CFO Atwater Announces Legislative Agenda to Increase Transparency, Protect Consumers, Fight Fraud and Reduce Regulatory Burdens
Contact: Alexis Lambert
TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced that his legislative agenda for the 2012 Legislative Session will focus on four core themes: transparency in contracts and government spending; protecting consumers; fighting fraud that is increasing the cost of living for Florida’s families and reducing regulatory burdens on Florida’s businesses.
“In this challenging economic climate, we have a deep responsibility to create the conditions that will bring down costs for Florida’s families and businesses while helping them protect their hard-earned dollars,” said CFO Jeff Atwater, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “I’m confident the Legislature is equally committed to fostering economic success and reducing financial burdens on Florida’s businesses and families.”
CFO Atwater said the legislative reforms he is pursuing will help keep money in the pockets of Floridians and will include:
• Transparency in Contracts and Government Spending:
o Transparency and Accountability in State Contracting: Continuing his commitment to government transparency following the launch of Transparency Florida this fall, CFO Atwater will propose several reforms aimed at strengthening accountability in state contracting including giving his office authority to conduct compliance monitoring over state agency procurement processes.
CFO Atwater also supports drastically limiting the types of goods and services that are exempted from the state competitive bidding requirements to ensure that the state is getting the best price for the goods and services it purchases with taxpayer dollars.
o Combating Government Fraud, Waste and Abuse: Government has a deep responsibility to be exceptional stewards of taxpayer dollars. To ensure that Florida is deploying every dollar wisely, CFO Atwater will be seeking authority to review and approve or reject state contracts prior to execution.
CFO Atwater will also call on the Legislature to raise standards for state employees who have the authority to manage contracts by requiring clearly defined deliverables in each state contract to ensure Florida’s taxpayers are getting exactly what they pay for.
“As your elected representatives, you have entrusted us to watch over the money you send to your government. Strict contracting standards are simply a reflection of how seriously we take that responsibility,” said CFO Atwater.
• Protecting Consumers:
o Protecting Floridians’ Personal Information: Recent news reports have highlighted increasing trends in identity theft in Florida. CFO Atwater will work to close a loophole that allows certain groups to obtain social security information.
• Fighting Fraud:
o Personal Injury Protection: Insurance fraudsters and criminal enterprises have learned how to game Florida’s PIP system and every honest Floridian with a car in the driveway ends up paying. For example, in 2008, a 40-year-old driver in Tampa with an unblemished driving record was paying $480 in PIP premium, and in 2010, this same driver paid nearly $870 for the same coverage - an 81 percent increase.
Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott, appointed by CFO Atwater, has convened a working group of interested parties to gather and develop ideas to address the fraud and other potential alternatives to Florida’s current no-fault system. The working group’s report will be completed and delivered to state policymakers in the coming weeks.
“Now is the time to stop throwing consumers to the wolves and encourage our legislative leaders to support meaningful PIP reforms that will give honest Floridians the insurance rate relief they deserve,” said CFO Atwater.
o Workers’ Compensation: Certain bad actors are aiding in workers’ compensation premium fraud, which is putting pressure on rates and crippling the business community. A work group, called for by CFO Atwater, will make recommendations to the Governor and Cabinet at an upcoming Cabinet meeting.
• Reducing Regulatory Burdens and Streamlining Government:
o Cutting Red Tape: In business roundtables hosted by CFO Atwater across the state, burdensome regulations stifling business growth emerged as a top concern. In response, CFO Atwater initiated a thorough review of regulations in place at his agency. Initial reviews have indentified burdensome, unnecessary or redundant regulations within the Divisions of Insurance Agent and Agency Services and Workers’ Compensation. The CFO will be asking the Legislature to repeal or rework laws that do not add value to Florida’s consumers or businesses.
“Regulations grow like weeds and stifle growth. We are looking at regulations through a new scope and if they don’t add value or aren’t necessary for public protection, we are encouraging the Legislature to take them off the books,” said CFO Atwater.
o Streamlining and Modernizing Information Technology Services: Now more than ever, technology drives business. In order for state government to function efficiently, Florida must streamline its information technology services. CFO Atwater will be pursuing a modern information technology structure that will increase operational efficiencies, improve services, reduce costs, and allow government agencies to focus on their core mission–which is to effectively serve their fellow Floridians.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.