FL Legislature comes to its senses on Citizens insurance

May 4, 2013 

We can breathe easier now that wiser heads have prevailed on the potentially damaging impact of huge premium increases from Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

As a coastal county with island and waterfront development in abundance, Manatee County will always be vulnerable to ever rising property insurance rates because of the higher risk. This year brought an especially alarming piece of legislation that threatened the real estate market and the economy.

At one time, Citizens, the state-run insurer of last resort, mustered Senate support for a bill that would have raised rates in the Tampa Bay region and elsewhere by more than 60 percent. That would have been a crippling blow to economic growth and development.

How could Manatee County recruit new business and residents with skyrocketing property insurance rates looming?

Gov. Rick Scott continues to seek a lower cost of doing business in Florida to boost growth. That mostly entailed lowering corporate and other taxes. Property insurance, with impacts on the costs of business and living, is just as important as out-of-state employers look to the Sunshine State for expansion or a move.

This week lawmakers finally came around and rewrote the legislation, stripping out rate increases.

Citizens holds a record $6 billion in the bank, enough to pay damages on a once-a-half-century hurricane. Higher premiums are not critical at this time.

The insurer continues to move policies into the private market in a well executed plan to lower the state's risk -- 300,000 last year alone. That strategy will continue under new legislation.

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