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Sun Sentinel: Jay Liles: Address states’ vulnerability to storms

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We read with great interest Steve Pociask’s opinion piece on Aug. 21, “Florida citizens remain at unfair hurricane risk.”

Like the Florida Wildlife Federation, Pociask’s organization — the American Consumer Institute for Citizen Research — is a member of the Stronger Safer Florida coalition. This nonpartisan coalition of statewide business, consumer and conservation groups works together to advocate for necessary reform of both Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

Pociask points out the absurdity that a majority of Florida residents, through the assessments they pay on homeowners and auto policies, subsidize a large number of Citizens Insurance policies written for non-residents.

According to data that Pociask received from Citizens, the state-backed insurer provides policies to nearly 180,000 consumers living in other states and 91 foreign countries. A more wasteful form of foreign aid is hard to imagine.

Not only is the subsidized insurance provided by Citizens a financial risk for the majority of Floridians who obtain insurance in the private market, but continuing to allow public subsidies for our most storm and flood-prone coastal properties is bad public policy.

Promoting poor coastal development, especially in these important coastal barrier islands and coastal wetlands, puts people at risk and diminishes the recreational and wildlife value of the land.

While the Florida Legislature implemented significant legislation this past session that better protects Florida’s environment and wildlife, we need to continue on this forward path and address Florida’s vulnerability to storms, flooding and rising sea levels.

Protecting Florida’s natural features that play an important role in providing a vital habitat for fish and wildlife, while buffering us from inevitable storms, can be achieved through responsible legislation that returns Citizens to “the insurer of last resort” and “right-sizes” the Cat Fund.

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