Spencer Roach will continue to pursue ‘universal wind coverage’ next Session
Spencer Roach praises an elected Lee County Schools Superintendent.

He proposed a major change to how Citizens Property Insurance serves Floridians, but it never found a Senate sponsor.

After Rep. Spencer Roach’s home was largely destroyed by Hurricane Ian, his insurer announced it couldn’t pay out claims. Like many Floridians, Roach, in the midst of rebuilding, had to pursue claims through a state association.

It set the North Fort Myers Republican on a path toward massively reforming Florida’s insurance market, and to allow Citizens Property Insurance to cover anybody instead of serving as Florida’s insurer of last resort. “It’s inevitable Florida will embrace universal wind coverage,” Roach said.

But a bipartisan proposal (HB 1213) didn’t find a supporter in the Senate and died this year unheard.

Roach most likely has two more Legislative Sessions in the House to pursue changes, and he intends to bring the bill back next year.

“We can’t leave this alone and expect it to get better without legislative action,” Roach said. “And I won’t.”

Roach worked with Rep. Hillary Cassel, a Dania Beach Democrat, on legislation that ultimately was discussed in a House workshop but went no further.

But Roach stresses that lawmakers largely cribbed the plan from previous lawmakers in the Legislature and other states. Former Rep. Don Crane, a St. Petersburg Republican, proposed the idea in the Legislature in 2006. Texas has had nearly identical requirements and offerings in place since 1971, and California has had similar requirements (focused on earthquakes instead of hurricanes) since 1996.

Roach said the idea has faced resistance in Florida largely thanks to the power of the insurance lobby. Even as he has found numerous rank-and-file insurance agents who support the proposal, Roach said it has been greeted as a threat by major carriers.

But he said too many fly-by-night carriers spent years collecting premiums and paying executives instead of capitalizing themselves in preparation for a major disaster.

“That’s not a business model, it’s a Ponzi scheme,” he said.

And he speaks with some inside knowledge. Roach’s home pre-Ian was insured by Universal Property and Casualty. But after Ian, the company announced it was insolvent. That left Roach, like many of his constituents, seeking a payout on his claims through the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association.

Hurricane Ian was, by some metrics, the most costly hurricane in Florida history. But there’s no reason to think that record will stick. Roach reminds that on a peninsula, it’s only a matter of time before another major hurricane strikes. The state had to bail out the market this time, and there needs to be a better approach in the future, he said.

“The status quo is not working in Florida,” he said. “Another Ian and the market would collapse. In fact I would argue the market did collapse, because without government intervention and without injecting $2 billion into our reinsurance fund, that’s what would have happened.”

Roach said the cost for homeowners in the long run will go down absent reinsurance costs, so the proposal reforms will benefit taxpayers. Meanwhile, reforms passed in recent years that promised relief in premiums have failed to do so.

As for a political path forward, Roach is optimistic but knows there’s work ahead. He was an ally of Speaker-designate Daniel Perez, a Miami Republican, and hopes his ideas receive a positive reception. His district also overlaps with a Senate district represented by Senate President-designate Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican who handled many of the Hurricane Ian relief bills in the upper chamber.

Regardless, Roach said he knows big ideas often take more than one Session to become law. He hopes the more reforms are discussed, the wider acceptance they will receive. He’s grateful Speaker Paul Renner let it be heard in workshop without a Senate sponsor, and believes the more the bill is discussed, the more support it will earn.

“Maybe 15 years from now, someone will blow off the dust on a binder and say this guy Roach had an idea that’s worth looking at,” he said. “But I will continue next Session to agitate for this.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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