Veto Watch on Crist: Awaiting Media's Instructions
Around the State
Now that Crist is a "has-been" Republican, he's even more loved. Editorial boards across the state were reflexively orgasmic in praising the governor for his "rogue" veto of Senate Bill 6, the teacher performance-pay/tenure measure.
Editors are entitled to their own opinions and biases, of course. But let's be clear here: Crist did not veto SB 6 for any deep philosophical reasons; he vetoed it because he thought it would win him votes as an independent U.S. Senate candidate in November.
Like Sen. John Kerry's infamously shifting stand on the Iraq War, Crist was for SB 6 before he was against it.
Now Crist can play politics with more bills sitting on his desk. Chief among them is the property insurance reform bill, SB 2044.
At the urging of the state's insurance industry -- including the state's own Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the state's Hurricane Catastrophe Fund -- lawmakers passed a reasonable set of provisions that would limit the filing time for claims from five years to three and crack down on rampant mitigation fraud.
Kevin McCarty of the state's Office of Insurance Regulation said these "cost drivers" must be addressed if the insurance industry is to remain financially viable in Florida.
The Orlando Sentinel, in a Tuesday editorial, stated that the bill "would sensibly reduce claim-filing deadlines to three years from five, and require insurers to maintain more capital to pay claims after big storms."
Then, brushing right past its own praise, the Sentinel fell into a journalistically prone populist position and advised the governor to veto the bill because it "still looks like a give-back to the industry."
It's important to remember here that the "industry" includes the same state-run agencies (Citizens and the Cat Fund) favored by Crist. They, too, backed the bill's provisions. So do McCarty & Co. Are they "industry" shills, too?
While no one likes to see rate increases, lawmakers recognized that some flexibility is needed to make Florida's insurance system actuarially sound. There's a price to pay for living in Hurricane Alley.
SB 2044 would streamline the Byzantine rate-review process, with a 10 percent cap, and adjust the way insurers pay replacement costs. It also cracks down on widespread fraud involving mitigation credits.
But opportunistic politicians like Crist act as though they can defy the laws of economic gravity.
Speaking to cheering Realtors in the Capitol Courtyard last month, Crist pledged to veto any legislation that would raise property insurance rates. Last year, he killed a widely supported bill that would have deregulated certain well-capitalized companies. SB 2044 could be headed for the same fate this year.
Could it be mere coincidence that the "People's Governor" has received more money from real-estate and development PACs than insurers? Just asking.
The Wall Street Journal has called Crist "Hurricane Charlie" for his industry-killing antics, but Florida's mainstream press -- which evidently knows next to nothing about business -- keeps drinking the Crist Kool-Aid, confusing political pandering for actual public service.
While Crist fiddles with his veto pen, he needs to remember one thing: His pals in the media may love him today, but they'll leave him in a heartbeat.
Just remember how The New York Times played McCain in 2008. The Gray Lady's wise heads endorsed their Maverick in the Republican presidential primaries, then quickly kicked him to the curb in the general election.
One pundit has observed that Charlie's support is a mile wide and an inch deep. A veto of SB 2044 would say the same about his thought process.
Reach Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.