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Special Session Concludes

This week, the Florida Legislature convened a Special Legislative Session to address property insurance reform, toll reductions, and hurricane related property tax relief.  The insurance legislation had been brewing for some time as soaring litigation, a growing number of insurer insolvencies, and increasing homeowners’ insurance rates worked together to create an unstable insurance market. Legislation addressing property insurance was perhaps the most aggressive in a decade. Below are summaries of the bills passed by the Legislature.

Property Insurance Reform

The legislation (SB 2A Property Insurance) contains significant attorney fee reform; including repeal of the one-way fee statute for property claim litigation; a resurrected Offer of Judgment/Proposal For Settlement statute for use by both sides in property lawsuits, allowing joint offers for settlement to be contingent on acceptance of all joint offerees; further reform to the first-party bad faith statute (known as a fix for the Cammarata case); and near elimination of the Assignment of Benefits (AOB) tool on property claims. Additionally, the time periods for submitting a Notice of Loss (NOL) have been significantly shortened from two years to one year for an initial claim, and from three years to 18 months for a supplemental claim.

There are also shortened timelines for insurers on claims handling which include:

  • Review and acknowledgement of a claim notice reduced from 14 to seven days;
  • Onset of investigations after receipt of Proof-Of-Loss statements, also reduced from 14 to seven days;
  • Time period for insurers to conduct a physical inspection reduced from 45 to 30 days;
  • Time for insurers to pay or deny a claim reduced from 90 to 60 days with certain Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) exemptions.

Also included in the new legislation are increased regulatory powers, allowing the OIR to discipline insurers for abuse of the appraisal process as a pattern or practice.

Additionally, there are significant provisions dealing with Citizens Property Insurance, including a requirement that if an offer from a private insurer is within 20% of the policyholder’s Citizens premium, the policyholder is ineligible to enter Citizens. Also, all Citizens policies must now carry flood insurance.

Senate Bill 2A passed in the House 84-33 and in the Senate 27-13.

Please contact Buchanan Government Relations Principal, Kim McGlynn, for a detailed analysis of SB 2A.

Hurricane Related Property Tax Relief

SB 4A Disaster Relief provides for a number of disaster relief efforts in the wake of the 2022 hurricane season, in which two disastrous hurricanes struck the state of Florida, resulting in widespread destruction of homes, infrastructure, agricultural lands, beaches, and more.

The bill provides the following provisions to further supplement hurricane relief efforts across the state:

  • Extends the due dates for property taxes levied in 2022 for property owners whose property was destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by Hurricanes Ian or Nicole.
  • Authorizes property tax refunds for residential properties that were made uninhabitable for at least 30 days by either hurricane for the portion of the year that the residence was unusable.
  • Appropriates $350 million from the General Revenue Fund to the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) to provide the full match requirement for FEMA Public Assistance grants to local governments affected by the two hurricanes.
  • Appropriates $150 million from the General Revenue Fund to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, of which $60 million shall be provided to local governments to assist persons with the repair or replacement of housing, relocation costs, housing reentry assistance, and insurance deductibles. $90 million shall be used to fund the Rental Recovery Loan Program to promote development and rehabilitation of affordable housing in affected areas.
  • Appropriates $251.5 million from the General Revenue Fund to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for:
    • Beach erosion projects ($100 million) or Hurricane Reimbursement Grant Program ($50 million)
    • Hurricane Stormwater and Wastewater Assistance Grant Program ($100 million)
    • DEP administrative costs ($1.5 million).
  • Provides for the creation of a direct-support organization for the DEM to provide assistance, funding, and support to DEM in its disaster response, recovery, and relief efforts for natural emergencies.

SB 4A passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

Toll Relief

SB 6A Toll Relief directs the Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) to establish a toll relief program, effective from January 1, 2023, through December 31, 2023, for all Florida toll facilities that use a Florida-issued transponder or are interoperable with the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT’s) prepaid electronic transponder toll system (SunPass). The bill defines terms and provides that an account that records 35 or more transactions per eligible transponder per calendar month is eligible for an account credit equal to 50% of the amount paid for the qualifying transactions.

SB 6A appropriates for the 2022-2023 fiscal year the nonrecurring sum of $500 million from the General Revenue Fund to the State Transportation Trust Fund for use by the FDOT to reimburse the FDOT, the FTE, and other Florida toll facility entities for account credits issued. The bill prohibits the use of such funds for administration, contracted services, or expenses.

SB 6A passed the Legislature unanimously.

* Portions of bill summaries provided by House and Senate staff analyses