Joe Henderson: Jeff Brandes is right to push for Special Session on insurance rates
Hurricane Michael damage to Mexico Beach. Image via Getty.

Recovery Efforts Continue In Hurricane-Ravaged Florida Panhandle
Gov. Ron DeSantis said he is 'very receptive' to that idea.

Jeff Brandes’ time as a Senator is ending, but he remains a voice of reason on how Tallahassee should work. He gave his usual good advice about what lawmakers should do to fix a problem they should have dealt with in the recently concluded Legislative Session.

The Clearwater Republican told Tampa TV station WFLA that Gov. Ron DeSantis should finally call a Special Session to address the state’s property insurance crisis.

“If I were advising the Governor, I would say, ‘Listen if you don’t call a Special Session on this, you’re going to begin to own some of these rate increases,'” Brandes told the station.

On Monday, DeSantis told reporters he is “very receptive” to that idea.

He should be.

Hurricane season starts in about 2 ½ months. Meanwhile, Florida insurance rates climb faster than a SpaceX rocket. Counties along both Florida coasts are especially vulnerable to these spikes.

Brandes said many people see increases of “sometimes 30%, sometimes 100%.”

Multiple factors caused that.

Major hurricanes are stronger and more numerous thanks to climate change. Many homeowners chose underfunded companies that offered lower rates. But those companies can collapse under what Brandes called “a combination of bad law, bad court cases and a hyperactive trial bar.”

More than 100,000 lawsuits were filed last year against Florida insurance companies. Most states average around 1,000 per year. Many of those lawsuits were roof-related, which brings us back to hurricanes. The greatest amount of storm-related damage to homes often comes from roof damage.

Six insurance companies left Florida this year. Other companies stopped writing new policies.

In February, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Progressive Insurance didn’t renew 56,000 Florida policies for homes with roofs more than 15 years old.

Brandes sounded this alarm while the Legislature fixated on passing culture-related laws. Maybe they should have focused on the kind of work they were sent there to do.

Politicians talk all the time about pocketbook issues.

This one certainly qualifies.

It also gives those running against incumbents a line of attack to which millions of Floridians can relate.

There’s already enough sticker shock in too many other areas of the economy.

Gas prices, food costs, out-of-control rent increases — they’re combining to crush too many people.

Most of the time, Florida Republicans blame it on President Joe Biden, but that won’t work this time.

DeSantis needs to call that Special Session and get deep in the weeds. He should use his bully pulpit to make lawmakers focus on what’s really important to Floridians.

Otherwise, as Brandes warned, he could have to own it.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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