BROOKSVILLE — The wish lists delivered to the Hernando County legislative delegation Monday ranged from a fix for Florida's sinkhole issues to adequate funding for education and social services.
State Sens. Mike Fasano and Paula Dockery and Reps. Robert Schenck and Jimmie T. Smith spent two hours listening to constituents' ideas for new laws.
For Hernando County Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek, the growing number of sinkhole claims is the biggest problem that needs to be addressed. This year, he has seen 1,232 claims so far, compared to 877 last year.
Fasano asked when the numbers began to climb, and Mazourek said in May. That was just after the Legislature passed a bill that was supposed to decrease the number of claims. Fasano said people apparently were worried if they didn't file claims immediately, they wouldn't be able to do so.
Mazourek said that because the assessed value of property drops 50 percent once a claim is made, sinkholes have cost the county $283 million in property value over the past several years.
Last year, just 57 percent of the people who made a claim actually used their insurance money to fix sinkholes, Mazourek said. Others spent the money on home improvements, including swimming pools and extra rooms, improvements that would also be assessed at 50 percent.
"This is a tremendous revenue shortage for Hernando County,'' Mazourek said.
Fasano said he wanted to require insurance companies to fix sinkholes rather than write checks to homeowners, but that idea didn't fly last year in the Legislature.
Pasco-Hernando Community College president Kathy Johnson urged sufficient state funding for capital expenses, allowing community colleges to keep up with enrollment increases.
Kristen Longmore of Elder Options and Audrey Murphy of American Eldercare Inc. urged the lawmakers to take advantage of federal funding designed to keep the elderly in home settings rather than nursing homes, dollars the legislative leadership turned down last year.
Also, more dollars for mental health services would save in the long run on incarceration costs, said David Welch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The delegation also voted unanimously to reverse its creation of an independent fire district for Spring Hill.