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Polling on property insurance special session begins for state lawmakers

Senator Jeff Brandes wants the special session to address issues such as rate hikes to the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

State lawmakers have until noon Monday to respond to a poll on Sen. Jeff Brandes’ push to hold a special session about property insurance, the Florida Department of State announced Thursday.

Department spokeswoman Mallory Morgan said letters were sent out Thursday to all 160 members of the Legislature and that the department would provide an update on the polling Friday evening. For a special session to be held, Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would need to get support from three-fifths of the members of both legislative chambers — 24 senators and 72 House members.

House leaders have been hesitant to make additional changes in the troubled property insurance system, saying changes approved in 2021 need more time to take hold.

To start the polling, Brandes needed to submit letters of support from 20% of the 160-member Legislature. Brandes submitted 37 letters, primarily from Democrats. He tweeted Thursday that he “could do this all summer,” as the members’ certificates calling for the polling “stay open for 60 days. We have time to get this done by hurricane season. Floridians will face higher premiums, fewer options and Citizens (Property Insurance) will grow exponentially if we don’t.”

Brandes wants a special session to address issues such as the state-backed Citizens, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and providing a “financing mechanism for insurers to access if the capital markets are not an option.” Private insurers have shed policies and sought large rate increases to try to stem financial losses.

“We have to recognize this as an industry in collapse,” Brandes said Monday when dropping off the letters at the Department of State. “The people that are paying the price are the homeowners and the renters and the condo owners around the state of Florida. I've talked to constituents I've seen anywhere from between a 20% to 125% rate increase just this year."