State Politics

Property insurance bill passed by Legislature

TALLAHASSEE — Customers of the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. will be paying 10 percent more for their property insurance by Jan. 1 under a bill headed to Gov. Charlie Crist.

The Senate passed the bill (HB 1495) on a 32-6 vote Friday a few hours after the House passed an amended version 80-35 following nearly two hours of debate.

The legislation limits the annual rate increases to no more than 10 percent a year for more than 1 million Citizens’ customers until the company reaches an actuarial level that makes it solvent and able to pay claims in a timely manner.

“It’s better than 20 (percent),” said Crist, who earlier in the week endorsed a 5 percent increase on Citizens’ policies.

Crist, who is expected to shortly announce whether he’ll seek re-election or run for the U.S. Senate instead, has been relentless in his criticism of rate increase for national commercial insurers.

The bill’s supporters said Citizens’ rates would have skyrocketed by as much as 55 percent by Jan. 1 without the legislation that instead phases in the increase over several years.

“It begins to strengthen our market in a gradual manner that recognizes Floridians’ pocketbooks are under great pressure, but the solvency of the state is also at risk,” National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors spokesman Bob Lotane said.