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State flood bill passes House committee unanimously

The Florida House advanced a bill Wednesday to deal with the state's flood insurance crisis by encouraging more private insurers to write policies. HB 879 won by unanimous vote at its first stop, the House Banking & Insurance Subcommittee.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, represents part of Pinellas County, which has more federally subsidized flood insurance policies than any other Florida county.

"The goal is to provide Florida homeowners more private-sector choices for flood insurance," Hooper said. "If we do something, we can do no harm."

Hooper's proposal contains an expanded definition of what a flood is, to cover "mudflow" and "unusual or rapid accumulation of runoff." His bill also requires insurers to cover the full repayment costs of household goods damaged by flooding and payment of living expenses for homeowners forced to move out of their homes while repairs are made.

The only lawmaker who criticized the bill was Rep. Kevin Rader, a Boca Raton Democrat, who likened it to "Swiss cheese … full of holes." But Rader, an insurance agent, joined in a bipartisan unanimous vote.

Bill creates agency

Florida is spending about $733 million on technology this year out of a $74 billion budget.

No one person or agency accounts for this specialized and technical spending. Instead, it's spread across numerous state agencies, departments and divisions. When problems occur, as they did with Florida's $63 million unemployment website CONNECT, there's no one at the state who accepts responsibility.

For Sen. Jeremy Ring, who launched the east coast operations of Yahoo from his New York City apartment in 1995, this is no way to conduct business.

"We're a $75 billion business without a chief information officer," the Broward Democrat said.

Ring's bill, SB 928, would create an agency that would oversee all state agency projects over $10 million.

For agencies under the Cabinet, the new agency would have oversight of projects of more than $25 million. It would consolidate data centers into one, while creating a CEO position that is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. It asks for $5 million this year with $2.9 million every year after.

On Wednesday, Ring's bill passed the Senate appropriations committee on general government in a 13-0 vote.

Bill postponed

A vote on a controversial proposal that would outlaw abortions in Florida any time a doctor determined a fetus was viable was postponed indefinitely Wednesday. Sen. Aaron Bean, the Fernandina Beach Republican who chairs the Senate's Health Policy Committee, said consideration of Senate Bill 918 was delayed at the request of the sponsor, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. Flores could not be reached for comment after the meeting. A "temporary postponement" means the bill could be brought back to the committee any time — or never again.

Michael Van Sickler and Tia Mitchell contributed.

State flood bill passes House committee unanimously 03/05/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 10:35pm]
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