Candidate tackles insurance crisis

Democrat Janet Long wants the Legislature to reorganize Citizens and look at insurance savings accounts.

Published September 27, 2006

State House candidate Janet Long says she can solve Florida's insurance crisis.

Long, a Democrat who is running against Republican Dottie Reeder for the House District 51 seat, briefly described her plan Tuesday during an interview with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. At the same time, she cautioned that the crisis that homeowners and Florida's insurance industry face is complicated and has no simple solution.

"You can't discuss this issue in sound bites," Long said.

The first step, she said, is dealing with the state-run Citizen's Property Insurance Co., set up as a fallback measure but now Florida's main property insurer.

"You cannot do away with Citizens," Long said. "It's irresponsible to do that."

She said Citizens needs to be reorganized to run like a real insurance business that evaluates risks and rates and operates with a balanced budget.

Setting up a national catastrophic fund is unrealistic, she said, because the federal government moves at a "snail's pace." It would be better, Long said, to form a consortium of states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, all the way up to Maine. That consortium, she said, could cover windstorm and catastrophic losses much the way flood insurance is handled.

Long said the prospect of insurance savings accounts should be explored. The accounts would be filled by a portion of the premium matched by private carriers and Citizens. The money in the account would be used to offset some catastrophic losses.

Long conceded that, while she was affected by increasing property taxes, she did not yet have a solution.

"I don't really know what the answer there is yet. ... I certainly will prepare to address it once I win in November and learn more about it," Long said. But portability, or taking one's cap with the owner, is not the answer because "it will have a mushroom effect" on local and county budgets.

Reeder, who is the mayor of Seminole, said that the money used for Citizens could be better used to lure reinsurers into the market. She also wants to remove the million-dollar houses from the state insurance pool and urge Congress to establish a catastrophic fund. Reeder said she has lobbied at the federal level to have that happen. And Reeder said tax rates could be held low by leaving the property tax rate with the house rather than having owners take it to their next home. She advocates an overhaul of the system to help with new construction.

At Tuesday's meeting, Long also took a moment to talk about Reeder. Long, a former Seminole council member, and Reeder served together.

Reeder, she said, is steeped in municipal issues but lacks the view of the larger picture that Long believes she has.

She also commented about Reeder's use of campaign funds to buy a Segway to campaign from house to house.

"I'm not buying a Segway," Long said. "At least I won't fall off of it." That was a reference to a spill Reeder took shortly after she bought the Segway.

"I thought of getting on my Rollerblades (but) I won't do that. It's bumpy out there," Long said.

Long said she is walking the district.


DISTRICT 51 -- District 51 covers Seminole and parts of Largo, Pinellas Park, South Pasadena, St. Petersburg and the west Lealman area. State representatives serve two-year terms and earn $30,996 a year.