Jeff Brandes Urges Legislative Leaders to Call a Special Session to Focus on Property Insurance

This week, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, called for a special session in a letter to Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Tribly, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.

Brandes’ letter is below.

President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls,

Florida’s private property insurance market has collapsed, and it is evident we must call a special session to address this dire situation. In the past 30 days, thousands of Floridians have had their homeowners insurance company exit Florida. Over 800,000 homeowners cannot find insurance aside from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. With the 2022 hurricane season quickly approaching and an unstable market, the Legislature chose to leave homeowners exposed to a perfect storm of rising rates, limited coverage, and diminishing options.

The special session should address the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund in the short term to reduce rates, provide a financing mechanism for insurers to access if the capital markets are not an option, and include significant property insurance reforms in order to create a sustainable environment for Florida homeowners. Additionally, the Session should address Citizens Property Insurance reform, as Citizens estimated policy count is growing by 6,000 policies a week and will soon top 1 million.

President Barry Gilway described Florida’s insurance market as being in “collapse,” and following Mr. Gilway’s dire warning, Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, Tasha Carter, said homeowners are on “life support.” In a legislative presentation, she described how rates are soaring with one company filing for a 111 percent rate increase and policy cancellations happening every day. Office of Insurance Regulation Commissioner David Altmaier stated, “whatever terms you want use to describe this market, choose the worst”.

We’ve already seen the devastating impacts of inaction:

Florida’s 8th largest property insurance company, St. Johns Insurance, went bankrupt last month and Avatar Property and Casualty Insurance Company failed right behind it.

Progressive Insurance, a stalwart provider of insurance nationwide, is shedding over 56,000 customers this year.

Florida Farm Bureau, a 50 year old company that has been a pillar of the business community, is non renewing thousands of policies.

Over a dozen additional insurance companies have recently suspended new business, have announced they are shedding policies, or are severely limiting the types of homes they will insure.

Demotech, an insurance company financial stability rating agency, states that as many as 10 other companies may lose their rating in the near future, which will swiftly put them out of business.

There are numerous reasons for the property insurance crisis which can only be
resolved with bold legislative action. Without action, we will see a mass exodus of carriers which will have devastating consequences for the people we serve in Tallahassee.

Governor DeSantis recently said he would sign what the House and Senate send to his desk should both chambers call a special session on property insurance. To date, there doesn’t appear to be any movement by either the House or Senate to call for a special session. This state needs bold legislation action to reverse the alarming trends, and I implore you to call a special session.

If you are unwilling to issue the call for a property insurance special session and the House and Senate refuse to issue a joint proclamation, I plan to pursue Section 11.011, Florida Statutes, and poll my legislative colleagues for their support of a special session on property insurance in order to prevent further collapse.

Floridians are suffering from skyrocketing rate increases, and you have the authority and duty to demand House and Senate engagement. This issue is too important for any further delay, and if legislative and executive branch leadership fail to act, then I will do everything in my power to protect my neighbors from the crippling impacts of rising insurance costs.

Thank you, and I look forward to your bold leadership on this vital issue that impacts all 22 million Floridians.

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