My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Summer has arrived and if you’re like me, you’ll be spending more time outside, soaking in all the natural beauty Florida has Fireworks Safetyto offer. This time of year, especially as we approach our national Independence Day, marks the start of the season most associated with the use of fireworks. While it is important to have fun and to celebrate our nation’s freedom, we must be cautious and remember that fireworks can be dangerous when used improperly.

In fact, Florida firefighters responded to nearly 200 fireworks-related incidents last year alone. On July 4th, more fires are reported in the United States than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of every five of those fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. To ensure that your family stays safe this holiday season and to protect our lands from the harmful impact of fire damage, please keep the following tips in mind.

Contact local officials. Check to see if your local community has imposed a ban on private fireworks due to the drought conditions.

Use only approved products. Many dangerous and illegal fireworks, rockets and explosive devices are readily available for purchase. These are unlawful for private fireworks displays and are significantly more likely to cause fires.

  • Do not sign a waiver in order to purchase illegal fireworks. Signing a waiver will not clear a consumer of responsibility if caught illegally using fireworks.
  • Only purchase sparklers from licensed vendors.

Control your environment. Sparklers should be used only on sand, concrete or another non-flammable surface, away from brush, trash or other objects that could catch fire.

  • Never give sparklers to young children, as they can reach temperatures between 1,300 and 1,800 degrees, which is at least 200 degrees hotter than a standard butane lighter.
  • Keep pets indoors and away from all sparklers.
  • Light only one item at a time and never attempt to re-light.

Be prepared. Have a fire extinguisher or a hose and a bucket of water readily available.

Attend a public fireworks show. Be safe, not sorry. The best way to protect your loved ones this year is to attend one of the many public displays sponsored by communities or organizations all across Florida.

If you or your family have questions about what is legal in Florida or would like to see additional safety tips, I encourage you to visit


Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

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Florida Times-Union: More positive signs for the economy

Time: Rising birth rates a good sign for the economy

Associated Press: Fed sees stronger economy but wants further gains before starting to hike key interest rate

Associated Press: Minting millionaires: Nearly a million joined club last year

Two Arrested for Attempting to Steal Nearly $750,000 in Unclaimed Property

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater recently announced the arrests of Thomas Harry Penquite and Maria Lourdes Gutierrez, both of West Palm Beach, after an Office of Fiscal Integrity investigation discovered that the two allegedly concocted an elaborate scheme designed to steal more than $730,000 from the state of Florida’s unclaimed property program. Search for Unclaimed Property

"The unclaimed property program works daily to reunite Floridians with what rightfully belongs to them, and I commend the efforts of our Office of Fiscal Integrity for rooting out this scheme to derail their hard work," said CFO Atwater. "This pair’s attempt to steal from their fellow Floridians was brazen, but I’m proud to say we prevented a single penny from going out the door."

Penquite, along with his accomplice Gutierrez, reinstated at least three separate inactive Florida corporations, which included Castle Construction & Development Co., Ditco Service Corp., and the Ferrer Network in order to fraudulently collect the corporations’ unclaimed assets.

The investigation revealed that Penquite and Gutierrez purchased public records associated with each of the corporations and used those records to submit fraudulent reinstatement paperwork with the Department of State. The two co-conspirators also secured UPS mailboxes registered to each of the corporations and created email addresses in an attempt to assume the identity of these closed companies.

Rigorous verification efforts conducted by the Department’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property identified suspicious information and prevented the payout of any funds. Penquite and Gutierrez are charged with a combined total of 47 felonies. Their charges each include: Aggravated White Collar Crime, Grand Theft, Filing Invalid Unclaimed Property Claims, and the Fraudulent Use of Personal Identification Information, each a first degree felony.

The Office of Fiscal Integrity is responsible for statewide investigations of allegations of fraud, waste, or abuse involving state of Florida property and money. To report fraud, waste, or abuse of state resources, visit or contact the Office of Fiscal Integrity at 850-413-5514.

Keeping You Up to Speed on Florida’s Economy

Florida’s Bottom Line is CFO Atwater’s quarterly economic magazine, providing insightful analysis on Florida's financial health and economic innovation.
Florida's Bottom Line Spring Edition 2015
Inside Florida's Bottom Line:

  • Discover Florida's emerging economic and business trends
  • Learn from Florida's top business & community leaders in exclusive guest articles and interviews
  • Gain access to essential small business and consumer resources
  • Visualize key data with unique infographics

Read all about it in Florida's Bottom Line magazine. Check out the FBL website, too, for Florida financial news, data and resources, including past editions and special editions of FBL magazine.

Florida Economic Briefs

Florida’s housing market increases
Florida’s median home sale price increased to $200,000 in May, which is 11.1 percent higher than May of 2014 ($180,000). Additionally, there were 24,789 closed sales, which is 7.7 percent higher than May of 2014 (23,013).
Source: Florida Realtors

Florida’s unemployment rate rises in May
Florida’s unemployment rate increased to 5.7 percent in May, up 0.1 percentage point from April (5.6 percent), and down 0.6 percentage point from May 2014 (6.3 percent). The U.S. unemployment rate was 5.5 percent in May, up 0.1 percentage point from April (5.4 percent), and down 0.8 percentage point from a year ago (6.3 percent).
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics