TALLAHASSEE, Florida. Is the next victim of the Florida property insurance crisis the governor’s presidential nominee? Some in Congress are calling Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the market “disqualifying,” while political pundits don’t think the rest of the country cares.
The latest round of fear and frustration in the Sunshine State began on Tuesday when Farmers Insurance said it would exit Florida, waiving about 100,000 of its Farmers-branded home, car and umbrella policies. Questions about the insurance crisis now reach DeSantis during the presidential campaign.
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Conservative radio host Howie Carr asked Wednesday how DeSantis is handling the situation. The hopeful White House responded by saying recent reforms to limit incentives to file claims against insurers take longer to work, but he predicted Florida would see relief.
“Now it is more profitable for companies to come here. I think they’re going to wait out this hurricane season,” the governor said, adding later, “Knock on wood, we won’t have a big storm this summer. Then I think you’ll start to see companies see the benefit.”
Critics condemned the governor for a weak response. Including at the federal level.
“Knock on wood?” said freshman US Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Florida “That’s not what we need to hear from our leaders.”
On Thursday, Frost said the governor’s response to the insurance crisis had been ineffective. He considered it a disqualifying candidate for the presidency.
“Just hope the hurricane doesn’t come?” Frost asked. “This does not fit. This is not enough, and it disqualifies as a leader. I would say the same if he were a Democrat.”
“Just hope the hurricane doesn’t come?” asked Rep. Maxwell Frost, Florida. “This does not fit. This is not enough, and it disqualifies as a leader. I would say the same if he were a Democrat.”
Political pundits such as Professor Sean Foreman have said that DeSantis inherited the problem and have noted that the reforms made were bipartisan. In addition, voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, key states for the Republican nomination, likely don’t care about Florida, he said.
“You could call it a giveaway to insurance companies, but some companies are still leaving the state,” said a political scientist at Barry University. “So, this is a political area where opponents might try to portray DeSantis as a loser, but then again, that might not matter much to voters in other states with more pressing political issues.”
Add to that, Farmers competitor State Farm announced on Thursday that it was moving to Florida, citing recent actions by the state legislature, the governor’s office confirmed.
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Meanwhile, back home, Republicans like Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis continue to blame the departure on farmers’ financial performance. This is despite the company saying it is leaving to “manage risk effectively.”
“The Florida Legislature has been working very hard to create the conditions for attracting capital to the state,” Patronis said after a roundtable discussion in Orlando. “Farmers in corporate apartments at sea level should be punished, beaten. In fact, they are not very good friends of the state of Florida right now.”
Democrats in the Legislative Assembly do not accept this. They called for further reforms, such as the use of government dollars to reduce reinsurance costs. Some even suggested another special session necessary as others want a change in leadership, eyeing the ballot box in 2024.
Holding a special session on property insurance this summer seems unlikely. The Republican Party majority believes their reforms will work, while the Democratic Party leadership has said there is currently no formal call for a legislative vote.