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Politics

Citizens Reform Dies in the House, with Republican help

March 5, 2012 - 6:00pm

Reform of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is apparently dead in the House after backers of the bill were unable to remove an unfriendly amendment added a day earlier by senators, including a number of Republicans again crossing leadership, intent on killing the reform effort backed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, the sponsor of the legislation to reform Citizens, HB 245, said there isnt enough time left in the session to restart the effort to reduce the number of policies.

"We're finished with it for this year," said Boyd, who earlier had the bill postponed on the floor.

Scott, who had called for the reduction in the number of policies covered by the state-backed Citizens, said he was disappointed with the bill's apparent demise.

"If we have the major hurricane (and) there's not enough money in Citizens, it's a real problem," Scott told reporters outside the Capitol Tuesday night. "Citizens doesn't have the surplus it needs to, so we've got to figure out how to make it do what it was intended to do: make it the insurance company of last resort, not the insurance company of first resort."

On Tuesday morning, the Senate sent the bill to the House, despite the late amendment many senators hoped the House would remove.

The House has already approved its version of the bill, which did not include an amendment that would require third-party insurers, known as surplus-line carriers, to get each policyholder to sign a letter of understanding acknowledging they are being moved to a new carrier.

Read more here.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who was a big part of the efforts in the Senate to derail the Citizens reform because of surplus-line carriers, applauded the House vote -- 52 in favor, 63 against -- that saw a number of coastal Republicans join with Democrats against removing the amendment.

Without the courage of these like-minded lawmakers to hold firm, this amendment giving policyholders the option to stay or leave Citizens by their own free will would have been stripped off, thus exposing those policyholders to a potentially dangerous and unknown future with an unregulated surplus-line insurance company, Fasano stated in a release.

Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate stood together to protect Citizens' policyholders from all parts of Florida.

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said the requirement would discourage new insurance companies from doing business in Florida.

With 1.47 million policyholders at the start of the year, the goal for Citizens is to shave 7 percent of its risk, including $1 billion in coverage from properties that overlook the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, reducing the number of overall policies to 800,000.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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