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         FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

         Volume 5, Number 24, June 13, 2008
        
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On Sunday Floridians across the state will pay homage to fatherhood by recognizing Father's Day. As we prepare for the weekend, we also learn of the passing of someone who had great admiration for his father as described in his bestselling book, Big Russ and Me.

Tim Russert, one of the preeminent political journalists in our nation’s history, and author of Big Russ and Me and Wisdom of Our Fathers, passed away today at age 58.

In a recent interview about his father Tim offered this advice on how he aims to be the best father he can be.

“It is just being there. It's not the organized vacations that really, truly matter. My son is now in college. Whenever he flies home from college, I go to the airport and pick him up. He could easily take a taxi. But I want to go there. I want to wait for the luggage with him. I want to ride in the car with him because you can talk to him or you can hear him talking on the cell phone. You learn something. And it's invaluable that you have that conversation, that you have that kind of--that relationship, that bonding, if you will.”

As we honor the special bonds of fatherhood we also honor father figures such as grandfathers, stepfathers, or big brothers. If you are interested in becoming a mentor in Florida, visit a Big Brothers, Big Sisters in your area (bbbs.org).


CFO SINK SPEAKS AT PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S FORUM

On Tuesday, CFO Alex Sink spoke at a Professional Women’s Forum hosted by the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. Recognizing the contributions of chamber members, CFO Sink encouraged engagement in both work and community. Over three-hundred men and women were on hand to hear the CFO.

Before she left she challenged the audience, "So one of my challenges to you — the business and professional women — is to get engaged in helping your local elected officials set these very tough priorities and make the very hard decisions they've got to make."


CFO SINK ADDRESSES SMALL COUNTY COALITION IN TALLAHASSEE

CFO Sink spoke to the representatives of the 38 small counties in Florida and addressed pertinent issues such as the Local Government Investment Pool, the My Safe Florida Home program, and the duties of the State Fire Marshal.

The Small County Coalition in Florida is a statewide alliance of 38 county commissions, with a primary mission to help Florida’s small and rural counties address legislative issues from a small county/rural perspective and work effectively with state agencies’ leadership.

The Small County Coalition supports a state rural policy that protects the character of our small and rural areas; promotes economic development; and maintains and promotes the viability of existing small county economies such as agriculture and eco-tourism.


Money-Smart Idea of the Week

Idea: Driving less may save on car insurance

Car owners who change their driving habits due to soaring gas prices may be able to save a few dollars on their auto insurance premiums. 

Major car insurers say that drivers who log less than about 7,500 miles a year may be eligible for low mileage programs that reduce premiums by an average of about 10 to 12 percent.  Car owners who drive more than that but less than they used to -- perhaps because they have started using public transportation or biking to work -- may also save on premiums, according to a study by the Consumer Federation of America. The group released a study recently showing that consumers could save 5 to 15 percent by cutting their mileage enough to drop into a different ratings category.

Most insurance companies have ratings scales based on mileage, and drivers pay more based on how many miles they drive. Depending on ratings factors allowed by state regulators, the savings can be even greater than the 5 to 15 percent range.


RECESSION, RECOVERY, OR BUSINESS AS USUAL FLORIDA ECONOMIC SUMMIT

Recession, Recovery, or Business as Usual was the 2008 theme of the Florida Economic Update sponsored by Florida’s Business Journals on June 6, 2008, in Orlando. CFO Alex Sink kicked off the event with anecdotes detailing Florida’s history of real estate booms and busts dating back to the 1800s.

Speaking to an audience of more than 450 business leaders from across the state, the CFO told those assembled, “I’ve never heard a more apropos description of Florida’s business cycles than ‘Recession, Recovery, or Business as Usual,’ but, I’d like to add one other descriptor that I believe is a hallmark of our great state – REINVENTION.”

CFO Sink also shared an excerpt about the real estate boom and bust of the 1920s in Florida from Only Yesterday, a book by Frederick Lewis Allen that reads much like a story you could see in any major Florida newspaper today. She went on to recount Florida’s real estate booms and busts of the 20th Century, illustrating how every time Florida has reinvented its economy and become stronger.

The CFO challenged the group to leverage the bright spots in Florida’s economy today, the growing international exports and trade, by marketing the state’s excess real estate to international buyers who would still find Florida property a bargain.

“Reinvention by its very definition isn’t easy, but Floridians know how to make it happen and I’d rather embark on this journey with the people of Florida than any other,” said Sink.


POLK COUNTY HURRICANE EXPO ENCOURAGES READINESS BEFORE THE STORM

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was the headline speaker at this year’s annual Polk County Hurricane Expo on Saturday, June 7, at the Orange Dome in Winter Haven. Representatives from the American Red Cross, Rebuild Polk After Disaster and the Division of Forestry also spoke about issues of interest in the event of a storm.

CFO Sink spoke about the importance of being prepared before a hurricane forms, and discussed the My Safe Florida Home program, which offers free wind inspections by qualified inspectors to eligible homeowners. The program helps Floridians identify how they can strengthen their homes to reduce hurricane damage exposure in our state. Visit www.MySafeFloridaHome.com for more information on this worthwhile program.

In the aftermath of a storm, the Department of Financial Services provides help to Floridians in a variety of situations, helping with insurance issues through
the consumer helpline, keeping residents informed after a storm and carrying out first responder duties as State Fire Marshal. After the speech, CFO Sink toured the Expo display booths, greeting local officials and residents and answering questions from consumers.


CFO SINK MEETS WITH GADSDEN COUNTY LEADERS

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink visited with municipal and community leaders in Gadsden County on Wednesday, June 4.  During a morning roundtable discussion with county municipal leaders, CFO Sink spoke about her roles and responsibilities as the state’s chief financial officer and her efforts to protect Florida taxpayers. She also stressed the importance of economic development in Florida’s rural areas and discussed the value in taking advantage of new technologies and industries. 
 
Before a larger crowd of Gadsden County officials and community leaders, CFO Sink delivered the keynote address during a luncheon at the Gadsden Arts Center where she discussed the importance of residents and businesses to stay engaged and continue their support of the local communities who are finding it challenging to work with budget constraints.  Representatives from the Department’s Division of Consumer Services set up a display at the luncheon and were on hand to provide information and answer questions about the various services provided by DFS.


TASK FORCE ISSUES FINAL REPORT ON CITIZENS CLAIMS HANDLING

The Task Force on Citizens Property Insurance Claims Handling and Resolution, which was created by House Bill 1A, Section 38, during the 2007 Legislative Special Session A, issued its third and final report on June 11, 2008. However, the Task Force will release a supplemental report, sometime before its statutory authority expires this November, after working with Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens) to understand why so many consumers asked to have their claim for damages from the 2004-2005 hurricanes re-opened in 2007. The Task Force will also examine the results of these requests.

This new study is in direct response to questions raised by the Governor and the Chief Financial Officer regarding the need for the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund to issue bonds to raise $625 million to pay claims from the 2004-2005 hurricanes that were just filed or re-opened in 2007.  Citizens is not the only insurer that received and paid these new and re-opened claims that were filed. Most insurers who wrote coverage in the areas hit by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 have also been impacted by the same situation.

Since May 21, 2007, the Task Force has reviewed and monitored Citizens closure of its 2004/2005 hurricane claims; the implementation of procedures to handle future catastrophic events (CAT claims); the implementation of programs relating to the training of insurance agents, consumer services, administration of policies, and claims operations; and the establishment of its Office of the Internal Auditor.

The Task Force reported that it is confident that Citizens’ policyholders will not experience the same type of delays in the claims handling process as those affected by the 2004/2005 hurricane seasons as long as the policies and procedures presented to the Task Force are implemented, tested and adjusted to meet intended goals. The Task Force is relying on the statutorily required operational audits of the Office of the Auditor General and the Office of Insurance Regulation to ensure that the policies and procedures are being followed in order to ensure that Florida’s consumers are adequately protected.

In addition, the Task Force proposed legislation regarding Public Adjusters, which was adopted by the Legislature during the 2008 Legislative Session. Upon becoming law, Senate Bill 2012 will ensure that Public Adjusters are properly trained and that Florida consumers are protected from unfair solicitation practices and excessive fees.

For additional information about the Task Force, please visit the website at http://taskforceoncitizensclaimshandling.org/.


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