State Fire Marshal Gallagher with firefighters
Volume 3 Number 4
January 23, 2006

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Like many Americans across our nation, I was alarmed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s weakening of traditional property rights in the case of Kelo v. City of New London.  I am grateful that, in the wake of that decision, Speaker Bense formed the Select Committee to Protect Private Property Rights to examine Florida law in this critical area.  While some observers believed that our law already protected Floridians from a Kelo-style economic development taking, the presentations made to this committee have demonstrated that additional property rights protections are needed.

As a member of the Florida Cabinet, I have had the opportunity to address many property issues, and I consider the following ideas to be the most promising in enhancing the protection of property rights in Florida.

  • Clarify that Florida law does not permit pure “economic development” takings. 

  • Uncouple the use of tax increment financing and other redevelopment powers from the use of the power of eminent domain in the Community Redevelopment Act (“CRA”). 

  • For purposes of eminent domain in the redevelopment context, limit takings to conditions that threaten public health or safety. 

  • Evaluate blight on a parcel by parcel basis, or, at a minimum, apply an “immediately surrounding area” standard. 

  • Ensure full and fair compensation for those whose homes or businesses are taken. 

  • Review the treatment of bona fide agricultural properties. 

Let your voice be heard on this important issue by reaching out to your state representatives.


 

 

GALLAGHER RENEWS CALL FOR INSURANCE REFORMS

In Orlando during an address before the Windermere Rotary Club, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher renewed his call for solutions to strengthen Florida’s property insurance market.

Last year, in the wake of two unprecedented hurricane seasons, Gallagher proposed a comprehensive insurance reform plan to better protect homeowners. This session, he is also asking the Legislature to consider reforms to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state’s insurer of last resort, which he believes are critical to improving coverage options for homeowners.

“Eight catastrophic storms in 15 months have caused more than $32 billion in insured damages, and Florida homeowners are bearing the brunt of this burden,” Gallagher said. “The comprehensive approach I am offering provides the solutions our state needs to protect consumers and to prevent an insurance market meltdown.” CONTINUED


 

HOMEOWNER REPAIRS AND YOUR MORTGAGE COMPANY

During the repair phase of the hurricane recovery process, homeowners may encounter difficulty getting the hurricane claim settlement released from the mortgage company. An awareness of these issues may help the process go more smoothly, so here are some tips:

Checks made out in name of both homeowner AND mortgage holder

Insurance checks are usually made payable to both the homeowner and mortgage holder.  To receive funds, homeowners should endorse their claim checks and forward them to their lenders.  Depending on the size of the check, your account and payment history and the amount of equity you have in your home, the lender may return all or some of the funds to you or provide guidelines on how the funds will be released to you.  However, lenders may have additional procedures to follow so you should always contact your lender first to find out how they would like you to proceed. CONTINUED


 

Educate Yourself on Annuities

A recent Florida law has helped curb abusive sales practices by unscrupulous insurance agents selling annuities to seniors.

"Annuities can be an effective investment tool for many Floridians wanting a steady stream of income for retirement,” said Tom Gallagher, chief financial officer of Florida. “But too many of our state’s seniors have been preyed upon by agents who are motivated by commission payments, not consideration of a senior’s financial circumstances. Florida law now holds companies and agents accountable for the products they sell and the investment advice they give.”

An annuity is an insurance contract that offers a guaranteed series of payments over a period of time. Insurance companies and agents offering annuity products to seniors over the age of 65 are required to clearly document the basis for selling the product, including consideration of a senior’s financial and tax status, as well as investment objectives. The Department of Financial Services has the authority to take corrective action if a company or agent violates the law.

Gallagher helped pass this law in response to calls and letters from hundreds of seniors and their families who told the department they were convinced to liquidate CDs, stocks and savings accounts to fund annuities only to discover these actions robbed them of access to their savings. CONTINUED