Crist vetoes insurers bill | June 25, story
Insurance disaster is brewing
When I read in the paper that Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the bill that would have lessened the exposure of taxpayers to a catastrophic storm, I could not help but feel that our state took a serious step in the wrong direction.
Because of the artificially low rates Citizens Property Insurance is mandated to offer, the state has taken on an enormous amount of risk. The decision by the governor to veto a bill that would have lessened the state's exposure and brought more private insurers back into the state was a serious error in judgment.
I understand that the last thing a politician wants to do is have insurance rates rise under his watch while he is running for the Senate, but the state has no choice. The problem is that when a large hurricane slams into a major metro area and the insurance bill comes due, it will leave us, the taxpayers, picking up the tab. As we saw in our last legislative session, the state is broke and should a major storm hit Tampa Bay, our state could go into default.
The Wall Street Journal, not known as being a bastion of liberalism, called the governor's expanded use of Citizens an "unnatural disaster that will blow away taxpayers when the next big hurricane hits." The goal of the state should be to lessen the state's exposure, not increase it.
By vetoing the bill, the governor has basically said that State Farm, which has been our state's largest insurer, can hit the road. The fact that State Farm will not be writing any policies in Florida should be a wake-up call to all Floridians. Citizens is meant to be the insurer of last resort, not the insurer of only resort.
Sean Jacobus, St. Pete Beach
A legacy of courage that needs to live on June 24, Sue Carlton column
In passing judgment, avoid questionable standards
Sue Carlton laments that Hillsborough County's "Moral Courage Award" — an award given to "someone who stands up to government to make this a better place to live" — is named after Ralph Hughes. She believes that "a millionaire who opposed taxes and regulation and gave out campaign money" does not deserve such praise.
Taxes and regulation, however, often have negative economic outcomes; both are also exclusive government functions. Therefore, opposing taxes and regulation meets the award's requirements of fighting government to improve living conditions, at least economically.
As far as his campaign contributions are concerned, there is nothing illicit about donating to like-minded candidates who support one's interests. Such giving is practiced across the country, involving not only individuals like Hughes but also institutions like labor unions, financial firms and other special interests.
Lastly, Hughes' wealth is irrelevant to the standards of the Moral Courage Award. Commenting on the Jordan Valdez controversy earlier this year, Carlton declared that justice should ignore socioeconomic status and be administered blindly. Yet now she faults a man for merely being a "millionaire," implying that money made him incapable of making the world a better place. This is class warfare, not blind justice.
Hughes did evade taxes, and so a renaming of the Moral Courage Award is probably in order. His economics, political giving, and wealth, however, were nothing for him to be ashamed of.
James Roesch, Oldsmar
Closure caps off century of cigars June 24, story
Taxed out of existence
Thanks to Rep. Kathy Castor, who did the bidding of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Hav-A-Tampa cigar factory (a Tampa treasure) was taxed out of existence.
I can't fathom the lack of foresight here. An increase from a nickel to 40 cents per cigar shouldn't have any impact, right? It all sounded great when we heard the revenue generated would fund S-CHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program).
What is Castor going to do now that we've taxed part of the revenue source out of existence? Who will be taxed to pay for her spending plans?
How about those families that depended on Hav-A-Tampa to provide income and health care for their children? I guess they'll have to rely on S-CHIP too.
Jason McIntyre, Tampa
"She was a public servant" | June 24, story
Honor Busansky's work
It is hard to imagine a world without Phyllis Busansky. She was definitely a presence for good. Perhaps her greatest accomplishment is an ongoing repair of the damage done to the Hillsborough County supervisor of elections office. It would be tragic if her work were nullified.
Gov. Charlie Crist has the opportunity to appoint the most qualified person, regardless of party, to carry forward Phyllis' quest.
When faced with the same opportunity, former Gov. Jeb Bush did the crass political thing and appointed an incompetent political hack, Buddy Johnson, to the crucial position of supervisor of elections.
The greatest tribute that can be paid to Phyllis Busansky is the appointment of someone competent, with integrity, so that the restoration of the elections office can shine as her legacy.
Joseph F. Bohren, Ph.D., Odessa
The end of welfare as we know it | June 22, Robert Samuelson column
It's no handout
I often agree with Robert Samuelson's comments, but to describe Social Security as "welfare" is off base. It's well-documented that the return on one's Social Security tax payments is only about 1 or 2 percent — hardly a handout.
I did the math several years ago and wish that there was a "lockbox" with my name on it. If my contributions and my employer's matching payments earned the historical stock market average of 7 percent, I'd be able to draw a larger monthly check than I'm scheduled to receive from the government, and I'd still have a nest egg of more than $500,000 to leave to my family.
Samuelson also mentions the "need to protect the vulnerable and to begin paring others." That is truly frightening, as yet another unelected "czar" will no doubt be deciding who's "wealthy" and doesn't "need" the money. If that happens, it could be 1776 all over again.
Peter Ford, Tierra Verde
Just too many lizards to monitor June 21, story
The story concerning the spread of the nasty Nile monitor lizards in Lee County got me to thinking. These creatures will eat anything. They can run at 18 miles per hour, according to the article. The Nile monitor has a keen sense of smell, and can thus avoid human beings. It can also remain under water for an hour on one breath. Ah, their Achilles' heel.
Recently the state Legislature banned the capture of freshwater turtles in the state. Right on! That law put an entire group of clever, canny, hard- working people out of business. I believe that those same turtle trappers could readily adapt their turtle capturing skills to exterminate the Nile monitor lizards, which are bound to spread to other parts of Florida if not stopped soon.
If the Legislature set a bounty on the Nile monitor lizard, I believe the turtle fishing industry would find a way to cash in on the opportunity. I envision a trap, not unlike a crab trap but bigger, that would let the Nile monitor in but not out. With a trap, once the critter is in under water, one hour later, and you have a dead Nile monitor. That's just my idea. I suspect others could come up with more ingenious ways to meet the challenge.
Joe King, New Port Richey
No amateurs, please
In light of this being our fourth year of drought, the fact that this state still allows the sale and use of fireworks by nonprofessionals defies reason.
At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I would much rather see this practice banned than see accidental man-caused fires burning acres of wild land or homes. All it takes is one small spark to ignite tragedy. And of course, nobody thinks it will happen to them. Leave the incendiaries to the pros.
Julie Pearce, Spring Hill