FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Volume 3, Number 21, May 22, 2006
May 5, 2006, the Florida Legislature approved
legislation that directs the Florida Department
of Financial Services to create a new program to
help Floridians strengthen their homes against
hurricanes and to reduce hurricane exposure in
The “Florida Comprehensive Hurricane Damage
Mitigation Program” will offer free home
inspections and matching grants up to $5,000 for
specific home improvements to qualified
homeowners. As required by the new law, our
department must take certain steps before the
program can be implemented and before homeowners
can apply for inspections and grants.
This new program, signed into law on May 16,
offers an unprecedented opportunity to help
thousands of Floridians better protect
themselves and their families against
hurricanes. The program will be a massive
undertaking but is a priority for our agency to
have up and running as quickly as possible.
Please take a few minutes to visit the website
at www.MyFloridaCFO.com, click on the top
button in the right column, read through the
topics and sign up to
receive more information as it becomes
We appreciate your interest and look forward to
-- Tom Gallagher
INSURANCE RELIEF BILL
STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION
$1.2 billion set aside to help reduce premiums, hurricane-proof homes
After two years of intense lobbying by Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom
Gallagher and other consumer advocates, the Florida Legislature this year
approved $1.2 billion to help ease the impact of rising property insurance
rates caused by two unprecedented hurricane seasons.
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, issued the following
statement after Governor Jeb Bush signed the legislation into law:
“The Legislature was given a very complex and difficult task. After eight
hurricanes inflicting $30 billion of insured losses, there were no easy
solutions,” said Gallagher. “The bi-partisan legislation is a step in the
right direction, and it accomplishes two goals that I have been fighting for
since 2004. First, we’re giving a billion dollars back in tax relief to help
Floridians deal with rising insurance costs and prepare for future storms.
Second, the new law will help stabilize the market by attracting new
companies and offer alternatives to the insurer of last resort.
“Our priority must now be preparing Floridians for the upcoming storm
season. All the changes made to our insurance market will mean little if
Floridians don’t take the time to prepare.
“To help Floridians prepare for storms, my goal is to get the hurricane
damage mitigation program started as quickly as possible. It will be a
massive undertaking but it is an unprecedented opportunity to help thousands
of Floridians get their homes hurricane-ready and save money on their
The property insurance bill signed by Governor Bush today was sponsored by
Sen. Rudy Garcia and Rep. Dennis Ross. It includes $715 million in insurance
rate relief for Florida’s property owners and $250 million to help
Floridians strengthen their homes to better withstand hurricanes. It also
institutes important reforms at Citizens Property Insurance Corporation,
including a $1 million cap on properties it covers, and requires uniform
building codes to be implemented statewide.
CFO GALLAGHER ON SCRIPPS FLORIDA
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher helped Scripps Florida, a
state-of-the-art biomedical research institute, move one step closer to
becoming a reality. As a member of the Florida Cabinet, Gallagher approved
putting Scripps Florida on the Jupiter campus of Florida Atlantic University
“Scripps Florida is a monumental step toward diversifying our state’s
economy and creating high-wage, high-tech jobs,” said Gallagher. “Now we
need to concentrate our efforts on graduating Florida students who are
qualified and ready to take advantage of the opportunities that Scripps
Florida has to offer.”
The governor and Cabinet approved a new 99-year lease for FAU and 99-year
sublease to establish Scripps Florida on the FAU campus, which is
state-owned land. The governor and Cabinet serve as trustees of the Internal
Improvement Trust Fund, which holds title to the 30 acres on which Scripps
Florida will operate.
In November 2003, Florida approved an investment of $310 million from
federal economic development stimulus dollars to facilitate the start-up and
operation of Scripps Florida to enhance biomedical education, research and
technology, and to promote economic development and diversity in Florida.
BE PREPARED: HAVE A STORM PLAN FOR YOUR
A hurricane is just one of many natural disasters that business owners
must prepare for.
In creating your business's natural disaster preparedness plan, owners must
first conduct a self-assessment of their business. They need to ask
themselves such questions as:
1. Have I determined what parts of my business need to be operational as
soon as possible following a disaster, and plan how to resume those
2. Do we have a disaster plan in place to help ensure the safety of each
staff person until help can arrive?
3. Are we prepared to stay open for business if our suppliers cannot
deliver, our markets are inaccessible, or basic needs (e.g. water, sewer,
electricity, transportation) are not available?
In creating your business self-assessment questionnaire, talk to your
company's financial institution, insurance company and local public
officials about continuation of operations planning.
After completing and analyzing your self-assessment, you will be better
prepared to create a plan that will allow you to resume essential business
operations as soon as possible. You should consider three subjects in
building your business continuity plan:
1. Human resources
2. Physical resources
3. Business continuity
Here are several ideas to help you start your plan.
• An employee list, including yourself. Include information such as phone
numbers, address and person to contact in case of an emergency.
• Communication setup: Create a company phone list and give it to key
members of your staff
• If you have a voice mail system, designate one remote number on which you
can record messages for your employees. Then provide this number to all
• Employee transportation — after the disaster, how will they get to you?
Is there public transportation available?
• Employee payroll — how will you get their pay to them?
• Where can employees find help for housing? food? medical services?
• Child care for employee's children.
Suppliers and vendors
This list will be needed to contact your suppliers and vendors with
post-disaster information. You should know and have a commitment from
alternate suppliers in case your main suppliers are affected as well.
• This list includes your banks, creditors, insurance companies and
• Emergency phone numbers, such as police, fire and rescue, and utilities.
• A list of government agencies and their phone numbers that can help you,
such as the Department of Financial Services, county Economic Development
Office, FEMA and Red Cross, to name a few.
• List time-sensitive functions — bills due, insurance claims filing and
follow-up, state and federal assistance plans, payroll.
As owner, you need to decide which parts of your business function are
critical to your survival and outline the details of each function. You will
need to prioritize these functions into high, medium or low. Example: If the
holder of office keys and alarm codes cannot get to the company, is there a
backup person with this information?
Who will make the decision to move to a prearranged site, such as another
branch office, pre-contracted location. Who is in charge of the setup
process? Do they have funds available to purchase supplies and equipment as
This is not a comprehensive list. Communication and computers, for
instance, were not addressed due to space constraints.
Every business, like your home, requires a disaster toolbox for stocking
items that will be needed in an emergency. These should include a NOAA
Weather alert radio, AM/FM radio, first-aid kits, flashlights, bottled
water, nonperishable food, paper supplies, blankets, camera(s) and cash.
Once you have completed your plan, remember to store it in a safe
The Florida Department of Financial Services provides hurricane information
on our Web site, www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
Whenever a tropical storm or hurricane takes aim at our state, Florida's
chief financial officer, Tom Gallagher, activates a special consumer help
line through which you can seek assistance on any insurance matter. The
number is 1-800-22-STORM (1-800-227-8676).
PROPERTY AUCTIONS PLANNED FOR SUMMER
Department continues to pro-actively search for
owners and heirs
Two auctions have been scheduled for this summer in
Jacksonville and Tampa to sell an overflow of
jewelry, collectibles and historical items that are
fast filling up the state’s unclaimed property
The auctions will be held July 14-15 in Jacksonville
and August 25-26 in Tampa, with proceeds from the
auctions to go to Florida’s public schools. For more
information, visit www.fltreasurehunt.com and click
Since 2003, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom
Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial
Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property, has returned
nearly $300 million in cash and property to current
or former Floridians. That’s about one-third of all
of the cash and property returned since the
program’s inception in 1961. The department is
currently holding unclaimed property valued at more
than $1 billion.
“In the fast pace of modern life, it is easy to
forget to collect a last paycheck, close a bank
account, or get a utility deposit back,” Gallagher
said. “But we’ve made it just as easy to find it.
With the click of the mouse or a phone call you
might find lost treasure.”
Owners or heirs can claim their cash or property for
free by logging on to
www.fltreasurehunt.org or by calling
Most of the property comes from dormant accounts in
financial institutions, deposits paid to utility
companies, insurance premium refunds, un-cashed
payroll checks and trust holdings. In addition to
cash and securities, the state’s holdings include
property such as watches, jewelry, coins, stamps and
historical items that are delivered from abandoned
safe deposit boxes.
When the owner or heirs cannot be found, unclaimed
cash and proceeds from the auction of unclaimed
property are deposited into the State School Trust
Fund, although the money always remains available
for the owners or heirs to claim.
To supplement its efforts to locate owners, the
department has teamed up with several news
organizations, including Telemundo, WTVJ and
Dateline NBC, and many newspapers, to help bring
attention to the program. Monday night, May 22, a
team of unclaimed property specialists will be in
the studio of WESH-TV in Orlando taking calls live
during the evening news broadcast.
“It is our mission to find the owners or heirs and
return this property to them,” Gallagher said. “In
many of these cases, we are returning money or
property to people who really need it. It comes at a
time that makes a real financial difference for
HURRICANE TAX HOLIDAY IS UNDER WAY
time to get ready for hurricane season and, now through June 1 when the
season begins, you can buy many of the supplies you need tax free.
Legislature implemented the 12-day Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday
to encourage Floridians to stock up on hurricane supplies such as batteries,
flashlights, generators and storm shutters. The holiday is projected to
save Floridians an estimated $41 million during the holiday.
is imperative that homeowners finalize their preparations for what is
predicted to be another active storm season,” said Tom Gallagher, Florida’s
chief financial officer. “The more you prepare now, the better protected
your home and family will be if a storm affects your community.”
Florida has been devastated by eight hurricanes in the past two years that
left $30 billion worth of damage. This year, forecasters predict as many as
15 named storms with possibly six reaching category 3 or higher, but a
recent Mason-Dixon poll of coastal residents indicates Floridians may not be
The poll revealed that 60 percent of coastal residents do not have a family
disaster place in place, and more than two-thirds of those residents do not
have hurricane survival kits. Even more staggering, pollsters said, is that
83 percent of coastal residents have not taken steps to make their homes
”Many Floridians will be motivated by memories of the past two years and
take steps to better prepare,” Gallagher said. “For others, perhaps the
hurricane tax holiday will provide the incentive to take the upcoming
hurricane season more seriously.”
more information on how to prepare for hurricane season, visit the
department’s website at
and click on the “Hurricane 2006” button on the right.
are some price limitations, but items that qualify for the tax exemption
Blue ice or items sold as artificial ice.
Portable self-powered light sources: battery-powered flashlights,
battery-powered lanterns, gas-powered lanterns (including propane,
kerosene, lamp oil, or similar fuel), Tiki-type torches and candles
(which should be used sparingly in a storm)
Gas or diesel fuel container (including LP gas and kerosene containers)
Batteries, including rechargeable (listed sizes only) - AAA-cell,
AA-cell, C-cell, D-cell, 6-volt (excluding automobile and boat
batteries), 9-volt (excluding automobile and boat batteries)
Coolers (food-storage; non-electrical)
Ice chests (food-storage; non-electrical)
Cell phone chargers
Radios (self-powered or battery-powered), two-way radios (self-powered
or battery-powered)l weather band radios (self-powered or
Tarpaulins (tarps) Visqueen, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths, and
other flexible waterproof sheeting
Ground anchor systems: tie-down kits (items that are advertised or
normally sold as a tie-down or anchoring kit), Bungee cords, Ratchet
Cell phone batteries
Carbon monoxide detectors:
Storm shutter devices (defined as materials and products specifically
manufactured, rated and marketed for the purpose of preventing window
damage from storms)
Portable generators that will be used to provide light, communications
or to preserve perishable food in the event of a power outage.
Any package consisting of two or more of the previously listed
qualifying hurricane-preparedness items sold for $75 or less will
qualify for the exemption. Any package consisting of one or more of the
previously listed hurricane-preparedness items and at least one other
item that is otherwise tax-exempt and the package is sold for $75 or
less will qualify for the exemption.
Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762