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Session Takes Shape

January 9th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist and legislative leaders formally called the special session today to deal with the state’s insurance crisis. 

Lawmakers set a very specific agenda for the session that begins next Tuesday: reducing current property insurance rates, reducing future increases, making insurance more available, and bringing some uniformity to the state’s building code.  As Victoria Langley tells us, the stakes have never been higher.

Hear it here: Session Taking Shape 

Lawmakers know they’ll never bring Florida’s homeowners insurance rates back to where they were before the crushing 2004 and 2005 storm seasons.  But almost every lawmaker you ask at the Capitol these days says they have to find a way to reduce rates. 

“The entire economy and well-being of this state can go down the tubes if we don’t solve this crisis,” said Sen. Bill Posey, (R) Rockledge. 

His committee spent the morning reviewing the Senate’s reform plan, which takes a hard line on insurance companies including the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.  The bill would reduce this coming year’s Citizens rate increases by more than 80 percent. 

Among other proposals being considered – give insurance customers more control over how much coverage they want to buy.  But there’s a risk to that too. 

Homeowners who can’t pay giant deductibles if they get clobbered lose their homes.  That doesn’t fly with homeowners like Ginny Stevans, who came up from Pasco County to give lawmakers a piece of her mind. 

“Now they want you to increase your deductible to 50 percent?” Stevans said.  “Why bother to get insurance?” 

But lawmakers are also considering a revamp of the state’s building code, which is not as tough in the Panhandle as it is in South Florida.   Charlie Crist is on board.

“To have different standards for different parts of the state doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” Crist said.

Although most lawmakers may agree rates have to come down, they also know agreeing on how to make that happen is gong to be the hard part.

Look for House leaders and Governor Crist to release their respective insurance reform proposals later this week. 

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