As I travel the state and talk to many of my readers, I love to get to know them outside of what they do in their professional lives. Often you will hear me talk about my Lebanese heritage and that both sets of my grandparents were from Lebanon. I love the food, my strong-willed Lebanese relatives and so many things about Middle Eastern culture. When I introduce myself and then hear the name(s) of those at the table, I inquire about a person’s name. I will ask if it is an old family name or if it’s a nickname. Sometimes I want to know who gave them the name, why and what the name means. One such time I learned the gentleman was from the south of Spain, from a city called Sevilla. In that region, it is traditional for a first-born son to be named after the father of the family. Since this gentleman was the second born, his mother chose to name him after her father, his grandfather. His name was Luis. For Luis, his name carries a special honor to him because his grandfather was seen as a very intelligent man.
Every day we say multiple names as we greet one another, but have we really stopped to think about who that person is or where they come from? Or, perhaps thinking about what makes up their life story. Everyone, no matter how old they are, has a story — at birth, we start off with a story given to us by our parents who in turn has been a given a story to them by their parents. Think about what your name means to you? What does your name mean to others in your community? As the younger generation says, “what’s your story”? I say, “what really is your name”?! Speaking of names, we have been seeing a lot of them on primary election ballots, campaign signs and TV ads. Ask any political candidate and they can darn sure tell you what a name means!
Florida’s August 30 primary election is over and there were 118 of the 160 House and Senate seats on the ballot. Floridians didn’t cast a ballot for more than one-fourth of the legislature as 42 seats drew only a single candidate who qualified for the office, essentially handing that single candidate the political office: 30 House members (16 Republicans and 14 Democrats) and 12 Senators (8 Republicans and 4 Democrats) will return to Tallahassee without the need to run.
By way of background, all 40 Senate seats and 120 House seats were up for grabs, due to the court-ordered adoption of a Senate redistricting plan formally adopted in 2016. The newly-drawn legislative seats were the result of the voter-approved “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments that prohibit lawmakers from crafting districts that favor those already in office or a political party.
Floridians mailboxes were flooded, doorbells rang and televisions exploded with political ads this election cycle with accusations of bribery, links to terrorist groups, and arguments about candidates who had rap sheets.
Almost 3 million votes were cast as 24% of Florida’s voters voted, the highest turnout for a primary since 2004 (26%). Sixty percent of the votes were cast in the early voting days process prior to August 31 and 49% of votes cast were Republicans, 38% were Democrats and 12% were No Party Affiliation. This latter category saw about 100,000 more votes than the 2014 primary (from about 300,000 in 2014 to about 400,000 now).
In the end, here’s how the races shaped up with the balance of Republican power in the legislature still strong. Call us if you have news or want to hear more!
- Amendment 4 which allows residents to add energy efficiency devices without paying increased property taxes for the improvements passed with 73% of the vote.
- Senator Rubio advances to the November general election with 72% of the vote and will face Patrick Murphy who captured 59% of the Democratic vote.
- In the Republican Congressional primaries, the winners were: (*denotes incumbent)
- FL 1: Matt Gaetz
- FL 2: Neal Dunn
- FL 4: John Rutherford
- FL 6: Ron Desantis*
- FL 7: John Mica*
- FL 11: Dan Webster*
- FL 13: David Jolly*
- FL 16: Vern Buchanan*
- FL 18: Brian Mast
- FL 19: Francis Rooney
- In the Democrat Congressional primaries, the winners were:
- FL 5: Al Lawson defeats Corrine Brown*
- FL 9: Darren Soto
- FL 10: Val Demmings
- FL 18: Randy Perkins
- FL 23: Debbie Wasserman Schultz*
- FL 24: Frederica Wilson*
- FL 26: Joe Garcia
- The 3 competitive Congressional elections this fall in Florida will be:
- FL 13: David Jolly* v Charlie Crist
- FL 18: Brian Mast v Randy Perkins
- FL 26: Carlos Curbelo* v Joe Garcia – the “rematch”
- In the Florida Senate, Republican winners were:
- Doug Broxson (SD 1), Dennis Baxley (SD 12), Debbie Mayfield (SD 17), Greg Steube (SD 23), LizBeth Benacquisto* (SD 27), Kathleen Passidomo (SD 28)
- In the Florida Senate, Democrat winners were:
- Randolph Bracy (SD 11), Linda Stewart (SD 13), Vic Torres (SD 15), Kevin Rader (SD 29), Bobby Powell (SD 30), Jeff Clemens* (SD 31), Gary Farmer (SD 34), Daphne Campbell (SD 38), Dwight Bullard (SD 40)
- As of 11:44 pm on election day, Daryl Rouson lead Ed Narain in SD 19 by 161 votes or .16% – There will be a recount.
Now, on to the general election!
It was true in the budding Miami heydays of the 1950’s and 60’s and it’s still true today: Florida is a magnet for foreign visitors who turn into homebuyers. Nearly 22% of all home sales to foreigners in the U.S. are right here in Florida. And when you add California, Texas, Arizona, and New York, you have half of all U.S. foreign home sales, according to the newest report by the National Association of Realtors.
Their 2016 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estatereports foreign buyers purchased nearly 215,000 residential properties worth $104 billion between April 2015 and March 2016 in the U.S. – up nearly 3% from the previous 12-month period. Asian buyers lead the pack once again, with the Chinese accounting for 14% of all activity, outpacing every other country in both volume and sales price. The remaining top five purchasers come from Canada, Mexico, India, and the U.K. The home values were higher than the U.S. median price and the majority were cash purchases.
Florida is especially attractive to buyers from Latin America, Canada and Europe who bought more real estate in the Sunshine State than in any other state. Many are purchasing a second home. Despite rapidly changing exchange rates, the Realtors say Florida property still represents a sound deal for international buyers.
Florida Among States With Rising Traffic Deaths
Florida also has a deadly distinction these days – as a state with rapidly rising traffic deaths. They’re up 9% in the first six months of this year alone compared to the same period last year. It’s part of a national trend, according to the National Safety Council, which began two years ago as the economy improved and travel increased, fueled by lower gasoline prices.
An estimated 19,100 people were killed on U.S. roadways in the first six months of the year and another 2.2 million were seriously injured. But we’re driving more, too, with a record 1.58 trillion miles on the road in the first half of this year, up 3.3% over the same period last year. The council estimates the cost of these deaths and injuries at about $205 billion.
“While many factors likely contributed to the fatality increase, a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are at the core of the trend,” according to the Council statement. It also noted average gas prices were down 16% so far this year compared to last year.
Looking at the recent two-year trend, Florida fell in the middle of the pack among states with increased traffic deaths. Those with the biggest increases over two years include Vermont, up 82%; Oregon, 70%; New Hampshire, 61%; Idaho, 46%; Florida, 43%; Iowa, 37%; Georgia, 34%; Indiana, 33%; California, 31%; and Wisconsin, 29%.
The data shows a clear link between miles driven and traffic deaths. After peaking in the 1970s, traffic deaths have trended downward, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Last year, more than 35,000 people were killed on the nation’s roads, the highest number since 2008. If the first six months of this year are an indication of what’s to come, we could exceed 40,000 deaths this year. Please drive safely!
Chinese Drywall: Blame the Manufacturer, Not the Insurer
Tampa-based American Integrity Insurance Company of Florida has prevailed in a case in which the homeowners sought compensation for Chinese drywall problems from the insurer, rather than the drywall manufacturer.
The Florida Supreme Court recently declined to hear the appeal from homeowners William and Stacey Peek, letting stand a 2nd DCA ruling that upheld the original trial judge’s determination that the insurer wasn’t responsible for covering the couple’s damages. The Peeks filed a claim with the insurer after moving into their new house and noticing a noxious sulfur odor, which only got worse over the course of a few months. They also claimed the copper coils in their air conditioning system and other electrical components in the home were corroding. They blamed the Chinese drywall, which went into construction of the home.
American Integrity denied the claimed losses associated with the drywall, citing the all-risk policy specifically excluded latent defects, corrosion, pollutants, and faulty, inadequate, or defective construction materials. The 2nd DCA, in upholding the original directed verdict in favor of the insurer, noted that “the damage to the Peeks’ home and consequently the odors and corrosion of metals and electronics were directly related to the defective Chinese drywall and thus directly stemmed from an excluded risk. Thus coverage was excluded under the express terms of the insurance contract.”
Others like the Peeks have sought relief instead through a series of class action lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of the faulty Chinese drywall. Earlier this summer, lawyers from several national firms negotiated a series of complex and interconnected settlements that will create a $1.3 billion fund to help thousands of property owners mainly in Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana who were rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina and other storms. The settlements took seven years to negotiate and will give homeowners either cash compensation or remediation to eliminate the faulty drywall, which has a history of emitting fumes and corroding electrical fixtures.
The Case of the Errant Sprinkler Head
Sure, we’ve all been there – hitting ourselves in the head at work trying to come up with a money-making idea. But this Florida woman went too far in her creativity in what we’re considering making the first in a regular newsletter series titled “Workers’ Comp Fraud of the Week.”
Sheyla White of Ft. Lauderdale was sitting at her desk when a metal sprinkler head fell from the ceiling and landed behind her computer monitor. White picked it up, looked around to see if anyone had noticed, and then promptly bopped herself straight in the forehead with it. What’s equally stunning is just how fast she decided to take the action after the opportunity figuratively landed in her lap.
Even better: there’s video of the whole incident here.
White reported the sprinkler head fell and bounced off her desk, striking her in the head and a workers’ compensation claim was filed through her employer, Cinque Terre Energy Partners. The firm’s insurance company, AmTrust North America became suspicious. AmTrust notified the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, which investigated and looked at the video of the firm’s security cameras, which of course, revealed a different story.
White was arrested on two counts of workers’ comp fraud and faces up to five years in prison if convicted. She was convicted six years ago under a different name for stealing students’ identities while working as a teacher at a Broward County high school. It was her past criminal history that prompted the insurance company to investigate the claim more closely.
Insurance Industry: “Have We Got a Job for You!”
We’ve chronicled here before about the challenges facing the insurance industry in finding a ready supply of bodies to meet the increasing demand for insurance agents. The problem isn’t going away. A new study reports more than 66% of insurance companies plan to increase their staffing during the next 12 months in an industry with functionally zero unemployment.
The midyear U.S. Insurance Labor Outlook Study from The Jacobson Group and Ward Group says that rate is up from the 65% reported last year and is the highest in the study’s seven-year history. Only 4% of companies expect to decrease staffing in the next year.
Gregory Jacobson, co-chief executive officer of Jacobson’s, said in a statement that “the continued focus on increasing staff paired with mass retirements and virtually non-existent industry unemployment will only further interfuse an already challenging recruiting environment.”
The study says the most difficult positions to fill are executive, actuarial, and technology posts. Not surprisingly, technology, claims, and underwriter roles are predicted to grow the fastest over the next 12 months. Claims and underwriting are some of the most time-intensive jobs in an insurance operation and any shortages there can affect efficiency, customer fulfillment, and company profit. The study includes hiring as well as revenue projections from companies representing all sectors of the insurance industry.
Louisiana Flood Victims Still Hurting – How You Can Donate
Published reports state only 1 in 8 East Baton Rouge residents have flood insurance, meaning many will likely bear the brunt of losses not covered by federal disaster assistance. According to NFIP data obtained by Insurance Business America, just 4% of home and business owners in the 11 most affected parishes have an in-force flood insurance policy. Some areas of Louisiana saw close to two feet of rain in a 48-hour period.
To donate to the Red Cross, visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. To donate to the Louisiana Capital Area United Way, visit cauw.org, text LAFLOOD to 313131, or mail a donation to Capital Area United Way, Attn: Flood Relief, 700 Laurel St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802.
Here’s a fascinating read on the storm from Scientific American: Why the Deadly LA Flood Occurred.
Zika – A Name We Don’t Like
We opened this newsletter with a reminder to all of us about the importance of a name. One of the names that has been showing up in lots of conversations these days is “Zika”, referring to the virus spread by certain infected mosquitos. Governor Scott has held roundtables for weeks in major Florida cities with business leaders, tourism officials and residents who are alarmed at the Zika scare with new cases being reported every day. Zika causes a mild illness in most people but can lead to severe brain-related birth defects if women are infected during pregnancy. Governor Scott said that Florida has ramped up so that every health department is equipped to test any pregnant woman that wishes to be tested. Thankfully, researchers at FSU are part of a team who have identified existing drug compounds that can both stop Zika from replicating in the body and from damaging the crucial fetal brain cells that lead to birth defects in newborns.
So how can we help combat this problem?? With bug spray and prevention. The CDC at its website says spray with DEET will do the trick along with the usual instructions of eliminating standing water. Don’t let Zika become a name you know personally! Take care, and see you on the trail!
Lisa and The Team
Tallahassee’s New Meeting Place!
We now have The Conference Room available for rental for all kinds of events. Co-located with Lisa Miller & Associates, The Conference Room is an affordable and convenient venue for business, political or social events. For more information, call Roberta Courtney-Bailey at 850-222-1041, email at [email protected], or visit http://lisamillerassociates.com/the-conference-room.