Florida Pheonix: ‘Floridians are hurting’: House Democratic Leader asks for expanded legislation but GOP rejects it

 State Rep. Fentrice Driskell presents a bill on property insurance during the special session on Dec. 12, 2022. Credit: Screenshot/Florida Channel

On the first day of the special session on the troubled property insurance market and other issues, state House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell urged lawmakers to expand the call of the session because “Floridians are hurting.”

But her attempt was rejected by the Republican-led state House.

Both House and Senate chambers have supermajorities following the Nov. 8 election, making it more difficult for Democrats to pursue their legislative agenda.

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner called the special session to order at 10:30 a.m. in the state House chamber. He represents Flagler County and part of St. Johns County.

Driskell, who represents part of Hillsborough, presented HB 9A, entitled “insurance” to make insurance affordable for all residents in the state and make it more easy to report fraud, she said.

“Members I think that we probably heard from our constituents all across the state right now that Floridians are hurting,” Driskell told members of the House.

“Our Caucus believes that every Floridian deserves the freedom to be healthy prosperous and safe. And when it comes to that prosperity point, we’re talking about housing that is affordable and safe. And that property insurance rates that are affordable that allows every American to be able to attain that dream of owning a home and having that safe sort of housing.”

Driskell explained the bill filed on Sunday during Monday’s session and presented a motion to expand the session; the motion was rejected.

“With the affordability piece, some of the things we want to talk about that you will see in this bill, lowering the cost of reinsurance for everybody,” Driskell said.

The bill would create a Property Insurance Commission and an Insurance Commissioner that would be elected. In the past, there had been an elected post that included an Insurance Commissioner but that is no longer the case.

Driskell said Democrats are “proposing our triple A plan for property insurance to make it affordable, to make it available and to make it accountable.”

Meanwhile, the Senate convened at the same time as the House, with President Kathleen Passidomo emphasizing that her goal is a stable insurance market in which “claims are paid promptly and fairly so homeowners do not have to contend with time-consuming and expensive litigation.”

“We will continue to focus our efforts on fair prices and strong protections for consumers while having reasonable guardrails for insurance companies against frivolous litigation and fraudulent claims which drive up rates for everyone,” said Passidomo, a Republican representing Collier and Hendry counties as well as part of Lee County.

Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat from Orange County, told a reporter that it’s time to rein in some plaintiffs’ bar practice.

“We can’t keep kicking the can down the road. We just can’t. It’s unbearable,” Stewart said.

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