Special Session Results in Three Bills

Governor DeSantis signs special session bills

The Florida Legislature concluded a special session earlier this month. The session resulted in the signing by Governor DeSantis of three bills dealing with property insurance, hurricane relief, and highway toll reforms.

Senate Bill 6A establishes the Toll Relief Program through the FDOT, which provides account credits to residents frequently using toll roads.  The program, which begins on January 1 and lasts throughout 2023, gives Florida drivers who rack up 35 or more monthly toll transactions a 50% credit to their accounts. It is projected to impact 1.2 million people and save a driver an average of $400 a year.  Governor DeSantis unveiled this plan in September, with the expressed intention of prioritizing Florida families. “I promised Floridians that I would find additional ways to provide toll relief for Florida families. With this legislation, we are keeping that promise to help hardworking families keep more money in their pockets.” This year a four-month-long SunPass Savings Program was instituted, resulting in savings of $13.3 million to drivers.

Senate Bill 4A provides an additional $750 million in hurricane relief, as well as property tax relief for Floridians who lost their homes to Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The $750 million package will fund four programs. $350 million will be used as a local match to FEMA public assistance funding. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will receive $150 million to be used for beach renourishment and the creation of a Hurricane Restoration Reimbursement Grant Program. The DEP will receive $100 million for the repair and reconstruction of stormwater and wastewater infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The last $150 million will go to efforts supporting homeowners and renters affected by this year’s hurricanes. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo praised the Legislature and Governor DeSantis for passing SB 4A. “The Governor made a promise that he would be here every step of the way as we work to recover, and he has kept that promise. The legislation he is signing today provides hurricane relief funding that will make a huge difference for impacted communities in Southwest Florida and across our state. With the continued leadership and support of our great Governor, our community is bound and determined to rebuild stronger and better than ever.”

Senate Bill 2A has been called “the most significant property insurance reform bill in recent history.” When the special session was called for in November, the main focus was going to be tackling the state’s homeowners insurance crisis. While SB 2A creates reforms and provides additional funding to secure the property insurance market, some experts believe its effects will not be seen for several months. In fact, House Speaker Paul Renner addressed this speculation when he spoke about the bill. “The issues in Florida’s property insurance market did not occur overnight, and they will not be solved overnight. The historic reforms signed today create an environment which realigns Florida to best practices across the nation, adding much-needed stability to Florida’s market, promoting competition, and increasing consumer choice. I am thankful the Legislature answered the call for meaningful reform.” SB 2A disincentivizes frivolous lawsuits by eliminating one-way attorney fees, establishes an environment to expand more market competition, reduces timelines for insurers to get payments into the hands of policyholders, and enhances the ability of the Office of Insurance Regulation to hold insurance companies accountable after a natural disaster hits.