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Business Observer Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 11 years ago

Government Digest: Aug. 11

Governmental action from around the Gulf Coast.
by: Jay Brady Government Editor

Policyholders protest sinkhole rates
PASCO COUNTY — A group formed by Merlin Group — a Tampa Bay law firm that fights insurance companies on behalf of policyholders — plans to protest against a proposed rate increase by Citizens Property Insurance Co. for sinkhole coverage. Citizens' officials recommend an average increase of 428% statewide because of abuse and fraud by sinkhole claimants.

Policyholders of Florida, recently organized by former state Insurance Advocate Sean Shaw, now an associate of the firm, scheduled the protest for 4-6 p.m. Aug. 16, in front of the Pasco County Government Center in New Port Richey. State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, an opponent of the rate increases, plans to speak at the event. The coalition seeks to have the current insurance consumer advocate and the Legislature intervene with the Office of Financial Regulation to lower or stretch out the rate increases.

Last year, Citizens collected roughly $32 million in sinkhole premiums, but paid out claims exceeding $245 million in claims. That, and a new law allowing Citizens to make sinkhole rates actuarially sound, prompted the rate increases.

FDOT to focus on freight, ports
MARCO ISLAND — Keeping with Gov. Rick Scott's emphasis on development of the state's ports to create jobs, the Florida Department of Transportation has created an Office of Freight Planning and Logistics. FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad made the announcement speaking at the Florida Transportation Builders' Association's annual convention Aug. 5 in Marco Island. “This office will include the Seaports Office, the Rail Office and will also focus on cargo movement by air and truck,” according to Prasad's prepared remarks. “The creation of this office will play a key role in advancing Governor Scott's initiatives to transform Florida's economy by becoming a global hub for trade, logistics and export-oriented manufacturing activities.”

Benacquisto named to Senate leadership
TALLAHASSEE — Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, appointed Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, to serve as deputy majority leader of the Senate. Elected in 2010, upper chamber freshman Benacquisto will serve as deputy to Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “In her inaugural session, Senator Benacquisto's energy was unmistakable,” says Haridopolos in a statement announcing the appointment. “She treats her constituents with respect and is devoted to serving Floridians. Senator Benacquisto embraces her role as state senator wholeheartedly, and I know her colleagues in the Senate majority will benefit from her characteristic focus and drive.” Before her election to the Senate, Benacquisto served as a councilwoman for the Village of Wellington from 2002 to 2010.

EDC Forum
NAPLES — The Collier County legislative delegation will discuss the upcoming legislative session and redistricting at the Economic Development Council of Collier County pre-legislative luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at Vergina Restaurant, 700 5th Ave. S., Naples. To register, visit
The cost is $40 for council investors and $50 for guests.

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