Citizens insurance | April 1
Property owners put in peril
Two bills in the Florida Legislature, SB 1672 and HB 1109, could wreak havoc on Citizens Property insurance policyholders if they pass and are signed into law by the governor. Both bills open the Citizens Clearinghouse Program to surplus lines insurers starting on Jan. 1. Surplus lines companies are currently prohibited from being part of the clearinghouse.
The clearinghouse was created in 2013 to allow authorized insurers to compete with Citizens for policies. Allowing surplus lines insurers to participate is a dangerous step that could lead to financial ruin for seniors, families or others struggling to with high insurance premiums.
Surplus lines companies, which are not regulated by the state, can raise rates at will. These companies often entice homeowners into signing with them by offering a low "teaser" premium for the first year, and then rapidly increasing that premium during subsequent renewal periods.
Year after year I and some like-minded colleagues fought back at those attempts to open the insurance market to these dangerous insurers. It is terribly disturbing to once again see the governor and some legislators, in their drive to depopulate Citizens, doing all they can to push people into the dangerous and unregulated territory of surplus lines companies.
Mike Fasano, Pasco County tax collector, New Port Richey
Bill to help springs advances | April 23
No stalling on springs
I am dismayed by House leader Will Weatherford's foot-dragging on measures needed to protect Florida's natural springs.
The springs are part of our heritage, and are becoming endangered to the point that pollution may alter this precious resource forever. Weatherford should embrace the bipartisan Senate bill that seeks to reverse the decades of neglect that have taken place, rather than relegate it to the back burner, as he apparently has done.
Last week, I made a first ever visit to Rainbow Springs State Park, and it was delightful to see people of all ages enjoying the clear, cool water: swimmers, kayakers, fishing boats and people floating downstream on inner tubes.
Locals are proud of their resource, but concerned for its long term health. Is it too much to begin to take the steps necessary to leave clean water to future generations?
Joe Griffin, Tampa
Engineering plan may be costly | April 21
Keep FAMU-FSU college
As a graduate of Lakewood High's Center for Advanced Technologies and the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, I was disheartened to read that the Florida Senate has proposed funding to initiate the separation of the jointly managed college. I propose the following key points to consider:
(1) FAMU has played a leading role in the national production of underrepresented minority engineers and STEM leaders. FAMU was the leading baccalaureate origin institution for African-American doctorates in the Natural Sciences and Engineering in the nation over the period from 2002 to 2006.
Furthermore, as of 2011-12, the College of Engineering ranks No. 8 in the nation in bachelor's degrees awarded to black students. Any potential interruption in the output of STEM professionals must receive scrutiny on a national stage.
(2) Instability in FAMU's leadership has played a role in the declining FAMU enrollment at the College of Engineering. However, this is an opportunity for FAMU to reconstitute and refocus the student balance it had in the late 1990s (more than 40 percent of engineering students) compared to now (less than 19 percent of engineering students).
Perhaps revisiting FAMU's national recruiting practices and reforging relationships with corporate sponsors would be helpful. Continuing to form stronger ties between the College of Engineering and both central administrations is key to long-term stability.
(3) Nonetheless, the leaders of the college have said the joint administration and management of the College of Engineering is improving and at an "all-time high." A new school slogan has been adopted: "Two Universities, One College, Twice the Opportunities." To interrupt such documented progress by an external proposal could lead to deleterious consequences.
These past few years have been a period of unprecedented challenge for Florida's only public historically black university. But in my heart I believe that — with newly minted president Elmira Mangum — FAMU can resume its leadership role in the education of the next generation of engineers — one student, one dream at a time — within the framework of the College of Engineering and in a manner consistent with its motto: "Excellence With Caring."
Anton F. Thomas, Clermont-Ferrand, France
Ideological circus comes to town | April 20
Common Core conundrum
May I humbly suggest that those on both sides of the debate about Common Core read an essay written many years ago by Dorothy Sayers titled "The Lost Tools of Learning." Here is the concluding paragraph:
"What use is it to pile task on task and prolong the days of labor, if at the close the chief object is left unattained? It is not the fault of the teachers — they work only too hard already. The combined folly of a civilization that has forgotten its own roots is forcing them to shore up the tottering weight of an educational structure that is built upon sand. They are doing for their pupils the work which the pupils themselves ought to do. For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain."
Donald Cunningham, St. Petersburg
In brewery bill, size matters | April 21
Boon for beer companies
So this bill would force the 2,000 kegs per year micro-breweries to sell their sealed brew to a distributor first and then buy it back before they can sell their own product? That's like paying a grass cutting service for a lawn that you mow yourself. The purpose of the bill is said to protect the consumers, but the only thing this protects are the distributors and big beer companies.
William Shumaker, Tampa