October 01, 2012

Citizens gets (another) tongue-lashing over $350 million loan to insurance industry

Citizens Property Insurance continued to receive sharp-tongued backlash this week over its plan to loan out $350 million from its surplus to private insurance companies.

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, wrote another scathing letter calling the plan a wasteful inside deal for insurance lobbyists, and Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate penned a lengthy list of unanswered questions about the high-risk program.

“Quite simply, it is reckless to rush the [surplus note] program through without taking the time to vet the program and make sure that it works,” wrote Artiles, who believes the plan is against the law and has spoken out forcefully against it.

The surplus note program is the latest in a series of ambitious moves by Citizens board in response to Gov. Rick Scott’s mandate to shrink the size of the government run insurance company.

The plan provides low-interest, forgivable loans to private companies who agree to take policies out of Citizens for 10 years. Last month, the board unveiled and approved the plan over the course of two days, with little public input and without legislative approval.

The lack of details and the speed of the approval set off red flags for Artiles, Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott and other critics who believe the unprecedented new program is being rushed through without adequate transparency.

In his letter, Artiles notes that several of the private insurers that are looking to participate in the program have troubled financial records and could go belly up after a major storm. That would leave Citizens on the hook for multimillion-dollar losses when the loans go into default. He also points out that several insurers have agreed to take over Citizens’ policies without any cash incentive, drawing into question the need for a new loan program.

“It appears that Citizens has been heavily influenced by lobbyists, as there is no rational explanation for such glaring violations of your fiduciary responsibilities to Floridians,” he said in a letter that followed a lengthy public records request seeking more details on the program. “Perhaps this is why Citizens is blindly rushing the SPN Program through with no public input or substantive changes.

Citizens has argued that the program is a revolutionary way to reduce its risk at a low price, and avoid the “hurricane taxes” that would be caused if the state-run insurer ran out of money.

“We have to reduce the overall size of Citizens,” said Barry Gilway, president of the state-run insurer, during a September meeting of its Depopulation Committee. “If we are to be successful in moving a large number of Citizens’ customers to financially secure markets, this program is compelling.”

Westcott has a number of questions about the program, and is asking Citizens to do a better job of proving that these loans make sense financially and won’t end up costing the company millions.

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July 23, 2012

One thing in common in 2012 presidential and 2014 Gov. races: Rough Fla. economy

Florida’s unemployment rate probably won’t change much between now and the end of the year, and the jobs picture is set to remain bleak through 2016, a team of state economists said Monday.

With a troubled real estate market and trouble brewing in Europe, the state economy faces a prolonged uphill climb, according to the Economic Estimating Conference, a group of state labor experts.

The group’s long-term predictions about the economy have potential repercussions for the both the presidential election in November and the 2014 race for governor.

As President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney vie for Florida’s 29 electoral votes, they will likely be doing so at a time when the state’s employment numbers remain stagnant. When Gov. Rick Scott runs for reelection in 2014, Florida will likely be suffering from high joblessness, with a rate near 8 percent.

Even if job creation accelerates in the coming months, that might not translate into declining unemployment right away, since the current rate has been skewed by large numbers of people leaving the labor market in recent months, the economists said.

“At some point, when the economy starts getting better, you’re going to see those folks coming back into the labor force, and begin actively looking for a job again,” said Amy Baker, head of the state Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. “You could see that put a little upward pressure at least to flatten out, a little bit, the unemployment rate.”

Read more here
--@ToluseO

 

 

April 24, 2012

[VIDEO] Rick Scott talks tuition, jobs and reelection

Gov. Rick Scott spent a half hour taking a flurry of questions from reporters Tuesday. He weighed in on rising tuition, his (mightier-than-the-sword) veto pen, the Stand Your Ground task force and the overall state of Florida's economy. He also made it clear that he will seek reelection in 2014.

Here's the video:

 

--@ToluseO

April 18, 2012

Sen. Nan Rich says she will run for Gov in 2014

 

Check out this clip of state Sen. Nan Rich declaring her candidacy for governor in 2014 and scoffing at the prospect of Charlie Crist challenging her for the Democratic nomination. It's no secret that Rich has been preparing for a gubernatorial bid, but fairly or not the 70-year-old Weston resident is not widely seen as strong favorite in a Democratic field that could include Crist, Alex Sink, Jeremy Ring, Rod Smith, and plenty of others.

Is she underestimated?

"It's not a surprise to see Senator Rich running. She's been the Florida Senate's most consistent voice from the left," said Republican consultant Brian Hughes, former spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott. "Given that her constituency is the heavily Democrat portion of the state, I don't see how she's anything but formidable in a Democrat primary. Party leaders may want to embrace a chameleon like Charlie Crist, but South Florida Democrats see Rich as a fighter for what they believe."

--Adam C. Smith

September 06, 2011

Senator Nan Rich considering a run for governor

      Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich is so unhappy with Governor Rick Scott, she's thinking about running against him in 2014. Term limits will force Rich out of office next year.

Rich has long been an advocate for children and social service issues. WLRN Miami Herald reporter Gina Jordan tells us Rich is seriously considering a run for governor because she feels those issues aren't getting the proper attention from the Republican-controlled Governor's Office and Legislature. 

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July 05, 2011

November 10, 2010

Politics meet the NFL in the Carroll family

It's the summer of 1999 and 12-year-old Nolan Carroll II, a talented little soccer player and track star, is rollerblading around his Jacksonville neighborhood with a stack of political fliers, going door to door to campaign for his mother.

He is racing his younger sister, Nyckie, and brother, Necho, to see who delivers the most leaflets for Jennifer Carroll, who is running for the U.S. House.

It became a ritual in the Carroll household over the next 10 years. Mom runs for office, kids canvass neighborhoods, wave signs on street corners, smile and shake hands at rallies. They got good at it, and whenever they could make a contest of their political duties, they did.

Politics and sports continue to consume the family. Nolan is now a rookie cornerback for the Miami Dolphins. His mother last week became Florida's lieutenant governor-elect, the first black and first woman elected to the post. She was also the first black Republican woman voted into the Florida Legislature seven years ago.

The family stayed up until the wee hours, awaiting word on the election result.

``I was so relieved when we found out they won,'' Nolan said. ``My mom has worked so hard, put so much into it, and it is amazing what she has accomplished. We talked about how we couldn't believe how blessed we both are, me in the NFL and her a lieutenant governor.''

More here 

November 06, 2010

Elections final Tally: Scott by 61,966 votes and no recounts

In what that Florida Department of Elections is calling in an email today it's "First Unofficial Final Tally," the  county breakdowns of Republican Rick Scott's win over Democrat Alex Sink are in. And the number is: 61,966 votes.

The final results include early voting, absentee, election day and provisional ballots and, according to the secretary of state, in a rarity for Florida, there are no recounts being ordered. 

November 03, 2010

Palm Beach's votes are in: Sink gains 12,687, not enough to win

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, Palm Beach County finished counting.

In what now appears to be a once-a-decade tradition, the Democratically-heavy coastal county became ground zero in determining the election. With all 789 precincts reporting, Palm Beach reported that Democrat Alex Sink had collected 216,438 votes -- 12,687 more than the totals on the Florida Division of Elections web site, which had given Scott a 72,000-vote margin.

That is enough to lower the gap, to 68,277. (Scott got another 8,960 too.) So for Sink, it's not enough to win. And, absent a major discrepancy at a polling place, it is not enough to even trigger a recount. That number is estimated at about 27,000.

The Sink camp was still interested in holding out for the results of the 32,000 straggling votes from early voters in Hillsborough County, Sink's home county. No word yet on when they will brief the media on their plans.

While Sink's party closed up at midnight, Republican Rick Scott addressed his remaining supporters and the media at 2 a.m. "We look forward to finishing the count," Scott said. "We know we're going to win."



 

Little counties pack big Republican punch for Rick Scott

Though all votes haven’t been tallied in Democrat-rich Palm Beach County yet (it's just after 5 a.m. Wednesday), Republican Rick Scott looks as if he beat Democrat Alex Sink statewide by about a percentage point: 49-48. That’s the same margin that the exit polls predicted about 8 p.m. Tuesday.

While success has many fathers, Scott owes a good debt of gratitude to North Florida counties. These rural tracts helped nudge Scott past Sink. Consider his lead in just three otherwise little-seeming counties:

Okaloosa: 27,674
Clay: 27,287
Santa Rosa: 22,151

Together, those three account for enough votes (77,000) to exceed Scott’s statewide lead (72,000) over Sink.

The big margins run up by Scott in most rural Florida areas largely negated the leads that Sink built up in the cities. And her margins in the cities, especially South Florida, weren’t big enough. She only edged Scott by 15 percentage points in Miami-Dade, where she pulled in 68,000 more votes than Scott. (There could be a Rubio Effect that attracted Miami-Dade voters to the Republican ticket).

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