Insurance proposal fails

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Mark Hollis
Published  March 30, 2007

TALLAHASSEE A Republican-sponsored bill that critics say would harm small businesses and condominium residents faltered Thursday after it came under attack from Democrats as a giveaway to the insurance industry.

House Republican leaders pulled the bill from a final vote when it became apparent the measure lacked the necessary support to pass.

Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale, the House Republican whip, had pressed colleagues during private talks on the House floor to approve House Bill 7077, arguing that it was needed to help insurance companies.

"It won't hurt business, it will help business," Bogdanoff said. "If [commercial insurance carriers] go belly up, we will have businesses without any insurance."

Democrats, however, said the bill would gut major pro-consumer provisions of an insurance law that Gov. Charlie Crist signed only last month.

The bill would end a requirement that insurers of businesses get approval from state regulators before putting into effect rate increases -- even in cases when the rate hikes double or triple the cost of coverage.

Democrats complained the bill also eliminated a requirement that business owners and condo associations be paid for any storm damage claims within 90 days of notifying their insurer. Going more than 90 days for a claim to be paid, said Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, "could help put small businesses out of business."

Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, credited first-year House Democrats for exposing the bill's deficiencies. But Rep. Ron Reagan, a Bradenton Republican who sponsored the changes, said he hopes to get the bill restarted later in the session.

"I need to spend more time with my members to get them properly educated," Reagan said.