One way the Florida Legislature works against the public good is its persistence in carving out special favors to special interests.
In this 60-day session, seemingly out of nowhere, a bill arrived that would allow large insurance agencies in Florida to sell license plates and issue registrations to car owners, likely at fees higher than the state itself charges. The bill (HB 817) requires elected county tax collectors to appoint a qualified insurance company to offer this lucrative work — at a profit for the insurance agencies but at a hefty cost to Florida taxpayers.
The state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has not endorsed this idea. But the agency told the Legislature that the first-year start-up costs alone would be nearly $13 million to provide the necessary equipment. The agency has said nothing publicly, but this hefty price tag, known as a fiscal note, is its way of generating opposition.
Who’s pushing this? No one is saying publicly. But you can bet it’s a Florida-based company that sees a way to increase customer traffic with a new revenue stream. All it takes is a favor from Tallahassee politicians.
Who benefits? A mystery
The bill language says it specifically applies to a “general lines insurance agency.” In whispered tones, legislators and tax collectors speculated that a beneficiary could be Broward-based Pearl Holding Group, a managing general agent for two companies that sell car insurance.
Pearl Holding Group has contributed $453,000 to candidates and political committees in Florida, nearly all to Republicans, including, for example, $12,500 to a committee controlled by Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, chairman of the House Commerce Committee. Another $5,000 went to a committee tied to Rep. Daniel Perez, R-Miami, the incoming House speaker.
The bill restricts the tag-issue program to companies that produced more than