Senate committee passes contentious sinkhole bill | Feb. 22
Senate bill strengthens insurance market
You would think with the absence of a major hurricane catastrophe for the past five years, insurance companies would be able to build surpluses for claims. Not the case.
Sinkhole claims have unexpectedly and mysteriously quadrupled over this period. In Hernando County, one private insurer reported sinkhole premium income of about $133,000 and sinkhole claims of more than $2.3 million. That means for each dollar of sinkhole premiums collected, $17 was paid out in claims. "Hurricane Sinkhole" is a Category 5 disaster, and we have to address it.
Many claims are prompted by unscrupulous adjusters and policyholders looking for cash payments. Huge insurance payments, if not used to repair damages, result in a significant decline in property values.
The Florida Senate is addressing the crisis. SB 408 is a collaborative effort among regulators, insurers and consumer advocates. It will strengthen the marketplace by requiring insurers to maintain higher levels of capital. It closes loopholes that invite fraudulent claims by restricting misleading advertising and misleading solicitations. It attacks rising costs by permitting insurers to initially pay actual cash value on claims, and as repairs are made, pay the full replacement cash value.
Florida needs an insurance industry that is solvent and on which policyholders can rely. Our state needs to attract capital to increase the number of insurers so we can get out of the state-owned insurance business. SB 408 is intended to promote these objectives. It will strengthen the market, responsibly address the factors driving up costs, and close loopholes that promote fraud.
State Sen. Garrett Richter, District 37, Naples
Scott ignores market signal
Nothing spoke more strongly against the cancellation of Florida's high-speed rail project than the explosion in world oil prices — both of them job-destroying blows to Florida's future, and both linked.
Crude oil prices nearly double what they were in 2009 are market signals that we need to build an efficient, diverse, affordable transportation system today.
Despite his professed faith in markets, Gov. Rick Scott's decision ignores these market signals. Instead, his decision consigns us to an ever greater dependence on imported oil, wasting even more of our wealth.
Aside from the new jobs and high-tech firms that it would have attracted, the Orlando-to-Tampa high-speed train would have triggered more rail and transit projects. These would provide cost-effective alternatives for getting to work, school, shopping, recreation and tourist destinations.
But Scott has a better idea. In his letter to the U.S. transportation secretary, he asked for federal money instead for more of the same — widening I-4, I-95, I-375, I-275, U.S. 331 and other roads — so we can burn even more gasoline as its price roars toward the $4 per gallon levels that clobbered our economy in 2008.
Florida consumer dollars spent on fuel and vehicles leave the state for other countries, never to return. This takes money away from things like better homes and stronger personal bottom lines.
Let's stop the political pandering and build that high-speed railroad to the future.
Bob Rackleff, Tallahassee
Now that the federal government has given Florida one more week to consider high-speed rail, it might be a good idea for the Times to adopt an impartial news-gathering mode. Instead of simply getting quotes from rail boosters that Gov. Rick Scott is a dope for not taking the free (borrowed from China) money that Ray LaHood is offering, get some hard questions answered.
In the past the Times has often opined that all passenger rail lines worldwide have needed to rely on some government support. To make Florida's high-speed rail a reality, it appears it will be without the state of Florida's involvement. Why will this line be different from all the others?
It would be interesting to see an interview from actual railroad people who will not be bidding on this project. Someone with no skin in the game might speak candidly. Would one of the operators of the privatized lines from the old British Rail be willing to chip in their opinion on the chances of success?
It seems inconceivable that a private entity would seriously bid on a system unless there was a guarantee that there will be profits. Once built (with federal money) will it be acceptable to all concerned if the system, struggling to eke out a profit, devolves to a bare-bones operation? What happens if the private operator goes bankrupt?
These and other questions need to be asked, and the Times could be the proper place for the answers to be published for all sides to see.
Stuart McKinney, Gulfport
'Can't do' attitude
A colleague recently sent me a PowerPoint presentation about a cable car that ascends to the 3,842-meter summit of the Aiguille du Midi in France, which was built in 1955. I replied, "If someone with the mentality of Rick Scott had been a French politician back in 1955, that cable car would have never been built!"
Scott's reasons for not accepting the stimulus money could be applied to any great public project: the pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower, the transcontinental railroad, the Hoover Dam and the Apollo program. If he had had anything to say about those projects, they would never have been built. He deserves to become a poster child for a new vision of America as the "can't do" nation.
Robert Austin, Seminole
Prescription drug abuse
Require two signatures
Here's how to stop the pain clinics with no taxpayer cost or invasion of privacy: Require two signatures on the prescription pad, one by a doctor board-certified in a related specialty, such as anesthesia or orthopedics.
There is precedent for special rules when a treatment can be both dangerous and overused: electroshock therapy in psychiatry. Florida and California already require second opinions before electroshock therapy can be prescribed. This does not require an electronic database and is not an invasion of privacy.
This second opinion requirement for electroshock has withstood 40 years of objections from doctors, patients and lawyers in California without change.
William Dudney, M.D., Tampa
Trouble at home
How many of us realize the paradox that is unfolding? As thousands in the Arab world are risking and giving their lives to attain democracy, our democracy is being emasculated piece by piece. Over the past few years, the attitude, mainly by one party, has been to refuse to negotiate and to have an unwritten policy of confrontation and vitriol against any who disagree. It has distorted our system almost to the point of being unworkable.
Armand Haas, Safety Harbor
Florida deadly for kids at risk | Feb. 27
First, prevent harm
This article highlights the tragic consequences of bad decisions and poor casework at the Department of Children and Families and its subcontracted lead agency in Miami and in other locations. However, child abuse and neglect are symptoms of multiple systems failures and the failure of decisionmakers to adequately invest in our children.
Child abuse and neglect most often happens in situations of poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence and isolation or lack of social connections. We have to do more than just remove children after they been harmed; we must look comprehensively at preventing harm in the first place.
All of us have a moral obligation to be the eyes and ears for the children in our community in need. If we see a child being harmed, we have to continue to make the call until appropriate action is taken. We would do no less if we had a car that did not work and the dealership was not repairing it correctly.
We must do our part as individuals and we must support long-term investments in the multiple systems that work to improve the well-being of all children.
Ann Doyle, Tampa