One week to go and still much to do

Apr 28, 2008

Miami Herald--April 28, 2008


Insurance and property tax problems aren’t in the Legislative limelight like in past years, and other business issues are having a tough time getting Tallahassee’s attention at all.

Still, some important work has been done, and in Legislature time this week — the session’s last — will be a whirlwind. Here’s an executive summary of where the Legislature stands on key businesses issues, according to Monica Hatcher and Beatrice Garcia, who are covering the session for us.

• Insurance: The Senate passed a far-reaching bill that isn’t likely to find many friends in the House or the insurance industry. Among some of its controversial provisions are broader and harsher fines that regulators could impose on carriers that don’t meet the state’s insurance code. Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run insurer, will see rates frozen through July 15. After that, 10-percent yearly increases on average would be on tap for the next three years.

Negotiations to find a common ground aren’t likely to produce a compromise until the final hours of the session. See what Citizens’ board chairman Bruce Douglas has to say about the bill on Page 6.

• Energy: On Friday, the House was wrestling with a massive energy bill containing pages and pages of provisions to promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable fuels in Florida. The proposal also awaits a final vote

in the Senate next week. As one of Gov. Charlie Crist’s top priorities for the year, it is expected to pass.

• Housing: A bill increasing criminal penalties for perpetrators of mortgage fraud, a huge problem in South Florida, will likely win final approval in the Senate and be sent to Crist for signing.

• Economic development: A proposal described as economic ”rocket fuel,” allowing the state to invest nearly $2 billion of state retirement money in high-tech, high-growth companies based in Florida, passed the Senate and awaits action in the House, with other economic development incentives.