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Monday, Dec 22, 2014

Insurance reforms will help strengthen state

BY JANET BOWMAN Special to The Tampa Tribune
Published:

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With less than two weeks left in the 2013 legislative session, we will soon know the fate of important insurance legislation aimed at reforming Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

The Nature Conservancy is one of many conservation groups that support reform of government-run Citizens Property and the Cat Fund in partnership with business groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida. Florida’s coast is a natural line of defense against any storm that threatens our state, and our surroundings play an important role in fostering vital habitats for fish and wildlife and nurturing our tourist economy.

State insurance policy should recognize that an important way to reduce the financial risk to Florida of claims to Citizens and the CAT Fund and the risk to individuals is to stop subsidizing high-risk coastal development through insurance pricing that does not accurately reflect risk.

Elected officials including, Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, are working diligently to help their fellow legislators understand the need to reform both Citizens and the CAT Fund.

Senate Bill 1770 and House Bill 835 restrict the eligibility of new construction seaward of the coastal construction control line for Citizens coverage. HB 835 contains stronger language that would prohibit coverage of new construction of major structures that are seaward of the coastal construction control line or within the Coastal Barrier Resources System, while SB 1770 prohibits Citizens from covering new structures constructed seaward of the construction control line unless the structures are built to strict “Code Plus” building code standards.

These changes send needed market signals that new development in high coastal hazard areas must bear the full cost of such risk, not only to property, but also for environmental damage such as coastal erosion and turtle and shorebird habitat destruction.

In addition to the support of the environmental community, business, consumer and taxpayer groups are also in favor of CAT Fund reform. Reducing the amount of reinsurance provided by the state through the fund is important to reducing the overall financial exposure of the state and reducing the likelihood of emergency assessments in the event the fund experiences a deficit after a major hurricane or series of hurricanes and should be considered this session as well.

Although The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups throughout the state will continue to be the voice of Florida’s environment and wildlife, we urge all Floridians to join us and support the good reform bills to increase the financial well-being of the state of Florida and which make both economic and environmental sense. Together we can urge the Florida Legislature to reform Citizens and the CAT Fund in order to better protect the state we all call home.

For information on how you can ensure your voice is heard, visit www.strongersaferflorida.org.


Janet Bowman is director of legislative policy and strategies for The Nature Conservancy.

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