Florida senator calls for new special session on insurance following Hurricane Ian

Would make the second special session on insurance this year

ORLANDO, Fla. – A state senator is calling for another special legislative session to deal with Florida’s property insurance problem.

Florida’s insurance market was already in crisis before Hurricane Ian and now the state faces billions of dollars in damage.

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Six insurance companies have left the state this year alone and more than two dozen others are being watched because of insolvency concerns.

Preliminary estimates for Citizen’s Property Insurance Corp. have the company expecting upwards of 225,000 claims after Ian hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane last week.

Now with Ian, many believe more insurers could be leaving the state. Meanwhile Citizens, Florida’s state-backed insurer of last resort, now has just under 1.1 million policies in Florida.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, says the governor and the legislature must act quickly.

“Florida was already in an incredibly challenging insurance market, Ian only makes it worse,” Brandes told News 6.

Brandes has been sounding the alarm about Florida’s insurance market since well before Hurricane Ian.

Action to correct the market must be swift, Brandes said.

Insurance agents from State Farm to Citizens Insurance are operating makeshift tent offices in a mall parking lot in Port Charlotte, Florida, to help people get funds, food and supplies.

“The number one thing that needs to happen is that the legislature needs to go back into special session in November, right after the election, and they need to begin to deal with some of the major issues of tort reform that needs to happen in Florida,” Brandes said.

Why not wait until the regular session?

“The problem with property insurance legislation is it normally takes 18 to 24 months to work through your books. If you wait until the regular session, which starts in March, you may not pass anything until April or beginning of May, and it won’t go into effect until July,” he said.

“If it doesn’t happen immediately, we’re going to see the market, we’re going to see more and more companies failing or leaving the market altogether and that just means higher prices and less competition for Florida,” Brandes said.

The state legislature had a special session in May to address the property insurance crisis.

Many people interviewed by News 6 had high hopes for the last special session, but they were disappointed afterward because they never saw their rates go down.

Will the legislature get it right with another special session?

“They really don’t have a choice right now. The legislature has kicked the can so far down the road that they’ve run out of road,” Brandes said.

“There are no more options right now. If the legislature waits until regular session, people are going to be looking at 30% to 40% rate increases on top of the 100% rate increases that they’ve seen over the last two or three years. It is unsustainable, and you’re about to gut the middle class of the state of Florida. If you don’t fix property insurance, Floridians will begin to pay within the next 18 to 24 months more in property insurance than they are in their mortgage,” Brandes said.

News 6 contacted the governor’s office for a response about this call for a special session but has not heard back yet.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.