EDITORIAL: State leaders aren’t doing enough on property-insurance reform

Apr 30, 2008

Orlando Sentinel–April 30, 2008

You’d think a Legislature like Florida’s, which finds the time to debate issues such as the state song toward the end of its 2008 session, must have resolved more pressing matters.

Such as property insurance.

Well, think again.

The insurance crisis that legislators last year said they’d fixed continues to burn. Despite reaping record profits last year, the insurance industry keeps dropping policy holders. Despite getting cheap insurance from the state to help it pay claims after catastrophic storms and allow it to write affordable policies now, the industry only dropped homeowner rates by an average 15 percent.

Tougher restrictions that the Legislature placed on the industry last year — such as making company CEOs justify rate requests — also didn’t provide much relief.

Still, there’s enough time left in the session for lawmakers to make things right. Right?

Don’t bet on it. The session ends Friday, and lawmakers seem poised to fail their constituents.

The House is stiff-arming the Senate’s mostly sensible package of consumer-friendly reforms. They include hiking penalties against companies that violate state insurance codes and making it harder for them to skirt rejected rate increases. In response, the Senate is tripping the House’s effort to reduce the risk the state took on last year when it offered the industry backup insurance.

Could Gov. Charlie Crist, who got the Legislature to act last year, get lawmakers to resolve their differences? If he’d done more this session to produce reforms, sure. But there’s little time left for that to happen.