Insurance battle takes center stage at Tiger Bay Club in Bradenton

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 5, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Candidates in the race for the Florida House District 71 seat Thursday clashed over auto insurance and Citizens Property Insurance.

The incumbent, Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, told the Tiger Bay Club that he was the proud sponsor of an auto insurance bill that became law during last spring's session of the Florida Legislature.

He touted it as "auto in-surance reform," that would cut costs of Personal Injury Protection coverage. PIP coverage is state-required, no-fault motor vehicle insurance.

The new law will also cut down on fraud and lower car insurance premiums, he said.

"You will see your rates go down," Boyd predicted about its effects.

But his Democratic opponent, Adam Tebrugge, called it a "big giveaway" to in-surance companies, which he said have been asking for rate increases, not decreases.

Tebrugge was also critical about how Boyd and the Legislature have handled Citizens' Property Insurance Corp., the state's "last resort" for homeowners unable to get property insurance through the private market.

Regulators this week approved a Citizens rate increase request of between 9 percent and 22 percent in Manatee County.

In answer to a question about his position on what should be done about insurance coverage for wind protection in Florida, Boyd replied that Citizens is the state's largest property carrier, with more than $500 billion worth of liabilities.

However, Citizens is still not financially prepared if Florida should have a string of storms, he said, adding, "I'm advocating adequate rates."

Tebrugge said the pri-vate property insurance market has failed the state, and since Gov. Rick Scott and Boyd have taken office, their "fixes" for Citizens have also failed.

He argued that property insurance companies are sending overseas shareholders billions of dollars ginned from Florida consumers.

"Ultimately, the solution will be, we'll have to take wind (insurance) out of the private market, and move it across the state of Florida," he said.

On another topic, the two candidates expressed diametrically opposite views on Amendment 8, which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The amendment would repeal a 125-year-old law barring state money from being used to fund religious institutions. Opponents to the amendment say it's an effort to expand school voucher programs and shift taxpayer funding from public to private schools.

"I am unalterably opposed to Amendment 8, and to using public dollars to fund private schools," Tebrugge said.

Boyd supports the amendment.

"I think it gives us choice, it gives parents choice," he said, adding that it ought to be allowed.

Boyd, of Bradenton, operates an insurance agency and also sells real estate. He is a former Palmetto city councilman, vice mayor and mayor.

Tebrugge, of Sarasota, has practiced law in the area for more than 27 years. He was an assistant public defender in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties before launching a private legal practice in 2009.

The newly redrawn District 71 stretches from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Manatee County to Siesta Drive in Sarasota County, including most voters west of the Tamiami Trail.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.com.

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