By Timothy O’Hara Key West Citizen March 29, 2019

Proposed state legislation that would cap property insurance rate hikes at 5 percent a year in Monroe County is running out of steam.

State House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, is not a big fan of the proposal and the House of Representatives version of the bill died in the committee this week, according to state House Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo.

Despite saying the House version died a “slow, sad death,” Raschein plans to continue pushing the proposal and trying to add the legislation to another state insurance bill. She did try and attach the 5 percent rate cap to another bill, but the Senate sponsor of the bill removed the language, she said.

“I am still going to try find a bill to amend it to or find another vehicle for the legislation,” Raschein said.

Keys state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, is the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

That bill has cleared the Banking and Insurance Committee and has two more committee stops before being heard by the entire Senate, Flores said.

Currently, there is a 10 percent annual cap on windstorm property insurance rate hikes by Citizens Property Insurance Corp. in Monroe County. The proposed 5 percent cap would be in place for two years, according to the bill.

The proposed legislation comes as Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the insurer of last resort in the Florida Keys, has proposed yet another rate increase in Monroe County.

This year, Citizens is proposing to increase windstorm rates in Monroe County by 7.6 percent for single-family homes and 9.7 percent for condos, according to Citizens rates proposal.

Last year, Citizens did not raise rates because property owners were still recovering from Hurricane Irma. However, the insurance company had increased insurance rates every year for the past several years prior to last year.

Earlier this month, members of FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe) testified before state Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and staff of the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) in Miami about their opposition to the rate increase. Monroe has paid Citizens $805 million in premiums over claims since 2004.

Monroe has the strictest building codes in the state, but the catastrophe models do not incorporate local building codes, according to FIRM.

Citizens was created to provide affordable insurance, but Keys rates are 221 percent higher than in 2009, according to FIRM.

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