Maintain insurance controls, Crist says
Manatee senator’s idea to deregulate insurers is opposed by governor
By Jeremy Wallace
H-T Political Writer
Published: Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is already opposing a measure to deregulate the state’s insurance industry, fearing it could lead to major rate increases for homeowners.
The state Legislature is preparing to take up a bill that would allow insurers to charge customers whatever the market will allow, rather than be subject to price controls set by the government.
Crist did not hesitate when asked Wednesday if he would sign the bill if it passes the Legislature this spring: “Probably not.”
The legislation is a key priority of State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who last year proposed deregulating only the largest insurers, like State Farm, which had threaten to leave the state. That bill passed the Legislature but Crist vetoed it.
Bennett said overregulation and artificial prices are major reasons why insurers have pulled out of Florida.
If companies are freed from those regulations, he said, companies will be more willing to stay.
The result is a more competitive marketplace for consumers, Bennett said.
Despite Crist’s early opposition, Bennett is not giving up on the idea. He said he will present his bill to key legislative committees next week and seek a meeting with the governor to convince him to support the idea.
Crist argued Wednesday that reforms the he has put in place since he was elected in 2006 are working to bring the insurance market back. He said 44 new companies are now writing policies in Florida. That increased competition has already done what Bennett is seeking to do: bring more competition to Florida’s insurance market, Crist said.
“We have reformed insurance,” said Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year.