Florida Lawmakers Prepare for Special Session on Property Insurance

The special legislative session starts Tuesday in Tallahassee, and the pressure is on to actually produce results homeowners will see on their insurance bills.

Charlie Crist has promised he won’t sign any bill that won’t mandate lower premiums.

The question now is will lawmakers really be able to make it happen.

Dressed in his blue jeans, Senator Mike Fasano is working through a holiday to try to make some headway on the state’s insurance crisis. He and other lawmakers have been buried with thousands of emails from desperate homeowners.

The well-connected lobbyists who normally crowd the Capitol’s fourth floor will be on the defensive this week.

Suddenly the feeling is you’re either for the homeowners, or for the insurance industry, and Fasano says it’s an easy choice. "We’re going to fight for the consumer this time,” he said. “We’re going to give them relief and every homeowner in this state should see some relief."

However, there are those who worry some of the proposals being considered could put homeowners at greater risk, and, greater state involvement in the insurance business means greater taxpayer liability if we get hit with a major storm.

Insurance companies and some lawmakers worry about proposals to do away with Florida-only subsidiaries, and force companies that offer homeowners coverage in other states to offer the same plans here.

Senator Al Lawson, himself an insurance agent, admits it will be a tough balancing act. "It’s very important that the state should step in and try to give some sanity to the situation that we have going on,” he said. “However, we have to make sure that we keep the private market healthy."

In the end, the biggest risk for lawmakers may turn out to be promising more than they can really deliver.

The special session is scheduled to get underway Tuesday at 1 p.m., about the time a few hundred homeowners plan a demonstration outside the Capitol.

Lawmakers insist they want homeowners throughout Florida to see lower rates.

In our area, that may just mean we don’t get such a big assessment from citizens next year, but it would still mean a lower bill than we would have if they didn’t do anything, which is the consensus at this point.