Politics Today: Controversial insurance bill to Crist
Lloyd Dunkelbeger, H-T Capital Bureau
Published: Friday, June 12, 2009 at 3:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 12, 2009 at 3:03 p.m.
Gov. Charlie Crist received a bill (HB 1171) today that would let major property insurance companies, including State Farm, sell residential property insurance policies largely free from standard state rate regulation.
The insurance companies say removing the regulatory barrier will help stimulate Florida’s moribund property insurance market. If Crist vetoes the bill, bill supporters say the decision could add uncertainty to an insurance market where the state’s largest private insurer — State Farm — is trying to shed more than 800,000 residential property policies and the government — in the form of Citizens Property Insurance — is now the largest insurer of homes in the hurricane-prone state.
Yet, if Crist signs the bill it would mark a reversal from the dramatic early days of the Republican governor’s administration when he used his popularity to win approval from lawmakers for a sweeping insurance package that rolled back property insurance rates.
Although the governor has softened that stand somewhat, allowing Citizens to raise its rates beginning with a 10 percent hike in January, he reiterated his concern earlier this month about rate increases.
“One of the things that I don’t want to see happen is an unfettered opportunity to raise property insurance rates,” Crist said.
Crist said his property insurance reforms have “worked.”
“The average reduction of rates since we reformed property insurance over two years ago is about an 18 percent decline across the state,” he said.
With that in mind, Crist said he was viewing the rate deregulation bill “with a jaundiced eye.”
Crist has 15 days to sign, veto or let the bill pass into law without his signature. However, the governor can act on the bill at any time once he receives it.