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7 posts from May 24, 2013

May 24, 2013

RPOF blasts Gelber for attacking Scott over Heritage Insurance and $52 million deal; pulls in Crist

The Republican Party of Florida came to Gov. Rick Scott's defense Friday after former state Senator Dan Gelber wrote a letter asking the governor to return a $110,000 contribution he received from an insurance startup that could get $52 million from the state-run insurance giant.

RPOF slammed Gelber, saying the Miami Beach Democrat was doing "dirty work" for former governor and potential 2014 candidate Charlie Crist. RPOF used the opportunity to ask Gelber about Crist's questionable "allies," including convicted felons Jim Greer and Scott Rothstein.  

Continue reading "RPOF blasts Gelber for attacking Scott over Heritage Insurance and $52 million deal; pulls in Crist" »

Weatherford: I'm 'highly concerned' about $52 million Heritage insurance deal

The list of lawmakers criticizing Citizens Property Insurance Corp. for a $52 million takeout deal continues to grow, as House Speaker Will Weatherford said Friday that he had "serious concerns" about the plan.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said Citizens did not provide sufficient notice to the Legislature before quickly approving the $52 million deal that was unveiled and voted on this week.

"I have serious concerns about the latest takeout agreement between Citizens and the Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company, particularly the lengthy backdated payments for coverage that Heritage did not provide," Weatherford said in a statment. "Once again, Citizens did not provide a sufficient advanced briefing to the Legislature, and the proposal was hastily pushed through a sharply divided board."

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Gov. Rick Scott to sign texting while driving ban Tuesday in Miami

Gov. Rick Scott is signing the texting while driving bill (SB 52) at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High School in Miami, but the state law doesn't take effect until Oct. 1.

The bill prohibits drivers from manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device, which includes text messaging, emailing and instant messaging through smart phones. Texting would be allowed in hands-off, high-tech cars and when a car is stopped at a red light or in a traffic jam.

Florida has been one of the last five states in the country without any type of texting ban.

In announcing the bill signing, Scott said "As a father and a grandfather, texting while driving is something that concerns me when my loved ones are on the road. The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the deadliest days on the road for teenagers.

"We must do everything we can at the state level to keep our teenagers and everyone on our roads safe.  I cannot think of a better time to officially sign this bill into law.

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Rick Scott presses university boards to oppose tuition increase

Gov. Rick Scott today sent letters to the boards of trustees of Florida’s 12 universities urging them to forgo any tuition increase this year.

Scott already has vetoed a 3 percent tuition increase included in the state budget, but some people believe universities have the power to increase tuition 1.7 percent to keep up with inflation.

“I have consistently fought to hold the line on tuition, and to stop any tax increases, in Florida. Higher education should be affordable so it is as accessible to as many Florida families as possible,” Scott wrote.

“I would be proud for you to join me in our fight to hold the line on tuition.”

Read the full letter here.

Fasano questions 'suspicious timing' of $52 million Heritage deal

Rep. Mike Fasano is the latest official to raise questions about a $52 million take-out deal between an upstart St. Petersburg insurance company and Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Fasano, R-New Port Richey, penned a letter to the state’s Insurance Commissioner on Friday questioning whether Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance has already violated a May 17 consent order from the Office of Insurance Regulation. Heritage has firmly denied the accusation. 

Fasano alleged that Heritage had been contacting insurance agents and policyholders prior to May 23, when the company officially received approval to take out some 60,000 policies in a $52 million deal. That would be a violation of the OIR’s consent order, Fasano said, citing a part of the agreement that bans Heritage from contacting “any potential policyholder, including sending communication regarding this depopulation” prior to the deal being signed. 

Heritage firmly denies that it has been contacting policyholders, and said the company contacted agents last week as part of a standard procedure to alert them to an upcoming potential takeout. The company’s chairman, Bruce Lucas, said there was nothing untoward about that. 

“We are required to publish a wishlist,” of policies, he said. “We contact agents and say, ‘In the future we attempt to do a depopulation’.” 

McCarty’s office did not immediately respond to a request for clarification about the rules on when a takeout company can contact agents. 

Lucas said the company only began sending letters to homeowners today, after receiving consent from OIR.

As evidence, Fasano presented a letter and email received by Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley with regards to a takeout offer from Heritage. A May 17 letter from Corley’s insurance agent informs him that Heritage has “selected” his policy for an “upcoming takeout.” The proposed takeout was approved by Citizens' board of governors on May 22, in a 3-2 vote. Corley received an email response from a Heritage employee on May 22, prior to the vote, saying that Heritage “offers a better policy” than Citizens. 

Heritage has maintained that this was an “automated” message in response to Corley, and OIR general counsel Belinda Miller said she did not believe this form of communication violated the consent order’s ban on communicating with policyholders prior to approval of the takeout. 

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Heritage deal draws political fire for gov: Gelber says 'the whole thing smells'

A fast-paced deal to give a startup insurance company with ties to former CFO Tom Gallagher a $52 million take-out deal has drawn some political heat, as expected, for Gov. Rick Scott.

Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat, sent a letter to the governor -- and copied the press -- blasting the arrangement and suggestiong the governor's political committee return the $110,000 from the company, Heritage Property and Casualty. Download LettertoScott

We are awaiting a response from the governor's office.

"In truth, the whole thing smells,'' wrote Gelber, who is clearly interested in replacing Scott in 2014.  "Floridians will rightfully wonder if Heritage gave you the money because they support you or because they were, literally, trying to get a $52 million gift from an agency over which you have great sway.

"Who in your campaign received the money and did they know about the deal? Did you know? Even if you did nothing wrong or didn't have direct knowledge, the foul ambience of this deal provides sufficient reason to return the campaign cash you received from Heritage. Keeping it only confirms the dark suspicions so many Floridians have about state government."

The story of the man who links the Boston Marathon bombing to Florida

As most everything of major national significance, the Boston Marathon bombing eventually had a link to Florida. Here's our tale:

Ibragim Todashev, the Chechen martial-arts fighter killed by an FBI agent in Orlando on Tuesday, was a bit of a mystery to his neighbors in his modest gated community in Kissimmee.

They knew little about his lifestyle, his travels or his relationship with one of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

They did know him as the kind of guy who helped neighbors in the multi-ethnic Sun City Village bring in their groceries, bought a fishing rod for the three-year-old daughter of his next-door neighbor and practiced his kick-boxing in the grassy area next to the community pool as children watched. To them, the portrait painted by police of a hot-tempered bully and cold-blooded killer was a surprise.

“He was very helpful, very nice, never disrespected women,’’ said Jessica Porteneur, a Sun City Village neighbor, who said Todashev lived in the community about two years.

Police say Todashev, 27, was shot by an FBI agent when he attacked them with a knife or another object during an interview at an Orlando condominium. More here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/23/3413485/murder-suspects-death-accusations.html#storylink=cpy