House bill extends Citizens rate freeze

May 1, 2008

Daytona Beach News-Journal–May 01, 2008

Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House late Wednesday passed a bill that would prevent rate increases for customers of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. until January 2010.

House members voted 117-0 to approve the wide-ranging measure, which now will go to the Senate. Lawmakers are rushing to pass an insurance bill before the legislative session ends Friday.

The bill would give customers of Citizens Property Insurance an extra one-year reprieve from rate increases. Lawmakers last year froze rates until January 2009.

Along with the Citizens change, the bill would tighten some regulations on insurance companies and offer $250 million in loans to try to help attract more private insurers to the state.

Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican who has helped negotiate the bill, said it takes steps toward improving the state’s property insurance system.

The system has been chaotic since eight hurricanes hit the state in 2004 and 2005, with private insurers dropping hundreds of thousands of policies.

But Democrats complained the measure doesn’t go far enough in reducing rates for homeowners across the state. Democrats said they voted for the bill, however, because of the Citizens rate freeze.

"This bill does not provide rate relief," House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said. "We believe the people of Florida expect that from us."