STATE REPRESENTATIVES RACE INCLUDES HEATED REPUBLICAN PRIMARY AND 2 DEMOCRATIC PROSPECTS – 2022 DECISION GUIDE

The race to represent the Florida Keys in the state House of Representatives includes two Democrats and three Republicans.

Republican incumbent Jim Mooney faces a challenge in the Republican primary from Rhonda Rebman Lopez, who owns an energy company with her husband, as well as Big Pine Key house painter Robert Scott Allen.

On the Democratic side, former anti-corruption lawyer 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 the five candidates the following questions:

  1. To deal with the increase in home insurance, the Florida Legislature approved a $2 billion reinsurance fund for insurance companies in a special session in May. Known as the Reinsurance Program to help policyholders, insurers can purchase insurance to protect against risk. What other steps need to be taken to deal with an insurance industry that has seen underwriting losses in excess of $1 billion for two consecutive years?
  1. Residents and local governments in the Florida Keys have repeatedly been stymied by state preemption that prevents autonomy and local decisions. The preemption prevented local efforts to limit vacation rentals in Keyswide and moderate cruise ships in Key West. Do you think local leaders should be able to make decisions that impact their communities? And if so, what would you concretely do to convince your colleagues in Tallahassee?

JIM MOONEY
Republican incumbent
Real estate agent

  1. Although the $2 billion was the first step, it is far from an answer. As I debated on the floor, citizens insurance needs to be reduced and returned to the position it was designed for (areas that have little or no other insurance options available, insurance of last resort ). This would reduce the risk to citizens in other areas of the state and, at the same time, should allow more people in the district to re-enter the program by helping those for whom it was set up. FIRM has fought for years to have our strengthened building codes recognized by insurance companies. This should be continued and enforced. But ultimately, a surefire way to see some light is to raise the building code to a higher standard.
  2. I obviously spent 10 years in local government, so I understand exactly what smaller communities can do better and how that impacts the citizens of those communities. Things like vacation rentals are a problem not just here in District 120, but statewide. Monroe County and each municipality have their own set of ordinances that authorize and control rentals. Some are more restrictive and others are broader. These rules were established at the local level, so if they do not work, elected officials and citizens must meet to solve these problems which arise from the rules in place. There are some at the state level who believe that all property should not be controlled by anyone other than the property. It just goes against things like the “right to a quiet and peaceful neighbourhood”.

RHONDA REBMAN LOPEZ
Republican
President/Owner, Peco International Electric

  1. The state of Florida desperately needs tort reform. Florida accounts for only 9% of home insurance policies in the United States, but over 70% of home insurance lawsuits. This is simply unacceptable, and the legislator has done the minimum to combat this problem, because many leaders have a vested interest in allowing legal action. We need to end attorney fee multipliers, stop excessive litigation, and investigate and prosecute roofing fraud schemes.
  1. Residents and local governments in the Florida Keys have repeatedly been stymied by state preemption that prevents autonomy and local decisions. The preemption prevented local efforts to limit vacation rentals in Keyswide and moderate cruise ships in Key West. Do you think local leaders should be able to make decisions that impact their communities? And if so, what would you concretely do to convince your colleagues in Tallahassee?

As a matter of principle, I am against preemption in almost all cases and I support self-government in Monroe and Dade counties. I believe that a government close to the people is best placed to make decisions, and so many decisions are best left to our local leaders. The best way to convince the people of Tallahassee is to remind them that they are also meant to be local leaders and that they should be more concerned with the needs and wants of the voters in their district, not special interests.

ROBERT ALLEN
Republican
Painter

1. I disagree with your statement that the reinsurance program to help policyholders is a “step that needs to be taken”. I know owners who have not received money from insurance companies. And using taxpayers’ money to reduce the risks of insurance companies is not the solution. This makes homeowners who get stiffed by insurance companies suffer twice as much. Writing a government check to a company will not solve the 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 business licenses in a dozen trades. Business licenses, similar to fishing licenses, protect American businesses, the economy, and the economic health of the community. When HB 735 prevents counties from issuing trade licenses, it removes the ability for counties to require proof of U.S. citizenship to work in the trades. This forces former licensed US business owners to compete with previously unlicensed business owners. It also increases GRAFT in the industry by allowing every non-US citizen on the planet of a state to come to work without proving their citizenship. What would happen if fishing licenses were removed? Business licenses are good for American business owners, good for owners, and necessary for a strong economy. Home Rule is good for this district, good for the state, and good for the economy. Repeal Bill 735!

SWEET ADAM
Democrat
Lawyer

1. Corruption in our insurance market is a major component of the rising cost of home insurance. This has led to less competition, forcing insurance companies out of our market, sending more customers to citizens. Citizens expect to spend $100 million on litigation this year to fight this fraud and corruption, and that expense comes directly to us. It must be studied. In addition, a proposal to increase competition and reduce costs is to require insurance companies selling auto insurance in Florida to offer homeowners insurance. This requirement would increase competition and revive the stagnant insurance market.

2. Our cities are best placed to take bold action on the issues that affect our lives. State preemption over local law limits local government and does a disservice to our communities. Home Rule is in our Florida Constitution. State preemption often goes against the spirit of Home Rule and our constitutional preference for local government. I propose to define the scope of pre-emption 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, local law shall apply.

DANIEL HORTON DIAZ
Democrat
Lawyer, consultant

1. Monroe pays far more in insurance premiums than it recovers in claims. It’s an unfair burden on Keys owners and it’s been going on for far too long. There are several potential solutions, such as returning Citizens to a 10% rate cap for landlords who have homesteads in the Keys or who use the home to provide long-term rentals to residents, forcing insurers to consider Monroe’s high construction standards when calculating. bonuses and the elimination of the 25% surtax owners pay to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. Reducing these costs for Key owners will be a priority for me in Tallahassee.

2. Local leaders absolutely must be empowered to make decisions to solve local problems. I believe that the people closest to a problem are often also the closest to the solution. Convincing my colleagues in Tallahassee of this will require relationships based on trust and messages centered on their priorities. Local control principles were a mainstay of Republican political platforms in the past, so I think appealing to that history can be effective in influencing fellow Republicans. I also believe that colleagues who represent municipalities in their districts should understand and accept the need to empower, not limit, local decision makers.

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