As hurricane season starts, property insurance "fixes" will not be in place
Hurricane Michael caused massive damage in 2018 in Northwest Florida. (NSF file photo)
By Jim Turner and Tom Urban
News Serve of Florida
May 25, 2023
TALLAHASSEE --- While the 2023 hurricane season starts next week, Florida could be into the 2024 storm season before some property-insurance fixes take hold.
“Look, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Some of these things are going to take 12 to 18 months,” state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis told reporters after a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
The market has nosedived over the past two years, with private insurers dropping hundreds of thousands of policies and seeking hefty rate hikes because of financial losses. The state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which was created as an insurer of last resort, has ballooned to more than 1.29 million policies.
Lawmakers held a special legislative session in May 2022 and took steps such as providing $2 billion to help insurers with reinsurance, which is critical backup coverage.
When a second special session was held in December, lawmakers made numerous changes, including taking steps aimed at moving policyholders from Citizens into the private market and eliminating what are known as “one-way attorney fees” in an effort to reduce litigation costs.
Lawmakers also eliminated the long-controversial practice of assignment of benefits for property-insurance claims. Assignment of benefits involves policyholders signing over claims to contractors, who then pursue payment from insurers. Insurers contend the practice led to increased lawsuits.
In addition, lawmakers provided another $1 billion for reinsurance.
“We have got to have a stable, healthy insurance market in the state of Florida,” Patronis said Tuesday. “At the end of the day, if the state of Florida has to step up to take care
of its policyholders, that’s what we do.”
“Some of these things are out of our control, but what is under our control is if we need to do something, we have got the financial wherewithal,” Patronis later added.
Florida officials spent part of the week pushing back against a series of travel advisories from civil-rights groups upset with actions by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Most of the pushback was aimed at the NAACP.
Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young called a travel warning from NAACP “disappointing” and “disrespectful” to Floridians.
"The saddest part of this political stunt is that the people who would be most impacted are the hard-working hospitality professionals in Florida who depend on tourism to support themselves and their families,” Young said in a statement.
Attorney General Ashley Moody posted numbers comparing crime in Florida and Chicago, and telling the NAACP, “If you really wanted to protect travelers, you would issue an advisory for places where people are most likely to be murdered.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott on Tuesday posted his own warning to “socialists” that Florida is “openly hostile” to them.
DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern pointed to increased tourism in the state.
"As Gov. DeSantis announced last week, Florida is seeing record-breaking tourism," Redfern said in a statement.
First-quarter tourism into Florida was up 6.7 percent from the same period in 2022, driven by visitors from other states.
But Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, took issue with people making light of the NAACP travel advisory.
“Your actions, said or unsaid, are very telling of what you think of the concerns coming from Black & Brown ppl!,” Jones said in a Twitter post.
The NAACP statement on Saturday followed similar advisories during the past few weeks from the League of United Latin American Citizens and Equality Florida.
"Under its current governor, the state of Florida has engaged in an all-out attack on Black Americans, accurate Black history, voting rights, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, and free speech,” the NAACP said in a news release.
The Human Rights Campaign issued an advisory on Tuesday.
GETTING READY FOR A CHALLENGE
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced this week that sponsors have made more than $30,000 available for the 2023 Florida Python Challenge, an annual event aimed at removing the invasive species from the Everglades.
“We want to thank the private sector. Without them we couldn’t offer such great incentives,” commission Chairman Rodney Barreto said in a prepared statement.
Registration opened Wednesday for this year’s challenge, which will run from Aug. 4 through Aug. 13.
Inversa Leathers is backing a $10,000 “ultimate grand prize,” while Bergeron Everglades Foundation is behind a $7,500 runner-up prize.
Additional prizes, backed by Edison National Bank/Bank of the Island and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, will be in professional, novice and military categories.
Over the past 23 years, more than 18,000 Burmese pythons have been removed from the Everglades.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “This link works: “--- President Joe Biden (@JoeBiden), directing people to his campaign website as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Twitter Spaces presidential announcement crashed on Wednesday.