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Despite the urgings of Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty and others, Gov. Charlie Crist has vetoed the omnibus property insurance bill passed at the close of the 2010 legislative session. Claiming that SB 2044 was unfriendly to consumers, Crist waited until almost the zero hour on Tuesday, June 1, to issue his veto. In rejecting the massive bill, he noted in particular that he was “most concerned about the expansion of the current expedited rate filing procedures for property insurers” and wrote that the bill makes “troubling changes in the way mitigation discounts are applied.” Those two changes were high on the “want list” of property insurers, along with language in the bill seeking to rein in the length of time that pubic adjusters could file claims on behalf of homeowners. Reaction from the bill’s proponents has been swift. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) issued an elegant statement in which it said it was “disappointed” in the veto, and “without the bill, we continue to confront the problem of a huge and growing financial risk that Floridians face from the next storm.” The Florida Insurance Council was equally circumspect. “A good-faith effort was made to pass a bill that tackled those problems,” said FIC’s Executive Vice President Sam Miller. “Unfortunately, the governor disagreed. There’s just a gentlemen’s disagreement.” Perhaps most outspoken among the associations was the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC). Neil Alldredge, senior vice president of state and policy affairs, said in a release, “Florida Governor Charlie Crist just doesn’t get it… the governor decided to begin hurricane season by vetoing SB 2044 – legislation that would have continued the slow but steady progress that had been occurring for insurance consumers and companies in Florida. A great deal of time and effort went into crafting and compromising on the omnibus property insurance package…. Many other stakeholders invested countless hours in discussions and negotiations to achieve a bill that may not have made everyone happy but certainly would have resulted in some improvement in Florida’s insurance marketplace. Gov. Crist has decided all that work was worthless. The governor’s decision to veto this bill is nothing more than pandering to voters as he vies for a Senate seat, but those who understand the issue and the importance of this bill will know exactly why he made the decision he did.”

Crist’s fellow politicians also did not hold back. Current Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), and a candidate for the post of Chief Financial Officer, blasted Crist’s action. “He yet again has found a way to mischaracterize the substance of legislation to advance his own political career,” Atwater said. “Once again, he is the master of the game.”

Atwater said the veto would likely be a “win” for Crist with uneducated consumers but is really a win for the insurance industry and will place him even more at odds with the Legislature.

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