Florida Senator Trying to Force Special Session with Support from Rank and File

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Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes is not waiting for legislative leaders or the governor to call a special session to tackle the property insurance crisis, and is polling his colleagues to force a meeting, as allowed by statute.

Florida law notes that at least 20% of lawmakers must sign their support for a special session, if legislative leadership or the governor doesn’t call one. This week, Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said he had already received enough signatures, according to news reports. The Department of State now has seven days to poll lawmakers. A session would have to be convened if three-fifths of both houses agree.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supports the effort, and will support a special session as long as lawmakers craft a workable bill ahead of time, according to Florida news reports.

“I absolutely support what Sen. Brandes is doing,” DeSantis told news outlets 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.”

A few prominent Democrats took the opportunity to criticize DeSantis for not addressing the insurance issues head-on. State Rep. Anna Eskamani, of Orlando, said in a news conference that DeSantis had ignored the issues earlier this year.

“Now that it’s become politically dangerous for him to be silent on it, he is now speaking in support of a special session,” Eskamani told reporters this week. “I think it’s important to stress that we had 60 days where we could have managed and addressed these real-life issues. But instead, his (DeSantis’) priority bills, which were all culture wars, are what took up all the time.”

Taddeo

Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, one of several Democrats running for governor this year, also blasted DeSantis for ignoring the crisis that has led to higher homeowner insurance premiums across the state. She said in a news release that the governor had signed a bill last year that raised rates for Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s insurer of last resort.

She also connected DeSantis to Vyrd, one of the few new property insurers to set up shop in Florida in recent years, noting that Vyrd’s parent company is backed by investments from China. Vyrd is backed by SiriusPoint Ltd., whose largest shareholder is listed as China Minsheng Investment Group, and Kole, Inc.

“Ironically, in Ron DeSantis’ ‘freest state in the country,’ the only new insurance company approved in Florida in years is funded by communist China,” Taddeo said. “When he’s not investing $300 million of our money in Putin, DeSantis is serving up millions in massive rate hikes paid by Floridians to communist China.”

Democrats have criticized the governor for not doing more, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to have the state-employee retirement system divest millions invested in Russian-backed companies and projects. Like the insurance crisis, DeSantis has said that would be better left to the Legislature, and that rapid divestiture could cost the retirement system, according to the Tampa Bay Times and other news outlets.

It’s unclear at this point when an insurance session would be held, if approved by lawmakers. A separate special session is set for April 22 to redraw Congressional district lines, in keeping with maps DeSantis has proposed.

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Florida

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