Jennifer Liberto, Times Staff Writer

Jennifer Liberto joined the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. She primarily covers the Legislature and politics out of the Tallahassee bureau. She is also a contributor to PolitiFact and the Times' political blog, the Buzz.

Phone: (850) 224-7263


Blog: The Buzz

  1. Florida, we've still got a problem


    It's a toss-up as to which is the bigger monster threatening Florida's property insurance market. • The state's troubled catastrophe fund with its potential $17 billion shortfall can't make good on promises to reimburse insurers and pay claims if big storms hit. On the other side, State Farm Florida's complete withdrawal from the homeowners market displaces 1.2 million policies over the next two years, many of which could end up with the already overburdened state-run insurer....

  2. Top adviser leaving Sink's office


    Kathy Baughman McLeod is heading out to the private sector. The CFO's deputy chief of staff says she has a couple of job offers but won't say exactly where she's heading. Her last day is Feb. 28.


  3. RPOF about to be sued?


    From Buddy Nevins' blog: Fort Lauderdale lawyer Michael D. Becker says he has been retained to sue the Republican Party of Florida.

    The goal will be to get “a full accounting of the RDOF’s expenditures in 2008 based on evidence that Chairman Jim Greer has abused his authority and utilized party funds for his personal use,” according to a letter sent to the party’s Tallahassee office. Read it here....

  4. Florida insurance regulator Kevin McCarty lobbies Congress for help with catastrophe fund


    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's top insurance regulator is lobbying members of Congress today to help prop up the state's troubled hurricane catastrophe fund.

    Office of Insurance Regulation Commissioner Kevin McCarty is shopping a new idea: If a big storm hits and the fund can't borrow large amounts of money from private sources, he wants the federal government to promise to loan the state money. ...

  5. CFO Sink to State Farm: Release your agents


    Just as State Farm officials were about to be grilled before a House panel on insurance, the state's chief financial officer has formally asked the state's largest private insurer to allow its agents to write other homeowner policies.

    The way it works now is that State Farm agents can write only State Farm policies, but they can also write Citizens Property Insurance Corp. policies. There's a fear that State Farm's withdrawal from the market will end up pushing a lot of its policies into Citizens. Read it here....

  6. Four finalists for last Supreme Court spot


    The Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission sent four finalists to Gov. Charlie Crist for the vacancy created by Justice Charles Wells' retirement:

    Daniel Gerber, Attorney, Orlando
    Alan Lawson, 5th DCA, Daytona Beach
    Debra Nelson, 18th Judicial Circuit, Sanford
    James Perry, 18th Judicial Circuit, Longwood


  7. Florida counties sue for more tax on online hotel bookings


    TALLAHASSEE — Counties and cities all over Florida are waging a war against online hotel booking companies like Priceline and Expedia, alleging the companies are bilking them out of millions in tax dollars.

    In January, Broward County became the latest Florida government embroiled in a legal battle over whether online hotel booking companies owe tourism taxes. As much as $200 million could be at stake statewide, according to Broward County's attorney in the case. ...

  8. OIR subpoenas State Farm


    And so it's war. Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has subpoenaed State Farm Florida as a part of an investigation, the office reported. Read the subpoena here.

    The request is in response to OIR's review of State Farm's withdrawal plan. They're looking for names, addresses, policy types, policy limits and premium information for each of State Farm’s Florida policyholders. ...

  9. Can other carriers cover the loss of State Farm?


    Like a sudden storm, State Farm's decision to pull out of Florida's property insurance market arrived much bigger than anticipated, and the state could've used more time to get ready.

    The state's property insurance overhaul was supposed to seed dozens of small, Florida-based insurance companies with homeowners policies and trust they could handle the overflow when out-of-state insurers pull back or pull out. ...

  10. FL Senate spells out stimulus wish list


    Sen. Jeff Atwater sent a letter to U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart spelling out what lawmakers would like to see in terms of stimulus dollars. Read it here.

    He specifies that stimulus money would be spent on Medicaid, teacher merit pay and national board certification. He also says the Senate would use it to generate jobs "linked to our research universities" and to also fund the state's economic development pot called the Quick Action Closing fund. They even say they'd try to use it to stabilize the state catastrophe fund....

  11. State Farm to halt property insurance


    A hurricane didn't prompt State Farm to pull out of Florida's frail property insurance market, but the ramifications are hitting like a Category 5.

    The state's largest private insurer will drop 1.2 million policies over the next two years, likely pushing many into the already bloated state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. More than 800 State Farm agents can expect to see their income slashed by an average of 37 percent, according to documents obtained by the St. Petersburg Times. ...

  12. Crist to State Farm: Bu-bye!


    Gov. Charlie Crist effectively said good riddance when asked to react to State Farm's announcement.

    "They probably charge the highest rates in the state anyway. Floridians will be much better off without them."

    UPDATE: Read the story here. UPDATE2: Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink weighs in: “It is unfortunate and disappointing that State Farm Florida has decided to move out of the neighborhood," Sink said. “My concern goes out to the more than one million Floridians who will need to transition to a new insurance company during the next two years. We will assemble a team of trained consumer specialists within my department to assist Floridians who might have questions about finding a new insurance policy."

    When asked if State Farm was posturing, Crist said, "I don't know and I don't really care." Crist also said he'd support any effort to strengthen the Legislature's attempts in 2007 to prevent property insurers that drop homeowners' policies from writing more profitable lines in Florida, like auto insurance....

  13. State Farm Insurance withdrawing from Florida property market


    A hurricane didn’t prompt State Farm to pull out of Florida’s frail property insurance market, but the ramifications are hitting like a Category 5.

    The state’s largest private insurer will drop 1.2 million policies over the next two years, likely pushing many into the already bloated state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. More than 800 State ...

    In tornado ravaged Central Florida, Tuesday Feb. 24, 1998.   Anna Bonilla (blue top, dark hair) gets handed a drawer from Dennis Donnelly with a State Farm sign over garage.
  14. State Farm is pulling out of property insurance


    UPDATE!: State Farm is pulling out of Florida's property insurance market. More details to come.

    The Buzz spotted a group of State Farm executives leaving the Larson building at 10:30 a.m., on a tip the meeting was about a upcoming "big announcement" about property insurance. Spokesman Justin Glover confirmed the meeting was with Commissioner Kevin McCarty and said it was about property insurance but wouldn't answer any questions....

  15. Crist vetoes coming today


    Gov. Charlie Crist this morning will reveal his vetoes to some $1.8 billion in spending cuts the Legislature made two weeks ago.

    He said the Legislature exceeded its constitutional duty by $300 million, and his restoration of funding would be far below that "cushion."

    When asked to respond to comments that Sen. JD Alexander made about the Legislature's doing the hard work, Crist defended his upcoming vetoes: ...