Flood insurance marketplace bill signed into law

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Florida homeowners will now have more choices for affordable flood insurance as Gov. Rick Scott signed a private insurance marketplace bill directed by State Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg.

Scott signed SB 542 today, creating a marketplace for private brokers to write flood-insurance coverage statewide. Both Brandes and Rep. Ed Hooper were co-sponsors of the bill, which received strong bipartisan support in the Florida House and Senate during the 2014 session.

“Floridians will now have the flexibility to choose affordable flood insurance policies custom tailored to their individual needs,” Brandes said in a statement. “With this law, Florida stands as a national leader in private flood insurance options. Washington’s failed leadership gave us devastating premium increases on hardworking Floridians, but this bill allows Florida to control its own destiny.”

The proposal offers built-in flexibility for policyholders to accept coverage levels of their choice, as well as the ability to adjust deductibles to customize plans. Additionally, the law provides consumer protections and review by the Office of Insurance Regulation to ensure that the new private flood insurance market is fair.

The bill sets up a framework for a competitive, private market alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program, which faced massive premium spikes from reforms set in motion by Congress with the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act.

Biggert-Waters effectively ended federal subsidies for homes located in flood zones, and directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to draw new maps focusing on “realistic” flood dangers. The result was hundreds of homes in Pinellas County and around Florida experiencing changes in flood zone designations, resulting in annual NFIP flood insurance rates shooting up by thousands of dollars.

“It was imperative that the Florida Legislature pass flood insurance relief for the thousands of citizens who are required to insure their homes,” Hooper said. “This legislation brings admitted and surplus lines insurance companies into the flood insurance market and rates are less than the federal NFIP plans.”

State Rep. Larry Ahern, who sponsored a similar House bill, expressed his pleasure with today’s bill signing.

“The State of Florida, and especially Pinellas County, were hit hard by the federal Biggert-Waters Act,” Ahern said. “I applaud Governor Scott for signing this landmark legislation that addresses the needs of Floridians with their skyrocketing flood insurance rates.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.