AIF, Florida Chamber Join Forces in Stronger Safer Florida to Push Citizens Insurance Reform
Around the State
A collection of Florida's business, consumer and environmental groups, including Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, have joined together to push for reform of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.
The 14-member coalition, Stronger Safer Florida, announced Thursday that it has broad support for revisions to the state-run insurance entities, which the group says are needed in order to protect consumers, businesses, charitable organizations, religious institutions and local government entities, as well as shielding environmentally sensitive areas throughout the state.
“Both of these [Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund] underfunded state-backed programs place an unreasonable financial burden on the backs of the majority of Floridians, and there is no better time, or greater need, for reform than now,” said AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney.
On Wednesday, AIF released its 2013 legislative priorities, and Citizens Insurance reform was at the top of the list. The business lobby group also released an online tool earlier this week to show the disproportionate amount of Floridians who are not insured by Citizens, yet could be affected by its fallout.
Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford also reflected Thursday on the challenge Citizens reform poses. "With Citizens we have to take an incremental approach," the Republican of Wesley Chapel said. "When you look at the insurance challenges that face the state of Florida, it took a long time to get to the place we are. We have a lot of exposure. If a Category 4 or 5 hurricane were to hit somewhere in the state of Florida, we’d be in big trouble as a state. But, we can't dig our way out of that hole quickly. We've got to incrementally have sound policies that reduce the exposure of the state but be sensitive to the rates that citizens in our state can pay."
Stronger Safer Florida contends the state-run insurance entities do not insure the majority of Floridians, but due to their statutory power to levy assessments, they would tax all Floridians in event of a major hurricane catastrophe. With more than 1 million policies, Citizens is the largest insurer in the state.
“Without the appropriate changes to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, Florida consumers and the financial security of our state are at risk,” said Bill Newton, executive director of Florida Consumer Action Network, a consumer-advocate coalition member. “We appreciate the opportunity to be part of Stronger Safer Florida as this coalition provides our organization with another platform to share our position on responsibly spreading hurricane risk outside of the state, the importance of mitigation and the need to pass thoughtful legislation that has a minimal impact on rates.”
The coalition plans to launch a website detailing what needs to be done for Citizens Insurance reform and hopes to mobilize the 77 percent of the states' insured who are not covered by the state’s entity.
Other members of Stronger Safer Florida including Florida Consumer Action Network, Florida TaxWatch, the R Street Institute, 1,000 Friends of Florida, Audubon of Florida, CERES, Florida Coastal and Oceans Coalition, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sea Turtle Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and James Madison Institute.