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Florida lawmakers react to property insurance reform bill signed into law

Posted at 5:59 PM, Dec 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-17 18:40:24-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — We started the week with a lot of promises and pages, more than 100 of them, giving the state insurance code an overhaul.

Five days later, we have a shiny new law and a lot of hope from backers that it'll deliver.

The goal from the get-go was to stabilize the insurance market, bring in more private competition and maybe premiums would drop.

"This is an issue that has been roiling the state for decades," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said.

The governor, Friday, signed that massive reform bill to try and make it happen, which hinges on the hope that capitalism will do its thing.

"The best thing for a consumer is that if you can go out and make people compete for your business. If they have to do that — they're going to give you better customer service they're going to give you better rates. They're going to do all that," DeSantis said.

The policy's two biggest gifts to insurers:

• A billion tax dollars to cut their reinsurance costs.

• And reducing consumer incentives to sue

"I think finally they stepped up to try and address them this year, but previous legislatures dropped the ball," Jeff Brandes a former State Senator said.

Brandes has regularly sounded the alarm on property insurance.

Now, he's feeling like lawmakers are making progress.

"Florida could not continue to be the most litigious state and the most hurricane-prone state and expect lower rates," Brandes said.

Some of the changes come online immediately, others in January.

Even so — it'll take time for new insurers to come in, new plans to start, and litigation to resolve.

It has Republicans saying a rate drop might take between 18 months to upwards of two years.

They've vowed to hold insurers accountable; even bolstering the insurance regulators' office with $1.7 million.

"We are going to hold their feet to the fire — I mean that," Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, (R) Florida Senate President said.

For Democrats, who almost universally rejected the policy, it remains a sore spot.

"What we're doing is bailing out the insurance companies," Rep. Joe Casello, (D) Boynton Beach said.

All week members called for mandated premium caps and rate freezes, to no avail.

Leader of the House Democrats, Fentrice Driskell, said in a Friday statement, “How many people are going to lose their homes before this 'trickle down' plan offers any relief?"

The new law will also return the state-backed carrier, Citizens, to a residual role.

New competitive pricing rules and requirements for flood insurance will shed thousands of policyholders over the next several years.

The goal — lawmakers say, cut taxpayer liability in the event of another major storm.