Special Session Likely to Address Florida's Insurance Crisis

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After meeting around the state all summer, Governor Jeb Bush’s Insurance Reform Task Force just came out with a list of at least a half-dozen proposals. Plus, a special legislative session is likely to take place next month.

Florida has so far escaped a major hurricane this year, but not the crushing effect of the last two seasons on homeowner’s insurance rates.

Incoming House Speaker Marco Rubio says his first job as one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers will likely be a special legislative session next month to pass some major insurance reforms.

"A lot of people are now getting their renewal rates. It’s having a dramatic impact on our economy. You didn’t need to knock on a lot of doors this campaign to realize that property insurance is an issue that people want addressed," he said.

Lawmakers did pass an insurance reform bill last spring in the waning hours of the regular session. However, even those who voted for it now admit the law didn’t go nearly far enough to address rates rising as much as ten-fold or more across the state.

Jeb Bush convened a special Insurance Reform Task Force this summer to take another whack at the crisis and the group has just released its list of must-have reforms.

Among them: make it easier for insurers to tap into the state’s catastrophe fund, put policies in plain language so homeowners know exactly what they’re paying for, including agents fees, and impose a uniform statewide building code.

Still, Jeb Bush is waiting for a final sign-off from some of the new players before he agrees to bring lawmakers back in.

"I’m not going to push my way into a special session without having that consensus, and Governor-Elect Crist is an important part of this,” he said. “And we also want to brief Chief Financial Officer-Elect Alex Sink."

Everyone agrees solutions need to come sooner rather than later.

Other recommendations from the governor’s Insurance Reform Task Force include expanding the state’s popular mitigation program to strengthening homes against hurricanes.

The task force meets next week to finalize its report to the governor.

Even if lawmakers don’t come back into special session in December, they will be considering the task force’s report as a blueprint for legislation this spring.