As Florida lawmakers meet in a Special Session to revamp the state’s property insurance market, the state’s top insurance regulator may be headed out the door.
Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told members of the Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Monday that there was a lot of “continuity” at the state insurance regulatory offices and that regardless of his “status as Insurance Commissioner,” regulators at the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) will provide the Legislature this spring with data from property and casualty insurance companies.
During discussion on SB 2A, Sen. Lori Berman said it had come to her attention that Altmaier was “leaving the office very shortly” and asked him about his departure date. But committee Chairman Travis Hutson told Berman to stick to questions about SB 2A.
She told Hutson that the information is relevant because the OIR is slated to be sharing data from an industry data call with the Legislature this spring as part of SB 76, which was passed by the Legislature in 2021.
Altmaier did not deny he was leaving and told Berman the OIR will share the data with the Legislature no matter who is in charge.
In a statement to Florida Politics, Office of Insurance Regulation Communications Director Samantha Bequer said the office “is specifically focused on supporting efforts to stabilize the Florida property insurance market,” and that at “this time we will not be further perpetuating this rumor.”
She said “any official updates regarding the Florida Insurance Commissioner will be shared appropriately by OIR.”
Florida lawmakers are considering a sweeping property insurance bill that eliminates a provision from law that allows plaintiffs who successfully sue their insurance companies to recover their attorneys’ fees. It also removes the ability of a homeowner to assign their policy benefits to a contractor.
The assignment of benefits (AOB) is typically done in an emergency to speed repairs, but insurers have long complained contractors abuse the practice by driving up costs through needless fixes. The changes and others come to try to build up Florida’s ailing insurance market.
Six insurers have gone into receivership this year alone, one has been placed under “administrative supervision” by regulators, and dozens more have hiked rates and canceled policies. The Demotech ratings agency in July also threatened to downgrade 17 companies before backing off.
The news of his potential departure also comes as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) meets in Tampa this week. Altmaier is past president of the NAIC, the national standard-setting organization that is governed by the chief insurance regulators from 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories.
A number of insurance lobbyists told Florida Politics Tuesday they had heard Altmaier was leaving, but none were sure of what his future plans hold.
One lobbyist told Florida Politics he heard the Commissioner would “sit on the board of a large corporation.”
Altmaier, who graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in math and previously had worked as a math teacher and track coach, was named the state’s top insurance regulator in 2016, replacing former Commissioner Kevin McCarty, who held the post for more than a decade.
Turnover following General Elections is not unusual. But a new six-year lobbying ban, slated to go into effect Jan. 1, 2023, appears to be expediting some resignations.
The ban was first approved by voters in 2018. During the 2022 Regular Session, state legislators passed a law that made it clear what executive branch officials were covered by the ban and created penalties for someone found violating the new ban.
Current law only requires top state officials to wait two years before they can lobby their former employer. The new ban also contains a much wider prohibition on lobbying, so that former agency heads are not only blocked from lobbying their former employer but are also banned from lobbying the Legislature.
After a lengthy regulatory career, and a stint in Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Susanne Murphy announced last week she was stepping down from the OIR. Murphy joined the Tallahassee-based insurance regulatory law firm, Meenan P.A.