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Gallagher Commends State Lawmakers for Positive Action on a Variety of Bills

5/7/2005

CONTACT:     
Tami Torres or Bob Lotane   
(850) 413-2842
 
 TALLAHASSEE – Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher today praised state lawmakers for passing a variety of bills that will greatly help or protect Floridians and their families. 
 
"We can grow our economy and do good things for our families and our businesses while taking less out their pockets," Gallagher said. "I applaud state lawmakers for pushing for accountability and improving protections and opportunities for Florida's seniors, businesses and insurance consumers."
 
 Several measures supported and initiated by Gallagher that passed include:
 
1. The homeowners insurance consumer protection bill, championed by Sen. Rudy Garcia and Rep. Joe Negron, which will:
ü Prohibit insurance companies from non-renewing policies until 90 days after hurricane repairs are completed.
ü Require insurance companies to offer plain language policies, including financial disclosures, and a checklist that details what is and what is not covered.
ü Require insurance companies to offer the option of higher Law and Ordinance coverage to 50 percent.  Currently, insurers only offer 25 percent. This is critical for homeowners who are required to build up to tougher building code.
ü Require insurance companies to pay replacement costs up front on a storm claim rather than holding back money for recoverable deprecation.
ü Require state regulators to develop a standard policy that would be offered by all insurers and could be used by homeowners to comparison shop when searching for coverage.
ü Sets aside $350,000 for four new positions in the Consumer Advocate's Office.

2. Legislation to better protect Florida investors from viatical companies that commit fraud or fail to properly disclose the risks involved when investing in viatical settlements. The legislation, which would define viatical settlements as "securities," was sponsored by Sen. Rudy Garcia and Rep. Dudley Goodlette. 
 
Gallagher also thanked Gov. Bush for his support of investor protection bill.  "This legislation will enable us to proactively protect investors and aggressively pursue fraudulent practices in this industry," Gallagher said.
 
3. Legislation repealing the substitute communications tax.  "This tax was a ticking time bomb for Florida's businesses, particularly when no other state in the country had this onerous tax," Gallagher said.
 
4. A fire safety bill that will protect elderly residents in older nursing homes by requiring all nursing homes to have fire sprinkler systems by Dec. 31, 2008.  The bill was sponsored by Sen. Daniel Webster and Rep. John Stargel.  "A fire sprinkler system could be the difference between life and death for nursing home residents, particularly for those who are disabled and need help to get around," Gallagher said. 
 
5. Legislation reducing the intangibles tax by half.   This tax burden has fallen almost entirely on seniors, small business owners and middle-aged savers – the very people who drive our economy.
 
6. Legislation that lays the groundwork for Floridians to set up hurricane savings accounts and protects these accounts from creditors, which was sponsored by Sen. Lisa Carlton and Rep. Thad Altman.  Money in the accounts can be used to pay for wind mitigation home improvements or to pay deductibles charged for hurricane damage.  Gallagher has already begun to lobby Congress to create the accounts under federal law with a tax-exempt designation.  Gallagher said, "This gives Florida's families one more financial planning tool and better prepares them for a catastrophic loss."
 
7. Legislation that gives regulators the ability to track, monitor and perform background checks on insurance agencies and their owners, which was sponsored by Sen. Nancy Argenziano and Rep. David Rivera. Gallagher said, "In recent years our department has investigated more than 400 complaints annually involving misappropriation of funds for insurance sold at agencies.  We needed more teeth in the law to protect people." 
 
8. Legislation that boosts the department's ability to stop unauthorized entities from selling bogus insurance in Florida.  Gallagher thanked Sen. Mike Fasano and Rep. Priscilla Ann Taylor for their sponsorship.  "Too many Floridians have been left with millions in unpaid claims," said Gallagher.  "This measure will help us shut these bogus operators down faster."