trickle down to customers for at least 18 months.
When we asked Governor Ron DeSantis whether he believed the 18-month relief window was adequate, he blamed inflation for the inability to cut rates in the short term.
“Some of the materials have gone up 100 percent in two years and so that obviously factors in when you’re talking about insurance coverage potentially replacing a roof or things like that,” said DeSantis.
But he said there are avenues for immediate rate relief for some in the legislation, including a $150 million grant fund that will allow homeowners to be reimbursed up to $10,000 for storm hardening renovations.
“Where Floridians, particularly people you know who are more middle income, working class, can get grants to make improvements on their homes for hurricane preparations. You know that will end up leading to them qualifying for some discounts,” said DeSantis.
He also highlighted the upcoming tax holiday starting July 1, that will provide additional saving to Floridians purchasing storm hardened windows, doors and garage doors.
“I mean obviously you want to pay lower rates if you make an improvement, but even more importantly you want to avoid damage in the first place, and this could help with some of the things,” said DeSantis.
Overall, the governor espoused confidence the reforms in the bill will make the state more friendly to insurers, driving up competition and ultimately reducing rates.
“I think the telltale will be you know, are you going to have more business wanting to come into Florida and offer policies to people and the indications that I’ve seen is that that will be the case,” said DeSantis.
Lawmakers are expected to wrap up their work by Wednesday evening, even with condo reform being tagged onto the call Tuesday afternoon.