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Rick Scott issues first veto of 2015, nixes Citizens reform to curb opt-in letters

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

From the distance of his presidential cattle call in Orlando, Gov. Rick Scott issued his first veto of the year late Tuesday afternoon, scrubbing HB 1087, a bill supported by a coalition of South Florida Republicans and most legislative Democrats that would curb a practice of forcing policyholders to continually “opt-in” to their Citzens Property Insurance Corp. policies by way of formal correspondence, which consumer advocates and some legislators say is abusive.

The proposal, sponsored by state Reps. Michael BilecaJose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, Frank Artiles and Dwight Dudley in the House, placed restrictions on Citizens and so-called “takeout carriers” — companies state officials hope will “depopulate” the rolls of the state’s insurer of last resort by absorbing its policies — who, in their zeal for rolls reduction, employ an aggressive practice of essentially informing homeowners that unless they respond affirmatively that they would like to keep their Citizens’ insurance, they will be handed over to a new private company.

Homeowners complained to legislators that they would receive these letters several times a year, and feared that if they missed a letter they would be blindsided by a change in policies.

Efforts to depopulate are required by state law. The Legislature in 2013 created a special “Clearinghouse” within the Office of Insurance Regulation in order to induce applications from private insurers wishing to write new policies in Florida, as well as to accelerate the rate of policies shed from Citizens rolls.

Scott announced the veto in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

“The mission of Citizens is to provide property insurance to, ‘those who are, in good faith, entitled to obtain coverage through the private market but are unable to do so…’,” Scott wrote.

“This bill undermines progress in growing the number of property insurance options and reducing assessment risks for Florida families. My primary concern is the provision that prevents a policyholder from receiving more than one take-out offer every six months from a private insurer. This provision is inherently unfair to Citizens policyholders in that it limits policyholders’ private market options, which means they may miss an opportunity to move to a better property insurance alternative.”

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Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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