Two bills with implications in the Keys are seeing a bit of movement in Tallahassee. Prospects over their passage remain unknown, but the sponsor of the bills in the Florida Senate, Anitere Flores, is hopeful they’ll reach the finish line.
One of the bills addresses annual insurance rate increases for policyholders in Monroe County. Senate Bill 1476 relates to the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which was created in 2006 by the Florida Legislature as nonprofit, tax-exempt, government entity. Its mission is to provide insurance protection to Florida policyholders who are entitled but unable to find property insurance coverage in the private market. Customers include Florida home, business and condominium owners as well as property owners.
The legislation would cap annual rate increases for policyholders in Monroe County at 5 percent the next two years, January 2020 to January 2022. Now, rate hikes can go as high as 10 percent. Filed at the beginning of legislative session in early March, the bill passed through the Senate Community Affairs Committee on April 2 and now sits in the Rules Committee. A related bill in the House was filed by state Rep. Holly Raschein at the beginning of session.
For years, Flores said, the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has been over-profiting from Monroe County — an area that’s still picking up the pieces following Irma. Flores says the numbers don’t lie, as Citizens has received $805 million more in premiums from Keys residents than claims paid since 2004. A bill analysis and fiscal impact statement says premiums paid to Citizens by Monroe County policyholders would be reduced by an estimated $295 million over the two years the 5 percent cap would be in effect.
“The current leadership at Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, they feel rates in Monroe County are too low,” Flores told the Weekly in a recent interview. “They point to studies that rates should go up by 45 percent in order to be sound. I point them to competing, actuary studies that rates should be lower, and they ignore those (studies).”
Flores said the bill would provide much-needed rate relief to Monroe County.
She said the bill’s only a temporary fix, as the 5 percent cap would only be for the next two years. However, Flores said she feels that her legislation would move in the right direction in get insurance rates lower.
Another bill gaining a bit of movement in the state Senate deals with takings claims within areas of critical state concern. Filed on March 1, the bill got a unanimous 6-0 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Legislation was forwarded to the Senate Community Affairs Committee, but it wasn’t considered on April 2.
Under the bill, state and local government located in an area of critical state concern, like the Florida Keys, would share the judgments to defendants who are successful in property rights-related litigation. But that’s only if the court has found liability against the state and local government, the regulation restricting development or use was mandated by the state land planning agency and the regulation adopted by the local government restricting development or use.
Flores, who introduced the bill in the Senate, says it would solidify a “handshake agreement” that’s existed for years between the state and Monroe County. As for the 50-50 split on judgments, Flores says there’s a case that the state should bear more of the cost.
“We’re in the kind of situation because of them,” Flores said. “There’s financial implications with that though, and getting a bill passed out of the legislature with a higher threshold for the state would be challenging.”
While the bill’s moving in the Senate, it hasn’t gained any traction in the House. Flores says she’s unsure what the prospects are there.
“We will push to get it passed in the Senate, but it will little more challenging in the House,” she said.
STATUS ON KEY BILLS
SB 720 and HB 525 — Renames Florida Keys Community College to The College of the Florida Keys. The bill is slated for consideration on Thursday, April 4 in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. The bill passed the House with a 112-0 vote on March 27.
HB 771 and SB 816 — Requires counties and municipalities to address contamination of recyclable material in specific contracts; prohibits counties and municipalities from requiring the collection or transport of contaminated recyclables by residential recycle collections. The bill sits in the Senate Community Affairs Committee after gaining passage in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee on March 26. Legislation in the House is in the State Affairs Committee.
SB 1666 and HB 1221 — Requires all persons to have a specific boating safety identification card in their possession before operating certain vessels and directs Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conduct study of impacts of long-term stored vessels and certain anchored and moored vessels on local communities. The bill sits in the Senate Community Affairs Committee after recently gaining approval in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. In the House, the bill was moved on March 26 to the State Affairs Committee.
HB 3169 — Provides $6 million appropriation for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority Stock Island Reverse Osmosis Facility. The bill moved from the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee with a 9-0 vote to the Appropriations Committee on March 6. No further action has been taken.
HB 4737 — Provides $7.5 million for the Monroe County Emergency Operations and Public Safety Center. The bill received unanimous support from the House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee March 7. The bill currently sits in the House Appropriations Committee.