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PIP Going Down to Wire

September 28th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

When the clock strikes midnight Sunday night, Florida will become one of three states that does not require medical coverage for motorists. The sunset of Personal Injury Protect marks the biggest change in 30 years for insurance customers, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the reprieve may be only temporary.

Hear it Here: PIP Goes Down to the Wire

Until now to get a tag for your car, you had to present proof of Personal Injury protection or PIP insurance; but with PIP no longer the law, after October 1st, some estimate as many as a million or more drivers will go without insurance. Florida hospitals have been pushing to keep the coverage on the books. Spokesman Rich Rasmussen says consumers should bdeware.  “Because if no fault is allowed to go away every automobile accident is going to have to be a determination of fault. In other words somebody will be responsible for that accident somebody will pay for the damages in that accident.”

House and Senate negotiators did strike a deal to salvage No Fault, but  it is not included in their call for a special session. The governor says he may add it on Monday.
“I have to see what the call is going to be but I am certainly willing to consider putting it in. If it is a part of the call I have said all along that making sure we have coverage for people is important to me.” Crist made the comment an hour before the session call was released.

The end of no fault is being pushed by big insurance companies, who say you will
save money. But other coverages are likely to go up as more lawsuits are needed to sort our who it at fault.

Insurance agents like former Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter are telling their clients to protect themselves by increasing their uninsured motorist and other coverage limits.
“I think the consumers who have insurance in Florida are going to be the losers if the PIP coverage is sun setting” says Gunter.

Lawmakers do plan hearings on Tuesday. The day after No Fault expires.

The Senate is the apparent reluctant body in the no fault debate. House Speaker Marco Rubio wrote the governor this afternoon, asking him to add not only No Fault, but property tax relief as well to the call for the special session.

Posted in Business, Charlie Crist, Legislature, Politics, State News | 1 Comment »

Tuition Wars

September 27th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

College students and their parents can expect to pay higher tuition come January…Or not. There is a battle on between the legislature and the board that governs the university system over who has the authority to raise tuition, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us students could get caught in a double whammy.

Hear it Here: Tuition Wars

College students can expect to pay 55 dollars more per semester starting in January.  Javier Ortega of Cape Coral says that’s not so bad. “It’s only 55 dollars. It were 200 that would be way too much!”

While not set in stone, the state legislature is moving to re-pass a 5 percent  tuition hike, to offset budget cuts. The governor vetoed a 5% hike in the spring, but State Senator Evelyn Lynn is hoping he’ll let this one become law. “And I hope he’ll be realistic in recognizing the needs. If  we’re going to have high quality education,  we’ve got to begin to fund it.”
Here’s where it gets complicated. After a voice vote, the University Board of Governors also passed a 5 percent tuition hike.  What’s unclear is whether the Board, which was created in 2002 has the authority to raise tuition…that’s being fought over in court.

University of Florida President Bernie Machen says the increase shouldn’t be too painful.

“The spring tuition we will get is about two and a half million dollars. The cut I am making in my budget is 34 million dollars.” says Machen.

The story gets even more complicated….because if the Board of Governors sets tuition, the increase likely won’t be covered by Bright Futures….but if the legislatures hike sticks….it will be.

Posted in State News | 4 Comments »

School Districts Getting By

September 27th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

State lawmakers were in Tallahassee today to begin cutting the state budget by a billion dollars. The actual session begins next week, but committees of the House and Senate began debating where to cut. The state’s 67 school systems dodged a bullet. The recommended cuts are coming in at less than 2 percent, which should not affect classroom instruction says Wayne Blanton of the Florida School Boards Association “We’re probably going to have a 1 point 2 to one point three percent cut. Most school districts have about a 2 or 3% reserve. And if we can stay below that 2% level and get down to about a 1.3..which is what they are going to do, we won’t lose any services at the local level.”
120 million is being cut from a general allocation to the school districts. Another 18 million is coming from money to reduce class size.

Posted in Children, Education, Legislature, State Budget | No Comments »

University Cuts Don’t Hurt So Badly

September 27th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

State universities will see their budgets cut a combined 68 million dollars when lawmakers meet next week. After moving around cash from one pot to another, the Senate Higher Education Committee settled on the cuts, which will be approved late next week. Chairperson Evelyn Lynn says lawmakers are trying to trim as little as possible from schools. ” I think most of the cuts came to about 2.9%, and you will see as you look at our charts that really we still have an increase over what they were funded last year, and that’s a very positive outlook” say s Lynn

Community Colleges will see the same 2.9 percent cuts.

Posted in Children, Education, Legislature, State Budget | 1 Comment »

Technology Fee May Be Coming

September 27th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

As state lawmakers begin cutting a billion dollars from the state budget, one state lawmaker is suggesting college students begin paying a technology fee to help pay for computer upgrades and other things such as wireless networks on the state’s 11 college campuses. State Senator Jim King says most students would gladly pay for better technology Sen. Jim King of Jacksonbvile says if he can pass the legislation, he is offering a reprieve for a year. “You get a 5% discretionary the universities can do it if they want, they don’t have to do it if they don’t want. But kicking it in 2009 gives the students the opportunity if it is passed to know that in 2009 I am going to have to come up with more money for tuition because the fee is going to be increased for technology. But it is a win win situation.” say King.
The idea was considered by lawmakers this past spring and rejected.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

NCAA Violations at FSU

September 27th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Twenty three FSU student athletes are in hot water for academic irregularities that include receiving improper assistance from a staff tutor. After interviewing more than 130 student athletes and numerous staff, the university discovered that one tutor provided typing assistance. Another provided answers or directed the athletes to answers to online quizzes. FSU President T.K. Wetherell calls the situation embarrassing.

“I don’t like what we saw that bothered us obviously that athletic and staff would have done what they did, that’s a concern obviously, but my real concern is how I don’t know at this point more than what I do know. I am glad I know what I know, but I want to know what I don’t know.” say Wetherell.
Both the students and the university could be punished by the NCAA for providing the improper academic assistance.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

USF to Require Meningitus Vaccinations

September 27th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

The Board of Governors of the state university system is working on a plan to require all students living on campuses, and perhaps almost all students, to be vaccinated for meningitis. The rule will likely take effect in the fall, but the University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft says it will begin requiring proof of the vaccinations in the spring.

“We are going ahead in saying that all students that live in Residents Halls must have a vaccination or proof of the vaccination, this is too important of an issue, this is an infections disease which means that can spread everywhere and it’s so lethal so quickly and we are not going to tolerate it”
Requiring all students to be vaccinated to enter a Florida university would take an act of the legislature.

Posted in Children, Education, Health | No Comments »

Student Death from Meningitis Highlights Vacccination Debate

September 26th, 2007 by flanews

The death of a nineteen year old University of South Florida student from meningitis is raising awareness of the dangerous virus.
School policy requires, when students enroll they must be made aware of the dangers of meningitis and what they can do to protect themselves.
While a vaccination is recommended by school health official, students do not have to receive the injection.

School officials remind students there are situations in college settings that can lead to the spreading of the virus, so they recommend getting the vaccination.
“Crowded conditions, sharing utensils, sharing cigarettes, sharing glasses, these are all areas that can spread infection.” said
Florida State Student Health Center Director Lesley Sacher.

FSU student Candace Fitzgerald says she got the vaccine because it is the right thing to do. ” I think it’s silly if you don’t get it. I don’t remember how much it cost but I think it was covered by my insurances, so it’s worth not getting sick I think.”

Health officials also remind students, washing your hands frequently is also a good way to protect yourself from the spread of germs.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

PIP Deal Confusing

September 26th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

The on again off again efforts to keep no fault auto insurance may be confusing to some. Letters have gone out to every auto policy holder in the state, letting them know what the end of no fault may mean. The requirement to have Personal Injury Protection expires October first. A plan to keep it won’t be considered by the legislature before the fourth or fifth of October, if at all. Sam Miller of the Florida Insurance Council says if you have questions, call your company.  “If you have insurance now you will have insurance October 1st. Unless you don’t pay the premium or you make a conscience decision to cancel your coverage. It may be, personal injury protection to take care of you if you are injured in an accident. It could be an expanded, what we call med pay, every policy holder should have been notified by their by their company by now look at  that notice if you have any questions about it contact your company. The main thing to keep in mind is that you have insurance that may be PIP it may not be PIP.” says Miller.

State lawmakers will hold two workshops on Personal Injury Protection legislation next Tuesday.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Jury Selection Begins in Boot Camp Death

September 24th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Jury selection for 7 guards and a nurse charged with causing the death of 14 year old Martin Lee Anderson at the Bay County Boot Camp in January 2005 got under way today. The 8 are charged with criminal manslaughter of a child. As Mike Vasilinda tells us , a large number of potential jurors were called in the case because of pre trial publicity.

Hear it Here: Jury Selection Begins in Boot Camp Death

Military jets from nearby bases make frequent flights over the Panama City Civic Center…where 1450 jurors were summoned. The Jets are an indication of how conservative the area can be.

Inside, potential juror after potential juror shook their head no when asked if they had formed an opinion. Most had seen some part of this videotape, showing 14 year old Martin Lee Anderson being kneed in the back and having ammonia tablets shoved up his nose. One potential juror told the court he believed in the American system of justice. “In our justice system, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, and I think the whole state went crazy.” said the middle aged potential juror.

Several dozen FAMU and FSU students came to protest what they called justice denied…their shirts already convicting the 8 in the court of public opinion. FSU student Shamair Howard said one look at the tape should be enough. “To sit and see a yong child beaten on camera to death, is startling”.

Police presence was heavy. but a rumored counter demonstration didn’t materialize. One TV news photographer was detained briefly for crossing a police line.

The number of prospective jurors being called here is seven times the normal number
that would be called in a criminal case. Dianna Riddle made the first cut….even though she expressed an opinion… “That they were not guilty.” she said afterward.

But others who spoke their mind were sent home, including Steven Crase, who told the court he didn’t believe in violence”.

Despite pre trial publicity, experts believe a jury can be seated in this conservative panhandle town.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

“Don’t Tase Me, Bro”

September 21st, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

The tasering and arrest of Andrew Meyer at the University of Florida is quickly becoming the taser heard around the world. A state investigation is already underway, and as Mike Vasilinda reports, the incident is raising both civil rights and free speech issues.

Hear it Here: “Don’t Tase me, Bro”


The arrest and tasering of Andrew Meyer is quickly spreading around the world. The video sharing site You Tube shows over 4 hundred thousand views in just two days.

Florida Attorney General Bill Mc Collum is a staunch law and order kind of guy, and even he questions what happened on the UF campus. “I think most of us..presumably this was excessive force and needs to be investigated. Free speech is important in our country…free speech on a
campus, particularly is.” said the Attorney General.

The amount of chatter on the internet verges on the overwhelming, with the number of posts in the thousands. There are plenty of posts unfavorable to Meyer, saying he got what he deserves. But Adria Harper of the First Amendment Foundation thinks something is terribly wrong with what happened.

“We don’t want students to feel uncomfortable..or any citizen to feel uncomfortable exercising their first amendment rights. The thought of being tasered for saying something that may not be pleasing to somebody is certainly scary.” says Harper.

The Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the incident., and until finished, two of the officers involved remain on administrative leave. But it’s clear Tallahassee wants answers quickly.


Posted in State News | No Comments »

Insurance Documents Under Scrutiny

September 19th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

State Insurance Regulators are sifting through thousands of subpoenaed
documents, trying to see if there was collusion between companies to
keep hurricane Insurance rates up, even after massive changes in the
law. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the investigation could take months.

Hear it Here: Insurance Documents Under Scrutiny

Deep with in the State Office of Insurance Regulation, investigators are
pouring over insurance company records. Their top attorney won’t say
exactly what they have, but he does concede they are looking for
evidence of wrongdoing.

Are there communications that are inappropriate, it not unlawful, going
on through those associations.” said Steve Parton, General Counsel for the Insurance regulator.

The documents also sparked an hour long discussion between the Governor
and State Cabinet.  The exchange between Belina Miller of OIR, Ag Commissioner Charles Bronson,a nd the Governor was enlightening.

Our actuary’s are picking through those in great detail.” said Miller. Bronson responded.
“So if games are being played, governor, we’ll find out” to which Charlie Crist said “Damn right we will.”

Bob Hunter is one of two independent consultants who predicted rates
would drop 24 percent. He says there may be legitimate reasons they only
went down half that amount. It depends on what the documents say.

“This is an industry that’s pretty collusive as its nature. Its got its
rating organizations.” says Hunter, a former insurance Commissioner in Texas.

The industry says Hunters numbers are wrong..and Gary Landry from the Florida
Insurance Council sais it never promised a 24percent drop.“I think companies have operated
under the law and they will continue todo so.” Landry told reporters.

But the governor thinks the documents will prove to be a smoking gun.
“I don’t think we can trust this industry. I think I’ve been pretty clear
about that. I don’t and I don’t think the people do either. And what I
think is important is that we get to the bottom of this, and find out if
they are adhering to the letter of the law.”

The investigation is likely to take months before any answers emerge
on why rates are still so high.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Three More License Plates

September 19th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

The Governor and Cabinet approved the designs of three new license
plates, which clears them for sale. One promotes Nascar, another the
state corrections service organization and the third helps support the
families of troops serving overseas.

Louie Wainwright, a former corrections secretary helped push the plate
for corrections. “The funds are used for disasters of the families of the employees, such
as burning houses, hurricanes, storms, so forth. We fell the plate will
be purchased by many of the employees, and hopefully, the people in the
community will recognize Corrections is part of the criminal justice
system and should have the same visibility as the others. “

Martin Boire lobbied the Save Our Troops plate through the legislature.

“Some of that money will be used to look out for the moral of the
troops and that we’re aware of what they do, and thank you for it. Part
of the money will be used to look out for their families here at home,
because these people are out there and they have left a family at home
and that family has a car that has to be fixed. It has kids that need to
go to school. They have every day needs.”

Mike Helton is the President of NASCAR and expects the plate to be one
of the top selling specialty plates in Florida.

“We feel like the importance of the plate is to give NASCAR fans in the state of Florida a chance to show their enthusiasm and the revenue from the tag will fund the sports foundation. Some will get to NASCAR Foundation which is a foundation for families a couple years a go to support charitable organizations in Florida and across the nation.”

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Marketing Florida and Hurricane Alley

September 19th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist today appointed Dale Brill, a former General
Motors Executive to head the states office of Tourism and Economic
Development. Brill holds a doctorate in communications with a focus in
advertising and marketing from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Brill was asked if hurricanes and global warming make his job more

“It does create a challenge, but it’s limited. I’ll say it. Hurricanes
have been here hundreds of years. And there are certainly folks who have
been loyal to our state. That understand that. It is a deterrent in some sectors and some
segments and we have to be mindful of that, but it will not do long term
damage for our state at all.”

Brill served previously as the chief marketing officer for Visit Florida.

Posted in State News | 5 Comments »

Bad Copmpanies Being Punished

September 19th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

More than 4 dozen companies will no longer have their stocks purchased
by the state pension fund. The Governor and Cabinet today voted to
divest stocks in companies doing business in Sudan and Iran. None of the
companies are household names and none are headquartered in the US.
State Senator Ted Deutch led the effort to ban the stock purchases.

“This is an important messages to those companies, and more importantly,
by setting forth this list today, we make it easier for the other states
in this country and for local governments to help identify these
companies, and put the pressure on them, so ultimately there’s greater
pressure on the government of Sudan and Iran, to stop the actions we
want to influence. Deutch told the Governor and cabinet members.

The law gives the state up to a year to sell it’s holdings.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

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