Is It Legal to Carry Firearms at Florida Theaters?

Frequently, after publishing content online, I find myself learning something. Often this is from looking at what type of traffic our websites get.

This week is certainly no exception. After publishing some thoughts about the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting and contrasting it with a recent Florida shooting incident, I’ve learned that a lot of people have a similar question:

Is it legal to carry a firearm into a theater in the State of Florida?

This is of particular interest to me since AMC Theatres has a nationwide policy banning firearms from their locations. The ban therefore applies to the location we sometimes patronize in a nearby mall, and to at least one other Florida location in Clearwater (see a copy of the AMC “No Weapons Allowed” sign here).

First: Florida Law

Florida law does not specifically prohibit the legal (concealed) carry of firearms in theaters. Of course, legal concealed carry in Florida requires a Concealed Weapons Permit. (If you are already a permit holder, then you are well aware that a number of conditions apply to make your concealed carry of a firearm legal.)

Without a permit, in Florida you are not permitted to carry a concealed firearm on your person anywhere other than in your home or place of business.

There are many ins and outs to Florida law related to firearms and other weapons. I am not an attorney or expert in the law, nor would I pretend to be one. If you own (or plan to own) firearms in Florida, then I strongly recommend that you get a copy of the book widely considered to be the “Bible” of Florida firearms law by attorney Jon Gutmacher. Don’t just get a copy… devour it and keep it close by for reference.

Second: “No Guns Allowed” Signs

AMC Theatres: No Weapons Allowed, Courtesy of gruntzooki

Some businesses choose to place signage prohibiting firearms in their establishments. AMC Theatres is an example. Regal Cinemas may be another example if various internet chatter is to be believed.

Again, I am not an attorney or expert, but from my research a business that has invited you (by opening its doors to the public) onto its premises cannot prevent you from bringing a legal concealed weapon onto its premises.

That said, if they discover your firearm (which one has to really wonder how they would do if in fact it is properly concealed), they can ask you to leave. If any business asks you to leave and you refuse, you are likely to be guilty of trespass (regardless of whether you have a firearm).

If you are found guilty of trespass and you are carrying a firearm, then you are quite likely to be guilty of armed trespass, which is a third degree felony.

This is probably not something you want to risk. It is also quite possibly open to interpretation, which could go badly for you if you find yourself in this situation. Find more on this topic here.

The good news is that you are unlikely to be guilty of trespass (at least in a business which is open to the public—assuming you are there during its hours of operation) unless you refuse to leave after first being warned to leave.

Local Pine View Student Improving Environment Through Mote Marine Internship

Spencer getting ready for Coral Transplant Dive

Sarasota, FL June 5, 2012 — Spencer Lasday, a sophomore at Pine View School in Sarasota, received a singular honor among high school students in being selected to perform environmental research at Mote Marineâ€s Tropical Research Station near Key West. The trip was part of the Mote Marine Laboratory High School Internship Program, a highly-competitive program that provides a few, select high school students with a dynamic, hands-on marine science experience which complements their traditional advanced academic studies.

Hammering away at coral reefs nearly 60 feet underwater, Spencer alarmed other divers who thought he was damaging the reef. Gina Santoianni, Spencerâ€s dive partner and Director of the Mote Marine Laboratory High School Internship program, looked on with amusement as Spencer tried to communicate to the concerned divers that he was actually restoring the reef.

“Spencer really enjoys diving, so this project was a great fit for him,” said Gina.

Spencer with Gina Santoianni, coordinator of Mote Marine High School Internship Program

The work on the reef is part of the internship program, which partnered with the internationally known Coral Reef Restoration Foundation from Key Largo, FL in an effort to ensure the health of this important part of Floridaâ€s underwater ecosystem. The project requires clearing away dead coral to make way for the new coral which is hand-planted, one coral polyp at a time.

In addition to multiple SCUBA dives working on the reef, Spencer also cleaned up fishing lines in mangroves and learned about Dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center while in Key West.

“Itâ€s been a great privilege to be part of the internship at Mote,” said Spencer. “The program is competitive, which I found out first-hand when I was not accepted the first time I applied.   I love the ocean, and I truly enjoy science.  I was looking for a way to combine something I loved to do as a hobby, like SCUBA diving, with a way to be proactive and help make my part of the world a little better place.  In this part of Florida, the water is everywhere and you see it all the time.  But you only see the surface.  So much of this planet is hidden from us, under the water, but even what we can’t see is so critical to life above the water.    Coral reefs are maybe 1% of the ocean floor, but support 25% of all marine life. They provide feeding areas and safe nurseries for the fish we eat.  They provide breakwaters to protect our shores.  And just like the rainforests on land, there is untapped potential for medicines and treatments for so much human illness.  I can’t thank Gina and the staff at Mote enough for exposing me to the most amazing things about my own backyard.”

Spencer is the only student from Pine View — Floridaâ€s only school dedicated to intellectually gifted students — who was accepted into the internship program this year.

In addition to this research trip, Spencer has also spent time behind the scenes with the animal trainers at Mote in the Marine Mammal Rehabilaitation Hospital, and behind the scenes at The Living Seas at Epcot, one of the largest man-made ocean environments in the world.  He’s been a tour guide on kayak trips through Sarasota Bay, maintained tanks at Moteâ€s Sarasota facility, and participated in the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, a statewide gathering of students dedicated to conservation and renewal efforts for the ocean and coastline.

Spencer hopes to “dive deeper” into research at Mote next year as a high school junior.

###

Mote Marine Laboratory has been a world leader in marine research since it was founded in 1955. Mote is an independent nonprofit organization and has seven centers for marine research, the public Mote Aquarium and an Education Division specializing in public programs for all ages. More information is available online about the Lab as well as the High School Internship at mote.org.

EMR Software: Meaningful Use Incentives for Physicians

When I first launched Epiphany Marketing back in 1998, it was a side venture and a vehicle for handling smaller projects that didn’t require a full-time effort. In 2001, however, I decided it was time to make it a full-time effort and start taking on bigger projects.

One of our major clients in those early days was a software dealer that focused on providing electronic medical records software (and the related hardware like computers, scanners, tablet PCs and so on) to physicians’ practices. The company wanted to expand into Florida and we worked with them to develop and implement what turned out to be a highly successful marketing strategy.

Along the way, I became very acquainted with the ins & outs of the modern-day medical practice. Many physicians were already accustomed to using “practice management software” that handled important tasks like scheduling patient appointments and billing insurance companies, medicare & the patients themselves for services rendered.

Electronic Medical Records Software

However, at that time, it was still a relatively novel idea for a smaller, privately-owned medical practice to be using a system for handling electronic patient records (or electronic health records — EHR — as they have come to be known). Even more novel was the idea that an electronic medical records system (EMR) would be integrated with a “practice management” system so that all the patient data was in one place. At that time, if practices were using an EMR system, it was typically completely separate from the scheduling & billing functions that were traditionally part of a practice management system.

We worked with this software company for an extended client engagement which lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of about 13-14 months. I met a great many medical practice administrators and doctors in various medical specialties from all over the State of Florida during that time period. Some of the doctors that we worked with went on to become friends and even clients of ours in the years that followed.

Since that time, I have remained interested in medical software. In fact, a friend of mine and I started a consulting firm focused on working with physicians to evaluate their own needs and the EMR systems that were being marketed and sold in order to help them make wise decisions and end up achieving long-term ROI (return on investment) from their technology decisions.

But, as time went by, I spent less and less time focused on that world and more time focused on newer clients and growing our primary business. So… I spent some time away from the space.

In the last few months, however, I’ve had good reason to pay a lot more attention. And it’s interesting to me today to see that the EMR systems available now have very little to offer that’s in any way new and improved over the leading systems from 7-9 years ago. In fact, some of the more “cutting edge” systems from years ago were actually further along than where the major players are today. Sadly, many software companies have come and gone — something that seems to be a bit of an epidemic (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the world of medical software.

In fact, the churn in this unique space has created a great deal of reluctance on the part of the typical private medical practice. The doctors who own and/or manage these practices have seen and heard a lot of sales pitches over the years. In some cases, they have invested tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in systems… only to have the software company go out of business or otherwise become unable to provide the much-needed ongoing support that is so critical to a medical practice.

So it’s not surprising when the average physician is reluctant to think about making technology-related changes. To them, it’s about as much fun as a root canal… or exploratory brain surgery (unless, of course, you’re a neurosurgeon… in which case the brain surgery would be fun… as long as it’s being performed on someone else).

Meaningful Use Incentives

Today, however, the government has stepped into the game. Uncle Sam now has a vested interest in making sure that all physicians are tracking patient information (including diagnoses, lab results, prescriptions, etc.) electronically. After all, paper charts have always been incredibly inefficient. And this is all the more true when you have a major role in paying for services being rendered, medications being prescribed, and diagnostics and treatments of all kinds. Aggregating data, keeping track of which physicians are doing what, and which patients are being treated for what illness… these are all reasons to try to force medical practices to use electronic medical records software.

Setting aside the very interesting political and societal ramifications of all this for a moment… what it comes down to today is that government has set up incentives (for now) to reward doctors who can demonstrate “meaningful use” of a qualifying electronic medical records system.

As you might guess, “meaningful use” and “qualifying EMR systems” all have very lengthy (and somewhat bizarre) definitions. But the bottom line is that the first doctors recently got the very first sizable checks from the government to pay out the incentives for using these systems.

On the back side of the incentives is a deadly set of penalties for not adopting a qualifying system within specified time periods. Practices who demonstrate meaningful use early get rewarded. The ones that wait will not only not be rewarded… they’ll actually begin to see cuts in payments for services rendered to Medicare and/or Medicaid patients after a couple of years go by.

What all of this means for the average medical office is this: it’s time to take this seriously. Any medical practices that are using older, outdated systems that don’t meet new government requirements will have to find a new system if their software vendor doesn’t make the necessary enhancements in time. Medical practices that haven’t begun meaningfully using an electronic medical records system at all (you know… the ones still chasing 2-inch thick — or thicker — patient charts around the office) will be forced to purchase and implement a system.

As a patient, you’ve probably begun to see certain physicians taking advantage of technology. Some doctors have welcomed technology quite openly… and you’ll see them carting laptops around the office and typing up visit notes while you wait. Others have dragged their feet and will only begin using technology against their wishes. Some will undoubtedly retire early rather than face that kind of change. Others will be driven out of business by the expense… especially when added to the already high costs of medical malpractice insurance combined with the pressures of reduced reimbursements from insurers and government payers like Medicare and Medicaid (not to mention the high costs of providing health insurance benefits to their own employees).

Regardless, your privacy as a patient is going to be affected. It’s already been greatly reduced in recent years. Pretty soon it’s not going to exist at all thanks to Uncle Sam’s meddling in this game.

On the other hand, the arguments in favor of using EMR systems are substantial. Medical practices that have truly embraced the process and have implemented systems have been able to greatly reduce their operating costs, increase efficiency, increase the speed with which they can access and utilize needed information (very important for you when facing an urgent medical issue of any kind), and even recover from disasters (after all… do you think they had backups of their paper charts?).

The bottom line? We’ll be keeping a close eye on all the issues related to electronic medical records, patient privacy and the economics of practicing medicine in the 21st Century. It’s all about to change…

Erma L. Carroll

Erma L. Carroll
April 17, 1922 - May 10, 2011

In the early morning hours yesterday, my Grandmother, Erma L. Carroll née Adler, peacefully passed away. She was comfortable, thanks to the wonderful people who cared for her around the clock for nearly the last 2 years of her life. Like her late husband, the Rev. Jack C. Carroll, who preceded her by a little more than 15 months, she was ready to go after a long, fruitful life.

“Mow-Wow” was how I always knew her. The story goes that my brother (who was her first grandchild) invented the moniker for her as a toddler, and it simply stuck. She was a loving, devoted Grandmother to me, who frequently had a mischievous gleam in her eye and was always quick with a remark and a hearty laugh.

But behind the spunky exterior was a quiet strength that was born in her large-family upbringing on a farm in rural Oklahoma. Her German-speaking grandparents left difficult circumstances in Russia and landed in Nebraska. Her parents married and eventually made their way to a new homestead outside of Weatherford, Oklahoma, where they started a family, eventually having 10 children.

The community in Weatherford was a tight-knit, family-oriented one. As it became more & more likely for World War II to impact the United States, she took a job with the War Department in Washington, D.C., which eventually led to her meeting the young Marine who stole her heart. The story goes that she actually dated his friend, but he snagged her. They fell in love and were married in September, 1945, once he returned from the Pacific theater at the end of the war.

They started their life together in Georgia, where he attended college and entered the ministry. She lived the majority of her adult life as a Pastor’s wife, caring for people and contributing her myriad skills to the congregational life and activities in churches across Oklahoma, eventually settling in Denver, Colorado.

Mow-Wow demonstrated a tremendous amount of diligence in her life. Some of my earliest memories of her involve her sitting at the breakfast table in their Littleton, Colorado home, praying for each & every family member by name and poring over the Scriptures. It seemed she was always memorizing passages from her beloved Bible, and if I walked by her, I would frequently hear her “muttering” the Scriptures under her breath. She lived & breathed the Word of God.

She raised 3 incredibly gifted and talented children, one of which thankfully became my Mother. All of her children have tremendous musical abilities, and I’m a grateful beneficiary of the disciplines that were part of her household where music lessons are concerned. Her children are all 3 accomplished pianists and music lovers. We are a very musical family, and I believe in large part we owe it to Mow-Wow’s determination to cultivate those abilities.

I’m grateful for so many experiences with her in my life. As a boy, I learned Scriptures from her and always enjoyed visits to her home. She was a hard-working homemaker, an amazing cook, and a joy to be around… although not without the occasional cantankerous moment. I was so grateful when she & Pa-Po decided to make the move to Florida in 1998 and spend their twilight years here. It has meant that my Mom’s side of the family has spent significant amounts of time together, which I’ve been very blessed to be part of along the way.

Unfortunately, she had a late-night fall 2 years ago, which resulted in a broken femur. The surgery to repair the break was a little hard for her to recover from, and she had a further setback when she had a stroke in the recovery process. My Grandfather had been by her side through her major heart surgery several years prior, and was always strong for her. But after her fall and subsequent stroke, his own health began to decline. He passed away in January, 2010, just a few days shy of his 89th birthday. She lived to reach her own 89th birthday in April of this year, but was tired from her health struggles.

She was greatly loved and will be sorely missed.

A public viewing will be held on Thursday, May 12th, from 6pm-8pm at Brown and Sons Funeral Home, 604 43rd Street West, Bradenton, FL 34209 (map here). A funeral service celebrating the life of Erma L. Carroll will be held on Friday, May 13th at 11am at the same location. She will be interred at the Sarasota National Cemetary at 2:30pm.

Why Haven’t They Contacted Me Yet?

Ok… admit it. You’ve done it. We all do it. You’ve probably done it lately.

C’mon… tell me…

“How often do you Google yourself?”

Well it’s fun to see where you rank. But if you own a business, it’s critical today to rank #1 on your own name. If you serve a local market, you should at least rank #1 on your own name in your city.

However, as I’ve pointed out again and again to audiences all over the globe when speaking… ranking on your own name isn’t really marketing. It’s customer service. (Ok… it’s also brand protection, which is a marketing function, but let’s not get nit-picky here.)

What Are Your Customers Searching For?

A far more useful idea, however, is to rank #1 (or at least near the top) in Google and those other search engines on phrases that likely buyers will use when they’re searching for the stuff you sell.

For example, if you happened to be looking for a place to eat out in my city (I live and work in the paradise known as Sarasota, Florida), you might run a search like:

“fondue Sarasota”

or

“buffalo wings Sarasota”

Admittedly, you probably aren’t real likely to run both of those searches on the same day… For a nice evening out, my wife and I really enjoy fondue together. And I personally can’t seem to drag her kicking and screaming to a wings joint (happens maybe once every 2-3 years), so I go there for lunch when possible with friends that enjoy hot wings… since one of the local places is my favorite restaurant in the entire world!

But I digress…let me get to the point.

“Why Haven’t They Contacted Me Yet?”

If you happen to be the owner (or manager) of, say…

  • Dylan’s Fondue Fusion
  • The Melting Pot
  • Wings N Things
  • Wings N Weenies

…don’t you think you would contact the marketing firm that owns the website that ranks #1 in Google on the above searches?

For the record, I never really set out to rank #1 on those terms. I just happen to have decided randomly one day to write about those topics. And I happen to know what tools to use to market a local business! And I happen to use those tools myself… so… rankings happen.

You know they’re running those Google searches from time to time, right? I mean seriously… you need to know where your business ranks on those kinds of terms. And you would want (I would think) to do everything in your power to make sure that you had good positioning… so…

In case you’re wondering… yes, we help businesses with search engine rankings. But as I recently pointed out on our small business marketing blog, rankings are only a piece of the puzzle. More importantly, we train small businesses how to be their own best marketers so that they can consistently attract customers in cost-effective ways — both online and offline.

Now… if you’re in a critical situation and need rapid help with the results you’re getting from your website, our website performance assessment is a great place to start.

Otherwise, you can contact us to learn more about how we can help you grow your business!

In Search of the Perfect Almond Cappuccino

Mmmmm....Cappuccino!

Those who know me well — and shoot… even those who read this blog! — know that I’m a Starbucks fan. I carry the Gold card, I’ve unlocked the Foursquare “Barista Badge,” and I’ve had Starbucks almond cappuccinos on multiple continents.

However… in the famous revamping of 2008, Starbucks ditched a few of my favorite things. Some of them hit a little closer to home than others. The loss of the Bearista left me with one less source for cute little stuffed animals to bring home to my wife and daughter. That hurt. Thankfully, the Bearista is back this fall.

What hurt even worse, however, and what is not back… is Starbucks almond syrup. My eulogy to this personal favorite continues to bring visitors from all over the world to this site.

Starbucks has a consistent product… all over the world. That makes it worth counting on… no matter where you are.

However, since the demise of their almond syrup, I’ve taken to checking out local, independent coffee shops to see what treasures I might discover — especially here in Sarasota, Florida. Consequently, I’ve found that there are some places around town that produce some fantastic products. LeLu Coffee Lounge on Siesta Key is one such place. In fact, they make a mocha using genuine Ghirardelli syrup that makes my wife melt. +1 for LeLu!

But just yesterday I believe I may have discovered Nirvana. No… not the Kurt Cobain-fronted grunge band from the 90s. But the real deal… the ultimate almond Cappuccino. And it doesn’t smell like Teen Spirit!

Locals here in Sarasota may recall the name, “The Beanz Man.” We knew it as a dealer of a wide variety of personal and professional espresso machines. When their shop disappeared from North Washington Boulevard, I thought perhaps it was another casualty of the economic times, so to speak.

Turns out, they suffered a devastating fire. I don’t know the details, but apparently it forced them to relocate and start over. Imagine my surprise when I spotted their vans parked in the parking lot next door to my office on Bee Ridge Road a few months ago!

Well… not only did they move… but last week they opened a full-fledged cafe! They serve a variety of sandwiches and soups. I walked over to it for lunch yesterday with my wonderful wife, Jill, and had a prosciutto and fontina sandwich that was spectacular.

But… what do you get when you take an espresso machine dealer… one who probably knows the ins and outs of making espresso-based drinks as well as anyone else… and put him in his very own cafe?

You get the handmade cappuccino of your life… with the perfect amount of almond syrup to boot! (At least… that’s what you get if you’re me! You might order something else… that, I recognize. But that would be your loss.)

Actually… I’m sure that any espresso-based drink you could possibly dream up would be amazing at The Beanz Man Espresso Bar Cafe. Here’s a sure thing: I’ll be walking next door more often… a lot more often. Check out the cafe page on their website to download yourself a coupon, then head on over there yourself. Enjoy something to munch on at one of their nifty little cafe tables, or sink down into the cozy couch and fire up your favorite wi-fi device to do some surfing.

And be sure to tell ’em I sent ya!

Rev. Jack C. Carroll, USMC Ret.

Rev. Jack C. Carroll
January 31, 1921 - January 26, 2010

Yesterday morning, my Grandfather, Rev. Jack C. Carroll, quietly slipped away. He was completely at peace, confident about his eternal future, and having lived a full and complete life. He was in no pain, and from what the folks who were caring for him said, he simply went to sleep.

But far more interesting and important than how his life ended are the many things that filled it. You see, “Pa-Po” (as my brother and the other grandchildren and I knew him) was a man who experienced much and loved much. And through everything, he was a passionately principled and devoted man who set a very high bar for what real manhood is all about.

Many knew him as the preacher who cared for and spoke into the lives of so many people across Oklahoma, Colorado and — long after “retirement” — Florida. Some knew him as the Pearl Harbor survivor who fought for the Freedoms that were so precious and valuable for him. As a U.S. Marine, he continued his service through the end of World War II, fighting for the all-important islands in the South Pacific that were so crucial to the outcome of the Japanese conflict.

I knew him as the fun, thoughtful, generous, and studious Grandfather who impacted my life in more ways than I can count. On visits to their home as a young boy, I watched the habit of morning prayer that he and my Grandmother (“Mow-Wow” — don’t ask me: my brother named them before I was born) engaged in every single day. They read the Scriptures together and prayed for us — their children, grandchildren, and later great-grandchildren — by name.

With Pa-Po, the Word of God and prayer were not merely the accoutrements of his profession. Of all that I received from him, the legacy of his authentic relationship with God is most significant and meaningful to me. I often think of him and I realize that so many of the blessings in my life today are the fruit of his decades-long, consistent daily walk. First ordained under the Christian & Missionary Alliance, he became a Southern Baptist minister and began pastoring in the 1940s. He moved his young family all over the great state of Oklahoma, pastoring churches in cities like Ada, Shawnee, and ultimately: Blackwell. It’s Blackwell that I appreciate so much because it was there that his daughter, Ann, met my father when they were 14.

From Oklahoma, he and Mow-Wow eventually relocated to Denver, Colorado, where they took up residence in Littleton. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are from visits to their house there, where Pa-Po and I laughed and played Uno® together on the porch. On Sundays, we always were in church, where I heard and watched him preach with passion and conviction — always struggling to help people and impact their lives for eternity.

In January, 1986, my parents and my brother and I made the trek from Houston to Denver to surprise Pa-Po as he “retired.” I remember many things from that trip — notably, that I was in the basement of their home watching TV when Dan Rather interrupted to announce the destruction of the Challenger — but what struck me most was the sheer number of people who expressed such genuine heartfelt gratitude to him for his career serving people. What an impact it had on me to see how he had poured his life out for others.

Of course, for him, “retirement” simply meant giving up his comfortable salary at a decent-sized church so he could continue pastoring smaller ones for nearly 2 more decades. Thankfully, in 1998 he and Mow-Wow moved to Bradenton, Florida where he began pastoring yet again. For him, fruitfulness in life was more important than leisure.

There is much to be said about Pa-Po, and I appreciate the opportunity to be a bit indulgent here as I talk about him. His wife, Erma, along with his 3 children — Ann Johnson, Steve Carroll, and Jane York — and their children and grandchildren all miss him sorely.

A funeral service celebrating the life of Jack C. Carroll will be held on Friday, January 29, 2010 at West Bradenton Baptist Church, 1305 43rd Street West, Bradenton, FL 34209. A public viewing will be held at 10am, with the service beginning at 11am. He will be interred at 2pm at Sarasota National Cemetary.

I miss you, Pa-Po.

Special thanks to Grant Jefferies for taking fabulous photos and generously releasing them to the family. Thanks also to Rachel York for Photoshop help.

Life Insurance in the Internet Era

A few months ago, as my wife and I were reviewing some of that “important” stuff, we realized that it was time to update my life insurance coverage. Based upon our current situation and our changing needs over the last few years, I needed to ditch the policies we had and pick up some new term coverage.

Now… I’ve heard the radio ads from the “big guys” promoting their websites… and I’ve also done some price comparison. And even though I wanted to handle the transaction online (as much as possible), there’s something reassuring about knowing that there’s a real agent on the other end of the website that you can get on the phone if you need to talk. My term life insurance is probably not the last thing I’ll need from an independent agent, so building a relationship (much like the old-school hometown insurance agent we all grew up knowing) seemed like a good idea. But I still wanted the convenience of instant online quotes and a transaction that didn’t eat up huge amounts of my time.

TermDog.com - the website I used

For all of those reasons, I chose to go with TermDog.com. Even though they’re not based here in Florida (HQ is in Naperville, IL), TermDog is licensed to sell insurance in a number of states. Mike Fry and his team have done an outstanding job of providing a very high level of service. Here’s what my experience was like.

  1. I went to the TermDog site and played with the online quote generator. It’s easy to find, as they’ve stuck it on every page of the site. After playing with a few parameters, I found the approximate level of coverage I could buy and still fit my budget. In my case, I needed more than $500K worth of coverage, but wanted to spend less than $50/month.  Within just a couple of minutes, I had settled on a $750K 20-year policy and got the process started. (I liked the fact that even though I was giving the website enough information about me to generate a quote, I wasn’t asked for my real name or e-mail address until I was pretty sure I wanted to move forward.)
  2. Within a day or so after submitting the quote, I heard back from Michael Fry. He needed to ask a few more questions, which only took a few minutes on the phone.
  3. A few days later, a package arrived containing the life insurance app from the company that Mike had determined would probably be the best fit for me. It’s been quite a while since I bought life insurance, and I must say the length of the application surprised me. But after checking around a little bit, I’ve found out that that’s the new “normal.”
  4. I actually dragged my feet getting the app filled out (did I mention I wanted to spend as little time on this process as possible?). Thankfully, Mike gave me a couple of gentle reminders. I truly don’t like being harassed, and Mike kept me from forgetting about it without being even remotely annoying.
  5. I had the option of scanning and e-mailing the app, faxing it, or mailing it. Ultimately I opted to drop it in the mail because it feels more likely to keep my information secure. Arguable, I realize. But I needed to send a check for the first month’s premium as well as a voided one for the automatic draft, so it made sense just to do it all at once.
  6. After reviewing my app, Mike did me a favor. There were a couple of characteristics about my situation that didn’t match up perfectly with the original company he had in mind, and he’d also had a little bit of difficulty with that particular company. So… he and his team completed a new application for me using the information I’d provided on the first one and they e-mailed it to me already ready to sign. Nice huh?
  7. From there, I faxed in the signature pages from the newly completed app (just for speed).
  8. In no time, I was getting phone calls from a local company here in town who handled the health screenings. They were easy to deal with and even had a location 5 minutes from my house. They took blood, weighed, measured, poked and prodded… all the usual stuff. I was fully prepared for the experience because TermDog had e-mailed me a list of what to expect. A very nice touch.
  9. Within a few days, I received a call that my policy was on its way… and the premium was lower! Evidently my health screening results put me in a different category on the actuarial tables. And that saved me 20%. When was the last time somebody quoted you something and then sold it to you for less?
  10. I had to sign the policy and drop a check in the mail (made out to the new company). Nothing to it. I’m now insured.

The  Bottom Line

The whole experience was virtually ideal. I’m very busy and didn’t have time to visit an agent’s office and spend a lot of time on the phone. With TermDog’s online quoting, I was able to make my own decisions about the level of coverage without being pressured by an agent. Once I had decided to move forward, they handled the whole process very professionally and expediently. I not only highly recommend TermDog, but I plan to use them for future insurance needs.

For the record, I’m not being compensated or otherwise rewarded for telling you about this. I realize some bloggers get paid to express opinions. That’s not the case here. I’m absolutely a TermDog fan. You will be too!

Civic Fundraising and the Blue Light Special

Tough economic times wreak havoc with the law of unintended consequences.

Time to Pay Your Road Usage Tax!

After noticing what seemed like a significant increase in the number of traffic stops lately in and around the Sarasota area, I decided to do a little research. After all, maybe it’s just me. And even though I haven’t been pulled over myself, it seems like more and more often I’m hearing in random conversations about people getting pulled over.

It turns out that in the midst of a statewide budget crunch, lawmakers in the State of Florida are expecting an extra $32.5 Million in 2009 thanks to increased traffic fines.

Great.

So… tourism is down. The housing market is in the toilet. Business is suffering. Here’s a thought: let’s extract it from the taxpayers without calling it a tax.

So… State and local governments do what they’re incentivized to do: adjust their levels of roadside fundraising.

Is there a conspiracy to do this? Probably not. But who needs a conspiracy? There’s a wide-open fundraising channel that appears to be underutilized. Every municipality and county that is getting squeezed will naturally gravitate towards it.

So this brings up a fundamental question:

Is speeding a public safety issue or isn’t it?

After all, if all of us decided tomorrow that it really represented such a fantastic risk to our well-being and we decided to stop speeding, public safety officials would be thrilled, right?

Wrong. Your driving behavior helps make up for budget shortfalls.

As with all other “sin” taxes, what we forget is that we, the people, have put ourselves in the speeding business. We are now, as a society, financially dependent–at least partially–on something that is supposed to be a danger to us all.

But of course we don’t really believe it’s dangerous. Sure… the testosterone-crazed teenage male with a freshly-minted driver’s license flying through a school zone at 100 mph is dangerous. And naturally, they take his license and lock him up.

But the soccer Mom who’s not paying attention to her speedometer as she races from one place to another… is she really a public safety hazard? Probably not.

But she’s a great target for a fundraising effort… one that makes her feel stupid and ashamed. One that carries a gun. One that distracts law enforcement officers from fighting crime and turns them into monkey grinders.

And, as unintended consequences do, this one multiplies. Now we have multiple law enforcement officers gathering in one place to pull over the drivers who don’t move over while their colleagues are performing their sideshow.

And of course, this fundraising activity is dangerous… not because the State has decided that speeding drivers are a scourge that must be stopped, but because the State has chosen to keep its law enforcement officers in harm’s way to extract additional money from the drivers.

You might call me a cynic.

But I remember owning a 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. It was already an “antique” (as automobiles go) when I bought it, mind you. But that car had something unique that the 1973 model did not have: a catalytic converter. Why? Because someone, somewhere decided that automobiles were creating too much pollution. So the Federal government mandated these devices to reduce pollution. Simple solution to a problem that was harmful to society. Require the automakers to put a device on the cars to reduce the problem.

When was the governor invented?

I rest my case.

So… if the State of Florida (and the local counties and municipalities) want to tax drivers whose speeds creep up, fine. But let’s call it what it is: a road tax. Let’s kill this whole “public safety” charade. What a joke.

It’ll probably make the officers who really are concerned about your safety on the roads feel a lot better about their jobs. After all, the people they report to are certainly incentivized to keep you driving “dangerously.”

I Voted in the 2008 Presidential Election

And for all of you eligible to do so, I hope you have, too!  If so, you get your nifty new “I Voted” Sticker. The design is brand new for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election.

Since my real sticker is on my shirt today, I thought a “virtual” one was in order for the blog.

Thank you to all of our new visitors who have been here recently for information on the 2008 Florida Amendments. We hope to have you back again real soon!