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Governor Opposes Releasing 3,000 Inmates Early

August 31st, 2007 by flanews

     As Florida lawmakers look at ways to cut more than $ 1 billion from the budget, the Department of Corrections says one way to help is to free some prisoners early.  The DOC says releasing 3,000 low-risk inmates now in work-release centers would free up bed space and save tens of millions of dollars.  But as Chris Casquejo tells us, the governor formerly known as chain gang Charlie is not a big fan of the proposal.

Hear it here:  Early Inmate Release Proposed 

     The Department of Corrections says freeing the 3,000 work release inmates early would not just ease overcrowding, it would save a bundle, $25 million the first year, and $34-million the next.
     “You may be going to a restaurant and they’re your waiter or they’re working in the kitchen,” said Mark Fontaine.
     Fontaine is with the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.  He says the only difference is where work-release prisoners will spend their nights.
     “Yet they will be checking in frequently with their probation officer and their probation officer will be making visits to them at work and at home at random so they won’t know when the person’s showing up,” he said.
     The Department of Corrections says it will not release sex offenders, those who have escaped or tried to escape, or those with a history of domestic violence.
     The governor, once known as chain gang Charlie because of his tough views on crime, is not softening for this specific proposal.
     “It shouldn’t be surprising that somebody who sponsored the 85 percent bill to keep criminals incarcerated, in prison, that letting anybody out early is not something I would condone or agree with,” said Gov. Charlie Crist.
     State lawmakers only have a couple of weeks to decide what to cut as we get closer to the special session.
     Florida’s Department of Corrections has an annual budget of $2.3 billion.  That makes up most of the state’s spending on criminal justice.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Criminal Justice, Politics, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

State Democrats Could Leave Out Many Voters

August 30th, 2007 by flanews

     Tens of thousands of Florida Democrats will likely have no say in choosing their party’s presidential nominee. Florida is being punished by the national party for going along with legislation to hold the preference vote on January 29, earlier than national rules allow. As Chris Casquejo tells us, it also means those fighting for this country will have no voice.

Here it here:  State Democrats Could Leave Out Many Voters

     24,000 active military who usually cast absentee ballots in Florida won’t have a say in the democratic presidential selection process. Another 100,000 who live here and vote absentee because they can are likely to skip a special caucus vote, leaving the choice in the hands of a very small democratic minority. The move benefits long shot candidate Dennis Kucinich.
     “The caucus, I think, would be a compromise position that would ensure Floridians would have the opportunity to have their voices heard and to be able to get delegates so they play a role in the convention,” Kucinich said
     State democratic party leaders are keeping a low profile as they try to figure out their next step.
     Leaders were expected to talk with DNC chairman Howard Dean and then amongst themselves Thursday night. Until then they would say nothing.
     Governor Charlie Crist says whatever they decide, the state’s importance in picking a President can’t be minimized.
     “The right and the smart thing to do for both parties frankly is to make sure that the January 29th vote in the state Florida is meaningful,” Crist said.
     Florida Democrats now have less than a month to sort it all out, a choice that could come down to leaving many voters without a voice to keep the national party leadership happy.
     The Democratic National Committee is pressing Florida to hold its primary no earlier than February 5.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Elections, Politics, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Another Insurer Wants To Hike Rates

August 30th, 2007 by flanews

     More than 37,000 Floridians could be hit with a big increase in their homeowner’s or fire insurance policy premiums.  Executives with the Auto Owners Insurance Group, which includes Owners and Southern-Owners appeared at a public hearing before the Office of Insurance Regulation.  They argued why they need to hike their homeowners rates by an average of 38.6 percent statewide.   They also want to hike up dwelling fire business rates by an average of 56 percent.
     “We cannot and do not use profits or losses in other states to set rates in Florida,” said Bill Woodbury, an executive with Auto Owners Insurance.  “And we cannot and do not let our profits from other lines of business subsidize or otherwise affect our homeowners’ program,” he said
     Florida law requires that the Office of Insurance Regulation hold public hearings on rate filings requesting a statewide average increase of 15 percent or higher, or if regulators decide to call a public hearing for other reasons.

Posted in Insurance, Politics, State News | 3 Comments »

Nationwide Drops 40,000 Florida Customers

August 29th, 2007 by flanews

     Nationwide is not on the side of tens of thousands of Florida property owners.  Next month, the major insurer is dropping more than 40,000 policies.  As Chris Casquejo tells us, state leaders are confident that other companies will fill the void.

Here it here:  Nationwide Drops 40,000 Florida Customers 

     Nationwide Insurance paid out more than $1 billion in hurricane claims in 2004 and 2005.  Sam Miller is with the Florida Insurance Council, a trade group representing insurers.  He says many factors go into a company’s decision to drop customers, including its own bottom line.
     “How much exposure can it maintain in Florida and be certain that following a major hurricane in Florida it can still pay all its claims,” Miller said.
     Nationwide customers could start receiving cancellation notices as early as next week, as the company continues its move out of the Florida property market.
     Most of the 40,000 homeowners who won’t have Nationwide will have another option, transferring their policies to a smaller insurance company, Security First.  Governor Charlie Crist does not seem too concerned about Nationwide cutting and running.
    “If these companies who want to overcharge want to leave the state, fine with me,” Crist said.  “We want to have companies that want to compete, that want to give lower rates, that want to do what’s right for Floridians.”
     Since the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons, 27 new companies, mainly smaller insurers like Security First, have entered the Florida property insurance market to pick up the customers the bigger companies are leaving behind.
     Nationwide will focus on auto insurance polices and financial services in Florida.  It will still have 176,000 homes insured in the state.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Hurricane Season, Insurance, Politics, State News | 1 Comment »

Governor Hopes For Marlins Stadium Deal Soon

August 29th, 2007 by flanews

     Even as the state struggles with hacking more than a billion dollars from its budget, Governor Charlie Crist says he’d like to see Major League Baseball and leaders in South Florida strike a deal soon on a new Florida Marlins stadium.
     “I think it’s an economic stimulation to our state.  The more entrepreneurial opportunities we have for jobs and job creation and economic stimulus, that’s all good for Florida,” Crist said.  “We’re so fortunate to be in the sunshine state where things are better than they are in other parts of the country.  We just got to keep it going.  So I would support it.”
     The Marlins’ lease agreement at Dolphin Stadium expires after the 2010 season.

Posted in State News | 5 Comments »

University Tuition Hike May Help Offset Budget Woes

August 28th, 2007 by flanews

     Despite a veto by Charlie Crist, Florida college students could be facing a tuition increase next semester. Back in the spring, lawmakers approved a five percent hike that was wiped out by the governor’s veto pen. But the tuition plan could be revived to help deal with a billion dollar budget shortfall.  Chris Casquejo talked with students and school leaders about the financial flip-flop.

Hear it here: Tuition Hikes 

     Students at Florida State University are back in class, hitting the books. But come January, families of those who attend the state’s 11 universities may feel a hit in their checkbooks, as much as 5 percent.
     “I think increasing tuition when we’re already here is completely unfair and that you would have an immense number of dropouts,” said FSU first-year student Laura Been.
     Many students at FSU are on financial aid, but they still will feel the pain of a tuition hike.
     “Financial aid probably won’t change,” said Carl Bellefleur, a first-year student.
     That means he will have to spend more time trying to make money and less time to focus on getting good grades.
     “I need to be focused on one thing, school.  I can’t work and go to school.  It would be too much things on my mind,” Bellefleur said.
     But University of Florida President Bernie Machen says even a tuition hike won’t be enough.
     “We are woefully short of faculty to teach students,” Machen said.
     Governor Charlie Crist hopes universities can wait a year.
     “I’d rather have them not go up.  I had talked to them about waiting until 08,” Crist said.
     But lawmakers may not be able to wait. They have a billion dollar hole in the budget and raising tuition in January would be one small way to help bridge the gap.
     Florida’s universities rank near the bottom in tuition rates nationally.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Education, State Budget, State News | 1 Comment »

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