DFS Investigating State Farm Agents

May 6, 2008

Florida Today--May 6, 2008


Updates from past "exclusives:"

# Insurance. The state Department of Financial Services is investigating efforts by State Farm agents to pressure former policyholders — those dropped by State Farm — into buying from state-run Citizens Property Insurance Co. Consumers who had found insurance with new private companies received scary letters from State Farm agents warning that those outfits have terrible ratings. As it happens, State Farm agents earn commissions from Citizens and can sell no other brand.

# Tech jobs. The number of jobs that would have been created by the proposed Florida Energy Combustion Center in northern Brevard County kept shifting — in the wrong direction — the more Watchdog reporter Jeff Schweers asked questions and scrutinized records. Remember, this was the group led by Florida Tech and Seimens Corp. that was poised to receive $2 million in land from county taxpayers and lobbied for another $50 million from the state.

Officials pitching the project initially estimated it would create 3,000 jobs in Brevard. By last week, they conceded to Schweers it was closer to 30. Who was it that said we should keep our noses out of economic-development deals? The project’s future is unclear.

# Cruise business. NASA headquarters reviewed our report on government-owned buses from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex picking up cruise ship passengers for shore excursions alongside private coaches. It looked like government was competing with local business. The space agency determined the trips are legal and covered by its contract with operator Delaware North Companies.

A spokesman acknowledged a possible "perception" problem. But change does not appear likely.

Bummer, Mitch


Overbearing zero-tolerance policies will remain in Florida schools, children younger than 10 can still be locked up, and the system can still discriminate against minority offenders. On Sunday, I gave Rep. Mitch Needelman much-deserved credit for his years-long efforts to reform the state’s overwhelmed juvenile justice system. Needelman’s bill passed the House, 113-0, and the Senate, 32-4 — an apparent victory. But it later was amended, ping-ponged between the chambers and died late Friday as time ran out on the session.

Calling all Brevard lawmakers: This one should be reintroduced immediately next year.