Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, wrote a letter to Citizens Board
Chairman, Carlos Lacasa, calling for him to delay moving forward on the
so-called “surplus note” loan, which was lobbied for by private insurance
companies and hastily approved last month with little public input.
“I am concerned that Board’s aggressive timeline will result in the program’s
implementation before the two chambers of the Legislature complete hearings on
this important matter of state policy,” Weatherford wrote in the letter.
Citizens’ board unveiled the plan last month and quickly voted to support it,
despite backlash from some Republican lawmakers and concerns from the state’s
insurance consumer advocate and the Office of Insurance Regulation.
Board members also voiced concerns about the legality of the $350 million loan
and asked that independent lawyers take a closer look at the legal ramifications
of approving the plan without permission from the Legislature.
The plan would take up to $350 million from Citizens’ record $6.2 billion
reserves and lend it — under favorable terms — to private insurers who agree to
take over policies and keep them for 10 years.
Business and insurance industry groups have come out in support of the
low-interest 20-year loans, and Citizens president Barry Gilway on Friday said
enacting it was in “the best interest of Citizens, its customers and Florida’s
But criticism has intensified this week, with Florida’s Insurance Consumer
Advocate sending a lengthy list of questions about the financial soundness of
the unprecedented loan.
On Friday, Weatherford joined the growing group of officials expressing concerns
about the program and the vetting process used to approve it.
"This is not an indictment of the idea, but an opinion that the proposal needs
more vetting,” Weatherford said in a statement.
A Citizens spokesperson declined to comment on Weatherford’s letter, stating she
had not yet spoken with Lacasa. The board is scheduled to meet over the next two
weeks to approve the program, which could begin taking policies out of Citizens
in early December.
One lawmaker, Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, has threatened to file a lawsuit to
stop the program, which he called an “inside deal” written by insurance
“In the past, when we’ve approved these programs it’s gone through the
Legislature,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who has been
critical of Citizens’ growing independence from the legislative process. The
Legislature created Citizens in 2002.
Gilway has responded to critics by stating that the program could help shrink
the size of Citizens by 300,000 policies and significantly reduce the amount of
fees Floridians have to pay after a once-in-a-century type hurricane. Gov. Rick
Scott has championed the effort to shrink Citizens and reduce its risk, sparking
controversial and unpopular coverage changes for many of the company’s 1.4
Most of the changes have taken place without approval from the Legislature, but
the new surplus note program has led some lawmakers to publicly question the
growing autonomy of Citizens’ board.
Weatherford, who is slated to become the House speaker next month, indicated
that the surplus note program “may be outside the Board’s legal authority.”
“My concerns involve serious questions regarding the process by which the
proposed program was approved, the sufficiency of the information and analysis
on which the approval was based, and uncertainties regarding the Board’s legal
authority to adopt and implement the program,” wrote Weatherford.