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Date of Issue: May 11, 2006

Galvano vows to continue battle for Island wind coverage

Windy Florida
The map used by the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to determine wind insurance coverage includes only four major cities - Pensacola, Daytona Beach, Panama City and Sarasota - as high wind velocity areas during a hurricane. Other high velocity areas are noted along most of Florida's barrier islands, but do not include all of those islands in many cases, and not all of Anna Maria Island.

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While efforts by state Rep. Bill Galvano during the just-ended legislative session in Tallahassee to have all of Anna Maria Island included in a designated high-wind zone failed, Galvano is not giving in to all the hot air in Tallahassee.

"I'll stay on top of this as long as it takes," he said from his Tallahassee office.

His amendment died in a committee because members wanted a wind zone study done on Anna Maria Island before approving the entire Island as a high-wind zone for storm events. It also failed on the floor of the House of Representatives by a single vote, 56-57, with two Manatee County representatives voting against Galvano's proposal (see separate story).

With the legislature adjourning May 5, Galvano said there was no chance the amendment would be added to an existing bill for approval this session. He was able to get a task force formed to study wind zones on the Island and elsewhere in Florida. The task force will deliver a report prior to the next legislative session.

"But I'm going to monitor the task force that will do the wind study. They should come back to the next legislative session with figures proving all of the Island is in a wind zone," he said.

Galvano observed that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that all of a Florida barrier island will be hit by strong winds when a hurricane strikes.   

The state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp., known as the "insurer of last resort," provides wind insurance coverage to Manatee County businesses and homeowners within 1,000 feet of the coast line, or in a designated "V-zone." In Sarasota, the V-zone extends from Siesta Key to Interstate 75.

Unfortunately for the Island, the V-zone here is only up to 1,000 feet from the coast. Many Island home and business owners are unable to get wind coverage, or must pay extremely high rates, because they are not in the zone, a situation Galvano finds deplorable.

Citizens was originally created several years ago by the Florida Legislature to provide high-risk wind coverage for Monroe County (Key West), but political lobbying allowed other cities and areas to be declared high-risk zones through a simple petition to Citizens. The legislature eliminated the petition system a few years ago and required future additions to the V-zone areas to be approved by the legislature in an amendment or bill.

All of the Island should be eligible for a Citizens wind policy, Galvano maintained.

"My amendment was going to give coverage for the upcoming hurricane season," Galvano noted.

Now, however, many property and business owners on Anna Maria Island will face the next six months knowing they have no wind insurance if a hurricane strikes.

At the same time Galvano is pursuing the legislative portion of wind insurance coverage for the Island, former Holmes Beach City Commissioner and Save Anna Maria officer Billie Martini is trying to organize a community meeting with Galvano and other elected officials to discuss the wind insurance problem, along with rising taxes on the Island.

"I have wind insurance, but I know a lot of people who don't, and can't get a policy. We need to do something to help them," Martini said. "And the taxes are getting out of hand. We are losing so many of our businesses."

 

Manatee representatives break ranks

Galvano's effort to have all of Anna Maria Island designated as a high velocity wind zone during a hurricane failed by a single vote in the state House of Representatives two weeks ago, with two representatives from Manatee County voting against Galvano's bill.

State Representatives Donna Clark of southern Manatee County and Ron Reagan of east Manatee County voted against the measure, ensuring a 57-56 defeat for Galvano and Islanders.

Manatee County's other state representative, Frank Peterman, sided with Galvano.

"Obviously, if we had had those two votes, it would have passed," said Galvano.

The vote on Galvano's amendment was bi-partisan, with 25 Republicans and 31 Democrats voting in favor.

 

Martini organizes wind meeting

Tired of all the hot air blowing from Tallahassee over wind insurance - and high taxes - for Anna Maria Island, former Holmes Beach City Commissioner Billie Martini along with The Islander newspaper and Save Anna Maria Inc. have organized a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 25, at the Holmes Beach City Hall to discuss the issues.

Expected to attend are Galvano and Reagan, who voted against Galvano's initiative to provide wind insurance coverage for all of the Island.

Other elected and governmental officials involved in wind insurance will be invited to attend.

 

Island business costs rising

Think it's expensive to do business on Anna Maria Island? Island Shopping Center manager Hugh Holmes Jr. knows it is.

His efforts to find wind zone coverage for the property, which is not eligible for a policy from the state's own company - Citizens Property Insurance - because it's outside the V-zone, resulted in only one private company offering wind insurance for this year, but at triple the former rate.

Holmes, albeit reluctantly, was forced to take the policy and passed on the increased cost to his tenants.

In a letter to Island Shopping Center businesses, Holmes said the "drastic insurance increase was not known until April 13," and was not included in the 2006 projected expenses of the tenants.

"We had no idea the increase would be so substantial. I regret I have to relay this unfortunate news, which affects all of us in Florida," he said.

Business owners in the center reported their monthly rent increased on May 1 anywhere from $250 to more than $300 per month because of the high cost of wind insurance.