The New Year brings new opportunities and new challenges. Unfortunately, this year brings more challenges than opportunities for policyholders in Florida. Charlie Crist no longer wields the veto pen that struck down anti-consumer legislation in the past. Instead, he has been replaced with a Governor who campaigned on a very pro-industry platform. In addition, the Florida Legislature may have become even more pro-industry than before. These circumstances have created an atmosphere in Tallahassee whereby the industry is in a position to get a lot of the changes it has previously lobbied for.
With the industry wielding such clout in Tallahassee, what can policyholders do to fight back? They can get educated and involved! Policyholder involvement in this year’s legislative process is absolutely essential if we are to ensure a fair result. The industry’s greatest fear is an active, educated and unified policyholder base. For these very reasons, several consumer-oriented groups came together in the Merlin Law Group offices on January 5, 2011. The meeting included attorneys, public adjusters, consumer advocacy groups and condominium representatives who understand that those of us who represent policyholders must act. At that meeting, the groups committed to work together to ensure that policyholders understand what is happening in Tallahassee, how they can get involved, and to fight against the inevitable anti-consumer legislation that will soon come. New proposed legislation was released recently. Here is the full bill, SB 408.
The pro-industry rhetoric flowing from Tallahassee is not necessarily any different from previous years; it’s just that the political circumstances make it possible for much of the rhetoric to become Florida law. For example, the so called “Consumer Choice” bill that would deregulate the Florida insurance market and allow private insurers to charge whatever the market will bear flew through the legislature last year with very little opposition. Charlie Crist’s veto is the ONLY reason our rates are not deregulated right now. SB 2044, which had several anti-consumer provisions and was the subject of differing opinions as to its possible effect on consumers, passed the legislature but was vetoed by Charlie Crist. What will the industry propose with the same pro-industry legislature and a new pro-industry governor? The answer should scare every policyholder in this state. Whether you are a business owner, a condominium association or a homeowner, you should be very concerned with the changes coming to the insurance market here in Florida.
The group of policyholder representatives that came together in January hope to educate both policyholders and legislators about any property insurance legislation as well as facilitate policyholder participation in the legislative process. I will be posting regular blogs on the legislative process so please visit often. If you wish to know anything further, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 813.229.1000.