State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico (Pic via flsenate.gov)
State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico (Pic via flsenate.gov)

‘Secret amendment’ added to Senate insurance bill to attract ‘secret company’ to the state

By | 04.28.11 | 8:34 am

As the legislative session runs down to the wire, dozens of last-minute amendments are added to bills during floor debates. One such amendment, tacked onto a major insurance bill in the Senate, is intended to help lure an unnamed insurance company to write policies in Florida.

The amendment would allow companies writing policies for both auto and property insurance to cancel them for any reason related to either the car or the home with 90 days notice.

Naples Republican Garrett Richter, sponsor of Senate Bill 408, said a major company was looking to write combined policies in Florida, and the change in law would make them “very likely” to do so. He noted that the bill would already reduce the notice period from between 100 and 180 days to 90, and the period for auto insurance policies is currently 45.

Valrico Republican Ronda Storms said it was “bad public policy” to target a specific company in legislation, especially with last-minute changes that hadn’t been vetted by any legislative committees. Insurance companies have threatened to leave the state before, in efforts to win favorable treatment, but when lawmakers called their bluff, they wound up staying.

A smirking Steve Oelrich, R-Gainesville, asked whether Richter was adding a “secret amendment” to help out a “secret company.” He later joked that he was fine with a proposal that would benefit “Secret Farm.”

Richter said it was only a joke — a play on the name State Farm, which already offers both auto and property insurance in the state. He said the name of the mystery company was “not disclosable,” and referred questions about its identity to the Office of Insurance Regulation, which he said recommended the changes.

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach, said she didn’t want unnamed companies winning beneficial treatment from the legislature by offering to move into the state. Why should lawmakers set that precedent at such a late stage?

Richter noted that the changes would affect all insurance companies in the state, and said he was having a hard time understanding why lawmakers didn’t want to attract new competition to Florida’s property insurance market.

“If I sound dumbfounded at the questions, it’s frankly because I am,” he said.

The amendment was approved by a voice vote. The overhaul of state insurance laws is expected to be voted on today by the full Senate.

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