An Encore Edition Of The Florida Roundup: Toll Roads, Election Security & Florida Homeownership

Jul 5, 2019
Originally published on July 15, 2019 11:34 am

As of July 1, Florida is expanding several new toll roads. A new law extends the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast Parkway; expands the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border; and adds a new multi-use corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County.

This week on an encore edition of The Florida Roundup, we revisit that and other top stories from 2019.

The expansion’s main supporter, Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said on The Florida Roundup that the roads are "corridors" and that they would transport more than cars. Water, sewage, and broadband connections would flow through these corridors as well. 

Galvano said the goal includes paving a way for the future.

“We are moving into a new age of autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles,” Galvano told The Florida Roundup. “All of these things need to be part of the dialogue when we create these corridors. That’s what they are: corridors."

But Frank Jackalone, president of the Sierra Club in Florida, said the project is a disaster in the making that would inevitably destroy wildlife habitats.

"This is not something that we want as environmentalists, or something people in those local areas want," he said on The Florida Roundup. 

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With less than 500 days until Election Day, Florida is focusing on election security. Gov. Ron DeSantis recently announced new plans for assessment, monitoring and training to help both the state Division of Elections and Florida’s 67 county supervisors of election.

That comes after the Mueller report revealed voting systems in two Florida counties were compromised in 2016.

The former supervisor of elections of Leon County, Ion Sancho, said on The Florida Roundup that these changes are long overdue and that Florida’s election infrastructure is, frankly, “not secure.”

Apart from Russian hacking, Sancho said that the state is in desperate need of upgrades to its election system. Hundreds of thousands of voting machines currently being used in the United States were designed in the early 1980s, he said. Back then, “security was not a concern.”

Florida made changes to its voting system following the notorious 2000 recount, when the U.S. presidential race was decided 36 days after Election Day following numerous legal challenges. Voting irregularities were also uncovered across the state.

After rushing to implement touch-screen technology following the debacle, Florida exchanged the technology in 2007 for machines that provide a paper trail. The state now uses paper ballots. But, he said, the audit system continues to be subpar, and is “among the worst in the country.”

And voting software is vulnerable and “buggy,” with “errors already built into it,” he said.

The 2018-midterm elections highlighted a number of continued shortcomings in Florida’s election systems, even with paper ballots.

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And an expert on the impact of climate change on financial markets has advice for anyone thinking of buying a home in Florida: don’t.

Spencer Glendon of the Woods Hole Research Center said on The Florida Roundup that financial institutions are going to upend Florida’s economy if they fail to deal with risks to coastal real estate and slow their lending. He warned that homebuyers in the state should no longer receive 30-year mortgages.

In Florida, where many parts of the state are increasingly under risk of flooding and infrastructure erosion, both insurance companies and reinsurance companies have begun to sound the alarm and suggest they will not be working in Florida markets in the coming years.

“Things that are a 1 in 20 year event, or a five percent risk, are essentially uninsurable in most parts of world. That’s too often for an insurance company to want to intervene and have to want to deal with claims,” he said. “In most of coastal Florida, that threshold has already been breached.”

Kevin McCarty, the chairman of the Florida Association for Insurance Reform and Florida’s former insurance commissioner, said on The Florida Roundup that banks aren’t likely to stop lending in Florida anytime soon — “unless something happens dramatically to shift the burden to [them] to actually have to pay.”

McCarty agreed that Florida has failed to sufficiently address sea-level rise and climate change.

“There have been some efforts made at the local level, particularly in southeast Florida,” he said. “But the state has not made a comprehensive effort to address that. We need to make communities more resilient and therefore more insurable.”