One annual measure of who holds the real clout in Tallahassee is to watch which bills move through committees prior to the Legislative session. The gun lobby flexed its considerable muscle again Tuesday when the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed a bill to prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against gun owners by charging them more, or canceling their policies, because they own a gun.
The bill, SB 424 by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, would allow state regulators to fine or impose penalties on auto or property insurance companies that "refuse to issue, renew, or cancel a policy" because the policyholder owns a gun. It also prohibits the insurance company from disclosing to third party if the policyholder has a gun.
So how big is the problem of insurance companies discriminating against homeowners and auto owners for owning a gun? According to the staff analysis of the bill:
"Professional staff of the Banking and Insurance Committee requested information from the OIR regarding the use of firearm ownership information as an underwriting factor by the top 5 writers of homeowners’ insurance. According to the OIR, only one of these companies addressed firearm ownership in the underwriting guidelines. Citizens does not use firearm ownership in the underwriting process and the Citizens clearinghouse application does not contain questions about firearm ownership."
The staff analysis also notes that existing state and federal law already protect the privacy rights of gun owners. So, maybe it's not a big problem -- but it must clearly be worth fast-track attention.
"This bill will stop some wrong doing and insurance companies who don’t discriminate don’t have to worry about a bill that says you can’t discriminate,” said Marian Hammer of the NRA and the Unified Sportsman of Florida.
Lee said he introduced the bill because, until recently, Citizens Property Insurance asked homeowners if they owned a gun. A Citizens spokesman told the Herald/Times that Lee was incorrect and the company has never asked the question.
"The choice to have a trampoline on your property is a privilege, whereas the choice to have a gun on your property is a Second Amendment right,'' he said. "This would preclude insurance companies from going on a fishing expendition any more than going on a fishing expedition to ask you how many chain saws you owned or now many sharp kitchen knives."
The committee approved the bill 9-1 with Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami Beach, the lone no vote.