pushes state-insurance option along
Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
Published April 10, 2007
TALLAHASSEE -- With homeowners still feeling the
pinch of high premiums despite the Legislature's promises in January to
cut rates, Gov. Charlie Crist made a rare, personal appeal to lawmakers
Monday not to lose sight of the property-insurance crisis.
At a Senate Banking and Insurance Committee packed with insurance-industry
lobbyists, Crist spoke for a bill that could send more business to
Florida's state-run insurance company.
was the first time a governor has testified at a legislative
hearing in nearly a decade, and the meeting came to a brief
but heated standoff between Crist and insurance lobbyists.
With the committee's agenda packed and time running out,
senators finally voted 8-1 to approve the bill after
amending it to allow consumers to pick Citizens Property
Insurance Corp. if the best offer they get from a private
insurer is at least 15 percent higher than Citizens' quoted
Historically, Citizens has been restricted to offering
residential insurance policies to homeowners who can't find
coverage on the private
Charlie Crist signs his first executive order on his first day in
office Jan. 2. Crist, who reaches his 100th day in office Wednesday,
said recently at the Capitol that he sees his job as centered on a
simple virtue. 'It's important to provide hope,' he said. 'That's
what our job really is, and that's what we try to offer every day.'
at any price, keeping it out of direct competition with private companies.
bill (SB 2498) also would carry out a Crist campaign promise to prohibit
private insurance companies from establishing Florida-only subsidiaries.
Crist has derided the subsidiaries as a means for insurers to ship their
profits out of the state while also charging Floridians exorbitant rates.
The bill must clear two more Senate committees before it can go to a full
A similar House bill on the issue has yet to be heard.
Before the vote, State Farm Mutual lobbyist Mark Delegal warned that the
changes were "ill advised" and would "turn on its head the
actuarial science that's used in all lines of insurance" throughout
Crist, who has openly battled with insurance companies for months in a
push to lower rates, jumped at Delegal's rhetorical bait.
"It does turn things on its head," Crist said. "It gives
more power back to the people. It gives the opportunity for [competition]
to get lower rates."
Crist sought the changes during the January special session on
insurance but was thwarted by opposition led by House Speaker Marco Rubio,
William Stander, a lobbyist for the Property Casualty Insurers Association
of America, blasted the legislation, saying it would drive existing
insurers out of the state, make it harder for new insurers to start up in
Florida and expand existing inequities in how insurance is priced in
Floridians who don't live in areas at great risk of hurricane damage, he
said, will pay even more, to subsidize the insurance costs for people who
live in riskier locations.
"It's unfair," Stander said. "The rates for those in
Citizens, who live in those places more at risk of damage, like South
Florida and condominiums near the water, are being kept artificially low.
But the [damage] risk remains. When storms come, Citizens will have to
Assessments by Citizens, Stander noted, are applied to almost all
insurance policies in Florida, including auto insurance and commercial
The last time a governor testified at a legislative hearing was in 1998
when Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles spoke to a committee headed by
then-state Sen. Charlie Crist. The issue then was how the state intended
to spend a major lawsuit settlement with tobacco companies.