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CFO Jeff Atwater Focused on Ensuring Consumer Rights and Protections, Reducing Regulatory Burdens and Fighting Fraud During 2014 Legislative Session

3/13/2014

Contact: Chris Cate
(850) 413- 2842
 
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is using the 2014 Legislative Session to make Florida more consumer and business-friendly. His legislative initiatives, which are already progressing through the legislative committee process, focus on ensuring consumer rights and protections, reducing regulatory burdens and fighting fraud.
 
“Every year, I look forward to working with the Legislature in an effort to increase efficiencies and keep more money in the pockets of hard-working Floridians,” said CFO Atwater. “This year, we have identified several areas that will allow us to accomplish these goals, which ultimately makes our government more accountable and beneficial to the people we serve.”
 
CFO Atwater’s legislative focus includes:
 
Ensuring Consumer Rights and Protections
 
CFO Atwater has listened to residents throughout the state on issues facing them as insurance consumers. Their feedback, along with input from the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services and the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate, has led to the creation of Senate Bill 708, sponsored by Aaron Bean, and House Bill 759, sponsored by Representative George Moraitis, which enhance consumer protections, improve standards and provide greater transparency to the claims process.
 
Among the several ways these bills help consumers is the creation of a Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights. These rights will be provided to every policyholder who files a claim and will reference current Florida law regarding claims handling in order to provide the policyholder with information about their rights in the claims process. The bill of rights will also inform policyholders of what they should expect and provide advice on the next steps they should take in the process.
 
Enacting Regulatory Reforms
 
Since taking office, CFO Atwater has had every division within the Florida Department of Financial Services undergo regulatory reviews that ensure laws, rules, policies and procedures are meeting the needs of regulated industries without being overly burdensome or unnecessarily complex. Senate Bill 1210, also sponsored by Aaron Bean, and House Bill 633, sponsored by Representative Clay Ingram, are the latest steps toward ensuring that the efficiency needs of regulated entities are being met without being overly burdensome or unnecessarily complex by improving administrative processes and customer service within the Division of Insurance Agents and Agency Services.
 
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Workers’ Compensation has also reviewed the Stop-Work-Order process with the goal of getting employers back up and running again more quickly after a stop-work order has been issued, while continuing to encourage employer compliance and maintaining employees’ protection. Senate Bill 444, sponsored by Bill Galvano, and House Bill 271, sponsored by Representative Travis Cummings, proposes steps to make this possible in a way that meets employee and employer needs.
 
Additionally, Senate Bill 564, sponsored by Senator Garrett Richter, and House Bill 7009, sponsored by Representative George Moraitis, will improve the Division of Treasury’s ability to manage, control and report regulatory collateral deposits. The division administers Chapter 280, known as the “Florida Security for Public Deposits Act.” This is a statewide program that protects public deposits of the state and governmental units from loss due to failure of a financial institution. Chapter 280 has not been significantly updated since 2003 and is outdated with respect to current practices. This legislation proposes to make necessary updates.
 
Enhancing the Fight Against Fraud
 
Currently the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Public Assistance Fraud (PAF) investigators do not have the authority to issue subpoenas for business and education records that are necessary for public assistance fraud investigations. Instead, investigators must request that state attorneys issue subpoenas, which can be time consuming for PAF and for the state attorney offices. Senate Bill 308, sponsored by Jeff Brandes, and House Bill 171, sponsored by Jose Diaz, will bring PAF in line with the other DFS investigatory divisions and provide greater efficiency in their processes.
 
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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, 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 state spending.