Monday, February 19, 2018
Opinion

Insurance watchdog left out in the cold

Do you get the feeling whenever Mike Fasano walks into an ascot of Republicans milling about in Tallahassee he's greeted to a chorus of harrumphs rivaling Meat Loaf gate-crashing a Buckingham Palace tea and crumpet party?

Until he was term-limited out of the Florida Senate this year, Fasano was known for royally annoying the GOP powers-that-be. Now the New Port Richey Republican has returned to serve in the House, where he is already off to a good start of being a pain in the tuchus to the spats of leadership running the place.

This ought to be fun.

It should be said Fasano holds radical, revolutionary, heretical views for someone calling himself a Republican. He has been one of the leading consumer advocates in Tallahassee and was one of the few state senators who openly labeled former Sen. JD Alexander's ham-handed effort to create a completely unnecessary University of Narcissus in Lakeland as the taxpayer-funded conceit that it was.

Still, simply as a matter of good manners, you might think that after all of Fasano's many years of public service in Tallahassee he had earned a bit of consideration for his seniority when it came to honoring his request to be appointed to the House Banking and Insurance Committee.

But Fasano was passed over for the banking and insurance post by Speaker Will Weatherford, who was just 15 years old in 1994 when Fasano was first elected to the House. So much for respecting one's elders.

"I was a little disappointed," Fasano said. "But you always try to give your speaker the benefit of the doubt." And in this, there are more doubts than Hamlet roaming the moors of Leon County.

"I feel confident the insurance industry and the chairman (Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka) did not want me to be a member of the committee," Fasano added.

Now why would anyone think so unkindly of Fasano? After all, he has been a vocal critic of the insurance industry, roundly opposing efforts on the part of the industry to define what constitutes a sinkhole, railing against efforts by the state-run Citizens Property Insurance to limit sinkhole coverage, and standing up to efforts by insurance carriers to more easily raise rates.

This would never do. Once you start allowing elected do-gooders to serve on committees that are supposed to look out for the interests of consumers, the next thing you know consumers might start to get all uppity about their rights. Where does such anarchy end?

Fasano argued, rather persuasively, that since there are 76,407 Citizens policyholders in Pasco County, including 46,000 of them in his district alone, it might be a good idea to have someone who represents the epicenter of Florida's sinkhole damage serving on the banking and insurance committee.

How naive of Fasano. Weatherford in his wisdom thought the ideal way to arrange the membership of the banking and insurance committee was to make sure not a single House member from Pasco, or Hernando County (another sinkhole haven), or Miami-Dade (where there are only 283,000 Citizens policyholders) was appointed to serve on a committee charged with crafting banking and insurance policy.

And just to make sure banking and insurance would run like a fine Swiss watch, the speaker named Bryan Nelson, who is an insurance executive, to serve as chairman. Whew, for a moment there it might have seemed like naming an apparatchik of the insurance industry might have constituted a conflict of interest.

"There's a lot of members who didn't get every committee they wanted," the speaker said, adding the House will surely hang on every word of Fasano's expertise regarding insurance issues.

And besides, Weatherford was quick to note that he is from Pasco County, thereby ensuring the region's interests will not fall on deaf ears.

Ironically, Fasano's expertise with respect to property insurance has resulted in Floridians from around the state contacting him and his staff with questions about their homeowners coverage.

"We don't mind. But what we do mind is not having a seat at the table when (insurance) legislation is being considered," Fasano added.

"He's going to have a chance to have his voice heard," Weatherford promised.

That's good to know, because Mike Fasano is just getting warmed up.

 
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