Capitol to Courthouse Headliners: Wednesday, August 20

Aug 20, 2008

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‘It’s not over yet’

Gov. Charlie Crist today urged Floridians to continue tracking Tropical Storm Fay as the massive, poorly organized system churned slowly up the eastern coast of the state. ‘Do not travel until local officials tell you that it’s safe,’ Crist said.

Most insurance on hold as Fay keeps moving

Florida property owners who have claims resulting from Tropical Storm Fay may be writing smaller checks for the deductible portion of their bill than they would if the storm had developed into a hurricane on this coast.

Damage appears to be minor around Southwest Florida

Official assessments are just beginning in areas where the worst of Tropical Storm Fay has passed, but little significant damage has been reported. “We aren’t getting reports of significant damage and we certainly hope that we don’t,” said Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council.

Tropical Storm Fay prevents writing of property insurance policies

With Tropical Storm Fay hitting Florida, property insurers have stopped writing policies in Broward and Palm Beach counties, a decision that will postpone home sales for at least a few days. Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s largest property insurer, quit taking new policies or allowing changes to existing ones at 5 a.m. Sunday when forecasters put Florida in Fay’s path. State Farm and Allstate, two other large insurers, also have temporarily suspended new business here.

‘Sloppy’ storm leaves area officials guessing

After hearing of the many paths that Tropical Storm Fay could take over the next few days, David Donnelly offered an apt description of the storm during an emergency briefing with National Weather Service forecasters Tuesday.

Educated Guesswork

Figuring out Fay, or any tropical system, takes mounds of data, several computers — and some luck

During the past few days, the nation’s hurricane authority predicted Tropical Storm Fay would bisect the state or skirt the Gulf Coast.

Was Fay merely a ‘warm-up’

Today, veteran hurricane forecaster Bill Gray will ring a bell at his daily forecasting meeting as he always does on Aug. 20 to mark the start of the serious season.

If shutters are your business, Fay’s menace had its upside

While most places were closed, Steve Mosko was in his Sarasota shop early Tuesday cutting hurricane shutters for a customer.

Review your insurance policy before the storm

Most homeowners wait until a hurricane is bearing down on them before they start wondering what kinds of damage are covered by their insurance policies.

EDITORIAL: Tropical Storm McCain has returned to Florida

John McCain used the arrival of Tropical Storm Fay to demonstrate that he still doesn’t support or even understand one of the most important campaign issues for Florida.

EDITORIAL: McCarty Shows Allstate All Wet On Rates

By asking the simple question “why” and refusing to back down until he got a reasonable answer, Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has saved customers of Allstate millions of dollars.

Score One for Consumers, Editorial Says

Here’s the take-away message from the stunning settlement struck between Allstate Corp. and Florida insurance regulators: Getting tough works. It is why Allstate, the state’s fourth-largest property insurer, went from claiming it needed a 42 percent rate hike in homeowners insurance to agreeing to a 5.6 percent premium reduction.

EDITORIAL: Heads, I win; tails, you lose

Owners Who Improved Homes Deserve an Insurance Break

One might be tempted to dismiss State Farm Insurance Co.’s latest rate-hike request as a not-so-funny joke, except that the request is serious and not at all funny. If granted, the average yearly premium on a $300,000 home built before 2001 in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties would be, respectively: $23,414; $21,514; and $42,919. Yikes!

WellCare to send $35.2 M to U.S. Attorney

Wall Street analysts predicted the share price of WellCare Health Plans Inc. would move up Tuesday in the wake of its announcement Monday night that it will turn over $35.2 million immediately to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Comp Insurers Urged To Combat Medical Costs

Workers’ compensation insurers must be more proactive combating rising medical costs, a disability management executive said at the Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference, run by the Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute.

Blount Island crane accident blamed on Aug. 13 storm

An engineer hired by the Jacksonville Port Authority to sift through the wreckage after a 950-ton crane skidded 700 feet and smashed into other cranes at Blount Island Marine Terminal Aug. 13 said a sudden storm moved the crane despite the fact most of its brakes were engaged.

Jeff Hubbell of Tacoma, Wash.-based Casper, Phillips & Associates said the container crane that smashed into the others was equipped with 12 brakes – eight locked the crane’s wheels and four were “storm brakes” that gripped the two rails the crane rides on.

Florida Insurance Salesman’s Shoe Found in Stomach of Slain Bear

Tennessee authorities cut open a slain bear and found a Florida man’s shoe lost while fighting off a bear that attacked his 8-year-old son in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

November ballot questions in limbo

The Florida Supreme Court will judge the legality of three proposed constitutional amendments early next month as county elections supervisors anxiously wait to see which ones will survive to Election Day.

Hearing Sept. 8 on tax-swap amendment

The Florida Supreme Court is getting a challenge to a ballot proposal that would trade a property tax cut for increases in other taxes.

Crist To Throw Reserves At $1.5 Billion Budget Hole

Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday that he plans to take at least $600 million from state reserves to plug part of the $1.5 billion budget hole expected this year. But he’s not interested, he said, in bringing lawmakers back to the capital for a special session to prioritize cuts to state spending.

Political newcomers vie to topple GOP’s entrenched John Mica

Two first-time candidates are vying in the Democratic primary Tuesday for a shot at unseating 24-year incumbent John Mica, R-Winter Park. Faye Armitage, 50, of St. Johns County is an economics professor-turned-grass-roots activist. Clyde Malloy, 48, is a retired law-enforcement officer living in Ormond Beach, where he and his wife rehabilitate houses.

U.S. House race for District 24 is a run for the money

For six years, U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, has easily held on to the congressional district he helped draw while he was a state legislator. This year, though, he faces Democrat Suzanne Kosmas, who can match him in fundraising and has name recognition from her time as a state representative. Democrats nationally are hoping she’ll take the seat.

Tom Feeney stumps for his opponent in race

Democrat Clint Curtis has a friend again this year in Republican congressman Tom Feeney.

Buchanan, Jennings face complaints on finances

The two major candidates in this year’s 13th Congressional District race are facing federal campaign-finance complaints.

COLUMN: Democratic leader lends his support to longtime friend

Politics — as usual. Florida house Democratic leader Dan Gelber rarely endorses candidates in partisan primaries. However, he recently wrote a $100 check to the campaign of Richard Steinberg, 35, a Miami Beach commissioner who is running for Gelber’s seat. Gelber knows Steinberg’s opponent, Joe Geller, mayor of North Bay Village. Gelber, 47, and Geller, 54, ran against each other for the legislative seat in 2000. Gelber won — handily.

District 56 Democratic Candidate May Get Boot

Florida Democrats may seek to remove the Democratic candidate who filed for the state House seat being vacated by Trey Traviesa, so they can replace him with a stronger candidate.

Brown-Waite’s husband loses six-month cancer battle

Harvey F. Waite, a former New York state trooper and the husband of U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, died at his home Tuesday (Aug. 19, 2008) after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 68.

Grayson, Stuart spend big on TV ads in U.S. House race

With less than a week before the primary election, two Democrats vying for Congress are flooding the airwaves to reach Central Florida voters.

Costly Voting Machines Sit Unused

States ponder what to do with failed ATM-like touch-screen devices.

The demise of touch-screen voting has produced a graveyard of expensive corpses: Warehouses stacked with thousands of carefully wrapped voting machines that have been shelved because of doubts about vanishing votes and vulnerability to hackers.

Renewable-energy plan for Florida on agenda

Environmentalists, utilities and producers of green power will discuss on Wednesday a proposal to plan renewable energy standards through 2050.

In a major step to determine Florida’s energy supply over the next 42 years, the staff of the Public Service Commission is recommending an extremely slow buildup in the use of renewable energy.

Newsweek: Saving the Everglades

The engine that spurred restoration of a dying eco-treasure

On a sweltering day in June, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist convened a press conference at the edge of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge near Palm Beach to make a blockbuster announcement. The state, he declared, had agreed to buy the U.S. Sugar Corp. for $1.75 billion in a bold effort to accelerate restoration of the Everglades.

Allstate Picks CFO From OfficeMax

Allstate said today it has selected Don Civgin, 47, the chief financial officer at OfficeMax, to serve in that position at the insurer.

Liberty Mutual Sues New York over Workers’ Comp Law Changes

Boston-based insurer Liberty Mutual Holding Co. has filed a federal lawsuit challenging several recent amendments to New York State’s workers’ compensation law as unconstitutional.

States Urge U.S. High Court to Protect Pharmaceutical Consumers

Vermont and 46 other states have filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that states should have the power to protect consumers when drug manufacturers fail to warn patients about known health risks.

PCI To Receive N.C. FAIR Plan Information

The board of North Carolina’s insurer of last resort has agreed to provide data an insurance trade group has requested concerning the plan’s financial stability.

Public RMs Fault FEMA Reimbursement Scheme

Public risk managers are taking issue with two points made in the U.S. government’s reissued Disaster Assistance Fact Sheet, saying these points could cause “severe financial challenges” for public entities.

Bell To Lobby Regulators For Swiss Re

Alabama Insurance Commissioner Walter Bell, who leaves his regulatory post at the end of the month, is taking a job directing regulatory affairs and lobbying regulators for Swiss Re as chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corp., the company said.

Hole-In-One Insurance Is A Bad Lie, Says Commissioner

Golf tournament operators have been left in the hole by an insurance outfit that promised to insure them against the cost of paying awards for a hole-in-one, the Washington State Insurance Department said.

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