The dismantling of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has begun.

Local insurance agents have begun receiving letters from Citizens informing them that they will no longer write policies for homes exceeding $1 million in value. Also, many property owners (myself included) received letter from Citizens stating that policies will no longer cover carports, screened enclosures, patios, awnings, tiki huts, and a host of other structures. Some of you might think on the surface, that’s not so bad. But consider that plans floating around Governor Rick Scott’s office for the past ten months have proposed dropping the cap by $250,000 a year until, as reported by the Gainesville Sun and other news outlets, Citizens would have no more policies. The Sun reported that killing Citizens within four years was one of the governor’s objectives upon taking office, and that elements of his proposed plan were written by insurance lobbyists for State Farm. Reducing coverage amounts and types incrementally are but part of the plan to eliminate Citizens as a “competitor” of private for-profit insurance companies.

Combine that with the recently revealed story, uncovered by Fair Insurance Rates for Monroe (FIRM), about how Citizens has made a killing off of Keys policyholders – $500 million in gross profits from 2003-2012. That’s a half-billion dollars ahead, even with the storm seasons of 2004-05 factored in!

Here are some things to consider:

Even though property values have fallen around the state, they still remain higher here in the Keys. If the Citizens cap falls to $500,000 or $250,000, how many Keys property owners will lose coverage?

Monroe County has long been a donor county to the State of Florida. We collect significantly more sales taxes for Tallahassee than we receive in benefits from the state. We’ve paid so much to Citizens so that they were a half-billion ahead based on Keys premiums alone. Bluntly put, we are being screwed. And because of our low population, we have virtually no representation in Tallahassee. Our State Representative Ron Saunders does the best he can as leader of the minority party, and our State Senator cares far more about almost anything else than she does her constituents in the Keys… which really doesn’t matter much considering her monumental lack of influence and effect.

As bad as it is, we would be in a much worse place were it not for the efforts of FIRM. This real grassroots group has done their best to keep Tallahassee honest, and has saved Keys property owners countless thousands as a result of their dedication to their namesake cause. With a new legislative session commencing, we’ll need all the help we can get to stop the insurance pirates from continuing to raid our policies and our wallets. You can find FIRM at Volunteer, donate, help out in any way you can. The community you save may be your very own.

Conch Republic Secretary General Peter Anderson was recently in Marathon. For those who may not remember the origins of the Conch Republic, it all started in 1982 when the federal government set up a checkpoint at Florida City to inspect all vehicles leaving the Keys for illegal immigrants. This resulted in seventeen-mile traffic jams and a lot of pissed off drivers. Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow and a group of unhappy islanders, upset that they were being treated like a foreign nation, seceded from the United States and formed the Conch Republic. The protest worked; the road blockade was removed.

Perhaps it’s time for a new secession. We seceded where others failed once; we can certainly do it again! This time, we’d only have to secede from the State of Florida. Perhaps one of our neighboring Gulf States would like a chain of islands with a living coral reef and a lot of tourist-generated sales taxes for their very own. Maybe a joint deal with Puerto Rico awaits, or perhaps we become our own state.

I realize that this secession talk is whimsical, but our situation certainly isn’t. This is a mess that we’ll be dealing with for years to come. Hopefully the governor and the legislature will one day understand that the Citizens they’re killing are us.



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