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Fast-moving Andrea leaves tornadoes, plenty of rain

Thursday, June 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Tropical Storm Andrea already spawned eight tornadoes across the state and Gov. Rick Scott warned Thursday that as much as six inches of rain was possible before the weather system’s expected midnight exit from Florida.

Scott also tried to send an upbeat message to tourists watching the weather during a briefing at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

“For people coming to our state…keep your travel plans,” Scott said. “This is going to pass very quickly through our state.”

Despite the spate of tornadoes, Scott said officials had not reports of property damage. The fast-moving storm was expected make its way across North and Central Florida, bringing higher tides to the Cedar Key region of Florida’s Gulf Coast but little coastal erosion.

Scott also used his midday briefing to lash out at President Obama over federal budget cuts which could lead to furloughs and pay reductions for members of the Florida National Guard. The so-called sequestration was a deal Obama reached in 2011 with the Republican-controlled House to resolve the debt ceiling standoff.

“It doesn’t make any sense why they’re doing it this way,” Scott said.

Scott said Andrea, the first named storm of the hurricane season, gives Floridians a chance to tune-up their hurricane preparations. The governor said households should have three days of supplies on hand in event of a storm.

Bryan Koon, director of the state’s Department of Emergency Management, said, “Tomorrow, this will just be a memory for us.”

Still, the advancing storm drew warnings from the insurance industry.

“In the event of damages, insurers will be on the scene as soon as possible to adjust covered wind claims, and the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP) will service covered flood claims, but first and foremost, people need to be sure they are safe and that they heed all alerts,” said G. Donovan Brown, a spokesman for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

The industry said residents should attempt to minimize damage by securing loose items in their yards, like lawn
chairs, grills and other items that can cause damage if picked up by a tornado or severe windstorm.

Those in the storm’s path should also review their insurance coverage and make sure they have contact information for their agent
or insurer.

The storm is expected to slip across North Florida into Georgia, making its way up the East Coast toward New York and New England by Saturday morning.

Scott’s longtime spokesman heads to Fla GOP

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by John Kennedy

One of Gov. Rick Scott’s longest-serving advisers — communications chief Brian Burgess — is heading across town to the Florida Republican Party.

Burgess will be replaced by Melissa Sellers, a former spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Scott and Burgess go way back — working together on Conservatives for Patients Rights, the political committee the governor set up as a private citizen to work unsuccessfully on derailing the Affordable Care Act.  Burgess was by Scott’s side as the former health care executive became a longshot candidate for governor in Florida in 2010.

After Scott spent $72 million of his own money pursuing his first elected office, Burgess emerged as prime spokesman for the governor.

The Burgess move to the party has been talked of for months.

But while marking the end of an era — albeit brief — on the Capitol’s first floor, it also likely carries some larger symbolism, as well.  Scott and the party are now effectively one as he heads toward a 2014 re-election campaign.

Scott acknowledged as much in his parting comments about Burgess.

“From the very beginning, Brian has been by my side as a strategic and political adviser, a trusted aide, and loyal member of my team,” Scott said.  “His strong work ethic, strategic advice and leadership will be missed inside the administration, but he isn’t going far.  In his new role, he will continue to help tell the story to Floridians and the nation about what we’re accomplishing every day.”  

For her part, Sellers already began spinning in Florida last week — directing communication for regional media at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Before that, she was Jindal’s press secretary during his gubernatorial campaign and played the same role in the governor’s office – leaving last December.

Seller’s move across the Gulf shouldn’t be that much of a scenery change. After all, she was around Jindal for a couple hurricanes, the BP oil spill in 2010, and several budget shortfalls, according to Scott’s announcement on her hiring.

Scott welcomed her arrival. “We have an ambitious agenda to create more jobs and opportunity for the hard working people of Florida and while we have made important progress already, there is a lot of work still ahead of us,” Scott said.


Scott demands plan for shrinking Citizens Insurance

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 by John Kennedy

Calls for revamping Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run carrier for those who can’t find private coverage, has been a rite of spring in Tallahassee for years.

But Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday is looking to accelerate that discussion — even as he still looks intent on finding a private company willing to take over Citizens, which now has 1.4 million policies statewide.

About half the homeowners’ policies in Florida are held by Citizens, which also is dealing with what actuaries say is 70 percent of the risk.  Coastal homes and condos, which face a high hurricane threat, form the bulk of the company’s line.

Meanwhile, Citizens is adding 4,000 to 5,00o policies a week — with private carriers continuing to cold-shoulder high-risk Florida homeowners, officials said.

“This is not something we can continue to do,” Scott told the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Scott wants the Citizens governing board to meet later this month and present a blueprint for Citizens’ future Dec. 6 to him and the Cabinet. The goal, he said, is simple:” “to shrink exposure.”

Don’t think of it as the government but as your ‘federal family’

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 by George Bennett

With Hurricane Irene bypassing Florida, the Sunshine State was spared death and destruction — as well as the weirdness of dealing with the “federal family” for post-storm assistance.

Here’s the headline on a Tuesday news release from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that landed in the inbox:


According to the FEMA release, “Under the direction of President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano, the entire federal family is continuing to lean forward to support our state, tribal, territorial and local partners as they respond to and begin to recover from Hurricane Irene….”

Read the whole thing after the jump…


Industry cheers Scott’s signature of property insurance overhaul bill

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law today a sweeping property insurance measure (SB 408) hailed by the insurance industry but denounced by consumer groups.

Critics say the new law, which goes into effect immediately, will allow insurance companies to raise rates up to 15 percent and make it harder for Floridians to collect on claims. Proponents contend the law will draw new insurers to the state and increase competition.

“A healthy, stable and competitive private insurance market is critical to the success of Florida, given the hazards we face,” Scott, whose staff helped craft the bill, said in a statement. “I commend the Florida Legislature, especially Senator Richter and Representative Wood, for bringing this important legislation forward.”

The new law undoes many of the changes approved by lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist in the wake of the catastrophic 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons.

Among other things, the new law:

- Shrinks from five years to three years the time homeowners have to file claims for hurricane damages;
- Lets insurers make homeowners to pay for repairs before getting reimbursed;
- Permit insurers to raise policyholders’ rates without prior approval from regulators;

Scott’s signature prompted a flurry of accolades from the insurance industry and business groups and a dour statement from Sen. Mike Fasano, who urged Scott to veto the measure.

“For an administration which vowed not to support new taxes or fees, this bill virtually guarantees a 15% premium ‘reinsurance’ increase for Florida policy holders. This is a backdoor tax and fee increase that will hurt most homeowners with a mortgage, consumers and small business owners at a time with very high foreclosure and unemployment rates, all during a fragile economic recovery,” Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said in a statement.

But supporters insist the new law will open up Florida’s insurance market.

“Despite what the critics say, signing this bill into law is the first step toward stabilizing Florida’s property insurance market. It will increase competition by attracting insurance companies that currently do not write property insurance policies in Florida,” said Mark Wilson, president Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Read some of the other blurbs after the jump.


Senate committee grills PSC appointees as governor watches

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 by Dara Kam
Gov. Charlie Crist waits to ask a state Senate panel to approve his appointees to the Public Service Commission. Michael C. Bender/The Palm Beach Post

Gov. Charlie Crist waits to ask a state Senate panel to approve his appointees to the Public Service Commission. Michael C. Bender/The Palm Beach Post

Gov. Charlie Crist cooled his heels for more than an hour as the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee grilled his two Public Service Commission appointees, Steve Stevens and David Klement, but left before the committee took a final vote.

Crist left shortly before 11 a.m. (Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp took his place) to attend a bill signing after being kept on ice by committee chairman Alex Diaz de la Portilla who took up two other bills before getting to the appointment confirmations.

The full Senate must approve the appointments once the committee signs off on them, if they do.

“Both of these men are men of great integrity,” Crist told the committee before the interrogations began. “That’s why I chose to appoint them from the pool that was given to me from you. I believe the Public Service Commission is a great panel. It can do very good work., and I know that these two men are dedicated to doing this. That’s all I wanted to say.”

But that wasn’t enough for Sen. Chris Smith, a black Democrat from Ft. Lauderdale who has raised concern in the past about the lack of diversity on the panel.


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