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Special Session Day 1: Senate committee green-lights property insurance reform bills

Senate leaders say it could be 18 months before homeowners see a reduction in price.

FLORIDA, USA — After a more than four-hour-long hearing Monday, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee gave the green light to a large piece of legislation aimed at tackling growing problems with property insurance.

The committee met after the Senate officially gaveled in to mark the start of the special session. 

Lawmakers are tasked with tackling the growing property crisis problem, as homeowners see premium costs rise, insurers are inundated with frivolous lawsuits and some people are losing coverage altogether as hurricane season quickly approaches.

Both bills introduced by State Sen. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) would make major changes to property insurance laws in the state, among the most notable being to prevent insurers from automatically denying coverage based on the age of a roof.

Set aside $150 million in grant funding for some homeowners to retrofit for protection against hurricanes.

And provide $2 billion to a reinsurance fund, essentially insurance for insurers to cover losses during hurricane season. Companies that buy-in would have to reduce rates by the end of next month.

"The reinsurance issue that should be immediate, those reductions would be shown sooner rather than later,' said Boyd.

But it could take up to 18 months before people actually see a reduction in their premiums.

Democrats offered an amendment to freeze rates, but that was struck down by Republicans who said it could cause more companies to go insolvent.

"We’re going to continue to fight to work to make sure a product is as good as it can possibly be in such a short amount of time," said Sen. Dem. Leader Lauren Book. 

Ultimately both sides say more work will need to be done to address just how large of an issue property insurance will continue to be in the state

"This market has Stage 4 cancer, we have to treat it seriously like it does. I’m going to support this bill today, not because I think it's going to solve Stage 4, but it's better to start with Stage 1 even with a cigarette in its mouth and sitting under a heat lamp," said State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-Pinellas County). 

The proposal will now go to the full Senate for a vote sometime this week. The House is set to convene Tuesday and leaders are confident that both chambers and the governor’s office are on board with the proposals.

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