FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Volume 5, Number 27, July 4,
Tomorrow, our country celebrates the 232nd anniversary of our nation’s
founding. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by our
forefathers with a bold promise to secure the rights to life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness.
As Floridians from the Panhandle to the Keys gather tomorrow to honor our
country with parades, picnics, family gatherings and fireworks displays, it
is important to celebrate safely. Community-sponsored, professional
fireworks offer exciting displays and guarantee your safety.
CFO Sink, as the State Fire Marshal, is urging Floridians and visitors to
remember that all fireworks can be dangerous. Our Web site offers a list of
hundreds of state-approved sparklers for an exciting show, located at
This weekend is a time to reflect on the promises of our forefathers and
recognize that we live in a great, free, and prosperous country. Let us
also pay special tribute to those who have and are now serving our country
in uniform to protect our founders' promise.
Happy Fourth of July!
400,000 INSPECTIONS AND 35,000 GRANTS LATER, MY SAFE
FLORIDA HOME SIGN-UPS COME TO AN END
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced that the My Safe
Florida Home program will meet the Florida Legislature’s goal of
approving 400,000 homeowners for free wind inspections a full year
ahead of schedule. The program will cease to take new applications
in the next few days.
In 2007, the Florida Legislature directed the MSFH program to
provide inspections for at least 400,000 site-built, single-family,
residential properties and provide grants to at least 35,000
applicants before June 30, 2009. The popular first-come, first-serve
program is averaging over 5,000 new sign-ups a day leading up to
today’s announcement and previously met grant goals in May.
“When the Florida Legislature created the My Safe Florida Home
program, their intent was to create a culture of mitigation in our
state,” said CFO Alex Sink. “Almost half a million homes later,
homeowners served by this program are better informed and most are
better prepared for the next big storm.”
Participating homeowners received a free wind inspection report,
which suggests ways homeowners can harden their homes against storm
damage and informs homeowners if they are currently eligible to save
money on their wind insurance premiums. To date, 58 percent of
homeowners who have received a free wind inspection were eligible
for discounts on their wind insurance premiums averaging $219.31
statewide. To date, the MSFH program, including local government and
non-profits, has approved approximately 39,000 homeowners for
mitigation grants and has paid 18,787 grants totaling more than
“The My Safe Florida Home program has proven to be a success for
Florida homeowners, especially for those that live in the most
vulnerable areas of our state,” Senator Charlie Justice said. “It is
an honor to have worked with CFO Alex Sink to make sure that as many
homeowners as possible benefited from this program. It is my hope
that the Legislature finds a way to continue helping Florida’s
families strengthen their homes.”
Any Floridian who lives in a single-family, site-built home was
eligible for a free wind inspection through the MSFH program.
Homeowners who received free wind inspections through the MSFH
program received a detailed inspection report, complete with
additional information on estimated insurance premium discounts, if
the homeowner is eligible.
CFO SINK AND EMERGENCY
MANAGERS URGE FIREWORKS SAFETY THIS FOURTH OF JULY
Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink
today joined State Emergency Management officials in urging
Floridians to observe fire safety rules and follow fireworks laws as
they celebrate this Fourth of July.
“As we gather this Friday to celebrate America’s Independence, I
urge Floridians and visitors to take the proper fire safety
precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said CFO
Sink. “All fireworks can be dangerous, and that makes it all the
more crucial the public utilize only state approved fireworks for
Nearly 10,000 Americans were treated for fireworks related injuries
in emergency rooms last year. In Florida alone, fire departments
responded to 137 fires related to fireworks and sparklers, resulting
in more than $400,000 in damages during 2007.
“The Fourth of July is a time for Floridians to come together and
enjoy family and friends, but unfortunately many end up visiting
emergency rooms,” said State Emergency Management Director Craig
Fugate. “We want our residents and visitors to celebrate safely this
Under Florida law, only sparklers, approved by CFO Sink’s Division
of State Fire Marshal, are legal for consumer usage. However, an
exemption in the law allows for the use of un-approved fireworks for
agricultural purpose, such as freighting birds from fish hatcheries.
Anyone using fireworks under the agricultural exemption must have a
permit from the Sheriff in the county where they will use the
product. Without a permit, it is illegal to use fireworks in
Florida, which include: shells and mortars, multiple tube devices,
Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers.
As a general guideline, anything that flies through the air or
explodes is not allowed for consumer use. Floridians should not sign
“waivers” in order to purchase fireworks. Signing a waiver will not
clear a consumer of responsibility should you be caught illegally
using fireworks, which is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by
up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
There is still a risk of injury with the use of legal sparklers.
When lit, some sparklers can reach temperatures between 1,300 and
1,800 degrees - at least 200 degrees hotter than a standard butane
lighter. For a list of hundreds of sparklers that are legal to use
in Florida, as well as safety tips, visit the State Fire Marshal’s
web site at
http://www.myfloridacfo.com/sfm/sparklerindex.htm for a list of
To celebrate safely, CFO Sink advises Floridians to follow these
Use sparklers and other legal novelties on a flat,
Do not light them on grass.
Use sparklers in an open area. Keep children and
pets at least 30 feet away from all ignited sparklers.
Light only one item at a time and never attempt to
re-light a “dud.”
Don’t use any unwrapped items or items that may
have been tampered with.
Keep a fire extinguisher or water hose on-hand for
emergencies. It’s a good idea to drop used sparklers in a bucket of
Only purchase fireworks from licensed vendors.
Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
Never have any portion of your body directly over a
fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them
off in metal or glad containers.
Idea of the Week
a discount for paying cash for gas
The next time you fill up your car's gas tank, paying
with cash might get you a discount from the gas station.
With gas prices way up, bigger profits are not particularly
coming to gas station owners. Station owners must pay a
credit card fee of 1.5 percent to 3 percent of the total
purchase price when a credit card is used. With the current
high gas prices more drivers are paying with plastic and the
credit card fees are taken out of station owners' profits.
Discounts of five to 14 cents a gallon are being offering to
cash-paying customers at about 500 gas stations in 23
states. Some stations have stopped accepting credit cards
Cash deals can be found in Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland,
Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
GasBuddy.com, a consumer advocacy web
site, tracks gas prices through the reports of volunteer gas price spotters.
Expect more stations to join this plan. As gas prices go up — they are
already up 37% from a year ago — more drivers will choose to pay with credit
cards, thereby encouraging more station owners to offer discounts to
cash-paying customers. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS)
member stores are looking at the discounts to see what they can do.
To find stations offering cash-payment discounts, call local gas stations,
local TV or radio stations or check with web sites like
Keep in mind that gas discounts won't save you money if you have to drive
more than five miles out of your way to find them.
CFO SINK: PENSACOLA MAN FACING 30 YEARS IN PRISON FOR
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrest of Melvin Toler,
51, of Toler Concrete, Inc. on June 23 for operating without required workers'
An investigation on Toler uncovered that he had knowingly avoided his obligation
to pay workers’ compensation coverage on employees in his masonry business.
Toler was arrested Monday on second degree felony charges of working without
workers’ compensation coverage and knowing violation of a stop-work order. He is
currently being held in the Escambia County jail.
If convicted, Toler could face a possible 30 years in prison, $20,000 dollars in
fines and restitution of more than $89,000 for the pending second-degree felony
In 2007-2008, the bureau’s enforcement and investigative efforts resulted in the
issuance of more than 2,500 stop-work orders to employers failing to secure
workers’ compensation insurance coverage. The bureau’s efforts caused more than
6,000 new employees to be covered under the workers’ compensation law. As a
result $7 million was added to the premium base that previously had been evaded
due to non-compliance.
The cost of insurance fraud is estimated at as much as $1,400 a year in premiums
for the average Florida family. The DIF investigates various forms of fraud in
insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation
insurance. Depending on the estimated loss amount, the department will pay up to
$25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest and conviction. Anyone
with information about this or any other suspected insurance fraud is asked to
call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or log on to
Complaints can be tracked online.
PREPAREDNESS IN THE WORKPLACE
If you have never
experienced a serious emergency in your workplace, you might
find it hard to imagine such a thing could happen.
However, every day in job settings something goes seriously
It could be a fire, fatal injury, flood, earthquake,
shooting, hurricane, tornado, chemical spill or another kind
of crisis. Whether everyone survives and escapes injury
depends on how well they are prepared for an emergency.
Are you prepared to survive a workplace emergency? You
should be receiving regular training and practice dealing
with the types of emergencies most likely to occur where you
The first survival tool is knowledge. You need to know what
can go wrong. Are hazardous chemicals stored or transported
near your workplace? Is your workplace an essential service
or a high-profile setting that could be targeted by
terrorists? Are you located in a tornado zone or a natural
Second, you must know how to get out of the building and
reach safety. Right now, can you point out two exits from
your work area? Elevators don’t count because you
should not use them in any emergency. Do you know
where you are to assemble with your fellow workers after an
evacuation of the building? This is an important
aspect of the emergency procedure because if you do not show
up there, an emergency crew might have to risk injury
looking for you. Evacuation procedures can be summed up as
follows: Get out, go to a safe place and stay there.
Third, do you know what other duties you are expected to
perform in an emergency? You need to know how to call
for help. Emergency phone numbers should be posted at each
telephone in your workplace, along with the address and
directions to your work area. Your responsibilities might
include checking for stragglers and shutting doors as you
leave, or assisting a fellow worker who uses a wheelchair.
You might also be assigned responsibility for shutting down
equipment or chemical processes in an emergency. If you are
supposed to fight fire, clean up hazardous chemicals or
rescue victims, you will need special training and
The time to learn about these emergency procedures is
now—not after something goes wrong. Your employer has
developed a plan for the kinds of emergencies that can be
reasonably expected. You need to find out your own part in
the plan, learn how to do it and practice it. Also, make
sure you find out who is in charge in an emergency. Should
you be listening to your supervisor or to a security
You should also be familiar with the various alarm sounds
and lights in your workplace. Alarm systems typically have
different signals for fire and intruder emergencies. There
may also be specific alarms related to hazardous equipment,
chemicals, gases and other hazards.
Do your best to plan for the worst—that’s the basis of
emergency preparedness. Please see the linked brochure
titled, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown,” prepared by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION TRANSFER SET
TO IMPROVE SERVICES FOR INJURED WORKERS
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink commended the Florida Legislature
for the successful passage of House Bill 5045. The bill went into effect
Monday and transfers the Workers’ Compensation Medical Services Unit from
the Agency for Health Care Administration to the Department of Financial
Services, Division of Workers’ Compensation. The bill was sponsored by Rep.
Ron Reagan (D-Sarasota) and signed by the Governor on June 10, 2008.
“It is imperative that medical treatment is provided effectively and in a
manner that allows injured workers to return to work as quickly possible,
pays health care providers adequately, and minimizes costs to employers,”
said CFO Sink. “With the transfer, the Division’s regulatory ability to
effect positive change in the workers’ compensation medical benefit delivery
system will be significantly enhanced.”
The Workers’ Compensation Medical Services Unit is responsible for
certifying workers’ compensation health care providers and expert medical
advisors, ensuring appropriate utilization of medical treatment, resolving
disputes from health care providers contesting carriers’ reimbursement
decisions, and developing reimbursement manuals for health care providers.
For more information about the Division of Workers’ Compensation, visit
or call 850-413-1601. For injured worker assistance, call 1-800-342-1741.
Consumer Services Helpline