CITIZENS–and an Amazing New Tool!

Every word of every legislative proposal dealing with Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) should be evaluated using a new online program developed by Associated Industries of Florida (AIF).

Like many simple inventions, in the right hands, used the right way, it can have monumental impact.

AIF culled data from the OIR and the Florida Catastrophic Storm Risk Management Center to create an automated tool that  quickly tells anyone (everyone), what percentage of households in each voting district are in Citizens and being subsidized by the rest of the households in that district and statewide. It uses the most current census data overlaid with House and Senate district boundaries, and…it’s online and anyone, including the media, can access it, anytime!

“No big deal” you say…keep reading.

Until now our political measuring stick has been limited to Citizens market share, which we know to be roughly 23% statewide but varies by county.  Problem is, that’s mostly just “insured” property owners.  And, that’s why we have a tendency to think of the “Citizens problem” as coastal counties vs. inland counties, when it’s not.

What about all those in coastal counties who don’t own property forced to pay assessments for those who do?  This tool gives us the answer, by voting district.

Also, by looking at housing units instead of market share, we get a taste of how many coastal millionaires may be subsidized by the maids and butlers they employ, not just by the policyholders of inland counties.

And…one of the new questions created by this new telescope is: what will lawmakers do when they know, and everyone else knows too, who’s being hurt or helped by their decisions?

For lawmakers sincerely concerned about their constituencies, it’s a guiding light. For those that have to tip-toe around the coastal media, it could be a heat lamp.

Here’s a quick look at some numbers in aggregate:

  • More than two-thirds of households in a majority of both Senate and House districts don’t have Citizens as their property insurer.
  • Of 40 total Senate districts, more than 2/3rds (27) have nearly 70% of the households subsidizing lower premiums for the remaining 30% insured in Citizens.
  • Of a total120 House districts 86, or 71% have 30% or fewer households insured in Citizens and subsidized by the rest.
  • Not one single Senate district has more than 54% of its households insured in Citizens. (See NOTE #1 below)

Good stuff, but…look closer and the stuff gets gooder.

Recently, Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) introduced SB-1428 which would restructure Citizens board appointments to include a consumer advocate and at least one resident of Dade County and another from Monroe County. Now, with AIF’s tool we can see how many of the senator’s constituents are paying assessments so that Citizens policyholders can pay lower premiums.

Try it yourself here  and you’ll find that nearly two thirds (64%) of the Occupied Housing Units (OHU’s) in her district (37) are not insured in Citizens. Should Senator Flores advocate that one of the 64% receive the Citizens board appointment specified under her bill?

How about in the House of representatives where Sean Shaw has recently announced he will run for the district 61 seat. Despite a population of 159,521 it only has 19% of the households insured in Citizens.

As founder of  Policyholders of Florida Shaw has traditionally opposed policies that would reduce Citizens assessments. If elected, what will he do with this new information? When campaigning, what will he pledge to the remaining 81% of  households in his district currently paying more so others outside his district can pay less?

In 2011 the Florida legislature passed SB-408 to curb fraud and abuse and revitalize the private market with numerous, much needed, reforms. The bill was endorsed by every business and trade group I know of and supported by the Governor and OIR.

None the less, 11 senators still voted “NO”.

If you look at today’s district lines, for those voting “NO” and still holding office, you’ll find none of them (zero) have a constituency greater than 50% insured with Citizens. And…

…four (4) either have less than a third insured in Citizens or are no longer in the Senate (Senator Fasano, now occupies house seat 36 which is heavy Citizens, for example.)  Four were Republicans, three of which not only voted against a majority of their constituents (OHU’s) but, against their president and the party line. (See NOTE #2 below)

Using AIF’s new tool, how would they vote today?

In the House, with more districts and more turnover, it’ll take more time to align votes on SB-408 with new districts, but…it won’t be so hard to align new districts with this year’s issues, like the proposal to create a Clearinghouse for Citizens.

I’m hopeful the media, the legislature and those running for office, will be using AIF’s new tool to do just that.

I know I will!

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NOTE #1: The highest percentage of Citizens insured’s for any single Senate District I could find was 54% for district 39 occupied by Senator Dwight Bullard and comprising all of Monroe and Hendry Counties and the wettest portions of Dade and Collier. A bit surprising that it’s only 54%–where are the remaining OHU’s insured? My guess (and, that’s all it is); they are the less wealthy who don’t own property and/or are in the E&S market or are vacation homes of those with a primary residence outside district 39.

NOTE #2: Senator Bullard, whose current district has 54% OHU’s in Citizens, was not in the senate when the vote was taken on SB-408, but his mother, who held the same seat was one of  three Senators recorded as not voting on SB-408. The other two were Alexander and Garcia. Garcia’s current district 38 is only 26% OHU’s insured in Citizens.

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