My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

It is my job to be a watchdog for how government spends your hard-earned tax dollars. When I took office, I vowed that Florida would be held to the highest standards of transparency, accountability, and openness. In 2012, I championed changes in the law that led to the creation of Transparency Florida, an easy-to-navigate website that provides Floridians information about state spending. A key component of Transparency Florida is the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System (FACTS). Initially, FACTS held summaries of government contracts, which was a never-before-seen level of government transparency in Florida. But that was not nearly enough. Since then, FACTS has expanded to include not just summaries, but also detailed descriptions of 65,277 state contracts and grant agreements. Further still, we have begun to include the documents themselves, and 61 percent of contracts and grants are now available for download at the FACTS website.

Our efforts to give Floridians the transparency they deserve have recently been recognized by the independent U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), in its annual Following the Money report. This report details how the 50 states rank in providing online access to Transparency Floridagovernment spending data and awards grades ranging from an "A" through "F."

This year, Florida has earned an "A," marking three consecutive years of improvement. This score is affirmation of our commitment to transparency. By making some of the most requested information easily available without charge, we’re eliminating the time and cost constraints sometimes associated with public records requests. More importantly, because our website has made government contracts visible and easy to access, competition has increased and Floridians saved more than $40 million just last year on the negotiation or renegotiation of contracts.

While Transparency Florida has fundamentally changed the relationship between the government and the people it serves, I will continue to look for ways to make even more information available to you in the most user-friendly format possible.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

Saint Petersblog: Florida gets an 'A' for government spending transparency

Capitol News Service: Fallen Firefighters Honored

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Thefts of fire alarm panels putting thousands at risk, fire officials warn

Daily Commercial: Memorial lists fallen Bushnell firefighters

South Florida Sun Sentinel: Buyers finding more homes on the market

Orlando Business Journal: Florida reaches milestone in life claim settlements

Orlando Business Journal: Florida Senate adds funding for Osceola sensor facility to state budget

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: State insurance regulator ends emergency assessment


March is Women's History Month

Jacqueline CochranEach week this month, we are featuring prominent American women leaders and highlighting their contributions to our country.

Jacqueline Cochran (1906-1980)

Jacqueline Cochran was a pioneer in American aviation. Born near Panama City, Cochran grew up in Pensacola. She started as a reporter, owned a cosmetics firm and then became a test pilot. Considered to be one of the most gifted racing pilots of her generation, Cochran was the first woman to break the sound barrier. During World War II she was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean, leading to the formation of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program for which she received the Distinguished Service Medal. At the time of her death in 1980, she held more speed, altitude and distance records than any other pilot. Cochran became a member of the Florida Women's Hall of Fame in 1992.

Arrest Announced in Connection With South Florida Alarm Panel TheftsDivision of State Fire Marshal Badge

The Department of Financial Services’ Division of State Fire Marshal recently announced the arrest of a Broward County man in connection with a series of fire alarm control panel thefts in Broward County. Michael Moser allegedly stole alarm panels from several condominium and apartment complexes, leaving residents without life-saving fire alarm notification systems in the event of a fire.

A coordinated state and local investigation conducted in partnership by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of State Fire Marshal, the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Broward County and local law enforcement discovered that Moser, while pretending to be an alarm company employee performing routine service, would disable fire protection equipment for the purposes of reselling it for personal profit.

Charged with more than 100 criminal offenses including grand theft, burglary and preventing or obstructing the extinguishment of a fire, Moser was booked into a Broward County jail where he awaits trial. The investigation remains ongoing and additional arrests are pending.

Two Fort Lauderdale Residents Arrested for PIP Fraud Following Staged Accident

Division of Insurance Fraud badgeThe Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud recently announced the arrests of Fort Lauderdale residents Kendrick Callins and Lashaunda Gibbs for staging an auto accident, patient brokering and personal injury protection (PIP) insurance fraud. Callins and Gibb each face a maximum sentence of 25 years.

An investigation led by the Division of Insurance Fraud, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, revealed that Callins and Gibbs organized and participated in a staged accident that occurred on September 22, 2012, in Fort Lauderdale. The accident involved participants, recruited by Callins and Gibbs, who intentionally drove a rented U-Haul truck into a passenger vehicle occupied by Callins and Gibbs. Fraudulent insurance claims were subsequently submitted to insurers who paid the claims.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida’s unemployment rate holds steady in January
Florida’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in January, unchanged from the revised December 2014 rate of 5.7 percent, and down 0.8 of a percentage point from 6.5 percent a year ago. Florida’s unemployment rate has been less than or equal to the national rate for 23 of the last 26 months.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Florida home sales increase in February
There were 18,701 closed home sales in February, 16 percent more than last month (16,087) and 19 percent more than February of 2014 (15,712). Additionally, the median sale price increased to $179,995, a 3 percent increase over the month ($175,000) and a 9 percent increase over the year ($165,000).
Source: Florida Realtors

Outlook on 2015

This issue of Florida’s Bottom Line highlights opportunities for 2015, as well as issues from Outlook on 20152014. It includes economic forecasts and expert analyses on Florida from leading economists, including one from Sean Snaith, Ph.D., the director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness and a nationally recognized economist in the field of business and economic forecasting:

"In 2014 we learned that the recession in Florida was more severe than originally thought. New data on real GDP growth in Florida released this year showed that Florida’s economy continued to contract throughout 2010 and 2011. The official end of the national recession was June 2009, which means real output in Florida continued to contract for two and a half years after the Great Recession came to an end. While there are no official start or end dates assigned to state level recessions, Florida began to lose payroll jobs in April of 2007, suggesting that the economy slipped into recession earlier than the December 2007 start of the national recession.

"This new perspective on history makes Florida’s economic recovery look all the more impressive. Florida’s economy has, in a short amount of time, gone from lagging the U.S. recovery to solidly outpacing it. We expect that Florida’s economy will continue to do so in 2015." Read more . . .