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Crist tells lawmakers not to deregulate property insurance rates

Gov. Charlie Crist made a rare appearance in a Senate committee Wednesday to oppose legislation that would let property insurers offer unregulated rates to homeowners.

Crist said fewer than 30 words but delivered a strong message that his veto pen was uncapped when it came to Sen. Mike Bennett's bill (SB876). "I would encourage you not to pass it," he said. "I just wanted to express my feelings. That's it."

Before the meeting he said the bill -- which offers property insurance policies unregulated by the state but caps increases at 15% in the third year -- should be named "a rate increase bill." Supporters call it the "consumer choice bill."

UPDATED 3:30 p.m.: It appears Crist's caution didn't heed lawmakers. Bennett's bill passed the committee 6-4 with the Democrats siding with two Republicans. Sens. Mike Fasano, Ronda Storms and Alex Villalobos voted against it.

Asked later about Crist's move, Senate President Jeff Atwater laughed. "That will be helpful later," he chuckled.