Rod Smiths opponent for the Democratic primary in this years governors race, Jim Davis, has also revealed his own plan to deal with the rapid increase in home insurance costs throughout the state. Davis was is St Pete beach today, speaking about his ideas and getting feedback from a select group of citizens. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer was there and filed this report.

About a dozen resort and restaurant owners, fire and rescue workers, and past and present local elected officials gathered at the Oyster Shucker restaurant, across the street from the Gulf of Mexico in St Pete Beach, to hear congressman Jim Davis talk about his plan to fix the homeowners insurance crisis in Florida.

ACT-Davis �Ive talked to homeowners all over the state who don’t know if they can afford the bill..mortgage you have a problem,…developers don’t think they can get insurance..we are one storm away from economic disaster..�

Davis has created what he calls the “policy holders Bill of Rights�. It includes creating a PolicyHolder Advocate General to give ratepayers a voice in the process of setting insurance rates, overturning a 2005 law which eliminated the “valued policy law� a change which Davis says has enabled insurance companies to avoid paying claims.

ACT-Davis “We have a loophole in Florida law..what it does it makes it easy for wind to blame flood and flood to blame wind. Who wins..I know who loses..who loses..even if you hire a lawyer the cost is too high..�

Davis pointed out that the country has a national insurance fund for terrorist attacks, and the same should be done for national disasters. That’s why his plan also includes the creation of a federal catastrophe fund, and a promise to not let the state raid the money of the hurricane catastrophe fund,

ACT-Davis “The way I think you get this done, is the nations governors descend..tell Washington..are you tired of sending money to FEMA..well ask you for less..�

Davis’ Policy holders bill of rights makes the promise that he will, if elected governor, conduct annual audits of citizens property insurance, crack down on insurance companies that cherry pick the most lucrative homeowners and deny insurance to higher risk homes. Keith Overton the vice president of the Tradewinds resort in St Petersburg, said the problem is even bigger for businesses.

ACT “We went from 120 million to 40 mil…the problem is not only going from 800k to 2 mil…we have a bank loan that requires us to get more than 40 mil in coverage…you are in violation of your bank loan…tourism is going to go away..there are properties, why do I want to be in the tourism business.many will fold tent and go….YOU ARE SAYING YOU WILL PASS ALONG< YOU CANT PASS IT ON…no I don’t have the ability to pass it along..you cant just go raise rates..WONT ALL OTHERS..I don’t think there is enough demand, that we can do it..alternative destinations they have choices..with rising gas prices they are looking at alternatives..�

Dave George owns Oyster Shuckers restaurant, which was recently built to new hurricane standards. He also owns a restaurant across the street, which is older, and has had enormous rate increases as a result.

ACT “You cant pass everything on..you cant raise prices…i'm on competition..across the street the price has gone up..this one it hasn’t..at what point do I say what price do I raise across the board..

Tarpon springs resident Bill Gowan told Davis, that he’s been dropped by 4 insurance companies even though he’s never filed a claim. Gowan said he supported most of what Davis laid out, but thought he wasn’t addressing some important issues.

ACT-Gowan “If we could abolish hurricanes..we have to pay attention to global warming..we cant put our head in the sand…I HAVE TALKED TO PEOPLE WHO SAID THEY DDOUL DO THINGS ABOUT HURRICANES…UNDERSTANDING…SOMETHING IS HAPPENING WITH THE WHETHER

The last facet of Davis’ plan is to expand the number of loans and financial incentives for people who storm proof their homes and businesses. Ward Friszolowski, the mayor of St Pete Beach, said that many residents are making improvements to the structure of their homes, but not to level needed to withstand storms because of the 50 percent rule, which says if people increase the value of their home by more than 50%, they also have to raise it to compliance with FEMA standards. As a result, many people are only doing some of the work that’s needed.. He also said homes constructed in the 20 years after world war II were not built well.

ACT “A lot of that was slab on grade..if a hurricane hits here were in big trouble..were paying for some of those decisions..they seemed to be smarter about building with crawl ..then law period in 50s and 60s..�

Rick Walker, district chief of St Petersburg fire and rescue, who recently had to get his home insured by citizens insurance, said the problem is with economics, and that its simply cheaper in the short term to skimp of features that would make homes safer.

ACT “Its all built on economics..weve lost track of that, built structures that didn’t make the need…I don’t care which building falls on me, its all gonna hurt..no matter what they are just trying op make the code..you need to build different..then the insurance companies would think about it differently.�

WMNF spoke to Jim Davis after the round table discussion, we began by asking him—with all this talk about Hurricanes, isn’t the problem simply that Florida is a swamp that was never meant to be built on to the extent it has?

ACT “We do need to take a look at coastal development…as governor, I would lead the state in planning ahead and considering ahead…ANOTHER ISSUE, YOU MISS A LOT OF VOTES..im trying to balance my campaign, ive been fighting…any votes you missed you wish you had been there for..I’m doin my best..there are many times I go do DC..you can only go back and do better…�

To view Jim Davis Policy Holders Bill of Rights, log onto http://www.jimdavis2006.com/

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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