Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Insurance Bill Hits Obstacle

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Insurance Bill Hits Obstacle

Article excerpt

STATE INSURER: Senators' 'consumer' amendments set stage for hot debateTALLAHASSEEA group of Republican senators is working to derail legislation that would push thousands of Florida homeowners out of Citizens Property Insurance and into unregulated private insurers.Concerned about the potential for steep rate increases and inadequate consumer protection in the bill, New Port Richey Republican Mike Fasano and four of his colleagues in the majority party have filed 10 amendments likely to generate intense debate on the Senate floor this week.Surplus lines companies can increase customer premiums without state oversight and their policies are not covered by the fund that pays claims if a company fails.Critics want to amend the legislation to limit potential rate increases, force the companies to come under the Florida Insurance Guarantee Association fund and to require that Citizens customers targeted for the surplus lines actively chose to leave the state-run insurer for the unregulated firms.Fasano has frequently pushed back against insurance-industry sponsored legislation and the strong emerging GOP opposition could signal trouble for the proposal."This to me is a very dangerous bill," Fasano said Monday in arguing the legislation significantly erodes consumer protection for Florida insurance customers.The amendments are sure to be hotly debated.Many would fundamentally change how surplus lines companies operate and discourage the industry from participating in a program to remove policies from Citizens, thwarting the intent of bill sponsor Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples.But Richter is gearing up to defend his bill from any changes. Similar legislation has already passed the House, where it was sponsored by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton."It's my intention to fight Sen. Fasano on his amendments," Richter said. "I think his amendments are counterproductive to the effort to shrink Citizens. I think they're probably intended to stop the bill from going forward."Richter is a strong supporter of Gov. Rick Scott's push to shrink Citizens, Florida's largest insurer, with 1. …

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