By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The improbable, if not outright impossible, has happened.
In a year when the Florida legislature created slush funds for its leadership, took away the right of doctors to even talk about guns with patients, and went after teachers and public employee unions, a candidate has emerged for Enlightened Legislator of the 2011 Session.
My nominee is Mike Fasano, Republican senator from New Port Richey.
Standing out from the herd, Fasano has uniquely stood up to the bone-headed.
He questioned Rick Scott’s helter-skelter prison privatization efforts.
Fasano has also fought for establishing the “pill mill database” that tracks pain pill prescriptions. The one that Scott off-handedly killed.
And now, he’s standing up to the insurance industry’s hired gun, Sen. Alan Hays.
Hays is Scott’s henchman in the CEO-in-chief’s secret plan to dismantle Citizens Property Insurance.
Citizens has been the least-rapacious and most successful insurer in the state. As a result, it has earned Scott’s wrath. He came up with a plan so extreme that even the insurance industry thought it went too far.
By the way, guess who was the top beneficiary of Allstate Insurance’s political largesse from 2003 to 2010 — in the entire country?
Yep. The Florida Republican Party.
Money apparently well spent. And Hays has been the trigger man for Scott and the insurance lobby, sponsoring one bill that would require Citizens to raise rates 25 percent and a deregulation bill that would allow private insurers to raise rates 30 percent every year without state regulation.
“This company, if it were a private company, would have been shut down by the office of insurance regulation a long time ago,” Hays said.
Never mind that Citizens has amassed a $5.1 billion cushion — more than double of all private insurers in the state.
This is the same guy who compared abortion to the Holocaust. The guy who opposed a constitutional ban on oil drilling in state waters because he said it was redundant. “Right now we have laws in Florida,” Hays said. “You could not overturn those laws (against oil drilling) with what’s happened. It’s a complete and total waste of taxpayer money.”
And then he co-authored an anti-Sharia bill. It would have been so wasteful, and unnecessary — Hayes couldn’t cite a single example in which the Islamic law had caused a problem in state court — that he had to drop the measure.
Fasano is the anti-Hays. In a legislature overrun by a Republican super-majority and its special interests, Fasano has been a lone Republican sentinel against the insurance lobby.
The man even self-insures his home.
“There needs to be a hearing and questioning of the lobbyist and Scott’s staff,” Fasano wrote in an e-mail to Senate President Mike Haridopolos. The reference was to insurance lobbyists who met with Scott’s staff about Citizens.
Props to Fasano for speaking truth to power. Particularly in these bizarre days when politicians run on the promise of jobs and govern on the practice of social re-engineering.
Unfortunately, Fasano will term-limit out next session. He has expressed interest in becoming Pasco County Sheriff.
Maybe he should consider governor.