Crist promises laundry list of property insurance reforms once elected

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Charlie Crist, if elected governor in November, vows to take action over rising property insurance costs because Gov. Rick Scott has taken the side of insurance companies against Florida families.

In a press conference call Thursday, the Democratic nominee for governor highlighted the impact Scott’s actions have had on Floridians over the past three years.

“It’s all about protecting your paycheck,” said the former governor. “Scott had done absolutely nothing, but he sure keeps cashing those checks from the insurance industry.”

“Florida was paying too much for property insurance and it was hurting our families,” Crist said. “The governor should focus on middle-class families of our state who are struggling to pay bills.”

Joined by former Democratic state Sens. Dan Gelber and Steven Geller, the former governor laid out a plan to reverse the higher premiums.

If elected, Crist promised to roll back the changes Scott made upon taking office, particularly SB 408, signed by Scott in May 2011.

SB 408 allowed, among other things, insurance companies to pass on reinsurance costs to policyholders, shorten the window for filing both sinkhole and storm-related damage claims, as well as restricting claims for damage caused by sinkholes to primary structures and limiting recovery to actual depreciated values instead of replacement costs.

It also shortened the statutes of limitation for bringing a lawsuit against insurance companies and removed provisions for improvements like decks and protective fencing for pool safety.

Widely praised by insurance companies, the bill was panned by consumer advocates.

Because of SB 408, Crist said, insurance companies raised rates 25% over four years — “because they can.”

Insurance rates are higher now than they were when he took office in 2007, Crist said. Back then, as governor-elect, he quickly called a special session of the Legislature to address the insurance “crisis,” working with Gelber and Geller — both political opponents at the time.

While insurance rates skyrocketed under Scott, Geller added, coverage has worsened.

“When the next hurricane hits and Floridians realize how bad their coverage has become,” he said, “I expect Floridians to march on Tallahassee. And they will be justified in their anger.”

Among Crist’s laundry list of proposed changes, including lowering premiums and repealing the “anti-insurance consumer laws” passed by Scott, he also promised greater transparency “for all insurers,” and increasing coverage of the Florida hurricane catastrophic fund. He also promised to advocate a national catastrophic hurricane fund.

“Most importantly,” Crist said. “I will put our seniors and families first.

“I always have and I always will.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.