Hurricane Irma not only brought destruction, but according to Florida State Senator Dorothy L. Hukill, it is bringing changes.
On Friday, Oct. 20, at the Riverside Pavilion, Hukill discussed the aftermath of the hurricane and new bills that will be filed in the upcoming legislative session.
According to Hukill, the most recent data shows Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already authorized $141 million in emergency spending and $25 million in interest-free loans for citrus growers. Additionally, Hukill noted that the $141 million in spending is an amount that is expected to keep growing.
In comparison to last year’s major hurricane, Hukill said 747,534 claims were filed because of Irma, around 19% of which have been settled with payment, while 119,000 claims were filed due to Hurricane Matthew.
“You can see the impact that Irma has had throughout the state,” Hukill said.
Irma’s impact on Puerto Rico has, in turn, started to bring in more Puerto Rican residents to Florida. According to Hukill, the latest numbers show there have been 36,000 people that have come to Florida, though thousands more are expect to follow with the majority staying permanently.
“That’s going to have an impact on the state budget, but it’s also going to have an impact today, with just the effects of Irma, on the school budget,” Hukill said.
Hukill said the state is anticipating there will be an additional 26,000-plus students coming in during this fiscal year. With more students comes the issue of school budgets possibly being reduced.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, there have also been a number of bills that have been or that will be filed. One bill from Hukill, the Insurance Assignment of Benefits bill, “would prohibit certain awards of attorney fees to certain persons or entities in suits based on claims arising under property insurance policies, and require an assignee to meet certain requirements as a condition precedent to filing suit under a policy.”
This bill would come into play when a house becomes flooded and the property owner signs an assignment of benefits to hand over the rights of what decisions are made to the business hired for the work. Hukill said the bill is in response to inflated claims in these kinds of circumstances.
Due to the outages the state faces when there are weather emergencies, Scott put in place an emergency rule that requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators that will fit the needs of residents for a certain time period. Many of these facilities are fighting back and so far there have been 148 variances filed against the rule, according to Hukill.
As a result of the pushback, Hukill noted several bills have been filed that all are consistent with Scott’s rule requiring generators for these places.
Hukill said that this issue will be a “hot topic this upcoming session.”