North Florida News
Senate Passes Hurricane Relief, Property Insurance Reform, Toll Rebates
Tallahassee–The Florida Senate today passed Senate Bill 2A, Property Insurance, by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), legislation that is designed to improve the property insurance marketplace for homeowners; Senate Bill 4A, Disaster Relief, by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast), which provides relief for Floridians impacted by recent hurricanes; and, Senate Bill 6A, Toll Relief, by Senator Nick DiCeglie (R-St. Petersburg), which provides $500 million in statewide toll savings for Florida commuters.
“The legislation we passed today brings meaningful assistance for challenges facing constituents across Florida. The toll rebates for frequent commuters and property tax refunds for those whose homes are uninhabitable following recent hurricanes provide swift, tangible relief that will make a difference in the pocketbooks of Florida families,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), who prioritized $150 million for hurricane housing assistance for communities impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. “We know we can’t rebuild a hurricane-destroyed home or lower homeowners insurance rates overnight, but the reforms passed today lay the groundwork for long-term improvements that will give people a place to live while their homes are being repaired or rebuilt as well as structural, pro-consumer changes to our property insurance market that will stabilize the market with the goal of reducing rates over time.”
Improving the Property Insurance Marketplace for Homeowners
Senate Bill 2A, Property Insurance, by Senator Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), is a comprehensive bill intended to ensure policyholders have access to quality, affordable private market property insurance. The bill requires insurers to more promptly communicate, investigate and pay valid claims. Anticipated shortages in the reinsurance market are addressed through a new optional state reinsurance program. Excessive litigation, known to drive up costs, is addressed by eliminating one-way attorney fees for property insurance and instead allowing both parties the opportunity to obtain fees through the offer of judgment process. The bill also strengthens the regulatory authority of the Office of Insurance Regulation over property insurers.
“With this legislation, we are trying to stabilize a market that is in freefall. Seven carriers have gone insolvent in the past two years, reinsurance is shrinking in the global markets as costs are going up, and Citizens Property Insurance is ballooning once again with more than 1 million policies holders, creating huge liabilities for taxpayers and the threat of assessment for all insurance policyholders. This is an environment that cannot sustain itself,” said Senator Boyd, Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance.
“Senate Bill 2A builds on the consumer friendly reforms we passed in May, working to curb rising rates and bring stability to the market for the benefit of consumers. We are striving to help consumers who have paid too much for too long for their insurance coverage so a few bad actors can make millions of dollars on the backs of hardworking Floridians. Forty other states have implemented what we have done here today, with no indication of problems, as over 75 percent of the litigation nationwide still comes from Florida,” continued Senator Boyd. “This is about consumer protection. This is about eliminating abusive lawsuits. This is about increasing opportunities in the market for more carriers to come down here and write policies, driving down costs for consumers.”
Recovering and Rebuilding from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole
Senate Bill 4A, Disaster Relief, by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast), provides funding for disaster relief to assist to Floridians and communities recovering and rebuilding in the wake of the 2022 Hurricane Season.
“This legislation builds on the tremendous and ongoing state response to Hurricanes Ian and Nicole led by Governor DeSantis with key funding to support Floridians and communities who are recovering and rebuilding,” said Senator Hutson. “Tax relief for owners of destroyed homes, housing assistance for displaced Floridians, funding to help local governments secure FEMA Grants, as well as funding to reconstruct impacted beaches and water infrastructure will make a huge difference as families and communities continue to evaluate their recovery needs.
The bill provides property tax refunds for the portion of the year that homes were uninhabitable due to hurricane damage from Hurricanes Ian or Nicole. The bill also includes $150 million for affordable housing hurricane recovery efforts, including $60 million to assist with the repair or replacement of housing, relocation costs, limited-time rental assistance, and other recovery needs, of which $25 million may be used to provide assistance to homeowners to pay insurance deductibles.
SB 4A appropriates funding through the Department of Environmental Protection for beaches and essential water infrastructure impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole and creates the Florida Emergency Management Assistance Foundation, a Direct Support Organization (DSO) of the Division of Emergency Management (DEM). The foundation is charged with providing assistance, funding, and support to DEM in its disaster response, recovery, and relief efforts for natural emergencies. Additionally, to help local governments secure FEMA grants, $350 million is appropriated to the DEM to pay local match requirements.
Toll Savings for Florida’s Families
Senate Bill 6A by Senator Nick DiCeglie (R-St. Petersburg) appropriates $500 million for a statewide toll relief program for frequent commuters, beginning on January 1, 2023, through end of the year.
“This legislation provides needed relief to Florida commuters dealing with the challenges of rising costs,” said Senator DiCeglie. “It will make a real impact in the everyday lives of our constituents.”
Customers using a two-axle vehicle with a Florida-issued transponder who use Florida’s Turnpike System and all other toll facilities in the state are eligible. Customers who engage in 35 or more toll transactions in a month will receive a 50 percent credit.
North Florida News
Senator Ileana Garcia Marks the Grand Opening of Mia Casa
North Miami–State Senator Ileana Garcia (R-Miami), Chair of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, today attended the grand opening of Mia Casa, a dedicated site for homeless seniors. During the 2022 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature, Senator Garcia worked to secure a $1.75 million appropriation to aid in the construction of Mia Casa. State Representative Demi Busatta Cabrera (R-Coral Gables) sponsored the appropriation in the Florida House.
“I am so proud to have played a role in securing funding for Mia Casa. 39 percent of those experiencing homelessness on our streets are senior citizens. I see this every day and regularly engage with individuals experiencing homelessness to better understand their stories and to see what can be done to help them. Housing is a big part of the solution,” said Senator Garcia. “I look forward to continuing to collaborate with Miami-Dade County and the Homeless Trust on preventing and ending homelessness in our community.”
“Our seniors built the thriving communities where we now live, work and raise our families, and they deserve to live out their golden years in comfort and safety, surrounded by important support systems. I am so pleased that we could play a role in the funding for Mia Casa, and appreciate Senator Garcia’s advocacy in bringing this important project forward. Senator Garcia is a champion of our seniors and as Chair of the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, she is constantly seeking innovative solutions to address the challenges faced by the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples).
On April 24, 2020, in preparation for and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust began operating a housing site in North Miami for senior citizens experiencing homelessness who were at high risk of serious illness from the virus.
Dubbed Mia Casa, more than 600 seniors have passed through its doors over the past three years. Senator Garcia secured a $1.75 million special appropriation to assist Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development and the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust with the purchase of a dedicated, permanent site for Mia Casa.
The Homeless Trust purchased the property on January 31, 2023. A former Assisted Living Facility, the property has 65 rooms, and currently houses 120 senior citizens. The Homeless Trust funds the operations of the facility. Mia Casa allows for the quick placement of seniors from the streets, and the Homeless Trust works to bridge seniors living there to other housing in the community.
North Florida News
Senator Linda Stewart joins Senator Jim Boyd in co-sponsoring SB 724: Seagrass Restoration
Tallahassee, FL – Senator Linda Stewart (D – Orlando) is joining Senator Jim Boyd (R – Bradenton) by co-sponsoring SB 724: Florida Seagrass Restoration Technology Development Initiative.
This bill creates a Seagrass Restoration Technology Development Initiative within the Department of Environmental Protection. This Initiative’s purpose is to help expedite the creation of new technologies and approaches to help restore coastal seagrass ecosystems and establishes an advisory council consisting of experts to oversee the implementing of these efforts.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, seagrass is a vital part of a healthy marine ecosystem by helping maintain water quality, provide food and habitat for marine organisms, and supporting local economies.
The seagrass restoration initiative must submit an annual report to the governor and help with the creation of a 10 year restoration plan to implement technologies developed under the initiative.
“Protecting Florida’s natural resources has always been a priority of mine and this bill will improve the quality of our water, restore marine life, and keep our coastlines healthy,” said Stewart.
North Florida News
Florida State Senator Rosalind Osgood Responds to Nashville’s Deadly School Shooting
Tallahassee, FL – In response to yesterday’s tragic event that occurred at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, Senator Rosalind Osgood (D-Broward County) released the following statement:
“Yesterday, we again experienced the undeniable deep feeling of sorrow caused by another school shooting. If only this and other acts of mass murder did not happen. But the reality is that we live in a time when death and attacks on the innocent has become all too routine. Too many of our schools, churches, clubs, grocery stores, and neighborhoods have been shooting galleries over the past years.
Homicide, murder, and suicide by firearms are the highest cause of death for our nation’s children and youth.
For every responsible gun user there is three times as many irresponsible gun users. There is an evident need for gun law reform. If we fail to ignore this problem, more lives will be lost.”
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