The 2012 Legislative session is right around the corner. It’s hard to believe December has already arrived, leaving only one more committee week before session begins on Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

Many bills favored by leadership have already cleared their first major hurdle by navigating through at least one committee.

Let’s take a look at the crop of insurance bills, and where they stand:

  • HB 245, Relating to Depopulation Programs of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation
    • Sponsored by Boyd
      • Next Cmte: Economic Affairs, 12/8/11 from 9 – 11am in 102 H
  • SB 578, Relating to Depopulation Programs of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation
    • Sponsored by Richter
      • Next Cmte: Banking & Insurance, 12/7/11 from 9:30am – 12:30pm in 412 K

HB 245 and SB 578 would allow surplus lines carriers, which are not subject to the same state regulation as admitted carriers, to participate in the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation depopulation program. If implemented, surplus lines brokers would have the ability to review Citizens policyholder underwriting and claims information, then cherry pick the policies they wish to take off Citizens books, leaving the state run insurance company with an even more risky pool of policies. Once a policyholder leaves Citizens, there appears to be no real mechanism for reentry. A surplus lines carrier could conceivably renew the policy with exorbitantly higher rates, free from the rate regulation of OIR.

The House version of this bill has already cruised through its first committee, and is scheduled to be heard on Thursday, December 8th at 9am. The Senate version was scheduled to be heard in the Banking and Insurance committee on December 7th at 9:30am.

  • HB 243, Relating to Expert Testimony
    • Sponsored by Metz
      • Next Cmte: Civil Justice, 12/7/11 from 1 – 3pm in 404 H
  • SB 378, Relating to Expert Testimony
    • Sponsored by Richter
      • Next Cmte: Judiciary, 12/7/11 from 2 – 4pm in 110 S

HB 243 and SB 378 aim to bring the state of Florida’s evidentiary standard (the Frye standard) into line with federal Daubert standard. Under the Daubert standard, judges would be given more leeway as “gatekeepers” of science. These bills will both be heard in committee for the first time on Wednesday, December 7th.

  • HB 427, Relating to Civil Remedies Against Insurers
    • Sponsored by Passidomo
      • Next Cmte: Civil Justice 12/7/11 from 1 – 3pm in 404 H

HB 427, the controversial “Bad Faith bill” is scheduled to be heard in its first committee on Wednesday the 7th at 1pm. This law would effectively chip away at the state’s bad faith statutes – statutes that exist to protect you if your insurance company chooses not to fulfill its end of the insurance contract or act unreasonably when adjusting your claim. Erosion in bad faith laws lets insurance companies evade their contractual obligations and harm policyholders without recourse.

  • HB 761, Relating to Property Loss Appraisals
    • Sponsored by Artiles
      • Next Cmte: Not Assigned
  • SB 846, Relating to Property Insurance
    • Sponsored by Fasano
      • Next Cmte: Not Assigned

HB 761 and SB 846 have a few things in common. First, they are the only pro-consumer property insurance bills that have been filed for the 2012 legislative session; second, they are the only two property insurance bills that have yet to be assigned a committee.

Coincidence? I think not.

Senator Fasano’s bill would require insurance companies to provide reasonable information to consumers in a timely fashion – hardly a controversial concept. Similarly, Representative Artiles’ bill would simply require Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to comply with conditions & procedures relating to participation of umpires & appraisers in loss appraisal process – a very modest proposal. Yet neither of these bills are scheduled to see the light of day.

That is simply not fair. I will be in Tallahassee this week to listen to the proceedings and to discuss the importance of maintaining legitimate consumer protections in statutory law. If at all possible, I urge you to join me. Even if you can’t make it to Tallahassee, you can make a difference. Call your legislator’s office. Write a quick email and voice your concern. Your opinion matters, and the only way to make a difference is to make yourself heard.