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March 26, 2014

Florida Senate passes legislation to create Florida-based flood insurance, improve ethics and open government laws

Tallahassee — The Florida Senate today passed several pieces of priority legislation including: Senate Bill 542, by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), which aims to increase the availability of private-market flood insurance options; Senate Bill 846, by Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), which expands Florida’s ethics laws; and Senate Bill 1648, by Senator Ring (D-Margate), which updates Florida’s existing public records laws.

“Senator Brandes’ innovative legislation paves the way for a private market for flood insurance in Florida, freeing homeowners from the dictates, irregularity and uncertainty of Washington bureaucrats,” said Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). “Under this legislation, Floridians will have a wide range of flexible options to choose from so they can reach an affordable level of coverage for their property.”

“The bill emphasizes consumer choice and will let us control our own destiny in this critical market,” said Senator Brandes. “This legislation makes Florida a national leader in the flood insurance marketplace and I am grateful to my colleagues for their overwhelming support.”

Senate Bill 542, Flood Insurance

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a federal program that enables property owners to purchase flood insurance, as it has historically been unavailable in the private market, and is frequently required by mortgage lenders. The NFIP currently writes more flood insurance policies in Florida (more than 2 million) than any other state. Although Florida policies make up about 37 percent of the total policies written, since its inception the program has paid only about $3.7 billion for flood losses in Florida compared to more than $50 billion nationwide.

Senate Bill 542 creates an alternative to the NFIP by expressly authorizing insurance companies to offer flood policies in Florida. In order to keep the cost of flood insurance low, the bill provides opportunities for policyholders and insurers to select various deductible amounts, choose between insuring their property for the outstanding balance of their mortgage, the property’s replacement cost, or the actual cash value of the property. The legislation further empowers Florida consumers by allowing them to opt to include or exclude coverage for contents, additional living expenses, or secondary structures, but also provides consumer protections by maintaining the Office of Insurance Regulation’s current role with regard to rate approval.

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