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Special legislative session on property insurance reaches polling threshold

'Our market is not just unstable, it's collapsing,' Sen. Jeff Brandes says
Posted at 6:40 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 18:40:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Lawmakers will likely soon vote on an early return to the state Capitol to address what some consider a "property insurance crisis." It comes after a state senator put out the call for action late last week, and the governor said he backs it.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, tweeted Monday afternoon he had the support needed to trigger a poll of the Legislature, formally asking lawmakers if they want a special session to address skyrocketing property insurance costs.

"As of 1 p.m., within one business day of the sending out our letter, we have received more than enough responses from legislators calling for a special session on property insurance," Brandes wrote. "We will be submitting our final count to the FL DOS (Department of State) at 5 p.m. today."

Brandes told us he felt boosting the state's catastrophe fund and further reform to end frivolous litigation was needed.

"Our market is not just unstable, it's collapsing," Brandes said during a recent interview. "It has collapsed. Like it is — it has effectively collapsed."

The Florida Secretary of State's office will make the next move. Within seven days, lawmakers will take an absentee special session vote.

A 60% majority is needed to make it happen and Brandes is hopeful, believing the upcoming election will spur action.

Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed the idea while speaking in Tampa earlier in the day.

"I absolutely support what Sen. Brandes is doing," the governor said. "Clearly, we have disfunction in that market that could be fixed. You've already seen different insurers go out. We need to have a vibrant market where people are able to get policies at an affordable rate."

Gov. Ron DeSantis, event in Tampa April 11, 2022
Gov. Ron DeSantis says he would support action to reform home insurance policy in Florida during an event in Tampa on April 11, 2022.

DeSantis suggested lawmakers were already working on a reform package.

He tapped Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, also at the Tampa press event, to address how progress was coming after lawmakers failed to get anything done during the 2022 regular session.

"We need to have a program that all of us can agree on," Boyd said. "And, most importantly, saves all Floridians money."

House Speaker Chris Sprowls has been the elephant in the room on property insurance this year. The fellow Republican repeatedly said he wants to see what last year's changes do before enacting more.

"We are not seeing the impact of what we have passed yet," Sprowls said shortly after the Legislature gaveled out last month. "It takes 18 months. We passed it six months ago. They were significant reforms."

Rep. Anna Eskamani speaking on housing insurance crisis
Rep. Anna Eskamani believes the governor should have acted sooner to resolve the home insurance problems in Florida.

Many Democrats, meanwhile, have said they're on board for another special session. Some criticized the governor for not acting sooner during a digital press conference Monday afternoon.

"We had 60 days where we could have managed and addressed these real-life issues," said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando. "But instead his priority bills, which were all culture wars, are what took up all the time."

The Department of State has to conduct the special session vote within a week. If it's a yes, lawmakers will be formally notified with the session required to convene 14 to 21 days later.

Lawmakers are already returning next week to address congressional redistricting maps. That's after the governor vetoed the pair the legislature approved.

Some have pushed for the call of that special session to be expanded to address issues like property insurance. But, for now, the focus remains on districts.