NAMIC: Fla. Legislature Adjourns, Session Productive for Property/Casualty Legislation

Florida’s just-ended legislative session “proved to be very productive,” an official with the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) said. Florida lawmakers enacted several key property/ casualty bills before adjourning their regular legislative session last Friday.

“Compared to other sessions in recent memory, this year’s legislative session proved to be very productive, with important bills enacted concerning the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, and the state’s Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association,” said David Reddick, NAMIC state affairs manager for the Southeast region. “Most of the credit for this legislation should go to our state advocacy partner, the Florida Insurance Council, whose lobbyists helped to guide these bills through the legislative process.”

Senate Bill 2488 increases the CAT Fund capacity from $11 to $15 billion and sets the retention level at $4.5 billion (it was formerly $4.9 billion). Surplus lines carriers are added to the assessment base, but medical malpractice insurers are removed for the next three years to help bring some relief to that troubled market. The bill also includes a new assessment procedure.

House Bill 1251 reorganizes the four current JUA sub plans into three tiers and includes $10 million to cover a deficit in sub plan D, which should help small contractors in that sub plan from further assessments. The bill also includes an additional $15 million to cover deficits in 2004, after undergoing scrutiny by the state Auditor General.

Other important property/casualty bills enacted include:

· House Bill 251, a bill that creates a premium tax reporting database to help collect funds from insurers for firefighter and police pension funds. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush has already signed this bill.

· House Bill 1899 (see also Senate Bill 3046), a bill that provides a process to resolve legal claims related to construction defects arising out of the construction of a dwelling before a lawsuit is filed.

· Senate Bill 1926, a bill that allows a workers’ compensation insurer to seek a rate deviation for a “particular insured” based on underwriting guidelines filed with and approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation.

· Senate Bill 2038, (see also Senate Bill 2994), an omnibus bill, contains several provisions, including one that clarifies that an insurer cannot refuse homeowner’s coverage based on a single previous water claim unless appropriate repairs were not completed. The bill also contains a provision calling on Florida State University to conduct a study on personal lines ratemaking.

· Senate Bill 2588, another omnibus bill, contains several producer licensing amendments, including a provision that implements a recent court decision striking down the state’s counter-signature law.

In spite of these bills being enacted, Reddick also noted that at least two bills of interest to NAMIC member companies failed to pass this year. They include:

· House PCB IN 04-01A (see also Senate Bill 3050), a bill that would have established a flex-band rating system for auto insurance premiums; and

· House Bill 585 (see also Senate Bills 494 and 520), a bill that would have made changes to the Florida Building Code.

“NAMIC intends to work closely with the Florida Insurance Council on these proposals next year,” Reddick concluded.