South Floridians play a key role at insurance session

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Mark Hollis
Published  January 18, 2007

TALLAHASSEEˇ Nowhere is the property insurance crisis more acute than in South Florida. That's why legislators from here are intensely involved in the emergency legislative session. . Here's a brief look at 10 of them and their roles:

Sen. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach: A veteran South Florida legislator and one of the Legislature's specialists on insurance, Geller crafted the proposed antidote to high premiums that's become the talk of Tallahassee. His plan seeks to limit how much insurance carriers would have to pay in claims after the most catastrophic of hurricanes. Critics warn of its increased financial liability for all state taxpayers.

Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale: A lawyer and House majority whip, Bogdanoff is the taskmaster pressuring rank-and-file Republicans into approving easily agreed-upon solutions, especially policies that don't dramatically violate her party's principles of limited government involvement in the private sector

Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach: This third-term legislator is House deputy majority leader -- the lead pitchman for House Republican proposals. He has crafted billsurging Congress to pass federal tax breaks and other measures to ease the costs of homeowner insurance. House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami: Rubio has won accolades this week from House Democrats. On Wednesday, under Rubio's leadership, the House passed six bills that are supposed to cut insurance rates without getting the state overly involved in the insurance business. After balking at a Senate idea that he warned would shift too much risk onto state taxpayers, Rubio enlisted the help of House Democrats to find an alternative.

Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors: A lawyer and legislative workhorse, Seiler has made his way onto the House insurance bill-writing teamsurrounded by Republicans. He is pushing for legislation specifying precisely how much insurance relief homeowners can expect, and when. This week, Seiler authored a major rewrite of the House plan to expand the state's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach: As House Democratic leader, Gelber, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, is involved in all aspects of the insurance relief package. He has already helped to persuade House Republicans to revamp legislation to deliver immediate savings to the public and not just help the insurance carriers.

Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami: This House Rules Committee chairman is Rubio's closest adviser and has the job of making sure bills keep advancing steadily in the fast-paced, short-lived special session. A bill he has crafted seeks to make insurance policies more easily understandable, and it seeks to clamp down on some controversial insurance industry strategies that let private companies boost profits in Florida.

Rep. Ron Saunders, R-Key West: A former House Budget chairman, he has been quietly involved in highly technical amendments to insurance law. One revision he is seeking would stop insurers from charging higher prices before the rates are approved by state regulators. Currently, rate hikes can go into effect without state approval. If regulators reject them, the companies send rebates to customers.

Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie: This ultra-powerful South Florida legislator has turned most major details of insurance legislation over to party subordinates. Simultaneously, he has helped hold partisan warfare and traditional House-Senate frictions to a minimum. He has also been punctilious about confining the Senate's work schedule to ordinary daytime hours, which could push the special session into next week.

Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach: A banker and former Senate Banking and Insurance Committee chairman, he lives in a mostly coastal district where he sees the insurance crisis threatening home foreclosures. Though he is not the main bill writer, he is advising top Senate Republicans.