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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Flood insurance bill sails through Senate, faces rougher waters in House

TALLAHASSEE — A bill to bring down the cost of flood insurance has cleared all its Senate committees, but its House counterparts are still treading water.

The Senate Banking and Insurance committee approved the bill (SB 542) by an 8-0 vote on Tuesday.

The measure, backed by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, encourages private insurers to write home flood insurance policies in Florida, providing an alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program.

But the House, Brandes said, is having trouble getting past the part of his bill that gives homeowners the ability to choose their level of coverage. He wants consumers to be able to insure only a home’s mortgage value, for instance, or just the main structure and not sheds or pool enclosures.

House leadership is uncomfortable with allowing policyholders to insure anything less than the full replacement value of a home, he said.

“Let’s let homeowners have that flexibility,” Brandes told reporters.

The House has two flood insurance bills, including one (HB 581) in the Insurance & Banking subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka. He couldn’t be reached after business hours Tuesday.

Nelson, though, said as recently as two weeks ago that Brandes’ bill was “something we can work with.”

State lawmakers are acting after Congress repeatedly failed to bring down ballooning premium increases in the national program, which is guaranteed by the federal government.

A bill to roll back premium increases on homeowners recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives and may go before the Senate later this week.

Otherwise, the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act would increase premiums by thousands of dollars for more than 15,000 households in St. Petersburg alone.

Even if the state legislation passes, though, there are no guarantees private insurers will be significantly less expensive for Floridians.

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