Friday, June 22, 2018
Editorials

No drastic changes for Citizens

Florida has enjoyed a record seven years without a hurricane, but there is no good news on the horizon. Homeowners are facing ever-increasing insurance premiums, Citizens Property Insurance is still trying to shed policies and too many legislators are more interested in helping the industry than protecting consumers. Instead of jeopardizing the economic recovery with more drastic changes that could dramatically raise premiums, the Legislature should limit its interference and keep Citizens on its steady glide path to firmer financial footing.

The state-run Citizens has received more than its share of legitimate criticism for fat expense accounts, luxury hotel rooms and salary raises for executives. There have been critical audits, reports of unprofessional behavior and misguided efforts to make the insurer as unattractive to consumers as possible. Pile on top of that significant cuts in coverage even as premiums continue to rise, skyrocketing costs for sinkhole coverage and thousands of reinspections that led to the loss of discounts for hurricane-proofing. But despite the sky-is-falling rhetoric from some lawmakers and private insurers, the view is not all gloomy.

Citizens has reduced its number of policies by some 200,000 over the last year and is down to 1.3 million policies, which still makes it the largest property insurer in Florida. It has a record amount of cash, more than $6 billion, and it can cover losses from a 1-in-58-year hurricane without any assessments. It can cover losses from a 1-in-72-year hurricane with assessments only on Citizens policyholders. Yet some legislators warn of catastrophe because covering claims for a 1-in-100-year storm would require 30 years of additional assessments on all sorts of policyholders. The idea that Citizens should quickly raise premiums high enough so the insurer can cover claims from a once-a-century hurricane without any assessments after the storm is unrealistic and would force thousands of homeowners to sell because they couldn't afford the insurance.

Yet private insurers and their allies continue to pressure legislators to raise Citizens rates and force their customers into more expensive coverage with untested private companies. Associated Industries of Florida is particularly devious, distributing maps showing which legislative districts have fewer than one-third of their housing units insured by Citizens with the headline: "Hurricane Taxes: Do you pay more than your fair share?" This is a scare tactic designed to pit inland lawmakers against those from Tampa Bay and Southeast Florida by fanning fears about post-hurricane assessments if Citizens needs more money to pay claims. Inland lawmakers should be wary of complaining about sharing the pain after a major hurricane. Their districts share the benefits now of tax revenue from a tourism economy and economic growth in coastal counties.

There are some good ideas in Tallahassee, including creating a clearinghouse to compare insurance rates for homeowners before they sign up with Citizens. The state's hurricane catastrophe fund, which provides reinsurance to Citizens and private insurers, could be reduced a bit as the private market is flush with capital. But lawmakers should keep the 10 percent cap on premium increases for Citizens policies and avoid schemes to force Citizens policyholders into start-up private insurers with no track records.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Updated: 16 minutes ago

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18