Bills target staged crashes | March 17
Fix Florida's broken no-fault insurance
It is crucial this year to fix Florida's broken no-fault automobile insurance system.
Floridians are fed up with the out-of-control fraud and the hundreds of millions of dollars of additional premiums they are paying to support the unscrupulous PIP attorneys, storefront clinics, chiropractors, imaging centers and 1-800 numbers promising "big money."
Certainly, staged auto accidents are a big problem, but the fraud runs much deeper with organized rings of health care providers, runners and attorneys. Up until now, these bad actors have enjoyed unfettered access to the wallets of Florida drivers — in the form of skyrocketing auto insurance premiums that have resulted in the demise of several insurers.
What is not talked about is that the vast majority of PIP injury claims involve low-impact accidents with no apparent injuries at the scene. These often result in providers making claims for soft tissue injuries, weeks after the accident. The claims almost always have the individual's $10,000 in PIP benefits 100 percent expended. If an insurance company cries foul and refuses to pay what it considers fraudulent claims, as many as three to four separate lawsuits (per individual) from each medical provider ensue, frequently resulting in more than $100,000 in attorneys' fees for a single accident.
The Florida Property & Casualty Association supports the idea to implement a state arbitration program for dispute resolution, which would literally take thousands of questionable cases out of the overwhelmed court system and remove the incentives for committing fraud.
Charles J. Grimsley, chairman and president, Florida Property & Casualty Association, North Miami Beach
Teacher pay and performance
Make the reforms fair
Teacher pay for performance is fair only if the following occurs:
1. Teachers should be allowed to teach in the manner they think is most correct for their students. Oftentimes they are forced to execute orders from top administrators and the district. It seems that many good teachers can't teach in a way that would improve student performance because they are constrained by those outside the classroom.
2. All supervisory personnel should return to the classroom every five years for an in-class placement. This ensures that they understand the current needs of students and teachers.
3. Students should not be able to retake a class for free if they fail. The first class should be free; the second time, there should be a fee. This would not only increase student accountability, it would save taxpayers money.
4. Parents who don't enforce school attendance of their children should be held accountable. This might mean that they are charged with an offense if the student has excessive absences. Parents need to sign a contract agreeing to help, not hinder, the job of the teacher.
5. Create incentives to keep good teachers at low-performing schools instead of driving them away from the schools that need the most help.
Samantha Ring, Gulfport
Innovations are worse
How ironic it is that the supposed glory days of American education — the 1950s and 1960s, when everybody loved schools and respected teachers — featured none of the items being foisted off as "reforms" in this conservative wave of attack.
Students received grades from teachers — not machine-scored tests. Teachers used their own curricula — not test-prep strategies manufactured at districts' central offices. Tenure was granted to protect teachers from witch hunts and loyalty oaths and to prevent their being fired solely to be replaced by rawer, cheaper, uncertified recruits.
And now, hot on the heels of articles citing Florida's teacher salaries as among the lowest in nation, the state takes yet another "reform strategy" to denigrate teachers and move them closer to working as teaching machines, not professionals. What young person with any other option will conceivably want to teach in Florida?
Stephen Phillips, St. Petersburg
Coal mine explosions, an oil rig blowout, Japan's nuclear power plant disaster — the problem is obvious. We rely on energy sources that pose enormous risks to our very lives.
We already know what will fix the problem permanently. Solar, wind and geothermal energy will be available for a billion years or more. Critics put up three arguments on why it is impossible to change to these far better energy sources: It costs too much; we can't build the infrastructure fast enough; and we can't solve the technical problems that keep them from being as reliable as fossil fuels.
I imagine critics in 1941 used similar arguments. Just like now, in 1941 our country was coming out of an economic disaster and ill prepared for an enormous challenge. The costs of World War II were enormous. Entire industries had to be created and expanded while millions of workers needed to be trained in new jobs. Technical impossibilities in 1941 were overcome with ideas and prototypes in short order and then rolled out through the mass production lines soon after that. In four years, what seemed impossible was accomplished. We showed that if the willpower is there, we can make enormous changes quickly.
Our current policy of energy appeasement is not working. We need a bold change of direction that will solve the energy problem not just for us, but for generations to come. It is time for our government, private industry, scientific community and American citizens to come together and commit to solving our energy problem once and for all.
Lee Kasner, Tampa
Sheriffs worry we'll be gunslinger state March 17
Friends of law enforcement
Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats and the other sheriffs should realize that no such "gunslinger" scenario is going to happen. Experience has shown that Floridians who hold concealed weapons permits are among the most responsible and law-abiding citizens. Permit holders are the best civilian friends law enforcement officers have.
The purpose of this law is to remove the possibility that an accidental exposure of a concealed weapon is no longer a crime. I have had my permit for 15 years.
Charles W. Parrott III, Largo