tampabay.com

Crist is light on details, but vows to focus on insurance

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published December 2, 2006


MIAMI - Gov.-elect Charlie Crist said he doesn't know all the specifics on how to solve the state's homeowners insurance problem, but he expressed confidence Friday that lawmakers will be productive in a special session to address the crisis.

"I campaigned all over the state, and the issue that I heard about most was the insurance issue - bar none," he said.

It was one of several subjects the state attorney general addressed during an interview with the Associated Press.

Crist said insurance will be the top issue facing him after he becomes governor Jan. 2 and that he may have to back off his promise to sign no other bill before his proposed "antimurder act" because of the Jan. 16 special session on insurance.

Crist said he hadn't read the entire 231-page draft insurance bill prepared by Gov. Jeb Bush's office and released Wednesday, but he is familiar with some of the goals and favors them.

They include giving homeowners the choice of accepting higher deductibles or not including windstorm damage in their coverage, which could be pitfalls if a catastrophic hurricane hit Florida.

"If a consumer wants to make that choice, they ought to be empowered to do so," Crist said.

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

Solutions to the problem will come from Bush, House and Senate leaders from both parties and his own advisers, Crist said.

On other issues:

- Crist acknowledged there are inequity issues in his proposal to protect homeowners from significantly higher property taxes if they move to a new home, an idea that essentially lets them bring a cap on rates to their new house. It would be "difficult to justify to a fair-minded person" the idea that someone moving to the state for the first time should pay significantly higher property taxes than a next-door neighbor who has benefited from the cap.

- He is open to making changes to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. While he supports the way Bush has used the FCAT to grade schools, he will examine whether changes can be made to make the test less stressful for students.

- He supports the idea of a new baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins, who have threatened to move out of state if they can't get government help to build it. "It's not a stretch at all to view it as economic development for our state," Crist said.