Insurer to end discounts | Aug. 7, story
Florida shouldn't drive away insurers
State Sen. Mike Fasano was recently quoted as saying he's "disappointed" that State Farm Florida has eliminated some discounts it offers to homeowners. As Sen. Fasano's colleague in the Legislature and as a fellow Republican, I am disappointed in the senator's comments.
State Farm Florida's action to eliminate discounts on homeowners' policies was approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to ensure the company remains solvent and has sufficient funds to pay future claims. The company says it is paying $2 in claims and expenses for every $1 it receives in premiums, and that its financial condition eroded after a rate increase request was denied by OIR.
Surely, Sen. Fasano would agree that insurance companies must take in enough premium dollars to pay the future claims of our constituents. Nothing good would come from forcing State Farm Florida into insolvency, since neither Citizens Property Insurance nor the start-up insurers are ready to assume its policies.
As legislators, we have a responsibility to ensure that Florida is on a public policy path that promotes a sound economic future, not a potential bankruptcy. I submit that Florida's current policy is driving away State Farm Florida and other large insurers, along with the billions of dollars in private claims-paying capital we sorely need. In their place, state government is assuming an ever-larger role in subsidizing homeowners insurance and is charging artificially low rates. There's a real question whether the state could pay claims for which it may be liable.
Attacking private insurers for taking painful steps to remain solvent isn't the answer. Continuing on a confrontational path that results in large insurers leaving only places more risk on our constituents. Gambling each year that the big hurricanes will bypass Florida — while failing to address the fundamental flaws in our homeowners market — isn't responsible policymaking. I believe Sen. Fasano would agree with me on these points.
State Rep. Bill Proctor, St. Augustine
Sink tells DOT to listen | Aug. 6, story
We need citizens to be politically engaged
I was pleasantly motivated after reading this article. It is about time that politicians started paying attention to the voters and that citizens started voicing their concerns to engage themselves in the democratic process. I applaud the efforts of Harlow Hyde in speaking up against an obviously flawed system of automatic contract increases and to Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for listening.
This article should be an inspiration for us all to become more involved in our governance. Too often do I hear individuals complaining about various aspects of our government, but there are few people with the gumption to actually write a 12-page memo on how to improve our budget and send it to the proper channels. I think if more people practiced responsible citizenship — as Hyde has done — our state would be a better place.
We need our citizens to be an active force to serve as a check on the Legislature because transparency without responsiveness to constituent concerns is useless. Let's all follow Hyde's example and let our elected officials hear it — whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or independents. We all can bring something to the table to create better policies on education, the environment, taxes, or any other issue. We can make a difference if we stand up and do it!
Z. J. Hafeez, Apollo Beach
The Blue Dog days of summer | Aug. 10, David Shribman column
Attacking the messengers
After many years of teaching high school social studies, I find the health care debate demonstrating everything I asked my students to guard against — attacking the messenger and not the message. Our democracy was founded on the belief that political debate was good. Discussing details, principles and legislation would always yield the right answers. Unfortunately, the role models of this belief are failing my students.
David Shribman is attacking the messengers, the so-called Blue Dogs. These legislators have aligned themselves with their party based on principles. Now they are being attacked because they believe a piece of legislation deserves more consideration. The Blue Dogs, as described by Shribman, are fiscal conservatives. Moreover, they are concerned that the cost of health care reform, as proposed, will be detrimental to the nation's budget.
What Shribman doesn't say is the Blue Dogs are so concerned, they are placing their political futures with their colleagues on the line! We should be applauding their stand.
Equally, the conservatives are being attacked because of their vigorous debate and concern for this legislation. They are being accused of "attempting to derail the debate" because they voice opposition. As I would tell my students, "Sometimes the debates are passionate, but learn to separate the value of what they are saying from how they are saying it. Then, you'll learn the truth about their perspective." The challenge is getting adults to understand the beauty of a democracy.
Eric Palmu, St. Petersburg
Trooper: I was fired for ticket quota | Aug. 10
Trooper deserves support
Christopher Maul sounds like the kind of trooper that we need. He's 38 years old, so he's no kid, with 12 years experience, so he knows what his job is about. He said he was fired for not meeting a ticket quota, while the answer men at the Florida Highway Patrol said it was about "performance standards."
For the average driver, what is the difference? Either way, that trooper is feeling the pressure to produce numbers — numbers that are harvested from Floridians like you and me.
Your article brought out that while Trooper Maul's immediate supervisors were pleased with his work, some administrative bean-counter wasn't. Apparently the sergeant and two captains quoted in your article — who no doubt had much more daily contact with this trooper — were incapable of adequately assessing his performance. That they, too, were pressured to amend their previous "satisfactory" evaluations to reflect the wishes of Maj. Beancounter brings into question the integrity of the whole evaluation process.
Your article said he had a high number of DUI arrests, but his "citation issuance has been substandard." Perhaps the message is that troopers should give less attention to time-consuming DUI investigations to be better able to meet citation numbers.
I intend to write letters to the powers that be to see that Trooper Maul is reinstated. I believe we should each do so. Then if I get pulled over by Trooper Maul and he issues me a ticket, at least I will know I got that ticket because I needed one, and not because he needed one.
Dan Chaffin, Dade City
Two of a kind | Aug. 11, letter
Martinez entitled to credit
I have no idea why the letter writer is angry, but I would like him to consider the possibility that Sen. Mel Martinez resigned for reasons that he wishes to remain private. There could be any number of them, including the health of one or more of his family (my best guess).
In any case, Sen. Martinez wrote on his Web site a very thorough analysis of his work for our state and our country, and even those who did not vote for him must give him credit for the work that he has done. So, to the letter writer, I say "No!" to your labeling Sen. Martinez "quitter."
And I don't know all the facts, either.
Howard Raymond, Valrico
A revenue raiser
Here's an idea I recently heard while watching a fairly old video. However, I think in the times we're in now economically, it makes more sense than ever.
Why not tax the churches? It would bring in tons of revenue immediately, and taxing churches' real estate holdings alone would bring in a fortune. They always want their finger in the pie, so to speak, when it comes to our politics. Let them chip in just like you and I do.
Demi Swearingen, St. Petersburg
Which end of the leash is the smart one? Aug. 8
Great article, Sue Carlton! Sometimes people believe they are better than their neighborhood. They fly our flag at night, unlit, and walk their dog (sans leash) arrogantly.
You really must pity these people, but there is a difference between class and arrogance and, as always, it shows in their style. Esprit is one thing but — I repeat — obeying the law is the correct thing. The answer to Carlton's last paragraph is, "Not in my neighborhood."
TCFAL (Too Cool For A Leash), exactly.
Joe La Monica, Safety Harbor