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Florida lawmakers await bills as property insurance special session draws near

'To spring on us anything so late in the game is such malpractice,' Sen. Tina Polsky says
Posted at 7:04 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 19:04:45-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.  — Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday to address Florida's property insurance crisis in a special session. It's a week-long legislative gauntlet, seeking major reform to ease high prices and keep insurers afloat.

However, legislative leadership has yet to announce the big bills they want to pass, leading some to wonder if substantive changes are happening.

State Rep. Tom Fabricio, R-Hialeah is among the Republicans who think meaningful improvements are on the way.

"As far as getting everything done that needs to be done, we'll see," he said. "But, I am optimistic."

Among the reforms he believes are needed are limits on high-priced attorney fees, especially "risk multipliers." They act as an incentive to get lawyers to take challenging cases.

State Rep. Tom Fabricio
State Rep. Tom Fabricio discusses his optimism for the upcoming special session.

Fabricio said the multipliers are often overused and are helping drive Florida’s large number of property insurance lawsuits.

"We have just more than 8% of all the claims in the country. Coming from Florida, that's not a big number," Fabricio said. "Yet we have three-quarters of all the litigation."

Other bill possibilities include more work on roofing claims or increasing access to the state hurricane catastrophe fund. The fund is a big pot of money insurers can draw from to pay claims during major disasters if they qualify.

Meanwhile, Democrats have grown frustrated waiting for legislation to drop.

"I'm very concerned that I haven't seen a bill yet," Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said.

Polsky said lawmakers should have focused on property insurance during the regular 60-day session and not slammed into several days months later.

State Sen. Tina Polsky
State Sen. Tina Polsky says the property insurance crisis should have been resolved during the regular legislative session.

"We should study," she said. “We should discuss. We should have testimony, so to spring on us anything so late in the game is such malpractice of our positions as legislators."

The special session on property insurance gavels at 9 a.m. Monday.

Officials have scheduled it to run through the end of the week if lawmakers need the time.

The governor has previously suggested additional topics would be added to the docket of bills up for consideration. He has since seemed to cool on that possibility.

"What I don’t want to do is just load things on there and then have it run aground," DeSantis said on Tuesday. "If the Legislature comes to me and says they have an agreement on doing some of the other key things that people have talked about across a wide range of issues- then, of course, we could address that."