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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Crist defers to Bush on insurance



If you want to see Charlie Crist take the lead on Florida’s insurance crisis, you’ll have to wait 51 days.

In his first appearance after defeating Jim Davis to become governor-elect, Crist told reporters and supporters Wednesday he will defer to Gov. Jeb Bush on policy matters until the Jan. 2 inauguration — including on Bush’s plan to have lawmakers return next month to address Florida’s crumbling insurance market.

“I would like the issue resolved as quickly as possible. If that is what is decided (to have a special session), I would encourage it,” said Crist, who called the insurance crisis “Mission One” for his administration. “It is important to honor Gov. Bush.”

Crist’s comments came as he announced a 10-person transition team, led by former U.S. Attorney Roberto Martinez of Miami, to build his management team.

The daunting task will encompass everything from deciding who will run the state’s prisons to what budget proposals he will offer to the Legislature for 2007-08.

In continuing to defer to Bush, Crist signaled he won’t push, until he is in office, for any of the insurance changes he has said he would seek as governor, including requiring auto insurers who write property insurance in other states to write it here.

Bush wants to call a special session the first week of December if he and legislative leaders can agree on less dramatic changes to consider, such as making it easier for insurance companies to buy backup insurance from the state or providing state grants for low-income homeowners.

To political watchers, Crist’s deference wasn’t a surprise. The attorney general, despite already being one of four statewide officials who oversee insurance regulation, has never taken a lead on insurance reform even as property insurance rates have shot upward.

In fact, he was largely quiet last spring when lawmakers considered significant changes to the state’s insurance code.

-- JONI JAMES, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:39am]


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