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Bill to further shrink Citizens clears Senate panel

The number of policies in state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is falling dramatically, but lawmakers continue to push for more changes to help it move more homeowners into the private market.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed SB 1672 unanimously Monday. The bill would prevent Citizens from covering new multi-peril policies for condo or apartment complexes in its coastal account, set up a new clearinghouse for condominium buildings like the one set up this year for residential policies and allow unregulated surplus lines companies to offer coverage through the existing clearinghouse.

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It also shifts 5 percent of the possible assessments on Citizens policies after a cataclysmic storm from the personal lines account to the coastal account, which carries more risk for the company. The potential assessments, which could reach 2 percent even on non-Citizens customers, are one of the main reasons lawmakers have pushed Citizens to reduce its exposure.

After a slew of programs and new laws in recent years to rollback coverage in some areas, make sinkhole coverage optional and aggressively push homeowners into private companies, Citizens has seen its policy count drop from about 1.5 million in 2012 to 941,221 as of Feb. 28.

The bill has no direct companion in the House, but parts of the bill allowing surplus lines companies to participate in the clearinghouse and require bid protests within Citizens to be heard at the Division of Administrative Hearings instead of in-house are included in HB 1109. The House measure, however, does not contain the more aggressive provisions aimed at pushing more policies out of Citizens.

“This is in fact a continuation of our efforts to make sure Citizens is in fact an insurer that does what it is supposed to do and our private market is vibrant and competitive,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who is running the bill.

Simmons also saw the committee pass his SB 618, which extends a maximum sales tax rebate of $2 million per year to eligible sports stadiums and franchises to soccer teams. Major League Soccer has been eyeing potential expansion of teams in Orlando and Miami. Former England international player, David Beckham, a global superstar who is backing a new franchise in Miami, visited lawmakers last month to tout his plans.

 

Reporter Gray Rohrer can be reached at [email protected]

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