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My Safe Florida Home, condo programs clear another committee as high premiums remain

'In order for us to get serious about driving costs down in insurance, we have to make sure that the insurance companies are insuring a good product,' Rep. Chip LaMarca says
Posted at 6:33 PM, Feb 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-13 18:33:29-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Floridians struggle with the highest property insurance premiums in the country, lawmakers at the state Capitol are making progress on bills they think will help — though not directly.

The My Safe Florida Home program cleared another committee stop on Tuesday. Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, is carrying the plan. If signed, it refills the program's coffers with about $225 million, more than twice what the Senate is looking at.

With seniors and low-income homes prioritized, eligible can get up to $10,000 in grant dollars to harden homes against severe weather. And a stronger house might mean lower premiums, lawmakers hope.

"In order for us to get serious about driving costs down in insurance, we have to make sure that the insurance companies are insuring a good product," LaMarca said. "The first year — we saw the results were about $1,000 plus, $1,024 per home in reduction of insurance."

Lawmakers also moved forward with a $25 million pilot version of the program for permanent condo residents and their associations. Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, D-Coconut Creek, helped craft the bill, which continues to receive unanimous support.

"Condominium owners — they are homeowners too," Hunschofsky. "We're talking about homesteaded condo owners," she said. "We’re just giving them access to the same grant program that single-family homeowners have access to."

The House and Senate will still need to iron out differences between their ideas before the final gavel next month. One wrinkle raising eyebrows is whether both chambers will back the governor's plan to freeze taxes and fees for homeowner's insurance for a year. The Florida House looks to have a different idea — targeting taxes on commercial leases but a spokesman for House Speaker Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said in a statement there is plenty of work left to do on the budget.

"At this stage in the Session, there are always differences between our initial proposal and what the Senate and Governor each put forward, respectively," Andres Malave, the communications director for Renner said. "Our tax package will be discussed on Wednesday and will build on the historic cuts we were able to deliver last year. We have consistently focused on putting money back in the hands of taxpayers and is committed to delivering a balanced budget addressing all of Florida's key priorities."

Officials familiar with the negotiations told us on background they believed differences would be resolved with everyone leaving the bargaining table happy — but will have to wait and see about that as the session enters its final weeks.