Jimmy Patronis warns that if auto rates go up, Florida drivers will ‘burn down the Capitol’

By Christine Jordan Sexton
February 12, 2022

Patronis says the PIP bills under consideration could do more harm than good.

Florida Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis

The Florida Republican, who plays a key role in insurance regulation, warned this week that lawmakers should be careful when trying to repeal the state’s no-fault auto insurance law.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, one of those with the power to hire or fire the state’s top insurance regulator, argued that two bills pending in the Legislature would only increase motorists’ bills.

These bills would repeal the longstanding law that requires drivers to carry $10,000 personal injury protection insurance — also known as PIP — and replace it with a new type of coverage.

“My phone isn’t ringing with people complaining about PIP,” Patronis told Florida Politics. “Now I’ll tell you what; if their insurance premiums go up, they’ll burn down the Capitol.

Patronis added that the bills introduced by Sen. Danny Burgess and Rep. Erin Grall — SB 150 and HB 1525 — need to be “turned into something bigger and better that makes sense.”

Patronis maintains that the bills under consideration would cause rates to rise by 40%, a figure that stems from an Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) report by Pinnacle. Pinnacle analysis indicated that a 2021 bill to repeal PIP — and which was ultimately opposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis — would raise rates by an average of $202.

Grall criticized that same Pinnacle report Monday night, telling members of the House Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee that the report contained incorrect information, such as the percentage of uninsured drivers. The Vero Beach Republican also questioned the Office of Insurance Regulation’s intention to commission the report.

“I think there was agency malpractice,” Grall said. “Order a report on a bill; to accept this report even if it does not deal with the elements of the bill that has been adopted; withholding this report until we leave for the session and presenting it without being able to respond to it is professional misconduct. And all of us should be upset that an agency has motives to kill the policy we’re working on.

The Office of Insurance Regulation did not respond Wednesday to Florida Politics’ request for comment.

Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprows have expressed their desire to repeal the state’s no-fault auto insurance system. Bills introduced this year by Burgess and Grall would repeal the PIP and the state would revert to a fault-based system and people would be required to purchase mandatory bodily injury coverage.

Grall’s comments regarding the OIR and the Pinnacle Report came after Senator Jeff Brandes said it would be “legislative malpractice” to pass a PIP in the 2022 session that is nearly identical to a draft of law that the governor vetoed in 2021.

Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, criticized Burgess for not getting a different tax analysis on the proposed bill if he disagreed with the findings of the report commissioned by the OIR.

Patronis, however, allows the findings of the Pinnacle report to inform its position on the bills. The CFO maintains that if auto insurance costs rise, so will the number of uninsured drivers on the road.

“The average Florida state person will give up their car insurance before they give up their cell phone bill, their electric bill, their cable bill,” Patronis said. “Politics, maybe at some point, needs to be addressed. But what’s on offer now ends up burdening hospitals with bad debt. This leaves a vulnerable insurance system without adequate coverage because people will simply prioritize their family budget. … It’s the rule of numbers, when it comes to people’s priorities with their money.

Florida Politics’ Jason Delgado contributed to this report.

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