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Florida's special session on property insurance begins Monday

Hurricane Ian Special Session
Gerald Herbert/AP
/
AP
The bridge leading from Fort Myers to Pine Island is seen heavily damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Oct. 1.

TALLAHASSEE - A weeklong legislative special session addressing Florida's property insurance crisis begins Monday.

Lawmakers have released a massive property insurance bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Leek of Volusia County, that would create a $1 billion reinsurance fund, seek to reduce insurance lawsuits and force more people out of the state-created insurer of last resort even if it means property owners end up paying more.

The 123-page bill was filed Friday night, less than three days before lawmakers begin a special session on insurance, property tax relief for Hurricane Ian victims and reducing tolls for frequent commuters.

“The goal we all share is for Florida to have a robust property insurance market that offers homeowners the opportunity to shop for insurance that meets their needs and budget. We also want to make certain that when damage occurs, claims are paid promptly and fairly,” Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said in a news release.

Florida's insurance woes have been ongoing for years. The legislature held a special session in May to try to stabilize the market.

Then came Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on the southwest coast and crossed over the peninsula, causing widespread flooding and damaging and destroying homes and business.

Many of the issues lawmakers will take up this week build on the May special session. A state reinsurance fund aims to insurance companies from becoming insolvent or leaving Florida and attempts to reduce lawsuits related to claims.

Lawmakers will vote on speeding up the claims process and make changes to discourage what they call frivolous lawsuits. If passed, the bill would get rid of the state's assignment of benefits laws, in which property owners sign over their claims to contractors who then handle proceedings with insurance companies.

It would also force people with the state-created Citizens Property Insurance policies to pay for flood insurance and require they move to private insurers if they offer a policy up to 20% more expensive than Citizens.

The Senate and House bills are identical, which means the measure should sail through the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Another bill being taken up during the special session would provide property tax relief for people whose homes and business were made uninhabitable by the storm. Again, the House and Senate have identical legislation.

Lawmakers are also looking to provide 50% refunds for commuters who pay more than 35 tolls in a month and use a transponder to pay.

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