- Commissioner of Insurance Regulation
- Fentrice Driskell
- Florida Insurance Commissioner
- Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
- HB 1A
- HB 7A
- HB 9A
- HM 11A
- House Bill 1A
- House Bill 7A
- House Bill 9A
- House Memorial Resolution 11A
- Hurricane Property Insurance Claim Alternate Dispute Resolution Program
- Insurance Commissioner
- Jervonte Edmonds
- Office of Insurance Regulation
- property insurance
- Property Insurance Commission
- special session
House Republicans have shut down Democrats’ vision for property insurance reform for this week’s Special Session, including electing another statewide office.
Under legislation (HB 9A) filed Sunday afternoon by Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell, voters would have elected the state Insurance Commissioner every four years to lead the Office of Insurance Regulation. Additionally, the bill would have mandated that property insurers lower premiums whenever lawmakers adopt property insurance reforms.
However, as their first order of business Monday morning, the Republican-led House voted down the bill, denying it a spot on the agenda after deeming it outside the scope of this week’s Special Session.
The proposal came the day before lawmakers convened for a Special Session primarily to stymie Florida’s property insurance crisis. Top Republican lawmakers on Friday filed their property insurance bill, which includes another $1 billion in reinsurance coverage.
Driskell on Tuesday announced her intention to file legislation to elect the Insurance Commissioner, an office currently appointed by members of the Florida Cabinet by a simple majority.
Under Democrats’ plan, the Insurance Commissioner would be elected to a two-year term in 2024 before settling into four-year terms beginning in 2026, aligning the timing of its races with gubernatorial races and Cabinet races. However, the Commissioner would not be a Cabinet-level office and instead still report to the Cabinet and be housed under the Department of Financial Services (DFS), led by the Chief Financial Officer.
Speaking to Florida Politics Sunday evening, Driskell said the Insurance Commissioner wields significant power and authority over the insurance industry but is not directly accountable to Floridians.
“The thought is, how do you return some of that power to the people, and if the people like what’s happening, then great, they can be re-elected. But if not, then that person could be removed from office,” Driskell said.
In her four years in the Legislature, Driskell said she has yet to see property insurance reform result in lower premiums. That’s why she added the mandatory rate reduction measure to the bill.
“A mandatory rate reduction has to accompany it or else it just seems like we’re making empty promises saying that there are things that will reduce insurance costs but they just never seem to,” Driskell said.
The bill would also create the Property Insurance Commission to review the work of the Office of Insurance Regulation. The Commission would be a six-person panel appointed by legislative leaders from the majority and minority parties. The Senate President and House Speaker would each choose two members while the Senate and House Minority Leaders would each pick one member.
In addition to the structural reforms, Driskell’s proposal would raise the stakes on insurers who level accusations of insurance fraud. If an insurer reports fraud and DFS’ Division of Investigative and Forensic Services finds none, the insurer would be subject to a $100,000 fine.
By requiring the state to confirm fraud claims, Democrats hope to shine a light on the investigation process and prevent an insurer from quietly denying claims.
Other provisions would force insurance companies into offering property insurance in Florida.
If an insurance company offers property insurance in another state and wants to do business in Florida, the bill would require the company to offer property insurance in the Sunshine State. Another measure would prevent a property insurer from claiming insolvency in Florida if it still operates as an insurer — of property policies or otherwise — in any other state.
According to Driskell, that’s the case with FedNat, which she said claimed insolvency in Florida but is writing property insurance policies in other states.
The bill would also commission a study on the effectiveness of property insurance mediation.
Among other provisions, the bill would also double funding for DFS’ My Safe Florida Home Program to $300 million. The program allows homeowners to receive grants and credits to harden their homes against wind damage.
On Tuesday, Driskell said her caucus will push for more than tinkering at the edges to stop spiraling insurance rate increases, prevent insurance companies from going belly up, and ensure more consumers don’t depend on the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Insurance. Together, the Democrats’ plan tackles affordability, availability and accountability, she says.
Driskell isn’t the only Democrat who has put pen to paper with a proposal. West Palm Beach Rep. Jervonte Edmonds filed a measure (HB 7A) Saturday afternoon to create the Hurricane Property Insurance Claim Alternate Dispute Resolution Program, which would allow policyholders to request mediation on certain damage disputes.
Another is a resolution (HM 11A) Boca Raton Rep. Kelly Skidmore filed that would ask Congress to create a federal catastrophe pool to spread property risk nationally.
Republicans obtained a supermajority in both the House and Senate last month, giving the GOP nearly unrestricted control over the legislative process. Still, Democrats are hopeful Republicans will consider their suggestions.
Driskell said Republicans’ plan mostly addresses attorneys fees and litigation, more of what has been tried in the past.
“Unless I’m missing something, I think it’s all but guaranteed to cause rates to go up, and that’s very concerning to people,” she added. “I know people in my district are concerned that they can’t afford insurance.”
Democrats also plan to introduce an amendment to Republicans’ property insurance bill (HB 1A) that would cap premium increases at the Consumer Price Index.
The Special Session, which begins Monday, will run for one week only.