TALLAHASSEE — Massive property insurance reform legislation designed to address industry cost drivers and improve the health of the state’s insurance market, was passed by the Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon.
The House amended and approved Senate Bill 408 on an 85 to 33 vote, largely along party lines with Republicans voting in favor.
“The high cost of insurance is going to continue unless we can reign in these cost drivers,” said Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, the House sponsor. “We also need more competition.”
Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, is the Senate sponsor.
The bill would increase minimum surplus – cash-on-hand – requirements for insurance companies, narrow the window in which most claims can be brought from five years to two or three, give consumers the options between replacement cost and actual cost insurance, and increase regulations on public adjusters who have been accused of ginning up specious sinkhole claims.
However, unlike the Senate’s version, the House would continue to require that insurance companies provide sinkhole coverage to the principal building on a property.
Opponents said the bill would make it easier for big insurance companies to raise rates, and weaken consumer protections. Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, likened the bill to chumming the waters with Floridians’ money, a method he doesn’t approve of.
“The blood in the water will supposedly attract so many sharks that a feeding frenzy will commence,” Jenne said. “After the sharks have gorged themselves, and with so many of them in the water, rates will go down as the sharks will fight one another for their portion of the chum bucket.”
For the bill to pass, the two chambers will need to work out their differences by the end of the week.