Volume 3, Number 27, July 3, 2006
The Fourth of July holiday is upon us, and many of us will gather with family and friends to celebrate.
I wish you
all a wonderful holiday and urge you to celebrate safely.
Amidst the celebration, let us remember the reason for the holiday. We are celebrating the birth of our independence and the great democracy we have created.
Let’s pray for our troops who are bravely fighting to maintain our independence and to provide the same opportunities to others around the world, and let us honor all of those who serve and have served to keep this country free, as well as the families and loved ones who support our troops.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honor; duty; mercy; hope.”
express what makes our country free, but it is the people who live these
words that make our country great.
HURRICANE CLAIMS MEDIATION PROGRAM UPDATE
More than 95 percent of the 2.7 million hurricane claims filed as a result of the last two years’ storms have been settled, according to Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, in an update on the progress of the Department of Financial Services’ hurricane mediation program.
"Florida has come a long way in recovering from two unbelievable hurricane seasons,” said Gallagher, who oversees the department.
Gallagher initiated the free mediation program following the 2004 storms to provide a dispute-resolution process for homeowners who need help resolving hurricane claims to avoid more costly options, such as going to court. Court-certified mediators provided through the Collins Center for Public Policy are facilitating the hearings.
Over the last two years, more than 17,000 Floridians have requested a mediation hearing. Of those, 15,154 cases have been closed, resulting in settlements, partial settlements and pre-settlements in a majority of the cases, with the settlement rate at 91 percent. Another 1,298 cases are scheduled for mediation, and 616 are in the process of being scheduled.
Gallagher initiated a similar mediation program as insurance commissioner during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and he said the current mediation program is working as he expected.
For help with a hurricane claim or to request a mediation hearing, call 1-800-22-STORM.
ESSAY CONTEST WINNERS
“Cash in on Your Money Smarts,” asked students, ages 14 to 18, to
submit at least a 750-word essay answering the question: "If you had $100,000 to invest,
what would you invest in and why?"
The essay contest was a great way to encourage Florida’s young people to show off their financial knowledge and writing skills, and reward them for it. Learning these valuable skills now will pave the way for a lifetime of financial success.
The fifteen winners named represent the five regions that competed in the contest.
In Region 1 the winners are:
First Place: Douglas Chico,
15, Florida High University School, Tallahassee
In Region 2 the winners are:
18, Home-schooled, Fernandina Beach
In Region 3 the winners are:
16, St. Petersburg Senior High School, Largo
In Region 4 the winners are:
In Region 5 the winners are:
First Place: Brian Bonomi,
16, Home-schooled, Cooper City
Click on the names to read the essays.
First, second and third place winners received $750, $500 and $250 respectively.
The essay contest is part of our statewide public education initiative, Your Money, Your Life, which is designed to help Floridians stretch limited budgets, avoid debt and build assets, including savings and home ownership. The program was started in 2004 in response to a recent survey reporting that many Floridians put themselves at financial risk by waiting too late to save and by running up debt. The program includes a comprehensive educational website available at www.yourmoneyyourlife.org.
support for the “Cash in on Your Money Smarts” essay contest is
provided by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT). The
IPT is a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Since
1993, the IPT has worked with the States to provide the independent,
objective investor education needed by all Americans to make
informed investment decisions. Their website is
FLOOD INSURANCE REFORM
UNCLAIMED PROPERTY AUCTIONS THIS SUMMER
The Department of Financial Services
Bureau of Unclaimed Property will be conducting two public auctions during
the summer of 2006. An auction on July 15 will be
and another one on August 26 will be held in Tampa.
Currently, the Chief Financial Officer holds unclaimed property accounts
valued at more than $1 billion, mostly from dormant accounts in financial
institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust
GOVERNOR BUSH SIGNS SERIES OF BILLS TO BENEFIT FLORIDA VETERANS AND ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY TROOPS
Governor Jeb Bush recently signed into law a series of bills that will provide additional benefits to Florida’s veterans and active duty military troops. Since 1999, Governor Bush and the Florida Legislature have worked diligently to establish Florida as a military and veteran-friendly state. In 2005, an interim study conducted by the U.S. House Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranked Florida highest overall in providing benefits to veterans.
“On behalf of all Floridians, I thank our soldiers and veterans for their extraordinary dedication and service to our country,” said Governor Bush. “Their selfless dedication to our country commands not only our respect and admiration, but also our willingness to provide them and their families with assistance to improve their quality of life.”
House Bill 7127 – Relating to Military Funerals
Establishes a first degree misdemeanor offense for any person who willfully interrupts or disturbs an assembly of people who have gathered to acknowledge the death of a military veteran with a military funeral honors detail. Florida joins 7 states that have passed similar legislation.
Senate Bill 1614 – Relating to License Plates for Members of the Florida National Guard
Permanently provides free license plates for active members of the Florida National Guard. The tag is available to all members and is exempt from all base taxes and fees.
Senate Bill 122 – Relating to Undergraduate Tuition Waivers for Florida Recipients of the Purple Heart
Provides free undergraduate tuition at state colleges and universities to Florida recipients of the Purple Heart (and combat-related decorations ranked superior in precedence to the Purple Heart) and their children.
House Bill 573 – Relating to Property Taxes for Veterans
Helps veteran homeowners maintain their current standard of living by requiring counties to reduce certain property taxes for disabled veterans, 65 years of age or older, in proportion to the percentage of their combat disability.
Senate Bill 1370 – Relating to waiving the residency requirement for State Veterans Nursing Homes
Waives state residency requirements for admission into State Veterans Nursing Homes. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many disabled veterans living in the Gulf States were displaced from their nursing homes and evacuated to Florida facilities. This legislation allows the state to continue providing this critical aid. Florida veterans will still be given priority when moving into any of Florida’s six State Veterans Nursing Homes.
Senate Bill 2034 – Relating to the Children of Deceased or Disabled Veterans Program
Extends the educational benefits of the Children of Deceased or Disabled Veterans Program to the spouses of disabled veterans or soldiers that have been killed or are missing in action. The program provides eligible Floridians with free tuition and payment for registration fees at any institution of higher learning in Florida.
“While today is a great day for servicemen and servicewomen in Florida, it is not a unique day in our state. Under Governor Bush’s leadership, Florida’s commitment to our troops is stronger than ever,” said Major General Douglas Burnett, Adjutant General of the Florida National Guard.
“This has been another positive year for veterans’ legislation,” said FDVA Executive Director, Colonel Rocky McPherson. “Governor Bush and the Senate and House sponsors have shown tremendous respect and commitment to our veterans through ongoing support for such legislation in the past several years. We hope to continue this combined effort in years to come.”
For more information on benefits and assistance for veterans, please visit www.floridavets.org. For more information on Governor Bush’s commitment to members of the armed forces, please visit www.myflorida.com.
Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762