Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 2, Number 33, August 15, 2005   

Throughout Florida, schools are welcoming students for another year of learning new skills and building new relationships.  

As the parent of a first grader, there is no greater joy than experiencing a child’s growth and development.  

Your involvement in your children’s development and their education is critical to their success. Take the opportunity to read to and with your children and ask questions about what they are learning in school. 

Even if you don’t have a young child of your own, consider mentoring a student at your local school. Most schools welcome this kind of involvement and have ongoing programs in which you can participate.  

When you make a difference in a child’s future, you are making a difference in Florida’s future.

                     -- Tom Gallagher


GALLAGHER CALLS ON FLORIDA BANKS TO WAIVE FEES FOR HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher called on financial institutions operating in Florida to waive the wire-transfer fees charged to Holocaust survivors and their families on payments for Holocaust-related reparations or restitution.  Financial institution fees on wire transfers vary, ranging from $10 to $40 per transaction.

“More than 60 years have passed since the atrocities of the Holocaust took place,” Gallagher said.  “Holocaust survivors and their families have suffered enough, and the restitution they receive is a mere token of what is truly owed to them.  To charge handling fees is an unnecessary and unjust burden, particularly for those who can barely make ends meet.” 

To enlist support, Gallagher has written a letter asking the chief executive officers of financial institutions doing business in Florida to voluntarily waive these wire transfer or processing fees.  Gallagher said the Department of Financial Services will actively follow-up with each of the institutions, and will establish a page on its website, www.MyFloridaCFO.com, that will list those financial institutions that have agreed to waive the fees. 

An estimated 120,000 elderly Holocaust survivors live in the U.S. today, with 35 to 40 percent of survivors living in poverty.  As many as 10,000 survivors reside in Florida.  The average amount of monthly reparations payments is $350, and wire transfer fees are typically charged each month.

A number of banks in New York, Illinois and California have already adopted a policy of waiving all wire transfer fees on Holocaust reparations. 

Gallagher’s letter was sent to more than 500 financial institutions across the state. 
 


FLORIDA CABINET, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE REACH AGREEMENT ON DRY TORTUGAS  

Following several amendments, the governor and Cabinet voted to approve a management agreement with the National Park Service for Dry Tortugas National Park.  The purpose of the management agreement is to allow the Service to manage submerged lands within the Park as outlined in a proposed management plan.  One element of the management plan provided for creating a “no take” zone on 46 square miles of the 100 square mile park.  Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer and member of the Florida Cabinet, questioned the creation of the “no-take” zone and the approval process of the management plan.

The management agreement was amended to require the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to review and comment on the proposed regulations for fishing.  “The Florida agency responsible for regulating fishing needs to review and approve this before we move forward,” declared Gallagher.  Following that review, the plan would return to the governor and Cabinet for final approval.  The National Park Service accepted the amendments and the management agreement was unanimously approved.


Letchworth Mounds State Park ExpandeD 

Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, along with the governor, the commissioner of agriculture and the attorney general, recently voted to both expand and change the name of Letchworth Mounds State Park.  The new name, Letchworth/Love Mounds State Park, was approved as part of a 1,391.2-acre expansion of the existing state park.  Letchworth/Love Mounds State Park, the highest priority archaeological site on the Florida Forever acquisition list, is the site of the tallest Native American mound in Florida.  The addition to the state park will preserve several mounds surrounding the large ceremonial mound including mounds with human remains.

The opportunity to provide a glimpse into the life of the Weedon Island Culture and protect the mounds from development weighed in the decision to expand the park.  The Weedon Island Culture is a group of Native Americans who lived in North Florida between 200 and 800 A.D.  The state park is located on the Jefferson-Leon County line.  More information about Letchworth/Love State Park can be found at www.floridastateparks.org/letchworthmounds/default.cfm.


Florida Keys Rate of Growth Rule on Hold

The governor and Cabinet voted to defer approving a rule restoring development credits to Monroe County so that the county and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority could come to an agreement.  Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer and member of the Florida Cabinet, encouraged the county and the Aqueduct Authority to end a long-running dispute and moved to defer approval. 

“We have to act by September 8th or start the rulemaking process over.  But you have time to work out this sewer issue and come back with an agreement.  The Keys are a state, national and international treasure and we must find a way to enjoy and protect it.  There is a lot of work left to do,” said Gallagher. 

In addition to the sewer concerns, the rule addresses rate of growth ordinance (ROGO) credits for affordable and market rate housing and a tier system for protecting environmentally sensitive land.
 


MORE FIRST RESPONDER METH CLASSES SCHEDULED

Florida faces a new challenge in the war on drugs: “meth” or methamphetamine. Meth is highly addictive, widely available and produces effects much worse than crack cocaine. The insidious nature of this drug, and the fact that it is easy to make, has led to a rise in dangerous, clandestine meth labs – hidden, homegrown drug labs where addicts produce the drug for use and sale. 

In response to the growing threat, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is providing specialized meth lab training, free of charge, to all first responders in Florida. Classes have been scheduled through next April. The training, which falls under the State Fire Marshal’s Office, has already been identified as a national model. Extending this training to all sheriff, police and fire departments throughout our state will help safeguard the people who safeguard us. It will also help preserve meth lab fires as crime scenes, so meth criminals can be successfully prosecuted.

The Fight Meth website includes important information for citizens and first responders. Through education and awareness, we can all help to keep our communities safe from these chemical time bombs and perhaps turn someone away from this terrible addiction. Click on the Fight Meth button to the left to visit the website.

Training Course Schedules for First Responders

October 4-6, 2005   Destin Community Center
101 Stahlman Ave., Destin, Florida

December 10-12, 2005   Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Training Center
Jacksonville, Florida

January 3-5, 2006   Sarasota County EMS, Station #2
2070 Waldemere Street, Sarasota, Florida

February 21-23, 2006   Ft. Myers’ Bureau of Fire and Arson Field Office

April 4-6, 2006   Volusia County Fire Dept.
120 W. Indiana Ave., Deland, Florida 

April 18-20, 2006  South Manatee County Fire and Rescue
2451 Trailmate Drive, Sarasota, FL


TRANSPORTATION BILL BRINGS FUNDS TO FLORIDA

The $286.4 billion transportation bill signed by President Bush this month promises $10.3 billion for Florida road and transit projects over the next five years, representing a 31 percent increase from the previous transportation bill. Easing Florida’s traffic congestion is important to the economic well-being of the state.

The largest single amount for any Florida highway or transit project is the $91.1 million for widening I-75 from Fort Myers to Naples. Other projects include widening the bypass around Tallahassee, improving I-4 alternate routes in the Orlando area, and constructing an I-4 cross-town connector in Tampa. Most of the funds around the state are for local road improvements, public transit needs and bicycle and pedestrian projects.  

"Donor states" such as Texas and Florida, which contribute more in tax dollars than they get back in federal aid, secured a minimum 92 percent rate of return beginning in 2008, up from 90.5 percent. Florida should see about $500 million more due to this increase.

“Improving our transportation infrastructure benefits the mobility of Floridians, employers and visitors, and helps generate jobs in our communities,” said CFO Tom Gallagher in support of the Florida funding.


Consumer Services HelpLine
(800) 342-2762.