‘Scheme to defraud’: House Democrats decry ‘bailout’ for property insurance industry
Image via Colin Hackley.

‘It’s always a different boogeyman, and our Insurance Commissioner has never held them accountable.’

House Democrats say Republicans bailed out the property insurance industry with their proposed plan to stymie Florida’s insurance market crisis.

The House voted along party lines Wednesday to pass Republicans’ bill (SB 2A), including provisions to limit lawsuits and making state-run Citizens Property Insurance less attractive to homeowners. Democrats had offered amendments and standalone bills to address the collapsing insurance market, but the Republican supermajority shut them down, with House Speaker Paul Renner arguing some of Democrats’ measures were from an “alternate reality.”

Addressing reporters after the Speaker’s post-Session news conference, House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell, who filed Democrats’ bill (HB 9A), responded to Renner’s claims.

“I think the alternate reality is believing that we’re a Legislature who couldn’t have done anything about it,” Driskell told reporters, speaking of rate increases, claim denials and long waits to resolve claims. “We’re at a time where Florida has the largest budget surplus in its history, and rather than directly help homeowners, we provided a bailout to the industry.”

Among the measures included is a $1 billion reinsurance fund. That comes after the Legislature approved a $2 billion reinsurance fund during a Special Session in May.

While the House vote fell along partisan lines, Republican Sens. Ileana Garcia and Erin Grall voted against the measure and Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart voted for it.

But in both chambers, Democrats cried foul that Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier still had not presented the Legislature with a report on the property insurance market that was due in January. Republicans lamented that the report was nearly a year late, but did not take as hard of a stance as Democrats, who filed bills and amendments to provide oversight over the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) or to compel his office to complete the report.

Freshman Dania Beach Rep. Hillary Cassel is a lawyer who specializes in representing Floridians against their property insurance companies and who became Democrats’ point-woman this Special Session. She declared some of the most piercing rhetoric.

“There’s a reason why that data is not being made available, because once we scrutinize it and once we look into it, I think we’re going to start to see that there was a scheme to defraud, there was a scheme to put together to force litigation up,” Cassel said, “because if litigation’s up and there’s a boogeyman — and we’ve heard year after year after year — it’s always a different boogeyman, and our Insurance Commissioner has never held them accountable.”

There is speculation whether Altmaier will soon leave OIR. Although Altmaier hasn’t answered that question and OIR has chosen against “perpetuating this rumor,” Democrats have made a point of it.

“I don’t think he’ll be there much longer and we’ll see him more likely than not as an executive of an insurance company because he has just delivered to them every wish list that they have asked him to deliver,” Cassel said.

Just over a month ago, Floridians elected Republican supermajorities to both the House and Senate for the first time in more than a decade. And while the next election is nearly two years away, Driskell said she hopes voters are paying attention.

“We always talk about how elections have consequences. This is a substantial consequence,” Driskell said. “We believe that every Floridian deserves the freedom to be healthy, prosperous and safe. But along with that, we have to have voters who make sure that they hold their elected officials accountable at the ballot box, and I think homeowners are going to feel the pain probably starting, actually, fairly soon.”

Another flashpoint with the bill was the requirement that policyholders purchase flood insurance. House Democratic Policy Chair Kelly Skidmore, who hails from Boca Raton, disputed Republicans’ characterizations that high-up residents of a condo need the flood insurance to cover the building’s structure.

“That is not true,” Skidmore said. “I think clearly, the members of the Democratic caucus understand this insurance issue just a little bit better than our Republican colleagues do.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • nail

    December 14, 2022 at 5:14 pm

    Who thought that the bottom feeders in the MAGAt party were ever going to change? They are not but, DeSantis has made sure he will be first to the bottom and he will take the sycophants with hum.
    There will be no screwing around with the votes like DeSantis did this year. All his gerrymandering gets thrown out ,like all his voter suppression laws.
    Biden’s voting bill is first on the Senate schedule next year.
    3/4 of this country voted with the Dems in November. They showed they do not want MAGAts like trump and Desantis. Desantis believes his own press in FL. Take a look at the social media outside of FL. He is dreaming if he thinks he has a toe in the presidential race.
    Especially, now when he is going after doctors for giving vax shots. Is this guy insane? Fl has lost 12,000 doctors because of DeSantis in the past year. 9.5000 teachers because of his backwards incredible, changing of American history., math and science.
    The Federal Dept of Education are debating to fund FL schools if they do not meet the national standards. Desantis is the scum we always knew but now he is showing the country. Now they will know who and why they will vote against.

  • Gina Thomas

    December 14, 2022 at 6:07 pm

    ‘Did anyone expect anything different? Of course we have the best legislature money can buy and the fat cats in the Big Insurance bought all the big fish swimming in the Florida pond. We are going to pay more, those of us in Citizens are going to get a raw deal being booted off to badly run and even more greedy insurance companies that go belly up and then we will pay more also in the second year and in this ever so consumer minded state (ha) we are going to be left with even fewer ways to get help. Did anyone in this state ever wonder WHY so many lawsuits come out of Florida? Oh it’s not all because of those greedy lawyers. Yes, a number of them are litiginous but let’s be honest — Florida is not and has never been a consumer minded state. It leaves people to fend for themselves and has become even harsher ever since JEB! dismantled the few things that did help the consumer. Does anyone remember when the PSC actually had some teeth? Now every single demand for a rate increase is rubber stamped. We do need an elected Insurance Commissioner who has to worry about what the voters will do. Anything to help consumers was cast aside.

    • Mands

      December 17, 2022 at 1:06 am

      Do you realize those of us who are not insured with Citizens get an annual surcharge on our insurance to subsidize yours? I don’t understand why I have to contribute to the cost of your insurance because you chose to live in a high risk area or are uninsurable for other reasons…

      The PSC only regulates utilities, it does not regulate insurance companies – that is the job of the Insurance Commissioner. The PSC (PUC) still has teeth. Use those three letters with any utility and I guarantee you will see action. I’ve worked for a utility for 30 years so I know.

      • Gina Thomas

        December 17, 2022 at 7:12 am

        I do not live in a high-risk area. In fact, I live in a low-risk as I pay a peferred rate for flooding insurance. You want a better deal? Scream at the legislature for allowing State Farm, Allstate etc. for selling to the overpriced but lucrative auto market but not offering homeowners insurance. We in Florida always had hurricanes but never had such issues with insurance until JEB! totally re-wrote the laws to engorge his pals in the insurance industry.

  • James R. Miles

    December 15, 2022 at 7:07 am

    DeSatan is always protecting corporate interests over the citizens of Florida. Being an F’ing Republican, he can not help himself!

  • Steven

    December 15, 2022 at 7:29 am

    The Attorney Lobby has had a Stranglehold on the insurance industry for so long, and now one little change in the law and a real state backed Re Insurance Fund is not a Republican Scheme. Really people if see the build in Fraud is the system you would understand. This is not the Best plan and not the worst, however Attorneys need to be curtailed on thier Frivilous Law Suits!

    Yes Altimier will leave and work or become the CEO of a New Florida Domestic Insurer. That is the payoff for his participation, just like most Citizens Co. high ranking officials do the same. Where do you think most of the new Co’s sprang up from over the last 20 years.

    I’m a Republican, and yes they are as corrupt as the Democrats once your a Politician your a Corrupt bastard. She is just butt hurt.

Comments are closed.


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