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Get the latest coverage of the 2022 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Brandes questions whether a lawmaker poll can be done in time for an insurance special session

Breno Assis

Democratic Representative Kelly Skidmore of Boca Raton said property insurance "is the most pressing issue of any issue we should have dealt with."

Time is rapidly running out on an effort to add property insurance to next week's special legislative session. A poll of lawmakers is underway to determine if they will consider property insurance in addition to redistricting. A three-fifths majority is needed in order to move forward.

The results are due Tuesday when the session begins, and outgoing Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican, suggests the state took its time surveying members, who got the surveys Thursday.

"They only have seven days to get the response back," Brandes said. "It's not a hard letter to send out, you literally cut and paste what you did in 2018, send it out with the title 'property insurance' on it, and they could have sent it out on Tuesday if they wanted to, I think. To me, if we don't get the requisite number of votes, or if we believe that there was not enough time for the members to submit their letter, we'll just resubmit the letter next week while we're in session. There's no end to the amount of times we can submit this letter."

Secretary of State Laurel Lee's office did not respond to the question of why the letters didn't go out sooner.

Like many lawmakers, Democratic Representative Kelly Skidmore of Boca Raton strongly supports a special session on insurance.

"It is the most pressing issue of any issue we should have dealt with," Skidmore said. "People who are friends of mine who have zero interest in the political process cannot stop talking about the increase in their property insurance and what are we doing about it. They want to know who the hell is going to fix it and when."

Those answers are not forthcoming any time soon, and there are new fears that one or more major companies may still leave the Florida market. Several companies have recently folded, forcing people to turn to the state-backed insurer of last resort. Homeowners are also face skyrocketing rates and cancellations. At this point, the earliest date for an insurance special session is May or June.

"I absolutely support what Sen. Brandes is doing," said Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday. "I think it's just a matter of, as you remember, it kind of fell apart at the end of the session. So, we just want to make sure that we have a product that will pass muster."

There have been years of efforts to slow the rise in property insurance and keep companies in the state. Lawmakers have tackled everything from sinkholes to roofing claims.

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Steve Bousquet has covered state government and politics for three decades at the Sun Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. He was the Times' Tallahassee bureau chief from 2005 to 2018 and has also covered city and county politics in Broward County. He has a master's degree in U.S. history from Florida State.