Stand up to special interests

Article Courtesy of Sun Sentinel

Published  December 25, 2006


Next month, Florida lawmakers will convene in Tallahassee for a special session on spiraling insurance rates. Following the lawmakers to Tallahassee will be an army of lobbyists for insurance, mortgage, construction and real estate special interests. Our representatives must understand they are facing an "FCAT test" of their own: Florida Can't Afford This.

Do Marco Rubio and the newly elected state Legislature "get it" on insurance? With more than 50 calls per day from constituents, elected state reps have recognized the severity of the crisis facing Floridians. They have begun seeking input from all of us. For example, state Rep. Julio Robaina and the Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce held a public discussion Nov.16 at Miami-Dade College.

Robaina began by describing some of the ideas Floridians have come up with to battle soaring insurance increases. Everything from a strict statewide building code to concrete roofs was discussed. We discussed old homes vs. new; the imaginary line down South Dixie Highway and concrete block compared to frame construction. These ideas and many more are compiled online at

Unfortunately, we're focusing so much on the trees, we have lost sight of the forest.

I would like to remind our elected representatives that the roofs on our homes have not weakened over the past year. Our houses have not moved closer to the shoreline. We have not rebuilt houses of straw. On the contrary, there are more new roofs, new shutters and more hurricane-proof windows installed in Florida than ever before.

The only variables in this equation that have changed are the size of our insurance bills and the record profits reported by insurance companies.

Even now, the insurance industry is planning its strategy for the special session. Our elected officials must remember that their priority must remain the day-to-day interests of ordinary Floridians.

They must keep firmly in mind the financial struggles faced by Florida's teachers, policemen and firefighters. Our farmers and fishermen, waiters and cooks, nurses and small businesses are struggling to make ends meet. Our "citizen lawmakers" were elected to protect our ordinary interests, not pander to special interests. The insurance industry does not need a protector.

Next month, Florida's House and Senate will convene in Tallahassee. When they do, Floridians are not going to accept that we need to spend more, live in concrete bunkers or take on more risk to solve the problem. We don't want to learn how we can work longer and harder to afford insurance. We don't want to reduce coverage and still pay more than last year. And we don't want to spend $10,000 on hurricane-proof windows just to receive a $100 credit.

Floridians want our representatives to stand up to the special interests and demand lower rates and a cap on rate increases. If there are fewer insurance industry millionaires, we can live with that.

The widely reported "drubbing" Republicans received in recent midterm elections serves as a stark reminder that voters are unwilling to elect representatives who bow to special interests. By the end of next month, we'll all know which of our representatives passed the legislative FCAT and exactly who failed.