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Business Observer Friday, May 11, 2007 12 years ago

Matt Walsh: Invoke the Lemon Law: Take back Crist

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Crist has it wrong. The insurance industry is not the enemy. The enemy is the state. How could it be any more obvious? When the state's largest property insurer is the state itself, there is nothing more that needs to be said. The "market" didn't create Florida's insurance-pricing troubles; the state did.

Matt Walsh: Invoke the Lemon Law: Take back Crist

That does it.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has crossed the line.

This marks the fourth time since his election that this space is devoted to Crist's startling activities as Florida's alleged Republican governor.

The first time was shortly after his election, when he led the special session on insurance reform. Maybe it was just a blip, so give him more time.

But from there, he has become progressively worse for the taxpayers of Florida - especially for the 2.5 million voters who thought last November they were electing a market-oriented, conservative Republican.

The clincher came on the last day of the legislative session, when Gov. Charlie Crist was quoted saying the following about Florida's insurance industry:

"They are tenacious. They will come up every crack and crevice they can contemplate to rip more money from the pockets of our people. The nail is in the coffin of the industry that was hurting our people."

With those gratuitous, unstatesmanlike, inaccurate remarks, the highest-ranking elected official in the state has insulted the 271,400 people in Florida whose livelihoods come from the insurance services they provide to their fellow Floridians.

What's more, Gov. Crist has put the world's businesses on notice that he is creating an inhospitable, unfriendly, socialistic climate for business. In effect, if your business is contemplating a move to Florida, think again. What was one of the best business climates in the nation has suddenly reversed, thanks to Crist. If Charlie Crist - and his legislative partners - are so willing to expand the role of the state in the insurance industry, what industry will be next? Health care? Banking? Retail?

Crist has it wrong. The insurance industry is not the enemy. The enemy is the state. How could it be any more obvious? When the state's largest property insurer is the state itself, there is nothing more that needs to be said. The "market" didn't create Florida's insurance-pricing troubles; the state did.

Rather than condemn and insult the insurance industry, rather than expand the reach of the state and rather than put taxpayers at enormous risk and exposure, as he has accomplished, the governor we thought we elected should have been taking steps all along to reduce the state's role. And a real Republican, rather than insult the insurance industry, would have thanked the companies, their shareholders, individuals and insurance entrepreneurs for taking the risks to insure Floridians in the first place. Without insurance, much of the quality of life that Floridians enjoy would not be what it is today. Without insurance, Florida's economy would come to a screeching halt.

So far as Republican voters have witnessed Gov. Crist, they've been had. From the moment of his property-insurance industry takeover to his big-spending wish list in his state of the state address to his pronouncements on global warming to his obvious rejection and disdain toward his predecessor, Crist has surprised and disappointed his core supporters. We thought we were buying a solid, newly used vehicle. Instead we got a really sour lemon.

If there were a Lemon Law for statewide elected officerholders, we should invoke it. Recall Crist.

Unfortunately, and much to the chagrin of many Republicans, Florida taxpayers may be stuck with Gov. Crist for all four years (see "Recall Not Allowed). For starters, Crist is enjoying high popularity among Floridians - thanks to a fawning mainstream media that nods in agreement with his populist socialism.

There's also the mechanical obstacles to removing a sitting governor. Republican voters would have to change the state constitution to allow the recall of state elected officeholders, a proposition that voters probably would want. You never know, someday Democrats may have their own lulu.

But if a constitutional revision passed, the bigger challenge would be persuading the state's Democrats to oust Crist. And why would they? They now have what they wanted.

Given Crist's current popularity, it's not likely we'll get a groundswell of support for Crist's recall. But at the least, we hope our reader Republicans will speak up. Crist needs to be reminded who funded his campaign and who put him into office.

Someone needs to reign him in before he swings completely socialistic.

RECALL NOT ALLOWED

Unlike California's constitution, Florida's Constitution does not contain a mechanism that allows for the recall of elected state officials.

The Constitution's only mechanism to remove the governor is through impeachment for what amounts to criminal behavior, and the Legislature would be the body to impeach.

But rule that out. State lawmakers have been complicit in nearly all of Crist's insurance initiatives.

If Republicans are indeed determined to recall Crist, they would be required to initiate a petition drive for a constitutional amendment that would allow for recall elections of state elected officeholders. Once that is approved, the next step would be a special recall election.

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