Volume 7 Number 53 December 31, 2010

Dear Floridian:

This is my last email message as your CFO. Four years ago you elected me to an office which was very new and virtually unknown to most citizens. It has been my distinct privilege to serve you for these last four years.

In addition to overseeing DFS, as CFO, I served as one of four statewide elected officials on the Florida Cabinet which is jointly responsible for more than a dozen state agencies. I was honored to serve with Governor Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, where we worked collaboratively on many major state issues —from preservation of lands for environmental protection, to the recent BP oil spill crisis, putting politics aside to achieve the best for the people of our state.

Throughout my term in office we have used this electronic newsletter, e-Views, to share with you the excellent work of the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and the office of your CFO. This month we have summarized the many accomplishments

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— of our department in our quest to better serve all Floridians. Accomplishments achieved by the hard working people of DFS through legislation, enforcement of laws to protect consumers and by working collaboratively with other state agencies, nonprofit organizations and the private sector.

Today, I want to thank the people of DFS for their dedicated service and hard work. Throughout my administration, I have expressed the importance of the commitment of everyone on the DFS team — from those who answer our phones, to those who deliver and open the mail and including me, as your CFO — to waking up each and every day with fresh enthusiasm for serving the citizens of our state. I am so proud to know that they met that challenge daily.

Your letters and calls of appreciation have meant so much to us. Whether it was your thanks for savings on insurance premiums through our My Safe Florida Home Program – a program that produced the added benefit of hardening homes for some of our elderly citizens, helping them feel more secure in their homes. Or the letters of relief and gratitude for recovering a lifetime of investments for Florida’s seniors after they had been mislead into purchasing annuity investment products that were wrong for their age and financial circumstances. We also heard from Floridians when we successfully advocated on their behalf and got the payment they were due from an insurance claim, or helped them find the surprise of unclaimed property or cash that the state was holding for them and they didn’t know about it!

While so many colleagues deserve recognition, my special gratitude goes to our chiefs of staff, initially Jim Cassady, and now Tammy Teston, both of whom left successful private sector careers to join me in the Department of Financial Services. They brought a fresh perspective, sound business management principles and leadership to so many talented people who were willing to embrace change.

Since November 2, we have been working closely with CFO-elect Jeff Atwater and his team to assure a smooth transition on January 4, 2011. I have known Jeff for many years and I am hopeful that with his background in the private sector and commitment to public service, that he will build on the strong foundation this administration is leaving behind to improve transparency and accountability in your state government, and to find ever more efficient ways to use your tax dollars to rebuild our state’s economy and protect our citizens.

And finally, I want to thank my husband Bill McBride, our children, and the thousands of friends all over the state of Florida who have provided me so much support, encouragement and their prayers over the past four years. I leave the Office of Florida’s CFO with pride for the amazing work that our team accomplished, but with utmost humility for the honor you gave me to serve you, the beloved people of the great state of Florida. In the new year, you can reach me at my new email address, alexsinkflorida@gmail.com.

Alex




Alex Sink
CFO
State of Florida

 

P.S. Please don’t forget to check fltreasurehunt.org on a regular basis to see if the state is holding property or cash for you!


CFO Alex Sink Advocates for Intervention on BP Oil Spill Claims

Florida CFO Alex Sink speaks about Florida's oil-free beaches CFO Sink made advocating for Gulf Coast businesses and residents who are still struggling as a result of the BP oil spill a top priority during her last few weeks in office, highlighting the inefficient and restrictive claims process and calling for continued help and intervention.

First, the CFO expressed her concerns with the “inefficient and unresponsive” claims process during the final meeting of the Florida Cabinet. At the meeting, she asked her fellow Cabinet Members to join her in sending a letter to Claims Administrator Ken Feinberg about the challenges Florida’s citizens are still facing and the need for immediate action in implementing an improved process.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill ResourcesAttorney General Bill McCollum agreed, and together they sent a letter calling again on Mr. Feinberg to improve the claims process for Floridians impacted by the BP oil spill. In their letter, CFO Sink and AG McCollum noted that of the over 150,000 emergency claims filed by Floridians, only 40 percent have been paid, and that the recently released Protocols for Interim and Final Claims could potentially make it even more difficult for impacted Floridians to be compensated for their losses.

Alex also highlighted the concerns she and Attorney General McCollum brought up to Claims Administrator Feinberg about the process in a letter she sent to President Barack Obama. CFO Sink urged the president to intervene in order to improve the claims process for Floridians who were negatively impacted by the BP oil spill, writing “I truly believe that your intervention is essential to ensure the necessary changes will be made so that the thousands of Floridians whose livelihoods were negatively impacted through no fault of their own receive the answers and action they deserve.”

Finally, CFO Sink then sent a letter to the incoming members of the Florida Cabinet urging their continued advocacy and oversight for the people of the Gulf Coast. CFO Sink also urged the newly-elected Cabinet Officials to continue to push for an improved claims process and to support legislative steps that will ensure Florida’s citizens have better recourse against future disasters.

Since news first broke of the oil spill, Alex Sink has been an outspoken advocate for impacted small businesses who have incurred damages; for more information about all of her actions, please visit: www.myfloridacfo.com/oilspill.


State Could Pay $69 Million A Year If Sovereign Immunity Extended to Medicaid Providers

Florida CFO Alex Sink on Tuesday released a new analysis showing that possible legislation shielding Medicaid providers from lawsuits for negligent acts could cost Florida’s taxpayers an estimated $69 million per year. The analysis, which was sent with a cover letter by CFO Sink to Senate and House leaders, was requested by Sink after the Florida Legislature indicated its intent to extend sovereign immunity to Medicaid providers.

“The results of the analysis are startling,” CFO Sink wrote. “Most importantly, the report estimated that depending on how the bill is drafted, extending sovereign immunity to Medicaid providers could cost the taxpayers of Florida approximately $69 million per year. These are costs not currently borne by our state, and would amount to Floridians paying for the mistakes of private health care providers.”

The analysis was completed by an actuary from the office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate along with members of the legal staff from the Department of Financial Services. In addition to estimating the costs the taxpayers could pay for providers’ mistakes, the report also raised concerns about the constitutionality of extending sovereign immunity to Medicaid providers.

“I agree that our state’s Medicaid program needs to be reformed. However, I do not believe that extending sovereign immunity will convince many doctors to increase the number of Medicaid patients they treat, yet the change could be costly for Floridians,” CFO Sink concluded. “The Legislature should consider all other options available to address this issue before passing sovereign immunity reform that could cost our state’s taxpayers $69 million annually.”

Read the letter from the CFO and the Medicaid analysis.


At Final Cabinet Meeting, CFO Sink Pushes Green Jobs, Renewable Energy

CFO Sink at a Cabinet meetingDuring her last meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Alex continued to push an issue that she has been vocal about during her entire administration – renewable energy and green jobs.

CFO Sink and the rest of the Cabinet approved a certification for Gainesville Renewable Energy Center to build and operate. The Renewable Energy Center will lease 131 acres from the city of Gainesville on the same site where Gainesville has its coal-fired plant. The center will use clean lumber to fuel its biomass facility and will produce about 100 megawatts of electricity, powering over 70,000 homes.

One exciting feature of this project is not only that it uses a renewable fuel source, but most of the biomass will come from forest residue from private landowners within 75 miles of the site in Gainesville.

Most importantly, building the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center will generate an estimated $48 million in payroll, largely for Floridians in Gainesville area, and these construction jobs will last between 32 and 36 months. Once it’s operational, the center will employ 44 Floridians full time, continuing to show how green jobs can be a key to Florida’s economic future.


Alex Sink Exonerates 1960s Freedom Fighters at Last Clemency Meeting

CFO Sink was honored to approve a commemorative resolution exonerating the brave civil rights marchers who were beaten and jailed for protesting segregated beaches and lunch counters in St. Augustine as part of the “Freedom Fighters” Movement nearly 50 years ago.

During their final meeting as the Board of Executive Clemency, Alex along with Governor Crist, Attorney General McCollum and Commissioner Bronson formally asked law enforcement agencies to expunge the protesters' arrest records, remove the records for any future review other than historical documentation and transfer them to the Florida State Archives to be made available for historical research.

The resolution, brought to the Clemency Board by State Senator Tony Hill, can be read in full here.


State Fire Marshal

State Fire Marshal Sink Offers Tips for Being “Fire Smart” This Holiday Season

During the holidays, Floridians are adorning homes with traditional decorations like Christmas trees, ornaments and candles. But holiday decorations, as beautiful as they are, can also be an added home fire hazard. That is why Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink is offering helpful tips to help keep Floridians safe this holiday season.SFM Sink speaks about fire safety.

“During this holiday season, don’t let a tragic home fire mar your spirits or even worse, take a life,” said State Fire Marshal Sink. “I hope all Floridians will take extra precautions while decorating and celebrating to avoid holiday fires, and I wish all Floridians a safe and happy holiday season.”

Statistics provided by the National Fire Protection Association reveal that each year fire departments around the nation respond to roughly 260 structure fires caused by Christmas trees. Fires occurring each year during the holiday season claim the lives of over 400 Americans, injure 1,650 more, and cause over $990 million in damage according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

To view a video of CFO Sink’s comments on holiday fire safety, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRFv2C3OHVU. State Fire Marshal Sink urges families to follow a few safety tips to ensure a safe and happy holiday season, such as:

CHRISTMAS TREES:

When keeping a cut tree in the house, special fire safety precautions need to be taken. A burning tree can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases. Selecting a tree is the first step. Make sure needles are green and hard to pull back from the branches. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. To avoid premature drying and the possibilities of catching fire, keep your tree at least three feet away from heat sources, including fireplaces and heating vents. Your tree should be kept in water throughout its recommended two-week life.

HOLIDAY LIGHTS:

Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets. Only use lights that have been tested and labeled by a recognized testing laboratory. To avoid overloading electrical outlets, do not link more than three light strands unless the directions indicate it is safe, and remember that some lights are intended for only indoor use and shouldn’t be used outdoors. However tempting, it is not recommended to leave your lights burning overnight or while you are away from home.

CANDLE SAFETY:

If you choose to use lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Never leave lit candles unattended. Lit candles should not be placed on or near your Christmas tree or near anything that can burn. Young children can be fascinated with a burning flame, so be sure candles are not in reach of curious hands.

HOME ESCAPE PLANS:

Now is a great time to make sure your smoke alarms are in working order and to review your home escape plan so that if in the event of a fire, everyone in your household knows how to get out quickly and safely.

As State Fire Marshal, CFO Sink and her Division holds numerous educational seminars and training throughout the year. The Bureau of Fire Prevention annually inspects more than 16,000 public and private buildings including public schools, university facilities and adult living facilities; enforcing regulations regarding the handling of explosives materials, boiler safety, and fire system installation contractors to ensure public safety. For more information and fire safety tips, visit CFO Sink’s State Fire Marshal web site at http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/sfm.