TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Florida lawmakers get ready to return to the Capitol for their second property insurance special session of the year, new leadership is already managing expectations, noting relief may take time.
New House Speaker Paul Renner said Tuesday the goal next month is to stabilize and grow the market, which is still teetering. Floridians suffer as rates skyrocket, insurers leave and others go bust.
As a result, many Floridians have been driven to the state-backed insurer of last resort — Citizens Property Insurance — which has more than doubled its policies in two years. At the end of last month, it totaled more than 1.1 million.
Renner and many other Republicans hope to create a more friendly market to encourage insurers to return to Florida. More competition, they believe, will mean reduced costs for consumers.
The speaker said leadership was still gathering input from all members before locking in a policy plan, but he vowed it would be comprehensive.
"Doing what we can do and, I think, we're going to look at the kitchen sink, frankly, of options," he said.
Those options, Renner said, could include more tort reform to tamp down the state's huge number of property insurance lawsuits. According to officials, Florida makes up 9% of the nation's claims but 79% of claims litigation.
Another boost to reinsurance may also be on the table — though only if it's temporary, Renner said. He also warned relief would take time.
"It will not result in an overnight drop in insurance rates," Renner said. "We have to see probably two or three years as those policies turn over, turn over, and we see a drop in the tail of litigation and other things that have really contributed to the problem we are in right now."
Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book said Democrats want more immediate fixes.
"People need help right now," she said this week. "That didn't happen during the last special session."
Back in May, the legislature approved several property insurance reforms that included an extra $2 billion in reinsurance relief. Even before the changes were signed into law, critics called them too weak.
This time around, the minority caucus was mulling rate freezes or allowing auto insurers to carry property policies, though both might be too much market interference for the Republican majority.
"We need to cut the crap and get to the bottom of the work that we need to do to take care of Floridians," Book said.
Lawmakers expect to lay out finalized plans in the coming weeks. The gavel then drops on the next special session Dec. 12.