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Mica runs amok in Lake County

The Orange Blossom Express, disclosed June 8 to extend SunRail, would connect — using tracks abandoned by CSX and now leased by Florida Central Railroad — Eustis with SunRail in Orlando.

This would hardly be “express” — the condition of those tracks (mostly paralleling U.S. 441) is adequate for moving freight cars at 5 to 10 mph, but not for 50 mph passenger traffic.

Earlier attempts at promoting passenger travel on this route included a couple of dinner trains (e.g., the defunct Florida Central Adventure Dinner Train) and a 1920s Doodlebug — a self-propelled car in service for a while as a Lake County-Orlando shopper train, more than a decade ago. All failed for lack of interest (and revenue).

The principal industry of Lake County is retirement. A third of the population is older than 60; 44 percent are older than 50. Twelve percent are older than 75, all according to the Lake County government website. Few of those people have a need to commute to Orlando. Reaching Eustis would not serve The Villages farther north in Lake County.

The investment to upgrade tracks and to provide for bypass sidings would be horrendous and unwarranted.

It’s not clear what U.S. Rep. John Mica’s goal is in promoting this vision, but it may be to gain the support of the Orange County commissioner from Apopka for SunRail. Fred Brummer’s District 2 runs from the northwest corner of the county, including U.S. 441, to Colonial Drive — nowhere near SunRail.

—George F. McClure

Winter Park


Protect your home base this hurricane season

Every baseball player knows how important it is to protect home base. This hurricane season, protect your home base — your family, home and finances — before a storm threatens.

Baseball and hurricane safety have a lot in common. To be successful at either you have to prepare, plan and, most importantly, execute the plan. Doing so will help you protect your home base this hurricane season.

The nation’s top meteorologist has predicted an above-normal hurricane season this year, with 12 to 18 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes. The destruction caused by recent tornadoes and flooding is a vivid reminder for all Florida residents and small business owners to review their insurance policies and speak to their insurance agent about the coverage they will need in the event of a disaster.

Protecting your home base also means preparing financially for a disaster. The top three reasons claims are denied are insufficient documentation, lack of adequate insurance coverage and failure to retain proof of damage.

Taking the necessary steps to ensure your financial documents are in order is an important step in protecting your family, home and business. Below are additional tips to prepare financially for hurricane season:

• Review your insurance policy to make sure you have the coverage you need to rebuild or repair after a storm. Renters should also have coverage for contents.

• If you do not have flood insurance, get it now. Property owners outside of flood-prone areas file most flood claims.

• Know and plan for your deductibles and what you will pay out of pocket if your home or business is damaged in a storm.

• Take photos or video of your property and inventory it, including gathering any receipts and serial numbers. This will help speed up any claim payment.

• Keep copies of your important insurance and financial records in different locations such as a safe deposit box or a waterproof container you can take with you should you need to evacuate. It’s also a good idea to give a copy to a trusted relative or friend and to store it electronically, or even email it to yourself.

Hurricane season continues through the end of November. For additional information regarding hurricane preparedness, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call 850-413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). Another great resource is www.flash.org

—Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater


Citizens get say in redistricting

The constitutionally mandated redistricting process will begin with a series of statewide public meetings, which will run from June 20 to Sept. 1. There are two meetings scheduled for the Orlando area on July 27 from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Both will be held at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center.

These meetings are a forum for Florida citizens to have their voices heard regarding redistricting. The public comments will be used as a base for the redistricting committees to begin drawing the districts. If you are unable to attend the meetings, most will be shown via webcast at thefloridachannel.org and you can submit your comments via email at mydistrictbuilder@myfloridahouse.gov

When the public meetings are completed, the redistricting committee will meet to draw districts for the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate and Florida’s congressional seats. The Florida Legislature will commence six weeks of committee meetings on Sept. 19 and finish in early December. The regular Legislative session will begin Jan. 10, significantly earlier to accommodate the redistricting process. Both the House and Senate will need to agree on district maps by March 9, which is the end of the 2012 regular session.

As soon as the Florida House and Senate agree on redistricting plans for the Florida House and Senate seats, the Attorney General has 15 days to submit the legislative plans to the Florida Supreme Court for automatic review. The Supreme Court has 30 days to review the legislative plans. The Supreme Court must decide if the redistricting plans abide by all federal and state laws. If the Supreme Court accepts the legislative plans, the maps then go to the U.S. Department of Justice, which will have 60 days to pre-clear the plans. If the Supreme Court invalidates the legislative plans, the plans will return to the Legislature to redraw the maps and begin the approval process again. If the Legislature is not in session, a special session will need to be called in order to complete the plans. If the Supreme Court does not approve the second set of plans submitted by the Legislature, then it is their responsibility to redraw the Florida House and Senate maps.

The congressional map has a slightly different procedure. After the completion of the Florida Congressional map, the governor has 7-15 days to sign the plan into law. After it is signed, the plans go directly to the U.S. Department of Justice in order to be pre-cleared. There is no automatic Florida Supreme Court review of the congressional map. Qualifying for all state and federal elections will be held June 4-8.

Please visit www.floridaredistricting.org for more information on the redistricting process. The Florida Legislature is committed to expanding public participation, and for the first time, is offering the public an opportunity to draw its own districts. You can submit full or partial maps for the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate and Florida’s congressional seats. You will be able to access the My District Builder program, which will enable you to actually draw your congressional districts within 1 percent of the required population of 696,345 and the Florida House seats as close to 156,678 constituents and Florida Senate seats as close to 470,033 constituents.

If you would like more information on the upcoming redistricting meetings or need assistance with www.floridaredistricting.org, please contact my office at 407-884-2023. As always, it is an honor to serve you.

—State Rep. Bryan Nelson

District 38