Tuesday, January 23, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST January 23, 2007

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The Miami Herald


Posted on Mon, Jan. 22, 2007

Turnout for strong-mayor plan likely to be sluggish


More than 26,000 voters cast early ballots in Miami-Dade's strong-mayorreferendum, suggesting the overall turnout for Tuesday's election could beon pace with the sluggish 2006 primary and 2005's special election onslot-machine gambling.

Another 36,000 absentee ballots have been cast, according to ElectionsSupervisor Lester Sola. Absentee ballots that reach the elections office by7 p.m. -- via hand or mail -- will be counted.

Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, and full resultsare expected before 10 p.m.

During the last three countywide elections, early and absentee votes haveaccounted for about one third of total ballots.

Just under 16 percent of the county's one million-plus voters turned out forlast year's primaries, and 14.4 percent voted in the slots election. Almost38 percent came out for November's general election, enlivened by debateover the Iraq War and the congressional page scandal surrounding PalmBeach's Mark Foley.


The New York Times


January 23, 2007
Florida Acts to Lower Home Insurance Cost

MIAMI, Jan. 22 - Struggling to fulfill a campaign promise made last fall byvirtually every Florida lawmaker, the Legislature approved a series ofmeasures Monday that would reduce home insurance rates - modestly, for themost part - by having the state take on billions of dollars in additionalinsurance risk.

Insurance costs soared here after eight hurricanes hit the state in 2004 and2005 and forecasters predicted that ferocious storms could keep hitting forat least the next decade. Easing the crisis is Gov. Charlie Crist's topgoal, and he convened a special legislative session to address it withindays of taking office on Jan. 1.

But while Mr. Crist, a Republican, and the Republican-dominated Legislaturesaid last week that they were committed to significant across-the-board ratereductions, reality proved more complicated.

South Floridians covered by the state-run insurer of last resort becauseprivate companies refuse to insure their homes will see the smallestsavings - as little as 8 percent. Their insurance costs have as much astripled since 2004, forcing many people to consider leaving Florida.

Homeowners with private insurance would save more - up to 21.8 percent, onaverage - according to legislative analysts.


The Miami Herald


Posted on Tue, Jan. 23, 2007

Democrats warned: GOP wants seats back
Democrats who captured GOP seats in Tallahassee and Washington have no timeto rest on their laurels.

State Rep. Ron Saunders of Key West gives savvy advice to the six otherDemocrats who scored Florida House seats previously held by Republicans:Open a campaign account.

And fast.

''The election will be here before you know it,'' Saunders said. ``When youonly have a two-year term, the day you get elected is the day you have tostart looking ahead.''

State and congressional representatives have always had to watch their backsduring their short terms in office, but Saunders' advice holds even moretrue for Democrats who recently persevered in competitive districts with thehelp of a nationwide anti-GOP tide. Political strategists say if the newlyelected Democrats don't kick-start reelection campaigns and stick to thepolitical center, they may find themselves short-timers in 2008.

Of the Republican-turned-Democrat seats in the Florida House and U.S.Congress, five are based in South Florida: state Reps. Saunders, Luis Garciaof Miami Beach and Martin Kiar of Davie; and U.S. Reps. Ron Klein of BocaRaton and Tim Mahoney of Palm Beach Gardens.




Insurance measure elicits grumbles from industry
By Randy Diamond

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

TALLAHASSEE- - As state lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist hugged each otherin the statehouse Monday night, insurance company representatives stood tothe side and grumbled.

Their concern is that the congratulations being handed around so readily bylegislators over the passage of the state's new property insurance bill willeventually turn into condolences.

The insurance industry in Florida has reason for concern. Lawmakersoverwhelmingly passed a bill that will allow state-sponsored CitizensProperty Insurance Corp. to compete with private-market insurers forbusiness for the first time, ending its primary role as the insurer of lastresort.

Further, the new law lifts restrictions on Citizens put in placespecifically so that it could not compete. Those limitations helped ensureprofits in years when there were no storms and limited liability in yearswhen there were.




Democrats' White House Plans Not Evident In Florida
By WILLIAM MARCH The Tampa Tribune

Published: Jan 23, 2007

TAMPA - As the 2008 presidential primary races get under way, Republicancandidates - particularly John McCain and Mitt Romney - are workingfrantically to build Florida organizations.

Floridians are hearing less from and about the Democratic candidates, andsome Democratic donors and dedicated campaign volunteers are starting towonder why.

"I've had no contacts, and I'm pretty surprised," said Tampa lawyer ChrisGriffin, a veteran of Democratic campaigns including those of former U.S.Rep. Jim Davis. "I would think there would be some more visible activity inthis area by now."

The reason may be because the Democratic field has been so unsettled, withtwo major candidates dropping out, Barack Obama dropping in, and thefront-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, preoccupied until November with herU.S. Senate re-election.




January 23, 2007

Florida legislators split on Bush's effectiveness


Florida lawmakers differ on whether President Bush heads into hissixth State of the Union address in a position to dictate the terms of hisfinal two years in office or so weakened by events that it doesn't muchmatter what he says.

"This is the president of the United States, the most powerful man inthe world," said Rep. Allen Boyd, Jr., a Tallahassee Democrat. "But hispolitical capital is certainly not what it was two years ago. That createssome different dynamics for him."

The once-swaggering Bush has admitted he made mistakes in Iraq.

His policies and low approval ratings contributed to the Republicans'loss of Congress in last year's elections.

Bush's plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq was met with broad publicskepticism and outright opposition from some in his own party.

A lot has not gone right for Bush, which puts him on the defensive ashe delivers his annual address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.




Legislators play odds to reduce premiums
By JENNIFER LIBERTO, Times Staff Writer
Published January 23, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Taking a bipartisan gamble, the Florida Legislature promisedon Monday to lower homeowners insurance premiums as long as no majorhurricanes hit the state.

With a unanimous Senate vote and a 116-2 House vote, the Republican-ledLegislature passed a complex insurance package that marks a philosophicalshift for the party, because it calls for more government intervention.Lawmakers did it for a prize: an overall reduction in homeowners' premiumsto the tune of 5 to 22 percent.

Gov. Charlie Crist said that he planned to sign the bill this week, based onwhat he knows about it so far.

"We are going to lower rates in a meaningful way, and it's going to actuallyhappen," Crist said.




January 23, 2007

Our view: Saving the Glades

State should restore partnership to pay for River of Grass cleanup

While we're on the subject of the environment, kudos to Gov. Charlie Cristfor putting Everglades restoration back on the front burner for Florida.

Crist promised Saturday to revive a state and federal partnershipestablished in 2000 to split costs for the $10.5 billion, 30-year project torescue the River of Grass.

As the largest wetlands restoration project in the world, the cleanupaffects not only South Florida, but also our own Indian River Lagoon, whichwill benefit from projects to stop using the St. Lucie River as a drain pipefor toxins from points south.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush brokered the Everglades deal to acquire lands andrestore and build wetlands that will act as natural filters for agriculturalrunoff and pollutants from development.




Special insurance session produces bill, relief
By S.V. Date, Michael C. Bender , Dara Kam

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist declared a quick first victory Monday whenthe legislature finished a special session by preparing a bill designed tocut property insurance rates and let state-run Citizens start competing withprivate companies.

"They said it couldn't be done. Remember?" he said in the Capitol Rotunda,which was filled with applauding lawmakers and staff. "Yet here we are."

The last piece in the puzzle came overnight, after the Sunday deal betweenHouse and Senate leaders had been announced, when Crist was able to cajoleHouse leaders into accepting his demand that Citizens customers no longer beforced to accept private policies that cost more than their Citizenspremiums.

Under Crist's insistence, lawmakers on Monday included a stipulation to lethomeowners remain with Citizens unless they choose to buy a private policy.Included in a related section was a provision that allows a homeowneranywhere in the state to buy a Citizens policy if the only private insuranceis priced at least 25 percent higher.

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