TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There may be hope on the horizon for Floridians impacted by soaring homeowners insurance costs. A lawmaker who represents part of Tampa Bay in the Florida Legislature says if the governor won’t call a special session on the crisis, he will try to do it himself.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, exclusively told 8 On Your Side Tuesday that he’s planning to use a legislative maneuver to go around Gov. Ron DeSantis and other legislative leaders to force a special session.
“Listen – if nobody else is going to step up for my constituents, it’s my responsibility to step for them,” Brandes said. “The easiest way to get it done is for the governor to call it but, barring his inaction, we plan to act.”
Sen. Brandes explained that state statute allows a special session to be called if 20% of legislators file with the Department of State explaining conditions that warrant a special session. If 20% file, the remaining legislators will be polled. If three-fifths of the legislature agrees to sign on, Brandes said, “the legislative members can basically override the speaker and the senate president and the governor and force a special session.”
“And the great thing about it is, it’s public document,” Brandes added. “Floridians will be able to see which House members and senators are standing with them and which ones are standing against them.”
The St. Petersburg lawmaker said he’s using the maneuver because he believes the insurance crisis rises to that level.
“This is quickly becoming the number one issue facing Florida right now,” Brandes said.
8 On Your Side’s Mahsa Saeidi has heard from hundreds of devastated homeowners in recent weeks who are getting their annual property insurance rates and panicking. Some homeowners are seeing their rates double in a single year.
Several insurance companies have pulled out of Florida, allowing the remaining insurers to increase their rates. Brandes called on DeSantis last month to force legislators back to Tallahassee to address the insurance crisis.
“If I was advising the governor, I would say, ‘listen if you don’t call a special session on this, you’re going to begin to own some of these rate increases,'” Sen. Brandes said at the time.
Gov. DeSantis did end up calling a special session last week, and lawmakers are set to head back to Tallahassee later this month – but not to address the insurance crisis. The special session was called to address the state’s congressional redistricting maps.
The governor did note when he called that special session that it’s “absolutely possible” other issues could be addressed once lawmakers gather.
Four property insurance bills were introduced during the regular legislative session to address the insurance crisis, but each one failed.
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