While I am in Houston working on Hurricane Ike litigation, the view from my Tampa office overlooking the Tampa Convention Center will demonstrate that organized policyholders can make a difference in Florida’s insurance landscape. As Tampa Tribune reporter Catherine Whittenburg reported in Citizens to Phase in Sinkhole Hikes – First Year at 50 Percent:

Fasano said that he and Policyholders of Florida, a consumer advocacy group headed by former state Insurance Consumer Advocate Sean Shaw, are loading up 150-200 consumers on three buses to attend today’s hearing, which will be held at 4 p.m. in Ballroom D at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 South Franklin St.

My impression is the efforts to protest the outrageous rate increase have proven successful. Citizens Property Insurance held a Monday emergency Board meeting regarding the issue:

Under pressure from state leaders and consumer advocates, the Citizens Property Insurance board voted Monday to raise rates gradually for optional sinkhole insurance, instead of jacking them up right away by as much as 2,000 percent or more.

The decision, which would raise rates 50 percent in the first year, came on the eve of a hearing that state insurance regulators have scheduled Tuesday in Tampa to consider the rate request.

The board had voted in late July to raise sinkhole rates statewide by 430 percent on average to make them actuarially sound — and by as much as 2,300 percent in Pinellas County. Tampa rates would have risen by 2,239 percent on . The Bay area has earned the nickname of "sinkhole alley" because of insurers’ heavy losses on claims there.

The Citizens board’s vote during its emergency Monday hearing by teleconference does not actually change its rate request. The state-backed insurer still plans to ask state Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty to approve the same increases.

The democratic process requires citizen involvement to work. I am happy my law firm is taking a role organizing such endeavors. People can make a difference in Tallahassee.

How about a little inspiration for those protesting: