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Date of Issue: September 28, 2006

Insurance: Special legislative session planned for December

insurance pic
State Rep. Bill Galvano has drafted a bill to broaden property owner eligibility for wind insurance in Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Islander Photo: Molly McCartney

There will be a special session of the Florida Legislature in early December to address the wind insurance crisis, according to Rep. Bill Galvano.

"That is the word we are getting as members of the House," he told The Islander in a telephone interview.

Galvano said the timing is intended to give the Florida Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee a chance to complete its report, which is due Nov. 15. The reform committee was created June 27 by Gov. Jeb Bush to look at the problems "plaguing the insurance market and our citizens" and to make recommendations "to stabilize the industry."

With those recommendations in hand, legislators meeting in special session would be able to "pursue some solutions" to the insurance crisis, Galvano said.

Galvano, a Republican who represents the 68th District encompassing western Manatee County, has been leading efforts to develop solutions that would make wind insurance available and affordable to owners of property in high-risk areas, such as Anna Maria Island.

His amendment aimed at expanding the wind pool for five counties, including Manatee, was defeated by one vote in the Legislature earlier this year.

"From what I understand about what the governor’s committee has been talking about, I bet that if we had to do it again, my amendment would go through," he said.

In view of what he believes is a change in the thinking about insurance reform and in anticipation of the upcoming special session, Galvano is working now on a bill to broaden eligibility for commercial wind coverage even beyond what his earlier amendment would have provided.

"I would like to have Citizens (Property Insurance Corporation) write all wind coverage, wherever people are in the state, without having those eligibility zones," he said. "And I would have Citizens cover all perils."

He also would like to see the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (also known as the CAT Fund) focus even more effort on increasing the state’s reinsurance capacity.

Galvano said he had discussed his ideas for insurance reform with U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, also a Republican.

"He was in town on Saturday and I specifically asked him how the state and federal government could partner on this issue, and he seemed very responsive in terms of having the federal government have a role and having a national CAT Fund or something of that nature."

Galvano said he told Martinez that a special session of the Florida Legislature is planned for December. "And he said they would be very interested at the federal level in seeing what we do."

What Galvano wants this time "is a real fix" for the insurance problems.

"I want to be able to work this issue through so I have my own idea of what will work," he said. "I don’t want us to go up there and be presented with an industry proposal and then be told that this is a bill that will work ... and it turns out otherwise."