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Election 2012 Race Analysis: Florida House of Representatives: District 71


MANATEE COUNTY -- Competing for the House Seat in District 71 are incumbent Republican Rep. Jim Boyd and Democratic challenger Adam Tebrugge, who have sparred frequently on the issue of insurance reform and have also touched upon their differences in tackling problems in the education system. The district represents parts of Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

Insurance policy issues have consistently been the candidates' main focus throughout the race. The cause of this is Mr. Boyd's record in the House - a record that has received

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Jim Boyd

an unusually large amount of attention for a freshman legislator. Mr. Boyd has earned this attention during his short tenure by advocating reform in two areas - Personal Injury Protection and Citizens' Property Insurance.

The P.I.P. reform bill from earlier this year is Mr. Boyd's big legislative accomplishment, having sponsored the bill and helping to guide it through an easy passage in the House before succeeding in the Senate and receiving Governor Rick Scott's signature. Mr. Boyd has touted the bill as a much-needed change that will help reduce automobile accident fraud and thereby lower insurance rates. 

Mr. Boyd has also been a proponent of raising the rates of Citizens Property Insurance, saying that current rates are underpriced compared to private property insurance rates. Though his attempt to do so in 2011 through legislation did not succeed, it has not been forgotten by opponents of a rate increase on the millions of Citizens customers. Mr. Tebrugge brought up the controversial legislation at a recent debate, saying that “since Gov. Scott and Rep. Boyd have taken office, there has been this move ... to raise the rates of Citizens, yet have it cover less property.”

Boyd's support of these causes has drawn scrutiny due to his strong ties to the insurance industry. Mr. Tebrugge has made this perceived conflict of interest a sticking point of his campaign when on the attack. He claimed that the P.I.P. bill was a "big giveaway" to insurance companies, and noted that so far, rate decreases for automobile P.I.P. have not happened. Consumers "have gotten the short end of the stick, whether's it's been on the P.I.P bill, or the depopulation of Citizens Property Insurance," Mr. Tebrugge has said.

It has been shown that the insurance industry wrote much of the two bills. Mr. Boyd has not shied away from his association with the industry, saying that his knowledge of insurance policy has given him "something to bring to the table" when it comes to legislating reform. 

The corporate income tax also came up during their recent debate, with Mr. Boyd showing support for gutting the tax completely, claiming that what will be lost in revenue will be more than made up for by the attraction that such a move would offer to businesses thinking about relocating. "We want to be first (in the

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Adam Tebrugge

nation in terms of businesses moving here) and this is one of the ways to get there," he said. Mr. Tebrugge opposes such a move, expressing concern over the stability of the state budget in coming years and providing critical services to citizens. "We don't need to continue to ply (businesses) with incentives and tax breaks and direct cash giveaways," Tebrugge said. 


As for other policy, the two candidates have showed differences how to approach education. Mr. Tebrugge has criticized Rep. Boyd for supporting $1.3 billion in education cuts over two years, saying, "We need to restore education funding (instead of cutting it)." In response to his opponent's critique, Mr. Boyd has said that "we can't just keep spending more and more money and expect better results. We've got to learn how to change the outcome, so we're working very hard on that." 

The two have also given opposing views on public funding for private and church-affliliated schools, with Mr. Boyd supporting and Mr. Tebrugge opposing. On charter schools, Mr. Boyd has said that he does support qualified ones that meet criteria standards set by the school board, and that well-performing charter schools "result in competition, and competition is not a bad thing ... it raises the bar for everybody." Mr Tebrugge has said that while he has seen progress in the reports of some charter schools, "some of the reports that we're getting are also very problematic." He has expressed concern about what would happen if a charter school in the area fails: "if (one) goes under, how are the taxpayers going to recoup that investment or are those monies going to go off to private corporations?"

As for his own funding, Mr. Tebrugge, to his credit, has made a bold stand on his campaign's finances. He has promised to not accept money from political action committees, nor donations over $100, in order to "send an unmistakable message to the voters of this area that I will work only for them." Yet while it is refreshing to hear such a promise in the increasingly cash-flooded and PAC-dependent modern political climate, the effect on Mr. Tebrugge's votes due to a lack of advertising remains to be seen. 


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