Greetings from Florida where once again the state is in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The Trayvon Martin case has gripped the nation and has put both the shooter and the law that is seemingly protecting him from prosecution on trial in the court of public opinion.
The known facts are pretty simple: George Zimmerman was a volunteer neighborhood crime watch captain who was following Martin on the night of the incident. He placed a 911 call to report a teen suspiciously walking a streets of the neighborhood that had suffered a rash of burglaries. The 911 operator told him to cease following him. It’s what happened next that is a matter of dispute.
Martin supporters say Zimmerman ignored orders and continued pursuit, which instigated an altercation; Zimmerman supporters say Martin instigated the confrontation, assaulted him and was shot in self-defense. A grand jury has been appointed to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to at least charge Zimmerman and take the case to court. All eyes will remain on Florida as this case unfolds, which unfortunately has caused division in communities across the state.
Things are relatively quiet on the political front. Orlando had elections this week, which resulted in the reelection of its mayor Buddy Dyer, who garnered a whopping 57.8% of the vote against three challengers.
In Tallahassee, the Legislature wrapped up its short special session on redistricting to redo the state Senate maps that the Florida Supreme Court had rejected. The Senate did most of the legwork, passed its map over to the House and the House concurred with the Senate, albeit with Democrats and South Florida Republicans opposing it.
Bills that passed the Legislature are still trickling over to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for his signature. One such bill is H.B. 7117, relating to energy. We free-market types opposed that bill on the grounds that it picks winners and losers by conferring special tax credits and other perks to the so-called “renewable energy” industry, while making it more difficult for traditional and cheaper sources of energy such as coal and natural gas, to build power plants in the state.
As Heartland’s own energy expert James Taylor recently discussed in Forbes, Florida residents currently pay some of the highest utility prices in the country, and this bill would only serve to make things worse. For that reason and several others, Gov. Rick Scott should veto this bad piece of legislation.
Another bill that was recently presented to Gov. Scott for action is H.B. 1127, related to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. This bill removes the so-called “regular assessment” authority that Citizens has to levy massive charges on private insurance companies to pay deficits Citizens may incur following a sufficiently bad hurricane season. The assessments would then be passed on to the insurance companies’ consumers.
Many insurance companies have cited this provision in state law for opting against doing business in Florida. Signing the bill to eliminate the “regular assessment” is good policy that will hopefully create a more competitive insurance environment in Florida.
Speaking of Citizens, its board also recently decided to stop offering builders risk policies, coverage that developers purchase to insure their building projects during construction. Many critics of Citizens have argued that offering this type of insurance has contributed to development in high-risk areas. The market would otherwise discourage people from building in these areas due to the high cost of insuring such projects.
The coverage also contributes to adding more permanent policies to Citizens because these projects eventually become dwellings and businesses that are in such high risk areas that no private insurer is willing to cover them (at least, not affordably.)
In my opinion, Citizens did the right thing in ceasing to offer this type of coverage. In fact, it shouldn’t have offered the coverage in the first place, since it is not required to do so by law. If developers want to build in high-risk areas, they should do so at their own risk, not foist that risk onto the taxpayers of Florida.
Until next time!