Across the southeast

Florida lawmakers try to cut insurance rates


TALLAHASSEE, FLA. - Florida homeowners could see property insurance rates cut by as much as 40 percent under a plan finalized Sunday by lawmakers hoping to reverse hurricane- fueled increases that many residents say have threatened to price them out of their homes.

Lawmakers said the wide-ranging proposal they'll vote on today is expected to provide savings of as much as 20 percent for many of the coastal customers of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-created company that has become Florida's largest property insurer.

Getting the 20 percent rate cut would require a number of factors, and the only guaranteed savings across the board appeared to be closer to 5 percent.

But many customers will see much larger reductions, lawmakers said.

Rates for property owners insured by private companies also are expected to come down under the plan, which would still need approval from Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.

Mr. Crist has demanded that lawmakers send him a bill that will provide meaningful rate relief. He hasn't specified exactly how much savings the plan would have to provide for him to sign the bill, but he hinted that the proposal that emerged Sunday evening was likely to be up to par.

Insurers including Allstate Corp., Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., MetLife Inc. and State Farm have canceled or limited homeowners policies or significantly raised rates in an effort to reduce exposure to future catastrophes since the devastating hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, in which insurers lost $36 billion in Florida.

Duck survives being shot and refrigerated

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. - Neither gunfire nor two days in a refrigerator could slay this duck.

When the wife of the hunter who shot it opened the refrigerator door, the duck lifted its head, giving her a scare.

The man's wife "was going to check on the refrigerator because it hadn't been working right and when she opened the door, it looked up at her," said Laina Whipple, a receptionist at Killearn Animal Hospital. "She freaked out and told the daughter to take it to the hospital right then and there."

The 1-pound female ring-neck ended up at Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, where it has been treated since Tuesday for wounds to its wing and leg.

Sanctuary veterinarian David Hale said it has about a 75 percent chance of survival but probably won't ever be well enough to be released back into the wild.

He said the duck, which has a low metabolism, could have survived in a big enough refrigerator, especially if the door was opened and closed several times. And he said he understands how the hunter thought the duck was dead.

"This duck is very passive," Mr. Hale said. "It's not like trying to pick up a Muscovy at Lake Ella, where you put your life in your hands."