Monday, October 01, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST October 1, 2007

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The New York Times

Insurance for the Next Big One

October 1, 2007

There is impeccable logic to the argument that taxpayers should not be madeto pay for the risks incurred by people who choose to live along ahurricane-prone coast or atop a major geological fault.

More than half of all Americans, however, live within 50 miles of a coast.With premiums rising relentlessly and insurers cutting hundreds of thousandsof homeowner policies from the Gulf of Mexico up the East Coast to Floridaand Long Island, there is a real danger that millions might soon be unableto purchase insurance. That's a compelling argument for government help.

A well-designed program - one that priced insurance in a way that encouragedhomeowners to think twice about where they build and local governments tothink twice about their zoning policies - could mitigate the so-called"moral hazard" of encouraging people to make riskier choices than theyotherwise would. The alternative of millions of Americans' going withoutinsurance is a far worse option.

Since Hurricane Katrina - which caused a record $50 billion in insuredlosses - private insurers have jacked up premiums as much as they can and,when barred from raising prices, dropped coverage of riskier homes.



Secrecy ushers in special session

The outlook is cloudy for work on property taxes, auto insurance and cuttingthe state's budget.

John Kennedy and Aaron Deslatte

Tallahassee Bureau
October 1, 2007


Florida lawmakers usually approach special sessions like a family going on along road trip. They want to know where they're going and how they're goingto get there.

But this week, lawmakers will begin a 10-day budget-cutting session withoutmuch of a road map. The fate of most top issues has turned into one bigsecret -- still to be decided behind closed doors.

Efforts to overhaul property taxes, continue no-fault auto insurance andeven authorize Las Vegas-style gambling on Indian reservations may muscletheir way on stage -- or not -- even as legislators prepare to make thestate's deepest budget cuts in six years.

Many lawmakers are openly critical of the unprecedented number ofclosed-door attempts at deal making that will ultimately determine what theyvote on. Indeed, leaders didn't even announce the agenda for the sessionuntil Friday -- a task usually completed weeks in advance.

more . . . . .


Palm Beach Post

A year later, Foley fallout lingers

Palm Beach Post Washington Bureau
Sunday, September 30, 2007

WASHINGTON - The Republican Party was on the ropes.

The Iraq war was going badly, President Bush's poll numbers were sagging,the House majority leader had resigned after being indicted for allegedcampaign finance violations, another GOP congressman was in jail after abribery conviction and the government's response to Hurricane Katrina hadbeen a disaster upon a disaster.

Then, a year ago Saturday, matters suddenly took a turn for the worse.

The world learned that Mark Foley, a popular congressman who representedPalm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, had been exchanging suggestive,even downright lewd, e-mails and instant messages with male teenagers whohad been House pages.

more . . . . .



Hospitals, schools targeted as legislators cut $1 billion

By Linda Kleindienst, Jamie Malernee and Josh Hafenbrack
October 1, 2007


South Florida hospitals, schools and college students' wallets are set toget whacked by the budget ax as the Legislature this week prepares to chopstate spending by $1 billion.

Although lawmakers could get sidetracked into fierce debates over otherissues like property tax reform and no-fault auto insurance, the primaryfocus of their 10-day special session that starts Wednesday is to bring thestate's $71 billion annual budget back into balance.

Cuts in programs are being forced by a bleak housing market and the downwardspiral of the sales tax and real estate transaction revenues that the stateuses to fund its expenditures.

The Legislature's budget writers also are using money-saving gambits likeeliminating vacant positions, including 50 in the Florida Highway Patrol,postponing new programs and shifting money between funds to keep the stateout of the red. Florida's constitution bans deficit spending.



Sarasota Herald Tribune

Can tourism overcome housing bust?


The fear of a national recession -- what would be the first since 2001 --raises a big question for Southwest Florida: What would it do to tourism?

There are two clear camps in the debate.

On the one hand are tourism promoters and economists who think thatvacations are sacrosanct -- that to Americans, time off to let off steam andrecoup is so ingrained that they will dive in no matter what the financialconsequences.

Then there is another camp that fully acknowledges Americans' love of theirtime off, but also knows that a recession -- if deep enough -- is almostsure to translate to the tourism industry, too.

No one seems to think that an economic downturn would have any large orlasting consequences for what is arguably Southwest Florida's largestindustry.

Still, the coming season -- perhaps like no other -- promises to test thewidely held belief that travel is an American birthright and that thevacation industry is one of the few economic sectors with built-inresilience to the housing bust.

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