State Politics

Bennett wants insurance chief to resign over bill

BRADENTON — State Sen. Mike Bennett, R–Bradenton, on Thursday called on Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to resign on grounds that “my colleagues and I are no longer able to trust your word.”

Bennett’s harsh complaint stems from the insurance commissioner’s opposition to House Bill 1171, said Bennett in a letter to McCarty, with a copy sent to Gov. Charlie Crist.

The bill is known among detractors as the “State Farm Bailout Bill,” while its supporters call it the “consumer choice bill.” The Florida Legislature passed it during the 2009 session, and it has been forwarded to the governor for his review.

One of the state’s largest consumer groups, the Florida Consumer Action Network, has urged a veto, a spokesman recently told the Bradenton Herald.

The bill would permit certain large insurance companies to offer policies with rates unregulated by the state. Except for the rate, the state Office of Insurance Regulation retains regulatory authority over all other aspects of the policy.

“This extraordinary action is being taken by Senator Bennett as a result of Commissioner McCarty’s letter to Governor Crist wherein he opposed the recently passed (House Bill) 1171 (Senate Bill 2036) and essentially requests the Governor to veto the bill,” stated a news release issued by Bennett’s office.

Bennett said he had worked closely with McCarty, who oversees the state’s regulation of the insurance industry, and had crafted the measure so it would be acceptable to McCarty.

In the event that McCarty does not resign, Bennett urged Crist to fire the commissioner “as both a service to the Legislature and the citizens of Florida.”

McCarty had no comment Thursday, a spokesman said.

The governor has not yet received the bill, but looks forward to reviewing it, Crist aide Sterling Ivey said in an e-mail message.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation evaluates the solvency of insurance companies, their policy rates and market conduct, and monitors new entrants into the Florida market, according to its Web site.

McCarty became Florida’s first appointed insurance commissioner in January 2003. He reports to the Financial Services Commission, comprised of the governor and the Florida Cabinet.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7908.

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