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Florida legislature passes massive property insurance bill

House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast opens the Special Session Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.
Phil Sears/AP
FR170567 AP
House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast opens the Special Session Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.

Republicans in the state legislature put their supermajority power on display this week when they passed a massive property insurance package less than five days after it was filed without including input from Democrats.

“The work that we've been putting in to provide relief to consumers over the years in the property insurance market has culminated in the biggest, meatiest, beefiest property insurance reform legislation that the state has ever seen,” said bill sponsor Rep. Tom Leek (R-Daytona Beach) during a press conference after the measure passed in the House on Wednesday.

It seeks to cut back on fraud and litigation—two factors the industry says are driving up costs. Republicans say the changes will lead to lower rates.

But the measure contains no guarantees rates will go down. And that was a problem for Democrats.

The measure passed the House (84-33) on Wednesday along party lines after the Senate passed it (27-13) the day before. In the Senate, two Republicans voted against the bill — Sen. Ileana Garcia of Miami Dade and Sen. Erin Grall of Vero Beach — and one Democrat — Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando — voted in favor of it. Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it into law.

Leading up to the special legislative session this week, Republicans and Democrats agreed that rates should go down as a result of any measure they pass. However, they were in disagreement on how to get there and when that should happen. Democrats proposed forcing insurers to lower rates, giving homeowners immediate relief. Republicans took a market-based approach to getting prices down and rejected every proposed amendment from the minority party’s caucus.

After the bill cleared both chambers, Republican House Speaker Paul Renner of Palm Coast explained that they believe rates will come down under the measure, but it will take at least a couple of years. Renner said the measure is expected to keep the state’s private insurers from going out of business in the more immediate future.

“There is an immediate win, but not on premiums," Renner said during press conference after the measure passed the legislature on Wednesday. "The win today is the hope that we can continue to have insurance for everyone."

Renner also described the bill as "a pro-consumer,” even though critics of the measure have characterized it as a threat to consumers. “It's pro-consumer from the standpoint that if you don't have insurance, that's not good for consumers.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) likened the measure to a "one-billion dollar- bailout to insurance companies" with "no real rate relief to Florida homeowners.”

"We always talk about how elections have consequences," Driskell said. "This is a substantial consequence."

Check back for updates. Last updated on Dec. 15 at 6 a.m.

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.