By JONI JAMES
Published January 16, 2007
Not all 160 lawmakers are created equal in the legislative process. Not to mention the veto pen the governor can wield over any piece of legislation. A look at the eight key elected officials to watch this week as the Florida Legislature convenes for a special session on the insurance crisis.
Gov. Charlie Crist
As Florida's new governor, Crist would face the brunt of the criticism if this week's session doesn't lower insurance rates. And lawmakers will try to curry his favor to forestall any vetoes. Still unclear is how hard he'll push to put new regulation on insurance companies, something the House has embraced but the Senate has not.
Marco Rubio, R-Miami
Rubio hails from South Florida, ground zero of the state's insurance crisis, and has led a total reversal in the chamber's philosophy about fixing the state's crisis. But will his populist rate-rollbacks and get-tough-on-insurance companies stance really fix the problem? Many colleagues aren't sure.
Don Brown, R-De Funiak Springs
Council chairman over House Insurance Committee
Brown, an insurance agent and architect of last spring's insurance bill, has been one of the staunchest opponents of expanding the government's exposure to hurricane risk, saying the eventual liability after a hurricane is too great. Though Rubio is in charge, it's still Brown who has the best command of the subject matter.
Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton
Chairman of the House Insurance Committee
Reagan, also an insurance agent, is in charge of the first drafts of the House insurance plan and will have to navigate public meetings on the matter. Can he fend off all the industry criticism to still pass Rubio's vision?
Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie
Pruitt has a populist streak that has made him far more receptive to talking about lowering insurance rates despite the fact it could require the government to assume more hurricane risk. He also works in real estate, an industry screaming that the state's crisis is exacerbating a sluggish home market.
Bill Posey, R-Rockledge
Chairman of Senate Banking and Insurance Committee
A Realtor, Posey warned last week that he sees insurance as a threat to the state's economy, and offered a more consumer-friendly plan than many expected. But Posey also has suggested he will resist further regulation on insurance companies, saying the industry met its end of the bargain in 2004 and 2005.
J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales
Chairman of Senate Agriculture Committee
Pruitt didn't give Alexander a leadership role on the insurance committee, where he has served for much of his legislative tenure. But that doesn't mean he won't play a role as one of the chamber's most insurance savvy lawmakers. Sympathetic to Brown's point of view that more government involvement is dangerous, Alexander will likely be involved behind the scenes - or Pruitt risks him asking embarrassing questions on the Senate floor.
Steve Geller, D-Hallandale Beach
Senate minority leader
Geller is a longtime former insurance committee member who has his own ideas about fixing the state's crisis. Even more significantly, he leads the Senate's 14 Democrats. To finish on time, the Republicans may need the Democrats' cooperation, which the minority party could leverage for changes.