Local Democrats Break Out Their Plans for Re-Haul of Insurance Legislation by Mitch E. Perry05/25/06
As Florida homeowners anger begins to stir in regards to massive insurance hikes created in part by 8 hurricanes hitting the sunshine state over the past 2 years, Florida Democrats are now using recently enacted legislation that bailed out Citizens Insurance as a potential wedge political issue in this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s elections.
Over the past 2 days, Democratic Legislators have been holding news conferences throughout the state to denounce the new law, which calls for a $715 million cash infusion to help offset a $1.7 billion deficit to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer of last resort that now covers more than 900,000 property owners in the state. Today, speaking from his District office in Ybor City, Tampa State Senator Les Miller blasted the Insurance Reform Bill signed by Governor Bush(roll tape#1 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬?oversightÃ¢â‚¬?) State Democrats are introducing an alternative plan, which restructures the stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund into a statewide hurricane insurance pool for wind-storm coverage, similar to the national flood insurance model. The new Fund would offer coverage up to $100,000 with varying deductibles. Private insurers would handle all the paperwork and be expected to offer policies for greater losses.
St. Petersburg Representative Charlie Justice said this plan would phase out Citizens InsuranceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢high risk accounts within 3 years (roll tape#2 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬?no profit to accumulateÃ¢â‚¬?)
Another proposal Democrats are introducing would be for a Public Counsel to protect consumers on insurance issues, similar to the Public Counsel for utility rate issues. Republican Dennis Ross of Lakeland is questioning the Democrats idea to model FloridaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Insurance market after the National Flood Insurance Program (roll tape#3 Ã¢â‚¬Å“for insuranceÃ¢â‚¬?)
In addition to requesting a sharp increase in rates, State Farm announced earlier this month that it was eliminating hurricane coverage for 39,000 customers near the beaches and getting out of the business of insuring condominium and co-op complexes in the state. At the same time, Allstate said it was cutting back on its exposure in Florida, by transferring 215,000 customers to 2 other, smaller companies.
Tampa State Representative Arthenia Joyner says The issue has grown to crises level, says the Republican led legislature chose to ignore the crises during the recently concluded session (roll tape#4 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬? Citizens Insurance CompanyÃ¢â‚¬?)
Governor Bush has also dismissed the idea calling it pure politics. He also told the Tampa Tribune that if Democrats had any substantive ideas related to insurance, he would be happy to hear from them. But he says he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t receive a single offer to create dialogue on the issue.
But Senator Miller said that was inaccurate. He said Democrats were working closely with Republicans on a plan, but that they were frozen out in the last week of the legislative session (roll tape#5 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬?the bill you see nowÃ¢â‚¬?) Democrats have been in the minority for many years in Tallahassee, but recent polls say they could improve their numbers in Tallahassee this fall.
In addition to Miller, Joyner and Justice Ã¢â‚¬â€œ all running for higher office this fall Ã¢â‚¬â€œ speaking at the news conference, Democrats brought out a new face who they have high hopes for this fall Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Steven Gorham, who is running in the District 10 State Senate seat being vacated by Tom Lee, a race where Ronda Storms is running on the GOP Side (roll tape#6 o.q.Ã¢â‚¬? fix this problemÃ¢â‚¬?)
Despite the seeming pledge of solidarity, local Democrats are not totally in agreement about what to do about the situation. State Senator Les Miller said he himself is not calling for a special session to address the insurance problem, at least not now.
TO look at the newly created website that the Democrats have set up on the insurance situation, go to Www.Stormingmad.com