FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke in Fort Myers Beach at the Yucatan Beach Stand on Old San Carlos Boulevard. He signed two new pieces of legislation from the recent property insurance special session, which passed the bills on Wednesday.
The governor spoke first about a new economic report for Florida, saying it had a 1.1% lower unemployment rate than the nation, and detailed the business environment in the state, even after Hurricane Ian.
Then he turned to the special session, describing the bills as keeping promises to provide relief to Floridians amid national inflation.
DeSantis said that following the hurricane, the legislature had approved tax rebate provisions for those suffering from the storm’s damage. It was approved during the special session, and set aside $750 million to support recovery efforts.
Of that, $350 million would be used to match grants to local governments from federal funds, allowing more flexibility for recovery, according to DeSantis.
The governor described state efforts as “not waiting for the federal government” to act and to aid Floridians in “getting back on their feet.” He also said some of the provisions would pertain to assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, particularly regarding repairs and trailers for those who lost their homes.
He said Florida needed trailers while repairing property and that they shouldn’t wait to help those who were in the flood zone.
“Today, I’m directing Kevin Guthrie not to wait on FEMA, and to start placing those trailers on properties immediately,” DeSantis said. He said lawmakers and state officials were happy with the package from the special session, in addition to actions taken to stabilize “Florida’s long-turbulent property insurance market.”
Citing the high litigation costs for the comparatively lower claims, DeSantis said the state would use the new legislation “reins in the incentive to litigate.” He said those costs and cases were impacting high premiums, and said Florida was “one of the few states that allowed this to happen in the country.”
To stabilize the situation, DeSantis said the state wanted to make the market more competitive in Florida, and help residents avoid being scammed.
Kevin Guthrie, Director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management spoke briefly, thanking the governor for his leadership and support and detailing how the legislation would help Florida. Then Senate President Kathleen Passidomo highlighted the process of how the government had been working on the insurance issue, focusing on the special session.
She detailed how her own staff, and the staff of Speaker of the House Paul Renner, had worked together to bring solutions.
Renner spoke after Passidomo, saying that compared to how federal lawmakers spent time “talking about problems” but not solving them, Florida’s legislature had acted and put solutions together to take care of residents, “even after the media cameras left.”
After the other speakers finished, DeSantis signed the bills, then took questions from the crowd.
Addressing the property insurance legislation, he said the litigation issues were put into a “more sustainable posture” thanks to the new legislation, but he said that as a consumer, making companies compete for your business was the best solution to costs.
“Because so many companies have been pushed out of Florida over the last generation, you’re basically stuck, with maybe one option,” DeSantis said. “Then they have no incentive to offer you competitive rates, and no incentive to even do a good job on customer service.”
The governor said there would be more to do along the way, but now more companies would be interested in coming to Florida than four or five years ago, and that now there would be more stability in the market.
Next, DeSantis addressed the resignation of David Altmaier.
Thursday evening, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier sent a resignation letter to the governor, with his effective exit date on Dec. 28. The letter was sent the day after the special session on property insurance completed.
“The insurance commissioner’s been there a long time, so that position is open, it is being advertised, so I would tell talented people that want to get in and be challenged, this would be a great opportunity for you,” DeSantis said. “This is obviously a very critical issue for the state, there’s more attention from the legislature than probably any time in the last 10, 15 years on this, I think it’s an opportunity to do well.”
The governor encouraged people to apply and said the state wanted to move quickly to fill the position. He said that while some members of the administration and agency heads were staying, the state was looking for new candidates for the head of the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, the Department of Economic Opportunity, but directors for the Florida Department of Health, the Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Department of Environmental Protection were all staying onboard.
DeSantis also said he would prioritize moving forward on Constitutional Carry for firearm ownership and carry in Florida, noting that Renner had publicly said it was a goal for the 2023 legislative session.
Thursday evening, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier sent a resignation letter to the governor, with his effective exit date on Dec. 28. The letter was sent the day after the special session on property insurance completed. Earlier that day, the governor had said he would sign the two remaining bills from December’s special legislative session while speaking in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.