The race to represent the Florida Keys in the state House of Representatives includes two Democrats and three Republicans.
Incumbent Republican Jim Mooney faces a challenge in the Republican primary from North Key Largo resident Rhonda Rebman Lopez and Big Pine Key resident Robert Scott Allen.
On the Democrats’ side, former anti-corruption attorney Adam Gentle and former legislative staffer Daniel Horton-Diaz are vying for the chance to face the Republican nominee in the November general election.
The Keys Weekly asked all five candidates the following questions:
- To address rising homeowner’s insurance, the Florida Legislature approved a $2 billion reinsurance fund for insurance companies during a special session in May. Known as the Reinsurance to Assist Policyholders Program, insurers can purchase insurance to insulate them from risk. What other actions must be taken to address an insurance industry that saw two straight years underwriting losses exceeding $1 billion?
- Florida Keys residents and local governments have been repeatedly stymied by state preemption that prevents home rule and local decisions. Preemption has prevented local efforts to limit vacation rentals Keyswide and moderate cruise ships in Key West. Do you believe local leaders should be able to make decisions that impact their communities? And if so, what, specifically, would you do to convince your colleagues in Tallahassee?
- While the $2 billion was the first step, it is far from an answer. As I debated on the floor, Citizens Insurance needs to be scaled down and put back to the posture it was designed for (areas that have little to no other insurance options available, insurance of the last resort). This would reduce Citizens’ risk in other areas of the state and, at the same time it should allow more in the district to get back into the program helping those it was put in place for. FIRM has fought for years to get our increased building codes recognized by insurance companies. That should be continued and applied. But at the end of the day, one sure-fire way to see some light is to increase the building code to a higher standard.
- I obviously spent 10 years in local government, so I understand exactly what smaller communities can do better, and how it impacts the citizens in those communities. Things like vacation rentals are an issue not just here in District 120 but across the state. Monroe County and each municipality have their own set of ordinances that allow for and control rentals. Some are more restrictive and some broader. Those rules were set up at the local level, so if they are not working then the elected officials and the citizens must meet to address these problems that arise out of the rules in place. There are some at the state level that believe all properties should not be controlled by anyone other than the property. That simply goes against such things as the “right to a quiet and peaceful neighborhood.”
RHONDA REBMAN LOPEZ
Director of international marketing, PECO International Electric
- The state of Florida desperately needs tort reform. Florida accounts for only 9% of homeowners insurance policies in the United States, but over 70% of homeowners insurance lawsuits. This is simply unacceptable, and the legislature has done the minimum to combat this problem because many in leadership have a vested interest in allowing lawsuits to proceed. We need to end attorney fee multipliers, stop excess litigation, and investigate and prosecute roofing fraud schemes.
2. As a principle, I am against preemption in almost every case and support home rule in Monroe and Dade Counties. I believe a government close to the people is best fit to make decisions, and thus many decisions are best left to our local leaders. The best way to convince those in Tallahassee is to remind them that they are meant to be local leaders too, and should be most concerned with the needs and will of the voters of their district, not special interests.
1. I don’t agree with your statement that the Reinsurance to Assist Policyholders Program is an “action that must be taken.” I know homeowners that did not get money from insurance companies. And using tax money to reduce risk of insurance companies is not the answer. That makes homeowners who get stiffed by insurance companies suffer twice as much. Writing a government check to business will not solve problems because it does not address the root cause of the problem. Focus on the root cause of the problem and you will find the answer.
2. I am for Home Rule. Rep Jim Mooney (R) voted for House bill 735 which is a preemption that prevents counties from issuing trade licenses in around a dozen trades. Trade licensing, similar to fishing licensing, protects American businesses, the economy and the economic health of the community. When HB 735 prevents counties from issuing trade licenses, they remove the ability for counties to require proof of U.S. citizenship to work in the trades. This forces formerly licensed American business owners to compete with formerly unlicensed business owners. This also increases GRAFT in the industry by allowing every non-U.S. citizen on the planet a state to come to and work without proving citizenship. What would happen if fishing licensing was eliminated? Trade licensing is good for American business owners, good for homeowners and necessary for a strong economy. Home Rule is good for this district, good for the state and good for the economy. Repeal House Bill 735!
1. Corruption in our insurance marketplace is a major component of the rising cost of homeowner’s insurance. It has caused competition to decrease, forcing insurance companies out of our market—sending more customers to Citizens. Citizens expects to spend $100 million on litigation this year to fight this fraud and corruption, and this expense is passed directly to us. It must be investigated. Further, one proposal to increase competition and lower costs is to require insurance companies selling auto insurance in Florida to offer homeowner’s insurance. This requirement would increase competition and jump-start the stagnant insurance market.
2. Our cities are best positioned to take bold action on the issues that affect our lives. State preemption of local law limits local government and does a disservice to our communities. Home Rule is in our Florida Constitution. State preemption often runs afoul of the spirit of Home Rule and our constitutional preference for local government. I propose we define the scope of preemption available to the state. Preemption should only be available to the state when uniformity of law across the state is necessary for the health, safety and liberty of Floridians. Otherwise, the local law must stand.
1. Monroe pays far more in insurance premiums than it gets back in claims. This is an unfair burden on Keys homeowners and it has been for too long. There are multiple potential solutions, such as returning Citizens to a 10% rate cap for homeowners that have a homestead property in the Keys or who use the home to provide long-term rentals for locals, requiring insurers to consider Monroe’s high building standards when calculating premiums, and eliminating the 25% surcharge homeowners pay into the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. Reducing these costs for Keys homeowners will be a priority for me in Tallahassee.
2. Local leaders should absolutely be empowered to make decisions to solve local issues. I believe that the people closest to a problem are often also closest to the solution. Convincing my Tallahassee colleagues of this will require relationships based on trust and messaging centered around their priorities. Principles of local control were a mainstay of Republican policy platforms in the past, so I believe appealing to that history may be effective in swaying Republican colleagues. I also believe that colleagues who represent municipalities in their districts should understand and agree with the need to empower, and not limit, local decision-makers.