Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Fix hurricane mitigation system

But for a small business entrepreneur in South Florida willing to take on big government, the public might never have known that the state has failed to ensure that homeowners who strengthen their garage doors against hurricanes receive the insurance discounts they are entitled to under law. A recent administrative court ruling in Jack Stumpff's lawsuit against the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has exposed a basic flaw in how the state implemented hurricane mitigation laws more than a decade ago, and it could impact the premiums paid by thousands of homeowners.

While insurance regulators have acknowledged a need to fix the problem, they have appealed the administrative judge's ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal. The only thing more galling than a decade of missed discounts is if the state drags its heels on doing right by homeowners.

This much is known about how hurricanes damage homes: Windows are more likely to be damaged by the impact of wind-blown debris, while doors are more likely to fail due to wind pressure. The large surface area of garage doors, especially on homes with attached garages, is a particular vulnerability when it comes to hurricanes. Once the garage door is breached, it is far more likely a house's roof will also be compromised.

Yet for 10 years, and in contradiction of state law that recognizes the need to mitigate against both debris impact and wind strength threats, insurance regulators all but ignored the wind strength threat on doors and only allowed insurance discounts for mitigation against wind-blown debris, such as hurricane shutters. The oversight stemmed from the faulty report a state consultant produced in 2002 that was incorporated into the state forms that insurance companies are required to use to assign discounts for mitigation efforts.

Exactly how much money this oversight cost homeowners is far from clear, as the system for assigning discounts for individual mitigation steps — such as adding shutters or strapping down a roof — is based on how much overall mitigation has been done.

But it is no wonder that Stumpff, who devised an inexpensive, do-it-yourself kit that enables owners of older garage doors to strengthen their home against winds, objected to the form. Stumpff knew he was losing business when homeowners learned they could receive no additional insurance discount for using his product. But when he first petitioned insurance regulators to change the state's discount forms, they said he didn't have standing.

Regulators' concern should have been fixing a mitigation discount system that doesn't comply with state law and discourages property owners from making investments to mitigate hurricane damage that are in the entire state's interest. Stumpff has done the entire state a favor; now Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty's office needs to do its job.

Comments
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18