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FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 4, Number 40, October 5, 2007

Fellow Floridian:

Today, after months of negotiations, the Florida Legislature passed legislation reforming Florida's 30-year-old Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law.

As many of you may be aware, I have been vocal in my support of the idea behind the No-Fault Law - the protection of Floridians and their assets, which is the centerpiece of my role as your Chief Financial Officer.

The passage of today's legislation is a win for Florida's consumers and businesses. The reform bill will help protect Florida drivers, institute cost controls and allow us to better combat insurance fraud.

While today brought good news for Floridians, drivers should still take heed. The new law does not go into effect until January 1, 2008 and until that time consumers must contact their insurance agents to ensure they have adequate insurance coverage to protect themselves and their assets.

I encourage Florida drivers with questions about their automobile insurance to contact the Department of Financial Services consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762 or visit our No-Fault Web site at http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/NoFault/.


CFO SINK KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT FDLE SPECIAL AGENT GRADUATION 

CFO Sink was the keynote speaker at the 28th Special Agent Training Class graduation ceremonies held today at the FDLE Headquarters in Tallahassee.  A total of 19 dedicated men and women completed a rigorous nine-week training regiment that culminated with Friday’s graduation ceremony, which included each graduate taking an Oath of Office before being recognized as the newest FDLE Special Agents.   

As a member of the Florida Cabinet, one of CFO Sink’s responsibilities is to oversee the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which just recently celebrated its 40th year of service to the state of Florida.  FDLE is recognized nationally for its progressive efforts and programs that include the country’s first Missing Children Information Clearinghouse as well as the nation’s first statewide Amber Alert Plan. 

During her comments to the new agents, CFO Sink thanked each recruit for answering the call to protect our citizens and making Florida a safer place.  “Public safety is the building block for everything else that matters to our citizens – jobs, schools, and neighborhoods -- these dedicated law enforcement agents will continue FDLE’s legacy of greatness,” said CFO Sink.   


CFO SINK URGES FLORIDIANS TO FOCUS ON SAFETY DURING FIRE PREVENTION WEEK, OCTOBER 7-13

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who serves as Florida’s State Fire Marshal, is urging Floridians to take steps to protect themselves and their families from fire and to learn more about fire safety during Fire Prevention Week, which begins Sunday, October 7, and continues through October 13.

The Division of State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Fire Prevention, will host a variety of activities throughout the week to draw attention to Fire Prevention Week, which the Governor and Cabinet designated Tuesday following a resolution presented by CFO Sink. A schedule of activities and the resolution are available at www.MyFloridaCFO.com. As part of the week’s activities, the annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service will be held on Friday, October 12, at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala to commemorate 137 firefighters who  have died
over the years in the line of duty in Florida. CONTINUED

In presenting the Fire Prevention Week resolution, CFO Sink commended the fire and rescue services for having no line-of-duty firefighter deaths reported last year. But she lamented the deaths of 183 Floridians and injuries to more than 1,600, including 832 firefighters, in fire-related incidents – the majority occurring in homes. CFO Sink said she is concerned that of the more than 24,700 Florida structures involved in fires last year, fewer than 40 percent had smoke detectors, and just over half of those were working.

“Few Floridians would think about going without insurance, yet too many do not make sure they have the protection of a smoke alarm,”
said CFO Sink . “The cost of a smoke alarm is minimal, but the loss of a life is immeasurable.”

She said beyond having working smoke alarms, practicing a fire escape plan is important to make sure your family knows what to do in the event of a fire.

The leading cause of home fires in Florida last year was cooking, followed by arson, appliances and heaters, open flames from items such as candles, and smoking. While most fires occur in the kitchen, more lethal fires occurred in the bedroom. Fires in Florida last year caused more than $380 million in damage to Florida homes and property.

CFO Sink suggests Floridians follow these fire safety tips:

• Install smoke detectors on every floor and in hallways leading to bedrooms.
• Change smoke alarm batteries semi-annually, easily remembered if done when changing the clocks for daylight savings time in the spring and fall months. Test alarms regularly.
• Plan escape routes from every room and floor to an outdoor meeting place. Be sure everyone in the family knows and practices them. If necessary, install and learn to use slides or a rope ladder.
• Be sure children know their address.
• Make sure your house numbers can be easily seen from the street.
• Make sure your babysitter knows the family's fire safety rules, escape routes and meeting place.
• If you smoke, do not smoke in bed and never walk away from a lighted cigarette.
• Do not smoke if you are taking medication that makes you drowsy.
• Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from furniture and curtains.
• Turn off space heaters before you leave the house or go to bed.
• Store paints, fuels and all ignitable liquids in a cool, locked metal cabinet. Greasy rags should be stored in a self-closing metal container. DO NOT store chemicals together that are not compatible such as pool chemicals, oils, gasoline and cleaning products. If you're not sure, call your local fire department.
• Do not use frayed electrical cords and do not overload outlets or extension cords.
• Keep ovens, broiling pans and kitchen exhaust fans clean.
• Never leave a stove unattended while it is on.
• If a fuse or circuit breaker should blow or keeps tripping, find out why and correct the problem. Always use the correct size fuse. Call an electrician.
• If a fire occurs, don't panic -- do your best to stay calm.
• Follow your escape plan.
• Leave the building and don't go back in for any reason.
• If smoke is present, drop to the floor and crawl to the nearest exit.
• Never use water to put out an electrical fire. This can cause a serious shock hazard.
• Feel the door before you exit through it. If the door is hot, leave by another exit.

In addition to providing public education on fire safety, the Bureau of Fire Prevention annually inspects more than 16,000 public and private buildings including public schools, university facilities and adult living facilities and enforces regulations regarding the handling of explosives materials, boiler safety and fire system installation contractors to ensure public safety.

For more tips and information on fire safety, click on http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/sfm/FireSafetyIndex.htm.


GOVERNOR AND CABINET RECOGNIZE OCTOBER AS DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT AWARENESS WEEK

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet adopted a resolution in support of providing employment opportunities to Floridians with disabilities. The resolution, introduced by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, recognizes October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and October 1 through 15 as Disability History and Awareness Weeks in Florida.

During Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Jane Johnson, director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), spoke to the Governor and Cabinet about the importance of employment in the lives of people with disabilities. She was joined by Bill Palmer, director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR); Sharon Griffin, executive director of the Able Trust; and Renee Llewellyn, who has a developmental disability.

Johnson stressed that people with disabilities make very dependable employees---a fact underscored by Llewellyn's remarks. Llewellyn has been employed at the Leon County Supervisor of Elections Office for over 15 years. CONTINUED

In 2006, APD assisted more than 4,500 Floridians with disabilities in
maintaining gainful employment, while VR assisted 11,089 Floridians
with disabilities to achieve their employment goals and helped 1,767
injured workers to return to their jobs. The Able Trust has enabled more than 2,000 people with disabilities to enter Florida's workforce
through its grant programs.

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit apd.myflorida.com or call toll-free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).


CFO SINK SPEAKS AT FSU REAL ESTATE CONFERENCE FRIDAY

Florida Chief Financial Officer provided the keynote address at Florida State University’s Real Estate Trends Networking Conference today at 12 noon in the University Center Club. CFO Sink will challenge the Wall Street Journal’s recent article “Is Florida Over?” and address our state’s economic challenges and opportunities.

More than 500 Floridians attended the conference, which began Thursday evening featuring former Congressman Joe Scarborough and Host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe."


MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM TO SIGN UP HOMEOWNERS AT ST. PETERSBURG TIMES HOME SHOW FRIDAY, SATURDAY AND SUNDAY

On behalf of Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, representatives from the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program will be on hand at the St. Petersburg Times Home Show October 5 - 7, 2007, signing up homeowners and discussing the financial and safety incentives of hardening homes against hurricane damage. Homeowners are encouraged to bring their insurance policies to get the maximum benefit from their inspection report.

As CFO, Sink oversees the state’s MSFH program, which helps Floridians identify how they can strengthen their homes and reduce the overall potential for hurricane damage in our state. The MSFH program offers eligible homeowners a free wind inspection by trained and qualified hurricane mitigation inspectors. Homeowners who have received these inspections and meet additional criteria set by the Legislature may also have the opportunity to apply for matching grants of up to $5,000 to make recommended improvements. CONTINUED

Representatives from the MSFH program will be at the St. Petersburg Times Home Show as follows:

Friday, October 5, 2007
TIME: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
LOCATION: Tropicana Field
One Tropicana Drive - booth 472
St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Saturday, October 6, 2007
TIME: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
LOCATION: Tropicana Field
One Tropicana Drive - booth 472
St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Sunday, October 7, 2007
TIME: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
LOCATION: Tropicana Field
One Tropicana Drive – booth 472
St. Petersburg, FL 33705

The MSFH program resumed offering wind inspections and expanded statewide this year after conducting a pilot program during the previous year. Since April 2007 the MSFH program has performed over 98,000 free wind inspections. More than 11,731 homeowners have been approved for matching grants and are working with the MSFH program to harden their homes. Statewide, the program has issued a grand total of more than 1,377 grants to homeowners for more than $4.4 million.

Recently, CFO Sink reported that many homeowners who have received a free wind inspection from the MSFH program are eligible for discounts on their wind insurance premiums without making a single improvement to their home. To date, 73 percent of participating homeowners are eligible for an average discount of 18.5 percent, or $181 on their wind insurance premiums. This reflects a potential savings statewide of around $13 million and is based on the current structure of the home during the free MSFH wind inspection.


CFO SINK VISITS TAMPA

On Monday, October 1, 2007, CFO Sink addressed about 40 members of the Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation about the insurance discounts available through the My Safe Florida Home program.

After speaking in Tampa, she headed to the Florida AFL-CIO convention in St. Petersburg where she spoke with 250 delegates on property taxes and affordable health care.
.
Before heading back to Tallahassee, the CFO stopped by the opening of the North Star Bank in Tampa. The bank, located at Rivergate Tower in downtown Tampa, used to house the Bank of America offices


TASK FORCE ON CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE CLAIMS HANDLING AND RESOLUTION MET IN TALLAHASSEE FRIDAY

The Task Force on Citizens Property Insurance Claims Handling and Resolution held a meeting on Friday, October 5, 2007, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

At the meeting, Citizens provided a report on the status of 2004/2005 hurricane claim closures and the progress of its training programs. The task force also reviewed draft legislation regarding the regulation of public adjusters and property insurance loss appraisers. The draft legislation is based on recommendations that the task force received from the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, policyholders and the insurance industry.

The public was encouraged to attend and to provide testimony on these issues.
CONTINUED

On July 1, 2007, the task force delivered its first report to the Governor, President of the Florida Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives. The report established milestones for the closure of 2004/2005 hurricane claims and the training of independent adjusters and insurance agents.

The Citizens' task force was created by House Bill 1A during the 2007 Special Session of the Florida Legislature. The task force is composed of four full members, with one appointment each by the Governor, Chief Financial Officer, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. In addition there are three ex-officio voting members: the Insurance Commissioner, Insurance Consumer Advocate and Executive Director of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation or their designees.

CFO Sink has created a website dedicated to the task force, its duties, appointments and upcoming meetings. Floridians who would like to learn more about the task force meeting are encouraged to visit http://www.taskforceoncitizensclaimshandling.org. Live streaming of the task force meeting was available through the task force Web site.


MEETING OF THE FINANCIAL LITERACY COUNCIL WILL BE WEDNESDAY IN ORLANDO

The Financial Literacy Council will meet on Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. The meeting is being hosted by Junior Achievement of Central Florida and sponsored by the Financial Planning Association of Florida. Please see below for the meeting location.

Should you have any questions regarding this meeting, please feel free to contact R. Jai Howard, Staff Director for the Financial Literacy Council, at (850) 413-2836 or RJai.Howard@MyFloridaCFO.com.

Meeting location:
Junior Achievement of Central Florida
2121 Camden Road
Orlando, FL 32803


FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAY SAFETY AND MOTOR VEHICLES OFFERS TWO IMPORTANT SERVICES FOR FLORIDIANS

Now, Floridians can now go online and enter two emergency contacts on their Florida driver licenses electronically and the information can be retrieved by law enforcement in an emergency. This vital service was instituted after a teenage girl was killed in a car accident and it took over 5 hours to locate her mother. 

After the contacts are entered, and in the event of an accident, the police or highway patrol officer can run the driver license number through the system and access the emergency information immediately.

The Department of Highway Safety Web site for this service is:
https://www6.hsmv.state.fl.us/dlcheck/findcustomer

CONTINUED

This service will allow you to provide emergency contact information to law enforcement in the event of an emergency. This information may save crucial time if ever it becomes necessary to contact family members, or other loved ones. This service is only available to individuals holding a current Florida Driver License or Florida Identification Card.

Your personal information in Florida motor vehicle and driver records is blocked in accordance with the Driver Privacy Protection Act.

Effective October 1, 2006, children ages 5 and older can now get State of Florida Identification Cards.  The identification cards are available to children who are either U.S. citizens or lawfully in this country.  Parents or legal guardians can bring the child to a driver license office or a tax collector office that does driver license transactions.  Two forms of identification will be required.  Two common forms include a certified copy a birth certificate and a social security card.  The fee for the identification card is $3.


SENATOR ATWATER TO DELIVER $5,000 CHECK FROM THE MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM TO BOCA RATON RESIDENT MONDAY
CFO Sink urging more Floridians to sign up at www.MySafeFloridaHome.com

On behalf of Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program, Senator Jeffrey Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) will personally deliver a matching grant reimbursement for $5,000 to a Boca Raton homeowner who hardened her home through the state’s MSFH program. At the event, Sen. Atwater will discuss the financial and safety incentives available through the MSFH program and encourage more homeowners in South Florida to sign up for the program’s free wind inspections.

As CFO, Sink oversees the state’s MSFH program, which helps Floridians identify how they can strengthen their homes and reduce the overall potential for hurricane damage in our state. The MSFH program offers eligible homeowners a free wind inspection by trained and qualified hurricane mitigation inspectors. Homeowners who have received these inspections and meet additional criteria set by the Legislature may also have the opportunity to apply for matching grants of up to $5,000 to make recommended improvements.
CONTINUED

The My Safe Florida Home check presentation will be held:

DATE: Monday, October 8, 2007
TIME: 2:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Deerfield Beach Chamber of Commerce
150 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Deerfield Beach, FL 33441-3506

The MSFH program resumed offering wind inspections and expanded statewide this year after conducting a pilot program during the previous year. Since April 2007 the MSFH program has performed over 98,000 free wind inspections. More than 11,731 homeowners have been approved for matching grants and are working with the MSFH program to harden their homes. Statewide, the program has issued a grand total of more than 1,377 grants to homeowners for more than $4.4 million.

To date, the program has reimbursed 268 homeowners in Broward County for a total of $896,312.86. In Palm Beach County, the program has reimbursed 218 homeowners for a total cost of $661,438.56. Currently there are 2,836 homeowners in Broward County hardening their homes through the MSFH program. In Palm Beach County, 1,986 homeowners are hardening their homes through the MSFH program. These homeowners are being reimbursed for half the cost, up to $5,000, on a variety of home improvements, including hurricane shutters, reinforced garage doors and bracing gable ends.

MSFH also partners with the Volunteer Florida Foundation (VFF) to provide mitigation, at no cost, to the homes of lower-income Floridians (those earning 80 percent or less than the Area Median Income.) To date, VFF has completed work on 892 homes in Florida, 60 of those homes are located in Broward County and 50 are located in Palm Beach County


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