Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Opinion

Stop press: Politician supports consumers

How unthinkable was this? Pigs were flying! Cows were jumping over the moon! The sun rose in the west! The Koch brothers voted for a Democrat!

But there it was for all the world to see. A Republican, most notably incoming Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, had actually — for the moment, at least — stood up to protect consumers from the onerous clutches of a government-run insurance company run amok in its own hubris.

Wait a minute! Was that a snowball fight breaking out in hell?

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who will soon assume the reins of the speakership, dashed off a letter to Carlos Lacasa, the head of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., suggesting not too subtly that it might be a really good idea to halt a loopy idea to divert $350 million to a bunch of tree shade insurance companies.

In an attempt to reduce its customer base — and thus its own risk exposure — Citizens wants to foist off some of its policyholders to private insurers that have been in the business for about 20 minutes, with precious little experience in dealing with hurricane damage claims. Many of these firms have insurance industry ratings somewhere between "Are you kidding?" and "We're all doomed!"

It's entirely possible Florida homeowners could find their coverage being serviced by Bubba's Property Insurance and Tattoo Parlor. How comforting.

And that prompted Weatherford's missive to Lacasa calling for a halt to the suspect Citizens loan program until the Legislature has an opportunity to review the initiative.

The speaker-in-waiting also expressed concern about Citizens' attempt to shove the dubious coverage down the throats of consumers without giving the public an opportunity to provide comment on the plan. One might well imagine what the public's opinion might be, and thus there is no reason to print it in a family newspaper.

Did we just pass the 12th of Never on the calendar?

Weatherford's decision to raise his voice about Citizens marks his first substantive assertion his authority as the incoming newbie speaker. It never hurts to side with the interests Florida property owners.

Unlike in other speaker successions, departing Speaker Dean Cannon kept Weatherford on a short leash during the last legislative session, affording him little opportunity to establish a leadership style. Now we have learned Weatherford might actually have an interest in governing and representing Floridians rather than dictating and acting for special interests like Cannon did. Who knew?

But he better be careful. If the speaker is perceived to be too consumer-friendly he runs the risk of being accused by the pitchfork wing of his party as being a Kenya-born, Marxist/socialist tool of the Trilateral Commission.

After all, standing up for consumers is all well and good, unless Weatherford decides to start making noises about the wisdom of gouging energy customers for bazillion-dollar nuclear power plants operated by bumbling Katzenjammer Kids. There are limits to this doing the right thing stuff.

The effort by Citizens to hand over thousands of paying customers as if they were two-bit gin joint floozies being passed around to Spike's Insurance and Massage Parlor, is a perfect issue for Weatherford to establish some leadership markers.

If inviting private insurers to take the policies of Citizens customers was such a spiffy idea, one would think the offer would have been eagerly embraced by the likes of State Farm, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide and other major players in the industry.

Instead, the best Citizens will come up with is Larry's House of Property Insurance and Tongue Piercing. Look at what already is happening.

The companies taking Citizens' policies wasted precious little time contacting customers with a form letter that informed them of the switcheroo, noting they needed to do absolutely nothing at all to become a patron of Skippy's Insurance and Brazilian Body Waxing.

Or put another way, to avoid finding oneself covered by Mongo's Homeowner Insurance and Empanada Parlor, customers would be required to pro-actively opt out of being dragooned away from Citizens.

Given all the spam showing up in our mailboxes this election season, what do you suppose the odds are countless people have received one of these letters from Durwood's Home Owner Insurance and Pool Cleaning and tossed it out unopened along with the rest of the postal litter?

What would you call this? Bait and enrich?

Ergo enter Weatherford, who could be a powerful consumer advocate. Who knew?

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