‘Citizens 2.0’ is 86’d but Other Florida Insurance, Liability Bills Still Alive

February 20, 2024

A move to revamp the state-backed property insurer of last resort into Florida’s main wind carrier, a plan dubbed “Citizens 2.0,” appears to have died in the Legislature this year. But other insurance-related bills are still alive, and the governor’s effort to temporarily cut premium taxes may have gained new life.

Leaders in the Florida House of Representatives have not embraced Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to halt the premium tax for homes up to $750,000 for one year, a cut that could save homeowners an average of about $240, according to the Insurance Information Institute. But on the Senate side of the Capitol, Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, last week proposed a tax package that includes the premium tax reduction, the Tallahassee Democrat and Florida Politics reported.

House leaders have expressed concerns about the loss of revenue from the premium tax cut, and have worried about a lack of guarantee that insurers would pass the savings on to consumers, according to the news reports.

Meanwhile, House and Senate bills that address Citizens Property Insurance Corp. coverage restrictions are still alive, with some changes, the Florida Association of Insurance Agents’ government affairs director reported last week. Senate Bill 1716 and House Bill 1503 would allow surplus lines carriers to take out secondary homes from Citizens.

HB 1503, by Rep. Tiffany Esposito, R-Fort Myers, also would grant the state Office of Insurance Regulation the authority to allow some homes valued at more than $750,000 to be insured by Citizens, something now barred by law.

Condominium associations and their brokers are hoping one of those bills will also end the current statute that bars Citizens from covering condominium buildings that allow short-term rentals for a large percentage of units. Brokers have said that many condos in Florida can no longer find affordable insurance coverage, and that insurers have cut back drastically on coverage limits. Citizens may be the only option for hundreds of condo associations, advocates have said.

The bills have each survived one committee and are now pending in a second.

SB 1104 and HB 1149 would bar the cancellation or nonrenewal of policies on storm-damaged residences for at least 90 days after repairs are made, with exceptions for fraud and misrepresentation by insureds. Those measures also are pending in committee.

Also, two bills that could limit liability for alleged water pollution are advancing. HB 579 and SB 738 would make it more difficult for personal injury damages under the Florida Water Quality Assurance Act, the Tampa Bay Times and other news outlets reported. The bills, which would limit awards to economic, not personal damages, have passed committees and are set to be heard on the chamber floors.

Two more measures, SB 1252 and HB 347, would bar lawsuits against companies that sell pesticides unless the firms are involved in manufacturing the substance. The Senate bill has passed one committee and the House measure is headed to the chamber floor.

The Citizens 2.0 bill, as it has been called, is House Bill 1213, introduced by Rep. Hillary Cassel, Rep. Spencer Roach and others. It would have made Citizens the wind insurer for most properties in the state, leaving the primary market to cover other perils. It did not receive a vote in committee.

Photo: Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)