special session

Florida lawmakers property insurance reforms have not brought relief

Over the past year, state lawmakers have made changes on paper through several attempts to cure Florida’s property insurance crisis. But a homeowner in Florida who opens their annual renewal and sees their premium has increased, or finds out their carrier has suddenly dropped them, may not have noticed anything different.

That was the expectation, after all.

State Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, noted during the first of last year’s special sessions to address insurance that relief from any measures taken by lawmakers wouldn’t be realized for at least another 18 months. That session took place in May 2022.

Since then, two hurricanes hit the state. Lawmakers then held a second special session on insurance in December. Six property insurance companies were declared insolvent last year. Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run “insurer of last resort,” continues to grow with more than 1 million policies.

More:Hurricane Ian is gone. Before the next storm, here are tips on how to review your insurance policy

More:The property insurance market was melting down. Then Hurricane Ian flooded Southwest Florida

And now the annual, 60-day regular legislative session is underway. The session is largely where party-line battles are taking center stage, but not insurance. And those homeowners with delayed or unfulfilled property damage claims may find their legal recourses slashed, owing to legislation approved in the special sessions to limit what the insurance industry and lawmakers said was too much litigation over property insurance claims and disputes between homeowners and their insurers.

The story remains the same as it was a year ago: it’s lawyers, contractors and public adjusters versus lawmakers and insurance companies.

Some have lauded the measures passed in Tallahassee as necessary to lure insurance carriers back to the state and target the cause of the crisis, so-called “frivolous lawsuits.” But

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards calls Special Session to address insurance crisis

Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a Special Session to address the state’s growing property insurance crisis with a focus on implementing a $45 million incentive fund to attract companies to write new policies.

The week-long session will converge at noon Jan. 30 and must adjourn no later than 6 pm Feb. 5.

Republican Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has been lobbying hard for either the governor or Legislature to call the Special Session to fund the program.

On Friday he addressed the Joint Budget Committee, saying, “People are literally going to lose their houses if we don’t have a Special Session.”

Louisiana homeowners have faced dramatic insurance cost increases triggered by the vast damage caused by Hurricane Laura in 2020 and Hurricane Ida in 2021 if they’re able to find coverage at all on the private market.

The reduced availability has driven tens of thousands of customers to the state-sponsored insurer of last resort, Citizens, which last year increased rates by more than 60%.

Donelon said at least seven new insurers have told him they are interested in entering the market through the incentive program if it is funded and implemented.

The commissioner said that would help reduce Citizens’ rolls.

Donelon told lawmakers and Edwards, who had preferred to wait until the regular session beginning April 10 to address the crisis, that a delay would limit the effectiveness of the program because insurance companies need to plan to buy their own insurance to match new business before the hurricane season begins in June.

“Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has stressed that funding the Insure Louisiana Incentive Fund cannot wait until the Regular Session in April,” Edwards said in a statement.

Winds of 150 mph toppled a mobile home in Cameron, where Hurricane Laura made landfall.

Winds of 150 mph toppled a mobile home in Cameron, where Hurricane Laura made landfall.

Donelon has concerned that

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Special session on insurance back in play | Local Politics

The Legislature will likely hold a special session next month to address Louisiana’s property insurance crisis, Senate President Page Cortez said Saturday.

State leaders are grappling with how to get property insurers into the state and reverse the trend of firms fleeing or going out of business after multiple hurricanes hit in recent years.

Cortez, a Lafayette Republican, said he plans to meet with Gov. John Bel Edwards, possibly Wednesday, to finalize plans on the need for a session and when it would happen.

“I don’t think any of us have a different solution,” he said.

The Senate leader also said he thought it could be finished ahead of Mardi Gras — a vacation and celebration time statewide — since the meetings would likely be limited.

“I think the idea is it is really one appropriation bill,” Cortez said.

The session may take place in early February and the aim would be to limit it to about five days.

Another factor is the Washington DC Mardi Gras, which takes place at the end of January and attracts a large number of state politicians.

Edwards’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

The 2023 regular legislative session starts on April 10.

State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon has been pressing for a special session since late last year.

Donelon, a former House member, said he wanted to re-launch an incentive program to lure property insurers into the state. The move is also aimed at reducing the rolls of the hard-pressed Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer of last resort.

Those policyholders are facing huge rate hikes.

A similar plan was started after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

But in December, Cortez and other state leaders, including Edwards, were unenthusiastic about a special session and said the issue could

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‘Hope’ won’t fix Florida’s property insurance crisis

The Florida Senate, shown here, participated in a special session that failed to address consumer concerns amid the ongoing <a href=property insurance crisis.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/ONmi6LL0yQCuZJBFFDpXzg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/palm-beach-daily-news/48a9c95338a2eff93c8b08aa466da489″/

The Florida Senate, shown here, participated in a special session that failed to address consumer concerns amid the ongoing property insurance crisis.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this editorial stated incorrectly that policyholders will have less time to file claims. As the Insurance Institute notes, however, “the change from 90 days to 60 days applies to insurers being required to respond to a filed property claim .It is not the deadline for consumers to file a claim.The filing deadline for an initial hurricane claim is one year after the storm makes landfall, with up to 18 months after landfall to make amendments to the filing.”)

If you thought the original was disappointing, the sequel provides more of the same. Last week’s special session of the Florida Legislature marked the second attempt this year by Gov. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers to address the property insurance crisis. The first one produced changes that favored the insurance industry; this one’s no different.

What came out of last week’s three-day special session were bills that continued to put the burden of propping up a faltering industry that is key to the state’s all-important real estate market squarely on the backs of homeowners. Floridians already pay an average of $4,231, up from $1,988 in 2019, according to an Insurance Information Institute analysis. That price will probably continue to grow, despite the new legislative fix.

Florida lawmakers ended the second of two special sessions to address property insurance.

Florida lawmakers ended the second of two special sessions to address property insurance.

Private insurance firms will receive $1 billion from state coffers to cover the reinsurance they buy as a backstop to help pay claims. Policyholders will find it

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Altmaier steps down as Florida’s insurance commissioner

David Altmaier answers a question during the Committee on Banking and Insurance meeting Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee.  Altmaier on Thursday submitted his resignation as Florida Insurance Commissioner to Gov.  Ron DeSantis.

David Altmaier answers a question during the Committee on Banking and Insurance meeting Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Altmaier on Thursday submitted his resignation as Florida Insurance Commissioner to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

TALLAHASSEE — After lawmakers this week passed an overhaul of the state’s property-insurance system, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier on Thursday submitted his resignation to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Altmaier, who made the resignation effective Dec. 28, has been Florida’s top insurance regulator since 2016. The letter did not detail his future plans.

“Under your leadership, we have worked with the Florida Legislature to meet historic challenges with historic reforms, we have come together to respond to catastrophes, and we’ve implemented rules and regulations that have safe guarded Florida’s insurance consumers while keeping our insurance markets viable ,” Altmaier wrote in the letter to DeSantis.

Altmaier has been in the post as the state has faced major troubles in the property-insurance industry. Insurers over the past two years have dropped hundreds of thousands of policies and received approval of large rate increases because of financial losses. Six insurers have been deemed insolvent this year.

During a special legislative session this week, Altmaier backed a bill (SB 2-A) that would make major changes in the system. Those changes include trying to reduce lawsuits against insurers and spending $1 billion in tax dollars to help provide critical reinsurance to carriers.

DeSantis was expected to sign the bill, which received final approval Wednesday from the House.

Some lawmakers have been critical of the Office of Insurance Regulation’s oversight of the industry and questioned Altmaier this week about issues such as providing data and monitoring insurance companies.

“What do you think will be announced first: The next insurance company leaves Florida’s collapsing market or his new high paying job in the insurance

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Legislators to address property insurance, tax relief, financial assistance in a special session next week

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature will hold a special session on Monday to tackle property insurance issues in the state.

State officials could take some major steps in stabilizing the insurance market following this session. However, it isn’t an easy problem to fix, especially since two hurricanes hit the state and caused significant damage.

Local residents have explained their property insurance rates have skyrocketed

“My property insurance went up 30%,” one News4JAX reader commented.

Another said their insurance doubled in 2021.

With the session, lawmakers plan to address reducing litigation costs, fostering reinsurance, improving claims, increasing oversight of property insurance market participants and more. The session will also discuss tax relief and financial assistance for Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole-related damages.

Lawmakers will also look to create a statewide toll credit program for frequent Florida drivers as well.

A special session was held back in May to try to address the insurance market, but not much was accomplished.

Even after next week’s special session, it’s likely residents won’t see immediate relief.

The Office of Insurance Regulations established a temporary market stabilization arrangement in July through Citizens Property Insurance or Citizens.

As of September, Citizen, which is a state-created insurer, had over a million policies.

News4JAX also learned that policies under United Property and Casualty Insurance will be canceled by May 2023, making them the seventh company to leave the state, which could push their policyholders to Citizens.

The proclamation says it will try to improve the financial stability of Citizens, reduce assessments with the company, and foster a transition of Citizens’ policies to the private property insurance market.

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Another insurance special session. What now?

As of 4 pm Friday, no bills had yet been posted on the Florida Legislature’s website for the special session on property insurance. The scheduled week-long session starts Monday.

This is not good government. Floridians shouldn’t expect dramatic relief from whatever legislators pass. We all know better because we’ve seen this movie before.

Seven months ago, legislators met in a special session to update the insurance legislation they had passed two years ago. Back in May, everyone agreed that even in a best case scenario, homeowner premiums would not drop. But if hurricane season wasn’t too bad, perhaps they wouldn’t go up too much in 2023.

Instead, we got the devastation of Ian and Nicole. Insured losses just from Ian could hit $50 billion, though some of that will be from flood damage, which falls under a federal program.

If Florida had a property insurance crisis before Ian and Nicole, it got worse. Twelve more companies have stopped writing policies. The state’s $13 billion reinsurance fund, a subsidy to help carriers pay claims in bad years, will take a financial hit. All policyholders will pay to replenish it.

This crisis threatens the state’s real estate market. It puts Floridians at risk of being unable to rebuild after a storm because their damages exceed what companies will pay.

Given the complexity of insurance, a functioning Legislature would start by getting the most reliable information possible about the problem. That would start with extensive committee hearings well before the regular session and continue with as much debate as possible.

Instead, legislators will have the weekend, maybe, to read long, detailed bills and prepare for floor debate as early as Tuesday. As state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, “We will get a baked pie. Then we decide

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More bad news for Florida’s struggling insurance market: Reinsurance rates are going up

As Florida lawmakers try to stabilize the troubled property-insurance system next month, they could face worsening problems with reinsurance, a critical part of the system.

Fitch Ratings released an analysis Wednesday that said overall reinsurance prices are expected to increase by more than 10 percent in 2023, pointing to losses from disasters such as Hurricane Ian and “increasing frequency and severity of natural catastrophe claims.”

“Price rises will be most pronounced in the regions worst affected by natural catastrophe events in 2022, including Australia, Florida and France,” the ratings agency said. “Hurricane Ian is likely to have caused between ($35 billion and $55 billion) of insured claims, making it one of the costliest natural catastrophe events ever.”

In the analysis posted online, Fitch also said it expects tighter restrictions when reinsurance policies are renewed in 2023, while raising the possibility that Florida property insurers will not be able to buy all of the reinsurance they need.

“Nevertheless, we believe the demand for property catastrophe reinsurance during the 2023 renewal season will be broadly met, except for Florida,” the analysis said.

Reinsurance, which is sold in a global market, is essentially backup coverage for insurers. It plays a crucial role in Florida, as evidenced by the projected tens of billions of dollars in damage from the Category 4 Hurricane Ian, which made landfall Sept. 28 in Southwest Florida before crossing the state.

When property insurers’ losses reach certain thresholds, reinsurance coverage is triggered to help pay claims. The costs of reinsurance are baked into policyholders’ rates.

Florida property insurers rely on a combination of reinsurance bought in the private market and from the state-run Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. As an example of the importance of reinsurance, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund estimated last month it would have $10 billion in losses

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Our View: Maine’s Indigent legal services system cannot wait for help any longer

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Maine’s system for indigent legal services is in crisis, without enough lawyers to cover cases, or money to attract more.

People wait outside the Biddeford District Court to make their initial court appearances. Earlier this year, lawmakers agreed to allocate $966,000 to employ Maine’s first five full-time public defenders. But hiring has not yet begun, and no one thinks that will be enough. Photo courtesy of Gabe Souza

The system has been headed toward this emergency for months, even years now, yet Gov. Mills and the Legislature have failed to take sufficient action.

They cannot wait any longer. Gov. Mills should call immediately for a special session of the Legislature so lawmakers can provide funding as soon as possible.

Every day she waits is another day that the state of Maine violates the rights of the defendants who cannot afford their own legal representation – rights given to them under the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution.

The state has been violating those rights for some time, thanks to its one-of-a-kind system for providing indirect legal services.

Maine is the only state without a public defender‘s office. Instead, it pays private attorneys to represent poor defendants through the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.

It has been an insufficient system for years. But warning bells really began ringing in late 2019, when the Government Oversight Committee ordered an investigation following a study that cited “serious concerns” about overbilling and inadequate performance.

While the commission has made improvements since then, it has not overcome its central issue: There aren’t enough lawyers willing to take cases.

The problem has only gotten worse since the pandemic, as the courts try to work through a backlog. There are now 27,600 pending misdemeanor and felony cases

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