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My Florida C F O
Weekly eNewsletter from Florida's Chief Financial Officer

Dear Fellow Floridian:

David Green, a man who truly embodies the American Dream, created Hobby Lobby in his garage and turned it into a nationwide chain. Now his dream is threatened. Mr. Green has been free to run his business for CFO discusses Hobby Lobbymore than 40 years according to his personal religious convictions. Now the federal government has placed Mr. Green in a situation where he literally has to choose between continuing to freely run his business or to pay $1.3 million per day for noncompliance. Instead of helping the working class members of Hobby Lobby’s personnel force, the federal government is hurting them. Unless Mr. Green sets aside his faith convictions to implement new federal laws, which contain elements contrary to his faith, the federal government intends to crush him.

This is not an issue of access to affordable healthcare; this is an issue of Constitutional rights—our First Amendment. The right to religious freedom is an unalienable right. In fact, the Supreme Court has stated numerous times that freedom of religion is the most precious unalienable right next to life itself. Religious faith and living by moral values are the best ways to protect our freedom and security. Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom declared that “our civil rights have no dependence [sic] on our religious opinions,” and it concluded that “no man shall . . . be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief.”

I stand with Hobby Lobby...CFO AtwaterOn May 23, Mr. Green and his company will continue their effort to protect freedom in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal appellate court. As we wait for their next day in court, I hope you will take the time to learn more about this case. We are Americans; a people not subject to an oppressive government but citizens who take the phrase "We the people" as a call to action. When we see the founding principles being ignored, we must stand united. Join me in supporting Hobby Lobby. Stop by a store today and share this message with your friends and followers on twitter and facebook.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Check for Your Unclaimed Property before the Statewide Auction on June 8

More than 76,000 items, including jewelry, watches, and rare coins, will be auctioned

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has asked Floridians to check for unclaimed property prior to his Bureau of Unclaimed Property’s statewide auction, an annual sale of unclaimed safe deposit box contents turned over to the state. The auction, which is open to the public, will be held June 8 in Tampa at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.Florida's Unclaimed Property. Search for yours.

In his first 28 months in office, CFO Atwater’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property has paid more than 850,000 claims, totaling more than $500 million, including a record-high $24.7 million in June 2011 alone.

“I encourage all Floridians to visit FLTreasureHunt.org and see what property they may have waiting,” said CFO Atwater. “I am proud of the employees who work hard to return millions in unclaimed property every year. It is my goal to raise awareness about the program so that every last dime is returned to its rightful owner.”

At the auction, more than 76,000 individual items, including jewelry, watches and rare coins, with a minimum reserve value in excess of $550,836, will be sold. Featured items include a 1776 Continental Note, silver ingots, an 11-carat sapphire and diamond ring, silver flatware, one 1876 gold pocket watch, South African Krugerrands, and an 18-carat gold and diamond cuff bracelet. These items were turned over to the Bureau after being recovered from abandoned safe deposit boxes.

A free catalog, along with details about the auction, is available at www.FLTreasureHunt.org. Participation in the auction is open to the public but requires registration and a refundable $100 deposit. A public preview of all items will be held Friday, June 7.

Unclaimed money, along with earnings from the auction, is deposited into the state school fund, where, until claimed, it is used for public education. There is no statute of limitations, and citizens have the right to claim their property at any time at no cost.

During the 2013 Legislative Session, SB 464, which will allow certain claims up to $1,000 to be submitted and processed electronically, was passed and was signed into law on May 1. This new automated system will eliminate the need to manually process approximately 27 percent of all claims, allowing unclaimed funds to be returned faster with no additional resources.

Since CFO Atwater took office the Bureau of Unclaimed Property has seen record returns by reuniting owners, heirs and businesses with more than $500 million due largely to persistent efforts to contact owners. To search for or claim unclaimed property, visit www.FLTreasureHunt.org, or call 1-88-VALUABLE or 850-413-5555.

Operation S.A.F.E. Workshops Scheduled

In honor of Older Americans Month in May, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is launching Operation S.A.F.E., a new initiative to “Stop Adult Financial Exploitation” and turn the tables on fraud artists who target Florida’s seniors. CFO Atwater is seeking to combat statistics which estimate that at least one in five seniors has been a victim of financial fraud. The last workshop will be held in Miami: Operation S.A.F.E.

    Friday, May 24th
    FIU - Biscayne Bay Campus
    10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
    Wolfe University Center - Ballroom B
    3000 N.E. 151st Street North
    Miami, Florida 33181

To learn more or to register for a workshop, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Safe.

Tune In to a Small Business Disaster Preparedness Webinar

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) invite you to attend a disaster preparedness webinar to learn how to protect your business from a natural disaster.

Small Business Disaster Preparedness Webinar

As a small business owner, you wear many hats and are often pulled in many directions. When it comes to your business, you want to make sure you have every base covered. That is why CFO Atwater wants to give you the tools you need to insure, secure and recover from a natural disaster.

This webinar will include ways to ensure that your business has the proper insurance coverage in place before a disaster strikes and how to secure important documents and materials for safekeeping. We will also discuss ways to recover after the storm hits so you can get your business back up and running quickly!

For more information and to register for a webinar, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/YMM.

Dates and Times: All times eastern.

  • Tuesday, May 21st - 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, May 22nd - 12 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 23rd - 5:30 p.m.

Got an Insurance Claims Story to Share?

Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate and the Division of Consumer Services invite you to an Insurance Consumer Forum to share your experiences and voice your concerns with the homeowners insurance claim handling process in Florida. Insurance Consumer Forums

Both the Insurance Consumer Advocate’s office and the Division of Consumer Services work with consumers daily via Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s toll-free Helpline at 877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236) to find solutions to insurance claim issues. Policyholders’ testimonies gathered during the workshops will be used to push for improvements to the insurance claim handling process.

For more information, please visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Division/Consumers, call 877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236) or visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/ICA.

Printable Forum Flyer

Forums scheduled in May:

MAY22WEST PALM BEACH 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches
3200 N Military Trail, Suite 102, Boca Raton, FL 33431

MAY22FT. LAUDERDALE/BROWARD 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors East
1765 NE 26th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305

MAY23MIAMI/DADE 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Miami Association of Realtors®
700 S. Royal Poinciana Blvd, Suite 400, Miami, FL 33166

MAY23FT. MYERS 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Realtor® Assn. of Greater Ft. Myers and the Beach
4081 Center Pointe Dr, Ft. Myers, FL 33916

News of Interest

Orlando Sentinel: Fraudsters prey on the elderly – that is where the money is

Tampa Bay Times: DCF announces new initiatives to crack down on fraud

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Business buzz: Manatee entrepreneur initiatives; Ted Todd agency

Orlando Sentinel: Sequester forces 4-week cut in jobless benefits

American Banker: Bank Lending to Small Businesses Rose in April

Florida Today: Two Titusville companies set for expansion

Tampa Bay Business Journal: Tampa possible location for Ben Affleck's next movie

Orlando Business Journal: Entrepreneur Magazine ranks Florida No. 10 for new business

Florida's Bottom Line Shows Transparency

Florida's Bottom LineTechnology has revolutionized government accountability by enabling the public to have unprecedented and easy access to government data.

Florida has taken advantage of this opportunity by publishing state spending data online. Whether taxpayers are looking for information about past budgets, proposals for this year’s budget, or the state’s payroll, it all can be accessed via the Internet. Additionally, since 72 percent of the state’s budget is spent in the form of a contract, it is critical that taxpayers can inspect public contracts.

The Department of Financial Services began publishing the details of contracts online last year through the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System (FACTS), and you can use this tool to take a critical look. Because of this commitment over the past two years to increasing accountability and transparency in government for Florida taxpayers, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) gave Florida an A-minus this year for overall transparency based on the DFS Transparency Florida website, which houses FACTS.

In this edition of Florida’s Bottom Line, you will also find information about ongoing efforts to continue making government in Florida more open and ethical. This includes articles from Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, who discuss their initiatives on page 8. Additionally, the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability and the First Amendment Foundation provide commentary on how Florida can continue improving in the future.