Senate sends Citizens' bill to the governor

TALLAHASSEE --The Florida Senate sent a watered down version of its Citizens Property Insurance overhaul to Gov. Rick Scott Thursday that will attempt to shift policies to the private market.

Lawmakers have been battling for more than two months how to shrink the state-run property insurer that was once billed as the insurer of last resort, but has ballooned into the state's largest insurer.

The compromise between the House and Senate is mostly the House's version of the bill. The proposal will reduce policy coverage to a max of $700,000,  create a clearinghouse to offload some of the policies to the private market and creates an inspector general for Citizens'

But the final product was a far cry from the proposal originally put forth by Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman David Simmons who had hoped to max coverage out at $500,000, automatically shift policyholders to the private market if they could find insurance within 10 percent of their current rate and raise rates on remaining policyholders.

"It doesn't go as far - I could call it Citizens light....But I think it's something we could all join in and support," Simmons told lawmakers.

Consumer advocates fought the initial proposals, saying they went too far and would hurt homeowners who couldn't afford rate hikes.

"It took a fight, but consumer advocates were able to stop the ridiculous rate hikes and keep positive reforms like the clearinghouse for policyholders," said Sean Shaw, a consumer advocate. "These reforms do not jeopardize our housing recovery, so it's a win for both policyholders and our economy."

 The measure, SB 1770, passed 32-1.

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