Florida House approves Citizens rate increases

05/01/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The Florida House today passed legislation aimed at reducing the exposure of the state's backup hurricane insurance fund. Citizens Insurance is the state-backed insurer of last resort. The bill would increase Citizens' customers rates by 10 percent a year, until actuarially sound rates were achieved. That limit may be ambiguous in the bill, sponsored by Apopka Republican Bryan Nelson.

Key West Democrat Ron Saunders challenged Nelson on his premise that insurance rates for Citizens will automatically go up if the Legislature failed to act.

Another strong critic of the legislation is Republican Allen Hays, who brought up two different amendments to Nelson’s bill; both were shot down. He was particularly irked about the deletion of a clause in an earlier version of the bill that would inform Citizens customers about the potential for their rates to continue to rise.

Hillsborough County Democratic Representative Mike Scionti asked Nelson if the bill wasn’t ultimately beneficial, because it would hold down Citizens increases in the next year to just 10 percent.

Richard Steinberg, a Democrat From Miami Beach, spoke out vehemently against the bill. He invoked the term "waterboarding" in referring to what Citizens customers would be subject to under the proposal.

The bill was overwhelmingly approved in the House, 80-15.

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