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Coming to a House bill near you: "gliding" Citizens rate hike

The bill is still being drafted by House leaders, but word is the House's insurance policy committee as soon as Friday will vote on a proposal to gradually raise Citizens Insurance rates (likely 10 percent a year statewide average, and no more than 20 percent a year for individual policy holders. Lawmakers are calling it a "glide path," even though airplanes and such typically glide down.

The legislation is likely to be tacked on as an amendment to an existing bill by Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka. House Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Reagan said it will likely include a provision to gradually reduce the state's CAT fund exposure by cutting down over about six years the so-called TICL layer (which is state-sponsored cheap reinsurance for residential property). The TICL layer, established in January 2007, has increased the CAT fund coverage capacity - and with it, the financial liability for insurance customers should a big storm hit the Sunshine State.

"The exposure right now is too great, and the (Citizens) rates are too low," said Rep. Reagan, R-Sarasota. "I think this will be a bipartisan effort."

House leaders are working with the Senate, where the companion legislation would come out of Sen. Garret Richter's banking and insurance committee. Meanwhile, a House panel Friday moved legislation forward that would open the door for State Farm and other large insurance companies to charge higher rates.

Company advocates say it is a matter of consumer choice -- allowing homeowners to decide if they want to pay more for coverage if they feel it's worth the cost. They also say Citizens' rates are in some areas more expensive than private insurers anyway, and would continue to be even if State Farm or others raised rates.

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