Yesterday, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 4-A, it’s version of solutions to the property insurance crisis, while the House passed its version in House Bills 1-A, 3-A, 5-A, 7-A, and 9-A. These bills contain some differences, as noted by the Miami Herald:
The differences emerged between the House and Senate over how far to go to let the state shoulder the risk from the most massive storms and whether to allow the beleaguered Citizens Property Insurance to lower its rates by offering more types of insurance policies, not just those that offer wind coverage.
The House took the more conservative approach, pushing a plan to lower insurance premiums by offering more state-subsidized back-up reinsurance to private companies. The plan would increase the chances the state would have to bail out its Hurricane Catastrophe Fund by assessing fees on all lines of insurance, but it exposes the state to less total financial risk than the Senate’s plan.
The Senate’s plan exposes taxpayers to the risk of seeing a tax increase to pay for a rare but horrific storm, but the gamble promises to save homeowners as much as 40 percent on their windstorm insurance, promoters claim.
Senate leaders want to cap the amount of money the private insurance industry would have to spend at $22 billion, and they want to let Citizens repair its weakened balance sheet by expanding into other, more profitable lines of insurance.
Gov. Charlie Crist has endorsed the Senate’s approach, but House Speaker Marco Rubio told House members he prefers to take a ”narrow approach” and focus on ideas that have been around for more than a week.
Now is where the procedure gets technical. The House bill was sent to the Senate, and the Senate bill was sent to the House. (Remember what you learned from “I’m Just a Bill“? The same bill has to pass both chambers, so each chamber sends their bill to the other one.)
Since the House and Senate passed different versions, you can expect that one of the chambers – probably the House will take up the Senate version, pass an amendment that strips out the language from the Senate bill and inserts the language from the House bill (called a “strike-all amendment” because it strikes everything from the bill). They will then pass the newly amended Senate Bill 4-A, which is the same as House Bills, and send it back to the Senate. You still with me?
Okay, once the Senate receives the bill, they will formally vote to disagree with the amendment the House passed, and send the bill back to the House to pass the original version or appoint a conference committee. The House will then vote to appoint a conference committee. That may sound complicated, but I even left out a bunch of minor, interim steps.
Once the conference committee is appointed, they will meet together to discuss the differences. Unofficially, the House and Senate leadership, generally through their staff, will work out the technical and policy differences. The House will give up something, the Senate will give up something, and a compromise will be reached. Then the new language will be drawn up in a “conference report” which is officially adopted by the conference committee, and sent to each house. (Sometimes, when a conference committee is appointed, the only official meeting is the meeting to adopt the conference report.)
Since this will likely be a Senate bill, the Senate will first pass the conference committee report. It will then go to the House for final passage. Then it goes through the Secretary of State’s office to Governor Charlie Crist.
Thus ends the lesson on conference committees.