Bryan Nelson’s Sinkhole Legislation a Problem for Apopka Mayoral Bid, Great for Insurers

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In a city that has experienced several major sinkholes in the recent past, the former Chairman of the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee in the Florida House of Representatives is running for Apopka’s mayoral seat. Bryan Nelson is an advocate of sinkhole insurance reform.

Nelson filed HB 1341 in 2010, which would have reduced the immediate reimbursement of a total loss of property from a sinkhole from 100% of the total value of the property in question, to just 40%.

HB 1341 included a path to total reimbursement which required the property owner to pay for complete repairs on the same site as the sinkhole. They would also have to provide receipts to their insurance company for reimbursement. In addition, if the property owner decided to move without making proper repairs, they would be forced to take a 60% loss in favor of the insurance company. Most victims of sinkholes choose to not live on the same home site for obvious reasons.

WFTV in Orlando recently conducted an interview about a sinkhole in Nelson’s district. He was asked if sinkhole damage was covered in the homeowner’s insurance policy. Nelson answered with, “Yes, absolutely.” He can only say this because not one single legislator supported Nelson’s bill and it never became actual law.

Nelson also proposed in HB 1341 deleting a public database that was collecting data on sinkholes across the state of Florida. This database gives future homeowners greater insight into the location of past sinkhole insurance claims.

According to public financial disclosure forms, Nelson is a 50% owner of Nelson’s Insurance Services. It’s located next to Apopka City Hall, and functions as his campaign headquarters. His legislation in Tallahassee would have increased profits and reduced liabilities for the future Mayoral candidate and insurance agents selling sinkhole coverage in the state.

Nelson is running his campaign on saving the city money. In a recent mailer, he berated current Mayor Joe Kilsheimer for holding a city event by the Orlando Philharmonic at the city’s Amphitheater, calling the “Symphony under the Stars” event a “$62,000 net loss.”

When asked for comment, Kilsheimer responded saying, “I’m stunned that my opponent wants to halt public events in Apopka. Events like Symphony under the Stars, 4th of July fireworks, Apopka’s BBQ Blast and our Cinco de Mayo festivals have been attended by tens of thousands of residents and has increased Apopka’s quality of life. We’re seeing the benefits of investing in our community. We’re seeing an incredible increase of interest in our city from homeowners and business owners alike, raising property values across the board. You have to spend money on citizens, that’s what we’re here for.”

Nelson previously proposed legislation to save money by increasing public school classroom sizes and advertising on public school buses, HB 599.

He is vowing to take a 50% pay cut if elected Mayor of Apopka, a move some residents believe questions his commitment to the job. “We don’t need a part time mayor right now. We had a part time mayor before and it didn’t work out too well,” said Erin Meadows. “He should go back to Tallahassee if he wants another part-time job.”

Bryan Nelson did not respond for comment.

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