THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA: Bennett–Insurance De-Reg Bill Dead

Apr 21, 2010


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THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE April 21, 2010…A skeptical governor and a rapidly shifting political landscape appears to be the death knell for a measure allowing property insurers to raise rates without regulatory approval, the Senate sponsor said Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, the sponsor of SB 876, said he’s throwing in the towel on the measure in the face of opposition from Gov. Charlie Crist, who vetoed a similar measure last year, and Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, who has opposed the idea and with whom Bennett has feuded for some time.

The measure would allow insurance companies to raise individual rates up to 20 percent a year without Office of Insurance Regulation approval. Statewide increases would be capped at 10 percent. The companion House measure, HB 447, was scheduled for a floor vote Wednesday but it was postponed.

Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, a supporter of the measure, said the votes aren’t there to override a veto and prolonged debate would be a waste of time.

“It doesn’t make any sense to spend time debating something the governor has come to a committee hearing to oppose,” Alexander said.  

Bennett’s measure is among a handful of industry-backed property insurance bills traveling through the Legislature. Another Senate bill, SB 2440, may still see the light of day. The measure does not contain the rate provision but does allow insurers to withhold a portion of claims payment until repairs are undertaken or replacements are purchased.  It also reduced the time policyholders have to file claims after a storm.

“If any insurance bills come out of the session this year I think that will be it.” Bennett said. “I just don’t see it happening otherwise.”

Political considerations may also play into the decision. With Crist considering dropping his party affiliation while he’s running for Senate, Republican leaders, who have already seen the governor veto party-backed legislation, may not want to give Crist more ammunition in any upcoming campaign.

“Why would you vote for an insurance increase when they know the governor will veto it?  All along he’s been saying “make my day,” said Rep. Ron Saunders, R-Key West. “They’ve already helped him enough,” said Saunders in reference to two recently vetoed bills on teacher tenure and leadership funds. “They don’t want to help him anymore.”

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