Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bills aim for control in auto fraud, lawsuits

Florida lawmakers made progress today with consumer-friendly and business-friendly bills that are tied to the auto industry.

As reported in today's Bradenton Herald, Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, introduced House Bill 1411 that aims to control rampant fraud related to the Personal Injury Protection insurance, also known as PIP coverage or Florida No-Fault.

The bill (linked here) proposes stiffer penalties and revisions to car crash reports as a way to protect consumers from staged auto accidents.

Also today, the Florida Senate passed a bill that will make it tougher for consumers to win
injury lawsuits against auto makers over faulty auto parts in car crashes.

Senate Bill 142, known as the Crashworthiness Doctrine, is expected to limit consumer injury lawsuits against automakers over negligence and liability. The bill also permits a Florida jury to hear a case to determine what led to a car accident and other factors that may have contributed to a crash.

"Business-friendly tort reform is a priority in order to help Florida increase economic growth and job opportunities," said Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

The bill will now move to the Florida House of Representatives for consideration.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cost of local bank closures hits hard

The rise of bank failures nationwide has put a strain on the Deposit Insurance Fund at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Banks support the fund financially through the quarterly premiums they pay to the fund, but the 345 closures to date since 2008 has cost the Deposit Insurance Fund more than $76 billion. In 2009, the FDIC projected bank failures would cost the fund $100 billion by 2014.

Here in Manatee and Sarasota counties, eight banks whose headquarters are based in the bi-county area have failed since 2008. Those bank failures resulted in a combined cost  $948.7 million to the Deposit Insurance Fund. In our Sunday story, "The portrait of a failed bank: First Priority hit hard by risky real estate loans," reporter Duane Marsteller and I examined how practices at First Priority led to its demise -- the first in Manatee during this financial crisis.

Here's how those costs break down by bank:

1. First Priority Bank $72 million
2. Freedom Bank $80 million
3. Community National Bank of Sarasota County $24 million
4.First State Bank of Sarasota $116 million
5. Flagship National Bank $59 million
6. Century Bank F.S.B. $344 million
7. Peninsula Bank $194.8 million
8. Horizon Bank $58.9 million

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Region's quality of life helps win over Jackson Lab

 There's one Bradenton resident in particular who was pleased to hear The Jackson Laboratory wants to locate in Sarasota County.

 his book "The Legacy," about the South Florida Museum.
Dr. Thomas Peter Bennett spent the summer of 1957 studying at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. The Bradenton resident was a undergraduate in chemistry at Florida State University at the time and was selected to study at the biomedical research facility as part of a college internship program.

"I spent two summers at Jackson Lab as a student and it was an incredible experience," Bennett said.

Bennett, an FSU graduate, went on to earn his Ph.D in Life Sciences from Rockefeller University. He still has many colleagues at The Jackson Laboratory today and is a member of its discovery program.
He also served as executive director of the South Florida Museum in Bradenton from 1998-2002.

Bennett discussed his time at The Jackson Lab with me a  few weeks ago as officials were touring Sarasota and Hillsborough counties to decide which county would be most suited for a 120,000-square-foot biomedical village.

He saw great potential then for Sarasota County to win out over Hillsborough County. He recalled during his time at The Jackson Lab how much he and colleagues enjoyed the quality of life around Bar Harbor, Maine -- hiking in particular.

"The lifestyle opportunity for many of the scientists who are at The Jackson Lab is endless here," Bennett said. "They enjoy the outdoors that's one of the best attractions in Maine. I think there are many aspects of that they would enjoy in Florida."

Bennett learned the news from a Jackson Lab colleague Wednesday and e-mailed me some simple words on the announcement: "Great news."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A sense of pride on Pine Avenue

It's tough to turn down an assignment on Anna Maria Island. On Monday, I spent a couple hours on Pine Avenue to talk with business owners for today's story on the small business district.

Tourists and residents alike were enjoying the beautiful weather while strolling the sidewalks, cycling or sitting on the front porches of the Pine Avenue Restoration developments.

Two longtime Anna Maria residents I met were Tom Tollette and Mike Pescitelli. They were sitting outside the Olive Oil Outpost on Pine Avenue enjoying their morning coffee. They chatted about many things, including the 100-year anniversary of the Anna Maria City Pier and the business district that has been preserved on Pine Avenue.

They imagined what life was like when the pier opened in 1911 and tourists came by steamer from Tampa to the city pier and strolled down Pine Avenue to the Bath House looking to enjoy a day or more at the beach.

"You figure this was the concept for this street 100 years ago," said Pescitelli. "People sitting on porches, having their morning coffee talking about the weather."