Gov.-elect Crist Optimistic Fla. Will Address Insurance Costs

December 4, 2006

Florida’s Gov.-elect Charlie Crist expressed confidence Friday that lawmakers would be productive in a special session to address the state’s homeowners insurance problem.

He said he favors some of the goals in a bill prepared by Gov. Jeb Bush’s office, including giving homeowners the choice of accepting higher deductibles or not including windstorm in their coverage, which could be pitfalls if a catastrophic hurricane hit Florida.

“I support choices, I like freedom of choice and if a consumer wants to make that choice, they ought to be empowered to do so. Whether I would opt to do it myself is another question,” Crist said. “People will have a higher deductible on their auto insurance for a cost-saving measure, so why not give them the same choice here.”

He added that he would also like to see homeowners get credits for making their homes safer, much like safe drivers save on auto insurance.

“If you’ve been one of these homeowners that’s been real responsible and you’ve hardened your home, why shouldn’t you get a reduction on your rate, just like you would on your auto coverage?” Crist said.

Solutions to the problem will come from Bush, House and Senate leaders from both parties, and his own advisers, said Crist, the state attorney general who beat Democrat Jim Davis last month.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Crist said he would tackle several issues, ranging from raising teacher salaries and lowering property taxes to creating paper trails for ATM-style voting machines, when he becomes governor Jan. 2.

But he said he may now need to put an asterisk next to his promise to sign no other bill before his proposed “Anti-murder Act” because of the Jan. 16 special session on insurance. His proposal, which would require judges to jail violent criminals who violate probation, can wait for the regular session in March.

Crist said he supports the idea of paper trails for touch-screen voting machines. The issue has been highlighted even more since the Nov. 7 election, with Democrat Christine Jennings claiming that touch-screens in Sarasota malfunctioned in the U.S. House District 13 race, possibly costing her the election to Republican Vern Buchanan. Jennings refuses to concede while state election officials test the machines.

“You go to buy gasoline or you go to your ATM machine and you get a receipt that kind of tells you what happened,” Crist said. “It seems like a pretty good idea to me, to be able to double check it later if there’s a close race.”

AP-ES-12-01-06 2353EST

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