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Sunday, Apr 20, 2014
Politics

House version of flood insurance bill not finished


Published:

TALLAHASSEE — A bill aiming to bring down the cost of flood insurance has been speeding through Senate committees before the annual legislative session but has yet to be heard in the House.

That doesn’t signal the House has problems with the approach, according to House Speaker Will Weatherford’s office.

The Senate bill encourages private insurers to write home flood insurance policies in Florida, providing an alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program.

“We hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s still early,” Ryan Duffy said Friday. “There’s still a 60-day session ahead.”

Duffy is a spokesman for the Wesley Chapel Republican.

The House version is now in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, run by Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka.

He said the bill (HB 581) had some technical glitches but is being rewritten and will be out by next week. The session starts March 4.

State lawmakers are acting after Congress failed to bring down ballooning premium increases in the national program, which is backed by the federal government.

“It’ll be something we can work with,” Nelson said. “We want as many private sector carriers as possible.”

The Senate bill (SB 542), carried by Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has cleared three committees unanimously, including the Appropriations panel on Thursday.

That bill will be held in the Banking and Insurance Committee until the House version is sorted out.

“We haven’t seen their language, but we’ll take the best ideas from their bill and the best from ours, and at the end of the day we’ll come up with the best course of action,” Brandes said.

Brandes added that he’s keenly aware of the plight of desperate homeowners, some of whom are facing thousands of dollars in premium increases.

The federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act would increase premiums for more than 15,000 households in St. Petersburg alone.

No one, though, can guarantee that private insurers will be significantly less expensive.

Part of the uncertainty comes from as-yet unwritten rules regulators will have to devise to govern such policies. Private companies have expressed interest but have given no guarantees they would be able to provide significantly less expensive coverage.

Brandes’ mantra has been to create “flexibility” for homeowners to choose their level of coverage, such as insuring only a home’s mortgage value or just the main structure and not enclosures.

“Every day that a piece of legislation isn’t on the governor’s desk is a day that our homeowners are struggling under a burden they can’t afford,” he said.

jrosica@tampatrib.com

(850) 765-0807

Twitter: @jlrosicaTBO

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