FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY
Volume 4, Number 51, December 21, 2007
As the year draws to a close, I wish you and your families
a happy holiday season. Living in this beautiful state, we have much for
which we can be appreciative.
I am especially thankful for a year of wonderful memories. It was just a
year ago that I came to Tallahassee to begin my service as your Chief
Financial Officer. I am so proud of the dedication and commitment to public
service shown by the thousands of employees in the Department of Financial
As I travel the state, I am often greeted by citizens who are appreciative
of the work of the department to help make their lives better, whether it’s
through effectively managing taxpayers' dollars, returning unclaimed
property, helping homeowners learn how to mitigate their homes or enforcing
many of our state’s laws. Our work is never finished, and we pledge to
continue to do our part to help protect and safeguard Floridians and their
assets every day.
I hope that you are able to spend time with your family and friends over the
holidays. I am thankful for the opportunity to be your public servant in
TERRY BUTLER NAMED ACTING
INSURANCE CONSUMER ADVOCATE
Insurance Consumer Advocate and General Bob Milligan is briefly serving as
Interim Executive Director of the State Board of Administration.
Until General Milligan resumes his post, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink
has asked Terry Butler to serve as acting Insurance Consumer Advocate.
Butler has more than 28 years of insurance and legal experience in Florida,
and began serving in the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate in July
2007. An experienced lawyer, Butler has worked for the Department of
Financial Services since 2000.
Prior to joining the Department, his experience included serving as Director
of Legislation and Regulation with the Florida Association of Insurance
Agents, Senior Attorney under Insurance Commissioners Bill Gunter and Tom
Gallagher, and as an analyst and attorney on the Florida House Committee on
Insurance. Butler holds a B.A. in Political Science from Miami University of
Ohio and a J.D. from Florida State University. He resides in Tallahassee,
Florida, with his wife, Kathleen.
PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION INSURANCE IS
REQUIRED FOR DRIVERS ON JANUARY 1, 2008
Since the Florida Legislature passed
a bill to reform Florida’s Motor
Vehicle No-Fault Law,
citizens should know that
Florida law will once again require
drivers to carry personal injury
protection insurance effective Jan.
As part of the legislation restoring PIP coverage, insurance companies
must notify policyholders how the mandatory restoration of
PIP/no-fault will impact them. The notice must clearly inform the
policyholder on these points:
- Beginning on Jan. 1, 2008, Florida law requires drivers to maintain
PIP insurance coverage which pays covered medical expenses for injuries
sustained in a motor vehicle crash by the policyholder, passengers, and
relatives residing in the policyholder's household.
- If a policyholder fails to maintain PIP coverage, the State of
Florida may suspend the policyholder's driver license and vehicle
- If a policyholder already has personal injury protection coverage,
the coverage will be amended effective January 1 to incorporate legally
required changes without any additional premium and that the
policyholder need take no further action.
Through the end of 2007, however,
you may be financially liable for
automobile accidents if you are the
Or, you may find yourself in
an accident with another driver who
is unable to pay your medical bills.
It is essential that
consumers review their insurance
policies and purchase adequate
coverage in the event of an
If you need
assistance, please contact your
insurance agent or call our Consumer
Helpline at 1-877-MyFLCFO.
PROPOSAL TO BECOME STATE PARK
This week, Mike Sole, Secretary for the Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) announced to the Cabinet that Weeki Wachee
signed a preliminary agreement to donate its assets to the State of Florida.
This agreement provides the framework for the District, Weeki Wachee and the
DEP to continue a dialog and to come to a final resolution for the
attraction. Under the terms of the preliminary agreement, the state could be
in charge of the Weeki Wachee mermaid show and the water park by October
The state would turn Weeki Wachee Springs into a state park and would
increase the acreage to allow for camping, hiking and interpretive trails.
In 2001, the Southwest Florida Water Management District bought over 800
acres in the Weeki-Wachee River watershed, including nearly 28 acres that
includes the Weeki Wachee springhead and mermaid show. That 28 acres also
consists of a several buildings and cottages. Weeki-Wachee is a first
magnitude spring and is noted for its clear high quality water.
The District entered into a 30-year lease with Weeki Wachee Springs, LLC to
allow it to continue running the mermaid shows, maintaining the concessions
and providing upkeep of the buildings. Because the District felt the
buildings were not being maintained in a safe condition and because other
lease conditions were not being met, in 2003 the District filed a lawsuit to
terminate the lease.
UNDERSTANDING IDENTITY THEFT
Identity theft, sometimes referred to as identity fraud, is a crime that
involves someone using your personal information — such as your name, Social
Security number, credit card number or other financial account information —
without your permission to commit fraud and/or other crimes.
Identity theft occurs in many forms, such as someone using your stolen
personal information to apply for loans or purchase items using your credit
card number, along with many other fraudulent activities.
Tips to Protect Your Identity
Know what’s in your wallet. Avoid carrying your Social
Security number in your wallet or purse. This number provides access to
personal information, and it should be stored in a safe and protected
place. In addition, only carry the credit cards you need. This practice
limits access to your accounts in the event that your purse or wallet is
lost or stolen. It’s also a good idea to periodically photocopy your
cards and keep a record of the customer service phone numbers associated
with your financial accounts to speed up the process of cancelling
credit cards, if needed.
Shred, shred, shred. Open all mail and read it
carefully—even the items that might appear to be junk mail could contain
personal offers. Any items with personal information, such as
pre-approved credit offers, bank statements or utility bills should be
shredded before being discarded.
Be suspicious of solicitors. You should never give
personal information or your Social Security number to people unless you
have verified that they are trustworthy. This advice applies to sharing
information over the phone, in-store or online.
Monitor your revolving accounts and credit score. Check
your bank, credit card and other financial account information, along
with your credit score, once a year to reduce the risk of unauthorized
charges or credit applications. If you see a suspicious charge,
immediately contact your financial institution.
Take action against unauthorized actions. If you notice
a new account has been opened in your name without your permission,
immediately contact one of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax,
Experian or TransUnion—and ask that a “fraud alert” be placed on your
record. Once the alert is placed, the other two bureaus will be
notified, and creditors will be required to contact you directly before
opening new accounts or making changes to existing accounts. In
addition, file a police report and submit a complaint to the Federal
Trade Commission. You also might consider enrolling in paid services
that monitor your credit report and alert you when someone applies for
credit in your name or account information is altered.
Surf the Internet safely. Millions of people are online
at any given time, some of whom are thieves looking to steal your
identity. These hackers can be found collecting information from
unsuspecting “pop-ups,” surfing unsecured networks or hacking into
retail Web sites. Be sure to always use a secured network, and
frequently update firewall protections on your computer. Also limit the
amount of personal information you post on networking Web sites.
Consider purchasing identity theft insurance. Several
insurance companies offer identity theft insurance. Although it cannot
protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft, this insurance
provides coverage for the cost of reclaiming your financial identity,
such as the expenses of placing phone calls, making copies, mailing
documents, taking time off from work without pay and hiring an attorney.
As with any insurance policy, make sure you understand what you are
purchasing and compare prices, coverages and deductibles among multiple
Some insurance companies offer identity theft insurance as
an endorsement on a home or auto policy, which covers lost wages,
out-of-pocket costs, and other expenses associated with repairing credit
damaged through identity theft.
Insurance agents can offer consumers
information about whether their home or auto insurance company offers
identity theft coverage and to learn the details of the services the
coverage may provide.
Other ways to protect against identity theft
are available on the Department of Financial Services' Web site at
NEW LAW PASSES TO REQUIRE BETTER ENERGY
Congress sent an energy bill to the
White House that will increase the federal auto mileage requirement and also
will require an increase in the use of ethanol as a substitute for gasoline.
Veto-proof majorities in both houses passed the measure. The House passed
the bill 314-100, with 95 Republicans joining Democrats in support of the
legislation, after the Senate approved it last week 86-8. Bush signed the
measure Wednesday morning at the Energy Department.
The new law requires the industry to achieve an
average of 35 miles per gallon for all vehicles, including SUVs and small
trucks, by 2020, about a 10 mpg increase from what these vehicles get today.
While all vehicles from small sedans to large SUVS must make some
improvement in fuel economy, the required improvements may vary among
vehicle classes as long as the overall industry average is 35 mpg.
The bill also calls for:
- A sixfold increase in ethanol use to 36 billion
gallons a year by 2022. Of that, 21 billion gallons will have to be from
feedstock other than corn such as prairie grasses or wood chips.
- Improved energy efficiency of appliances such as
refrigerators, freezers and dishwashers, and a 70 percent increase in
the efficiency of light bulbs.
- Energy efficiency improvements in federal
building and new efficiency standards for construction of new commercial
buildings with the idea that they produce as much electricity as they
THE BASICS OF FLOOD INSURANCE
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), floods are the
most common, and most costly, natural disaster. Floods can happen anytime
and anywhere, and they can happen fast. Also, the damage is not covered
under a standard homeowners policy. The National Association of Insurance
Commissioners (NAIC) offers some important tips on flood insurance to help
What is a flood?
A flood is an excess of water (or mud) on land that’s normally dry. The
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) defines flood to be a general and
temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres
of normally dry land area, or of two or more properties (at least one of
which is the policyholder’s property) from overflow of inland or tidal
waters; unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any
source; mudflow; or collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake
or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining, caused by
waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels.
What is Flood Insurance?
Flood insurance is a special policy that is federally backed by the NFIP and
available for both homeowners and businesses.
You can buy flood insurance for your home or business regardless of whether
the property is in or out of a floodplain, as long as the property is
located in a participating community.
You may buy flood insurance covering up to $250,000 of flood damage to your
home. A standard flood policy will cover structural damage, including damage
to the furnace, water heater, air conditioner, floor surfaces (carpeting and
tile) and debris clean up.
For an additional premium, you also may buy flood coverage for up to
$100,000 of damage to the contents of your home.
Coverage is available for up to $500,000 for non–residential buildings and
How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?
According to FEMA, the average homeowners flood insurance premium is a
little more than $500 a year.
Premiums for flood insurance will vary depending upon your risk level for a
flood loss, the amount of coverage you choose, the type of coverage you need
and your deductible.
How Can I Buy Flood Insurance?
You can purchase flood insurance for your home or business regardless of
whether the property is in or out of a floodplain, directly from your
property and casualty insurance agent, or insurance company if your
community participates in the NFIP. To find out if your community
participates, visit www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm.
Your insurance agent or insurance company also can confirm whether flood
insurance is available to you and what it would cost.
Plan Ahead — Waiting Period
It is very important to plan ahead. A flood insurance policy normally will
not go into effect until 30 days after you purchase the policy.
Consumer Services Helpline