TALLAHASSEE -- A property insurance overhaul aimed at generating more competition and reducing fraudulent sinkhole claims headed Thursday to Gov. Rick Scott after narrowly escaping the Florida Senate.
The Senate passed the bill (SB 408) on a 26-11 vote just moments after it was nearly derailed by an amendment from Sen. Mike Fasano. The amendment, which failed by only two votes, targeted a provision in the bill that would allow insurers to pass along increases of up to 15 percent to customers to help cover reinsurance costs.
“We come to Tallahassee and hear all this rhetoric about no new taxes, no new increased taxes, no increased fees, no new fees and we’re doing exactly that,” Fasano said afterward. “This will raise premiums on every homeowner and every business owner in the state by 15 percent.”
Fasano, R-New Port Richey, then withdrew another 15 amendments, largely clearing the way for passage.
“If I couldn’t get enough votes to stop a rate increase of 15 percent, it would have been difficult to get anything else accomplished,” Fasano said afterward.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Garrett Richter, had already advised his colleagues that approval of any amendment would kill the bill. The House had sent word that it would not accept any further changes.
The bill requires that windstorm and hurricane property claims be presented within three years and sinkhole loss claims must be brought with two years. Insurers have been plagued in recent years with claims dating back as far as five years in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and also a recent surge of sinkhole claims, many coming from Fasano’s district in west-central Florida in the Tampa Bay region.
“This fights fraud,” said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, an industry group. “It will attract new insurance companies here and lower rates will allow us to save more for hurricane claims.”