The legislative session is moving at breakneck speed this year. At this point, we already have 31 bills on our “watch list.” Go to for a full list of these bills and their current status in the legislature.

In this space, I often decry Tallahassee’s approach to the property insurance market in Florida. Today, however, I am going to offer some good news. Though the 2012 legislative session has brought the usual headaches and uncertainty, we have also seen several pro-consumer bills filed. I want to list the bills that, in my opinion, are good for the insurance consumer’s of this state. They are as follows:

Relating to Property Appraisals

Filed by two of the biggest consumer advocates in the legislature, HB 761 and SB 1318 require Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to comply with conditions and procedures relating to participation of umpires and appraisers in loss appraisal process. These bills would allow either party to submit a written demand to enter into the appraisal process when an impasse is reached on actual cash value, amount of loss, or cost of repair/replacement.

Here is where these bills currently stand in committee:

Relating to Property Insurance

Representative Rachel Burgin has teamed up with Senator Mike Fasano to offer her version of Senate Bill 846: House Bill 1473. Like SB 846, HB 1473 includes a number of common sense consumer protections. First, these bills would require insurance companies to disclose to their insureds several items, including benefits, time limits and other provisions of a policy that the company may apply to that particular claim. It’s a simple matter of transparency.

Second, these bills require that insurance companies live up to their own standards of timeliness. If policyholders must present documents in a timely manner, their insurance companies should do the same.

Finally, this bill extends the ALE expenses that are provided in a state of emergency to 24 months. ALE expenses are those costs which are incurred when you have to live somewhere else because your home is damaged. This bill gives policyholders a bit more time in the event of a hurricane – when policyholders should be trying to piece together their lives, not having to worry about arbitrary time constraints.

Here is where these bills currently stand in committee:

Relating to Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

Citizens property insurance, though well meaning, is often regarded by private insurers as a ticking time bomb. Should a large storm hit Florida, private insurers and indeed Florida’s taxpayers would be on the line for millions in potential assessments. HB 1127 and SB 1346 would lessen the risk to Florida taxpayers, and could potentially open up Florida’s insurance market to more competition. A bill that helps both policyholders and the industry – truly a remarkable feat and one that Senator Steve Oelrich and Representative Albittron should be lauded for proposing.

Under these proposals the bulk of the Citizens deficit is recouped via emergency assessments, which are handled on a pay as you go basis, so everyone pays the same percentage, and the assessments could be staggered over the course of several year.

This should bring stability to the market – something both sides agree is good for the state’s insurance market.

Relating to Property Insurance

Senate Bill 1566 is perhaps the furthest reaching consumer bill filed this legislative session. Senator Fasano’s bill includes provisions that revise the membership of the Market Accountability Advisory Committee of the board of governors of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to include more representation.

Further, the bill extends the corporation’s annual rate increase cap to sinkhole coverage, and requires an insurer to accept a private structural appraisal under certain circumstances. Perhaps most importantly, the bill requires an insurer to pay replacement cost coverage without reservation or depreciation for dwelling losses that result from a state of emergency.

As you can see, we’ve got a fair amount of pro-consumer legislation filed for the 2012 session. It’s good to know we’ve got consumer advocates in the legislature fighting for all Floridians. Kudos to folks like Representative Rachel Burgin, Senator Mike Fasano, and Representative Frank Artiles for fighting for what’s right. It’s especially heartening to see legislators like Senator Steve Oelrich and Representative Ben Albittron coming up with common sense solutions to fix Citizens Property Insurance Corporation that work for all of Florida’s policyholders.

Though there is some very frightening legislation on the docket, it’s refreshing to see some pro-consumer bills making headway in 2012.

Remember to contact your legislators and let them know where you stand. Let them know what’s best for Florida. With your help, we will continue to see positive change.