My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

The 2016 Legislative Session came to a close last Friday evening, and I’m proud to say that our Department was successful on every bill we put forward.

Each year brings a new set of challenges and issues that face Floridians, and this year was no different. With topics involving education, insurance and natural resources, there was a wide variety of complex matters for the Legislature to discuss.

In addition to championing complex public policy changes involving divestment, balance billing and life insurance, we also achieved legislative changes that will update the state’s workers’ compensation system, protect the privacy of criminal investigators, and streamline the way the Department does business.Jackie Bigoney - Life insurance

While the bills have passed, our work is not yet complete. Each of these bills must make its way to Governor Rick Scott’s desk to be signed into law. As this week shows us—through the presidential primary election in Florida—each consumer carries a large voice that makes a tangible impact on the works of government. I ask you to stand with me in support of these common sense public policy changes that will improve our ability to provide services to the people of Florida, streamline the way our Department does business, and hold the insurance industry accountable for the promises they made to policyholders.

One piece of legislation in particular has the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of families—our life insurance legislation. If any member of your family has purchased a life insurance policy, you should know that for many years most life insurance companies were intentionally shielding themselves from information about policyholder deaths, which allowed these companies to keep the policies' benefits inside their company vaults to earn interest. They neither checked readily available records nor made attempts to contact a beneficiary to learn if it was time to pay out on that policy.

But that will all be changing because of Senate Bill 966, which was sponsored by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto and Representative Bill Hager. This bill requires insurance companies to check the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File in order to learn of policyholder deaths moving forward, and it requires life insurance companies to check their files back to 1992 and pay out the policies that have been owed for many years. If the insurance company cannot find a beneficiary, they must turn over the funds to our Department's unclaimed property program so we can try to find the rightful owner.

Hundreds of thousands of families will now get the life insurance benefits their loved ones paid premiums for many years ago. I’ll update you again once Governor Rick Scott has signed the bill into law.

Sincerely,

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida



Lt. Col. Edith M. ToffalettiMarch is Women's History Month

Women's History MonthEach week this month, we are featuring prominent American women leaders and highlighting their contributions to our state and country.

Lt. Col. Edith M. Toffaletti

Lt. Col. Edith M. Toffaletti from Hillsborough County was a dedicated public servant. As a courageous young woman, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II to serve our nation. In 1942, she was a member of the first graduating class of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) Officer Candidate School. Toffaletti was a trailblazer, joining the Air Force in 1947 after its creation and later retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Florida's Bottom Line on Florida’s Economic Health

As a one-stop shop for the latest news and valuable insight on Florida's economic and financial health, Florida's Bottom Line is CFO Atwater's in-depth quarterly economic newsletter.Florida's Bottom Line

The newest edition of Florida’s Bottom Line is focused on the opportunities that lie ahead in 2016 as well as highlights of the progress that we made in the past year. Inside, you will find exclusive analyses and commentary from leading experts in Florida as well as a look back on Florida’s economic achievements in 2015.

The accompanying Florida's Bottom Line website will keep you updated with the latest statistics on Florida's economy. Special reports, infographics and past editions are archived on the website for easy access.

Florida Economic Briefs

Small business optimism hits two year low in February
Small business optimism fell last month according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. Of the ten components that make up the index, six of them decreased over the month, and four remained unchanged.
Source: National Federation of Independent Business

Florida unemployment rate down in January
Florida’s unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in January, down 0.1 percentage points from December (5.1 percent) and down 0.7 percentage points from January of last year (5.7 percent). The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in January.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics