Lawmakers look to lasso Citizens
NEW PORT RICHEY - Changes are likely for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. during the next legislative session, but area lawmakers say they are not sure what new direction Florida's insurer of last resort should take. "It's no secret that Florida's current property insurance setup is not working," newly elected state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-New Port Richey, recently wrote in an email to inquiries. "I agree that Citizens should be the last resort and am working on legislation that will create an environment that improves the situation for Florida's homeowners by allowing more choices," Simpson said. "So many policyholders have no choice aside from Citizens and it is disheartening to learn the recent news about the organization," Simpson said. Several missteps at Citizens have generated controversy, such as dismantling of an internal investigative department and reports of lavish spending."Serious reform is greatly needed in order to protect the consumers," Simpson said. Potentially large Citizens rate hikes in 2013 worry state Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. Fasano has "great concern" that the Legislature could do away with the 10 percent cap on annual increases in Citizens premiums. "Floridians are struggling, and the last thing they need is for their property insurance policies to get higher," Fasano said. "They have seen their rates increase by double digits over the past few years. Enough is enough." Last week, Senate Banking Committee Chairman David Simmons, R-Maitland, asked Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarthy to submit a plan to make Citizens Property smaller. Until now, the Legislature has required Citizens Property to offer rates lower than private insurers. Citizens Property executives and a number of lawmakers are concerned the insurer has too many policies on its books and couldn't pay all the claims resulting from a major hurricane. Over the past year or so five smaller insurers have entered the Florida homeowners insurance market and taken some policies off Citizens Property's hands.
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