State lawmakers begin a special legislative session today to grapple with the growing property-insurance crisis that is digging into the bank accounts of millions of homeowners and businesses. The details are messy. The choices aren't easy. Here is a look at one of the most important issues in recent years in Florida:"Choices not easy as lawmakers take on insurance crisis".
"Lawmakers have proposed offering homeowners a deal: Pay less for hurricane insurance -- but accept a higher risk."
In a gamble to lower premiums for hurricane insurance, Florida legislators are ready to let homeowners take bigger risks: Buy coverage for less than a home's value, accept steep deductibles -- or even go without windstorm insurance at all."Lawmakers propose lowering rates, but with bigger risks".
Homeowners who accept the risks would bet that damage to their home from a storm wouldn't cripple them financially, while saving themselves thousands of dollars in premiums. In some extreme cases, the proposals would allow Floridians in danger of losing their homes because of the steep rise in premiums to keep them long enough to weather the next storm season. ...
The Senate plan goes further than the House in offering homeowners options for reducing premiums, though both sides have bipartisan agreement that more choices are needed. But one group has already sent up flares of alarm: The banking industry is warning lawmakers that few of the proposals will be realistic for homeowners who have a mortgage. Other critics question whether the savings will be worth the risk.
"Little noticed in the runup to this week's special legislative session on insurance: Gov. Charlie Crist wants lawmakers to ban private insurers from canceling existing homeowner's policies for up to four years." "Crist proposes barring insurers from dropping policies for 4 years".
See also "Lawmakers argue over fixes", "Lawmakers gather to cure insurance woes", "Lawmakers close on insurance fix, but is it solution?", "Voters' outrage propels debates about insurance" and "Seven days to fix insurance". Yesterday: "Less talk, more action now".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board says "it's imperative that Gov. Charlie Crist and state lawmakers strike as careful a balance as possible in putting the state deeper on the insurance hook." "Legislature". The Herald-Tribune urges the "comprehensive overhaul of insurance in Florida". "Storm of reform".
"Insurers pack clout in Tallahassee": "Any tough changes legislators make will be fiercely opposed by the property insurance industry, which spends millions of dollars a year to influence public policy in Florida." See also "Insurance industry after influence".
This Week in Tallahassee
"The Florida Legislature will be in special session Jan. 16-22. The key events today and what's coming up:" "2007 Capitol roundup".
"Handicapping Local Government"
"The cap, as discussed by lawmakers and favored by Rubio, would essentially force local governments to adopt the rolled-back rate every year, with a small allowance for new revenue. One bill targeting cities in particular would allow extra revenue based on inflation, plus 3 percent. Voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment for the cap to be effective. The idea isn't new. A 1992 constitutional amendment imposed a 3 percent cap on how fast assessments could grow every year. That's the Save Our Homes amendment. It's also the source of today's tax woes. The amendment severely skewed revenue collection, shifting the burden from homesteaded properties and imposing it on businesses and renters, who are not covered by the Save Our Homes amendment. A 3 percent cap on revenue collection wouldn't "reform" that impairment of the tax system. It would create new hardships by handicapping local governments' ability to live up to their constituents' expectations." "Tax caps Florida style".
"Homeowners angry about insurance didn’t want to let the legislative session start without letting their opinion be known. Follow their journey online." "Rally Heads For Tally".
"Insurers Should Carry More of the Burden"
"As they debate solutions -- many of which are likely to include taxpayer-funded bailouts -- lawmakers should take a look at a national study released earlier this month by the Consumer Federation of America. The report, available at consumerfed.org /pdfs/2007Insurance_White_Paper.pdf, examines insurance companies' profits, policies and actions over the past years and reaches an undeniable conclusion: It's past time to get tough with insurers." "Covering storm risk".
The Rich Are Different
"Gov. Charlie Crist is proud to call himself 'cheap,' sharing tales of patching his shoes rather than replacing them and comparison shopping for generic products in drugstores."
But Crist was generous in handing out nearly $600,000 in bonuses to about two dozen employees of his campaign."Crist gives campaign aides bonuses Governor rewards two dozen workers with nearly $600,000".
A review of campaign finance reports filed earlier this month show Crist paid the bonuses after his September primary victory and his November general election victory.
The money was paid by the Republican Party of Florida, which received $30 million or more from donors interested in helping the Crist campaign, which was limited to $500 individual limits in its own campaign account.
The Permanent Campaign
Charlie writes a letter about insurance: "Charlie Crist: Together, we must find a solution". See also "Kottkamp says insurance No. 1 priority for Crist".
Jeremy Wallace's column today includes this: "Even though U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan was once president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and even has his name on the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce building, the Longboat Key Republican had little trouble rebuffing the group's lobbyist on one of his first big votes in Congress." "Buchanan votes against Chamber; Mahoney gets brief taste of power".
"The hearings, including a stop in Tampa, will gather information on 21st century veterans." "Commission to go on tour for input on veteran needs".
Another Jebbie Dead-Ender
Mike Thomas pops off on Jebbie's education "reforms", spouting tired RPOF talking points like these:
- "Student test scores in Florida have shown solid gains, particularly among minority kids.""Crist appears to seek gain with less pain".
- "Bush's problem wasn't results. It was communicating them."
Contrast Thomas' usual fawning with the Palm Beach Post's observation today that "Bush's education 'legacy' has been buffeted by court findings that his first voucher program is unconstitutional, by financial scandals in other voucher programs and by a stream of statistics showing that Florida is stuck in the bottom tier in most key education categories, such as graduation rate, SAT scores and per-pupil spending."
In addition to his usual "Jeb!"-worship, Thomas seems worried:
Where will Charlie Crist take our schools?Thomas clearly misses his dear Jebbie.
On the campaign trail, he solidly backed Jeb Bush's reforms.
But once he took office, it was whack, whack, whack. He removed three of Jeb's top education officials.
What should we make of this?
John Wiseman, president of the Florida Home Builders Association: "Builders support Crist's affordable-housing goals".
"Jeb Bush may be gone from Tallahassee, but his political machine is active and plotting a course that would make Florida a major player in picking the Republican Party’s candidate for president." "Gone But Not Forgotten".
Booting the "Jeb!" Lapdogs
The Palm Beach Post editorial board on a handful of the "Jeb!" sycophants Crist was saddled with:
Crist pulled back the appointments of Phil Handy and T. Willard Fair. Both had reached the end of their legal terms on the Board of Education, where their primary function has been to heap hosannas on each of Gov. Bush's education proposals.It gets better
To keep them on the board, Gov. Bush invented a loophole and, just before leaving office, shoved the two men through it. The dodge was particularly hypocritical, since Mr. Handy became a force in state politics by championing the 1992 term-limit amendment. Other board members - all Bush appointees - with typical subservience elected Mr. Fair chairman and Mr. Handy vice chairman. At Mr. Bush's farewell appearance before the board, Mr. Fair told him: "In my judgment, there is no greater person on this Earth than you. I love you."
Mr. Bush's goal was to safeguard the job of Education Commissioner John Winn, another adoring fan, who was inexplicably exempted from the usual courtesy of tendering his resignation to the incoming governor. Mr. Bush's education "legacy" has been buffeted by court findings that his first voucher program is unconstitutional, by financial scandals in other voucher programs and by a stream of statistics showing that Florida is stuck in the bottom tier in most key education categories, such as graduation rate, SAT scores and per-pupil spending. So Mr. Crist, who professes to admire Mr. Bush's reform spirit, is right to wonder whether he needs a batch of more capable reformers."Winn-win for Florida: Education chief departs".
"A Broward County manatee-protection plan has been rejected by the state wildlife agency because it would allow the construction of thousands of new docks along waterways heavily used by the endangered marine mammals." "Sun-Sentinel: State rejects Broward County's plan to save manatees".
"Step Up And Make King's Dream A Reality, Speakers Urge". See also "Crist hails the lessons MLK taught".
"It's not the 800-pound property-insurance gorilla that state lawmakers in Tallahassee this week are working to tame. But Florida's motorcycle-insurance problem is a monkey lawmakers also need to get off citizens' backs. After all, they helped put it there." "A gaping hole".
"Traffic inflicts Record Toll on ... Panthers"
"Traffic inflicts record toll on the state's endangered panthers".
Tom Blackburn yesterday:
Paying ousted chief executive Bob Nardelli $210 million to just go away probably means that Home Depot won't be able to hire a few hundred people who would know what you need for your do-it-yourself home repairs, but the Finance Committee won't hold baleful hearings over that. There are hearings about the alleged effects on the economy when the poor get a raise, not when the rich get a windfall."Risk of raising wage is minimal".
To an employer, people who will work for $6.55 all look pretty much alike. If the government doesn't negotiate for them, they have no leverage at all in the marketplace.
That is why civilized countries started setting minimum wages in the first place. Keeping such countries civilized is, however, another matter, mostly political. Congress and the president have allowed the minimum wage to drift down to 31 percent of the average hourly wage in the private sector, the lowest it has been since 1949. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities computed that the minimum has been as high as 52 percent of the average, and it rose from 36 percent to 39 percent during that Clinton-era boom when it didn't cause the unemployment the business lobbyists are still assuring us will come if the wage rises.
I Guess It Wasn't About the "Ideas"
"Criticized for paying too much in salaries, House Speaker Marco Rubio tightened his belt Monday, and one of his highest-paid staffers abruptly resigned. Rubio demoted and cut the salary of his communications director, Jose Fuentes, by nearly $40,000 and hired a veteran replacement at less pay." "House Speaker Rubio cuts back".
"Snowbirds are Shortening T heir Stays"
"Florida's mild climate and world-class beaches continue to draw Northern retirees seeking temporary refuge from harsh winter weather, but tourism experts say many of these snowbirds are shortening their stays." "Northern retirees opting for shorter winter stays".
"Hard lessons for our teachers".
"Shortage of Male Teachers"
"Shortage of male teachers takes toll".
From Yesterday's St. Pete Times: "You're Ginny Brown-Waite, and you are in uncharted, and uncomfortable, waters." "Ginny, you know the way the wind blows".
Steve Otto: "They'll Predict How Broke We Will Be".
No Sink in 2010?
"Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is a bright new star for Florida's Democrats, but she has already told Gov. Charlie Crist that she doesn't plan to run against him in four years. A day after her election, Sink told Crist that she expects him to be a 'popular incumbent governor' in 2010." "Sink tells Charlie she won't run against him".
Power Broker Keeps His Powder Dry
"For now, Gov. Charlie Crist is neutral in the Republican primary for president, even though he acknowledged in an interview recently that he’s being courted by the top contenders—Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney. But Crist is sure to feel pressure to take sides, and he may not be neutral for long." "Crist Says He’ll “Probably” Take Sides In Primary, But Not Yet".Making Miami A National Issue?
Tancredo is not joking: "Miami's favorite critic, Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, spent the weekend in Iowa on what the Rocky Mountain News called a 'gut check' to see if he will run for president." "Tancredo for President?"