A pair of bills making way through both the House and Senate this week seek to make wide-ranging changes to the Department of Financial Services.
Among the changes, according to LobbyTools, include the establishment of new public employee programs as well as modifying several existing programs, insurance regulations, fire codes and others.
For fire departments, HB 651, sponsored by Monticello Republican Rep. Halsey Beshears, and SB 992, from St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, will create a grant program for volunteer fire departments and change the certification process for state firefighters.
On insurance regulations, changes proposed by the House bill – a measure opposed by insurers such as United Property and Casualty – would allow insurance agents to sell condominium and other property insurance policies in a less regulated surplus-line market.
Surplus lines insurers fill coverage gaps by insuring consumers otherwise declined by traditional “admitted” carriers. If passed, the bill replaces the existing system, which currently requires insurance agents to first attempt to sell a policy through the higher regulated “admitted carrier” market.
Strong objections came from United Property and Casualty spokesperson Monty Stevens, who said that implementing this portion of the bill would leave admitted carriers facing an “unlevel playing field.” They would be forced to compete with surplus lines carriers, which are far less regulated.
LobbyTools reports that Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd, who is an insurance agent, believes existing Florida law “doesn’t protect consumers in the way it intended,” adding that the bill is “good as presented.”
Also, the bill clarifies that State University employees, special districts, and water management districts are able to participate in the state’s deferred compensation plan and changes regulations on the subject of surety bonds.