Charlie Called on His Hypocrisy
The first to call Charlie and the Republican Legislature on their massive flip-flop on insurance seem to be Orlando Sentinel columnists Jon Kennedy and Jason Garcia.
"Anyone wandering around the state Capitol last week could be forgiven for thinking that Democrats were in charge."
Florida Democrats, you may recall, spent much of last year's election season championing plans to have the state assume more of the financial risk from hurricanes in the name of driving insurance rates down."'Wrong,' 'risky' insurance idea now fully embraced by GOP". Lloyd Dunkelberger comes close in "Suddenly, a pro-consumer Legislature emerges" ("In this week's special session, Florida lawmakers are poised to pass some of the strongest, pro-consumer insurance legislation that perhaps has ever been seen in Tallahassee"), but can't bring himself to point out the hipocrisy.
The party's candidates for governor -- first Rod Smith in the primary, then Jim Davis in the general -- made such ideas signature issues of their campaigns.
In response, now-Gov. Charlie Crist and the Republican Party of Florida spent millions of dollars on television commercials during the general election savaging Davis' insurance plan as "risky" and irresponsible.
Davis "wants to bail out the insurance companies on the back of Florida taxpayers, and that's wrong," Crist warned viewers during a televised debate at Nova Southeastern University near Fort Lauderdale.
Steve Bousquet alludes to Charlie's flip-flop with this, "Crist sets stage for insurance rate cuts: "What Crist has endorsed in the way of insurance reform is not the "less government" he talked about on the stump. ... When Crist ran for governor against one of its creators, Tom Gallagher, Crist knocked Citizens as a scandal-ridden enterprise. Now Crist, who ran for office as 'the people's governor,' calls Citizens 'the people's company' that deserves a fresh start."
The flip-flop goes unmentioned today in an otherwise useful piece in the Miami Herald: "Florida Republicans stunned the business community and shocked Democrats last week when they did something they never would have done under a Jeb Bush administration: They decided that when it comes to the state's insurance crisis, government is not the problem, it's the solution." "Crist takes on insurance rates". The same is true of these comprehensive articles today in the Democrat, "Legislature hard-pressed to find insurance fix (document)", and the Palm Beach Post: "Crist's boasts set up risky insurance fight".
Nowhere mentioned in these otherwise good articles is that Charlie and his merry band of Legislators are championing a plan that just a few weeks ago they, as Kennedy and Garcia write, "spent millions of dollars on television commercials during the general election savaging ... as 'risky' and irresponsible."
Another Open House Seat?
"Rumors keep swirling that Rep. John Quinones, the Kissimmee Republican who was the first Puerto Rican elected to the Florida Legislature, is about to step down to run for a new seat on the Osceola County Commission."
Quinones, who met one-on-one with House Speaker Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist last week, says he is seriously weighing the idea."Quinones run for county?" If this seat opens up, the Dems will have a very good shot at it.
But he also says he doesn't expect to make a decision until after this week's special session
By The Way ...
"Insurance companies still have influence": "Campaign-finance records through December show the insurance industry - that includes life, health, auto and home insurers as well as their agents - gave nearly $24 million to candidates in the 2006 state races." Or are "Insurance lobbyists on the outside looking in"?
Don't Count Those Chickens
"Even radical proposals before the Legislature don't mean large insurance cuts for every Florida homeowner. ... the predicted savings are far below the numbers lawmakers were using last week in introducing those proposals. According to the State Board of Administration analysis, the net effect of a $7 billion expansion of the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is a statewide decrease in insurance rates of less than 2 percent." "Offering lower rates may be easier said than done".
"Relief from rocketing insurance rates is on the way."
But curb your excitement. You will pay later."Pay now or pay later?".
Many of the proposals to be deliberated on during this week's special session of the Legislature would pass more risk from insurers to consumers and the state of Florida.
That means the tab would be deferred until a major storm hits. Then all Florida residents would pay, through hefty surcharges on insurance policies or higher taxes.
"Local, state, federal officers take to water to protect manatees".
The Pundits Weigh In on Insurance
- St. Pete Times: Beware of instant gratification:
What a difference a year - and an election - makes in Tallahassee. The 2006 effort by Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature to address the property insurance crisis was a market-driven approach heavily influenced by the industry. It did not stabilize rates or slow policy cancellations or lure large private insurers back into the Florida market in a year with no significant hurricanes."How not to fix insurance".
Now, Gov. Charlie Crist and new legislative leaders are responding to the anger they heard on the campaign trail by changing directions, declaring they will force premium reductions and acknowledging government will have to play a larger role in making property insurance more available and affordable. In the state Capitol, that is a significant change in philosophy that should benefit Floridians.
But in their rush to respond to the crisis in a special legislative session that opens Tuesday, the governor and state lawmakers have to be careful about raising expectations too high for immediate rate relief [which may not be much anyway] and putting the state's long-term financial health in jeopardy. Everyone should be aware of the stakes if the state and its taxpayers assume significantly more risk and expense the next time a major hurricane hits in return for lower premiums now.
- Orlando Sentinel: "This week's special legislative session seeking solutions to the state's property insurance crisis seemed a bad idea a few weeks ago. Then, lawmakers appeared poised to appease an insurance industry that had either dropped thousands of policyholders or sent their rates soaring in the wake of the hurricanes of 2004-2005."
Lawmakers seemed ready to act on recommendations from a Jeb Bush-tapped task force that offered insurers incentives to get them to operate in Florida, but that didn't quantify how residents would benefit."Follow the leader". Nary a mention in this love fest about Charlie having "spent millions of dollars on television commercials during the general election savaging [this very approach] as 'risky' and irresponsible."
They looked approvingly at others calling for homeowners to assume more risk in exchange for lower premiums.
Little, meanwhile, had been seen of Gov.-elect Charlie Crist or his campaign promises to wholly alter the way property insurance is bought and sold in Florida.
But wait. Lo and behold, Mr. Crist and some state legislators now appear to have found the resolve to make insurance in the state of Florida work not just for insurers, but for the insured.
- Palm Beach Post: Goodness gracious, the Dems are given some credit:
The problem is that the governor and Senate are talking about making Citizens into a real insurance company. For years, the goal has been to phase out Citizens. Unfortunately, for all the talk from some legislators about incentives for private companies, there probably aren't enough incentives to draw the private carriers back to the higher-risk area. The industry now is dropping policies in coastal states as far north as New England."Tallahassee has consumers on the insurance agenda".
Whether through Citizens or some other entity, the Legislature correctly is ready to give the state a much bigger role. It will happen through short- and long-term changes during the special session and during the regular session in March. Ideally, there would be a national or regional disaster fund. For now though, Florida will have to ease this crisis by spreading the risk statewide. The Democrats were saying this months ago. Now, most of Tallahassee is saying it.
- Tampa Trib: The editorial board - caught between its love of all things Republican and free market maia - almost, but not quite, says that Crist and the Legislature are making a mistake:
"Profiteering" insurance companies, as Crist calls them, are the perceived villains, but lawmakers and the voters they serve should remember these businesses are a necessary evil unless Florida wants to socialize homeowners insurance. ..."Market Forces Blown Away By Sky-High Insurance Premiums".
Yet it seems a sure bet that a majority of lawmakers will sidestep talk of free markets and back state government's assumption of risk to give property owners relief from skyrocketing premiums. ...
What the Legislature is about to do may provide relief to policyholders, but it is a rebuke of long-held principles that may not serve the state's long-term economic interests.
- Randy Schultz: "Over and over, Charlie Crist has called Jeb Bush America's greatest governor. But it took less than two weeks for Gov. Crist to show how different he is from Jeb Bush, and he did so on the biggest issue facing the state."
What would Jeb do? Who cares?"Crist shifts the debate on insurance".
A year ago, Jeb Bush would have been calling the shots on this issue. He probably would have offered a bill, and the House and Senate would be reacting to it and working off it. Not this year. Gov. Crist filed no bill. He stated early on that he didn't just want rates to level off. He wanted rates to come down. He said it again on Thursday. The executive branch laid out the concept. The legislative branch can work out the details.
- Mike Thomas gives us this wisdom today in "Crist flirts with socialist fiasco on insurance", "Jeb Bush is barely out of office and already the socialists are taking over Florida. It's like Ralph Nader is running the place. Or even better, Charlie Crist."
Charlie seems intent on turning property insurance into a homeowner entitlement program.Thomas explains himself here.
This runs counter to everything Bush stood for, which is less government and more private enterprise.
Jeb's solution for the hurricane insurance crisis was raising premiums to attract more private insurers into the state and create more competition. To that end, he signed a law last year that sharply boosted rates charged by our state-run insurance company, Citizens Property.
All was good until the people on the coast got their premium notices.
They screamed like Hormel hogs.
Fearing for their political lives, Republican lawmakers have tossed Jeb's brutal capitalism for Charlie's populism.
What About Health Insurance?
"Some might argue that the only real reform can take place on the national stage -- through some form of national health plan that assures coverage for everyone. There's merit to that argument. But it's not an excuse for state and local inaction." "Lack of insurance, inadequate care are local problems".
"Bilirakis reflects on career".
Expressway Authority Troubles
"State lawmakers pummeled the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority on Saturday, saying only a reorganization will spare the embattled agency from being abolished." "Legislators Blast Troubled Tollway Authority".
"As the investigation into the workings of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority widens, it becomes even more obvious that Gov. Charlie Crist ought to appoint board members who are far removed from this region's powerful development interests." "Steer clear in appointments".
Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys
Mary Ann Lindley: "Last spring, the Legislature created the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, a law that was co-sponsored by Rep. Curtis Richardson of Tallahassee and went into effect Jan. 1. At the time, I rolled my eyes, thinking here we go, another council, another study of what is absolutely known, visible to the naked eye. Plus, there was no funding to do anything but hold statewide meetings." "Lost and found".
"Gov. Charlie Crist confirmed last week that it's still pretty icy between himself and the White House following his snub of the president at an election eve rally in Pensacola." "White House snub? It cuts both ways".
"The Rev. Al Sharpton didn't sugarcoat his message for those who gathered with him Saturday night to honor slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Always outspoken, Sharpton criticized successful people young and old who aren't more thankful for the sacrifices King made decades ago to improve the lives of racial minorities and the poor." "Don't forget, Sharpton urges Daytona crowd".
Tallahassee Democrat Changes
"The Information Center is the newsroom of the future, more flexible and nimble than ever before. It will enable us to focus on doing the jobs required of us by our readers and customers today - the most dramatic shift in how news is gathered and distributed in a hundred years." "Newspaper revolution: major changes coming".
"Tampa Electric Co. should be ashamed of how it treated a neighborhood the utility defaced with power poles. Three years ago, without warning residents beforehand, the company planted 12-story power poles in a working-class neighborhood called Egypt Lake, north of downtown. TECO settled the case last week after two state courts robbed the residents of justice. The poles are a monument to the company's bad faith and the adage that money talks." "Crude power play".
"Why would anyone defend a policy of forcing Florida college students to repeat classes when Gov. Charlie Crist and the chancellor of the university system agree that the state's college classrooms are bursting at the seams? No one actually defends such a policy. But in practice, that is exactly what happens to students across the state." "Reduce course repetition in Florida's colleges".