In the Eye of Florida’s Insurance Storm

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The Florida legislature convened a special session today to address the state’s property insurance crisis, in which homeowners, in the wake of recent hurricanes, have seen rates double in many areas and insurers pull out of some communities entirely. Stories in the Orlando Sentinel today and Sunday mapped out the confusing political landscape: In the recent elections, most insurance company money–$2.4 million—went to Republicans, who control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature; yet, perhaps forecasting a typhoon of voter rage, the new governor, Charlie Crist, has vowed to do something about the skyrocketing rates, and last week proclaimed : “Big insurance has a new day coming.” The forecast for that day is less certain. What’s likely is that the state will assume more of the risk of bailing out insurers or insure more homeowners itself—tamping down rates but leaving taxpayers holding the bill in the event of a killer storm.

Not on the plate this week, but sure to be on people’s minds, is of course global warming, which has been blamed, in a roundabout way, for the entire shebang. Until now, lawmakers in the second-lowest state in the union (Louisiana is first) haven’t really paid much notice to the whole global warming thing; the state legislature took a pass on curbing greenhouse gasses last year and the U.S. Congressional delegation voted in lockstep with the Bush crowd. The blasé attitudes might soon change, though. In November, Broward County Democratic Congressional candidate Ron Klein unseated the Republican incumbent, Clay Shaw, after running ads targeting Shaw’s reactionary global warming stance. And the Sierra Club’s Florida lobbyist, Susie Caplowe, tells me that Governor Crist has ousted a number of former Governor Jeb Bush’s environmental appointees and replaced them with people who she likes much better. Crist hasn’t yet stated a position on global warming, but if he wanted to represent his state’s best interests (and perhaps his own), getting to the moral high ground on the issue would be a good place to start.

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