More red meat at the expense of serious problems

The Florida legislature is set to enter a special session scheduled for May 23-27, ostensibly to address the very real state property insurance crisis. It is an ambitious plan under all circumstances. However, our governor and many lawmakers have signaled that they also intend to use it for political theater on controversial issues such as gun rights and abortion restrictions. Once again, it seems that the serious and immediate problems facing so many Floridians will be pushed into the background by the demagogy of the culture war.

Homeowners across the state have faced sky-high increases in property insurance rates, with some homeowners losing coverage altogether as businesses continue to pull out of the state. Since 2017, six companies have been liquidated and two more are in the process of doing so. The crisis has spread from homes and commercial buildings to condos, with some experts predicting the entire system is on the verge of collapse.

The roots of the crisis are varied and complex. One of the problems has been the predatory roofers who roam the neighborhoods offering free inspections to homeowners after every storm, inevitably finding some sort of supposed storm damage and telling them they are entitled to a replacement. If you are an owner whose roof has traveled a few miles, the idea of ​​replacing it “for free” is more than appealing. The contractor then pressures the owner to sign an assignment of benefits form, which gives the contractor the right to file an insurance claim on their behalf.

When the insurer’s adjuster finds little or no damage, the contractor can take legal action against the insurance company, demanding payment of the original estimate. And because the benefits were assigned to the contractor, they don’t even need the owner’s permission to sue. In the meantime, the insurance company now has the choice of paying to fight the litigation or paying the settlement costs. Either way, their costs go up.

Do not have too much sympathy for insurers, because another determining factor is the very opaque reinsurance market. Carriers use reinsurance (essentially insurance for insurance companies) to lay off some of their risk, mitigate earnings volatility, and improve their financial leverage, allowing them to issue more policies. But while they often blame reinsurance hikes for their woes, many of the opaque offshore companies are actually owned by the companies themselves. Paige St. John of Sarasota won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for a series of investigations which exposed many of the workings of the industry. Beyond that, there’s been no shortage of cheeky greed, like this story I covered in 2016.
Again, that seems like a huge undertaking for a three-day special session when lawmakers haven’t been able to do it in 60 days, although that’s the biggest problem they’ve faced. . But instead of rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, it increasingly looks like much of that time will be spent elsewhere. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he will get ‘constitutional carry’ legislation this year, which means that in the absence of his own special session (which is highly unlikely), lawmakers will also have to sort out this mess. . Constitutional carry is a form of open firearm carry, but without all those pesky permits and regulations. If you have a gun, you can carry it on your hip, uncovered.

This is a serious policy change that deserves a lot of debate and thought. Most tactical firearms experts agree that carrying in the open is not a good strategy because it forgoes the element of surprise and makes you a likely first target for an active shooter. But again, and I can’t stress this enough, this isn’t about the real world. This is political theatre. However, the consideration lawmakers should consider is what an already deeply divided state might look like when a group of mindless counter-protesters with assault rifles slung over their shoulders set up shop in front of a protest. peaceful they don’t. agree with. Whichever way you slice it, it won’t make things better.

In light of the leaked draft decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, there are also rumors that right-wing lawmakers are considering an effort to pass even tougher restrictions on abortion, and possibly even an outright ban on the procedure that would be triggered by the ruling. None of these issues are at the forefront of the concerns of the majority of Floridians. In fact, it doesn’t appear that either has majority support or even close to it. But we’ve come to a place where none of that matters, where the politics are the sport and the fans who show up are all that matters to those who play the game.

In Washington, our federal government has already ceased to function as a governing institution, wasting all of its time and resources in the theater of culture war, leaving the courts to decide what should be codified in law. The same can be said for our local governments, which are spending more and more time arguing culture war issues and agitating their base at the expense of citizens who just want the issues resolved. So, it should come as no surprise that Tallahassee is giving up governance for a permanent campaign and fundraising state like the rest.

It’s been hard enough to function as a society with the cogs of government turning at an unbearably slow pace for decades. We need to start imagining a world in which they have completely come to a standstill – save the energy that is spent bidding on their special interest payers – and demand better. The very viability of our future depends on it.




Dennis “Mitch” Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He graduated from Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the US Army. Click on here for his biography. His 2016 collection of short stories, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.

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