Consumer eViews
         FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

         Volume 5, Number 6, February 8, 2008
 

On Monday, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will be the Master of Ceremonies of the Governor’s day luncheon at the 104th Florida State Fair.

The luncheon is a tradition for elected officials and community leaders alike who come together to celebrate the great state of Florida and the agricultural industry, upon which our state thrives. Speakers will include U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Charles Bronson, and Governor Charlie Crist, who will give the keynote speech at the ceremony.

CFO Sink is also bringing several members of the Department of Financial Services with her to help Floridians wishing to learn about her department’s services. Floridians will be able to visit with representatives from the:
  • Bureau of Unclaimed Property— Do you have lost treasure? www.fltreasurehunt.org;
  • My Safe Florida Home program— Apply for your free wind inspection today!www.myfsafefloridahome.com;
  • Consumer Services— Find answers to your financial or insurance-related questions;
  • Division of Insurance Fraud— Learn about the crime of insurance fraud;
  • State Fire Marshal’s Office— Learn about how we investigate arson;
  • Division of Workers' Compensation - Find out how worker's compensation helps you!
  • And more!

The Florida State Fair is held in Tampa at the Florida State Fairgrounds and will continue through February 18th. To learn more, visit www.floridastatefair.com. We encourage Floridians from all over the state to come out and enjoy the state’s best agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement.


CFO SINK’S PROPOSAL TO REDUCE RISK OF ASSESSMENTS HEARD IN HOUSE INSURANCE COMMITTEE FRIDAY
CFO’s proposal could save Floridians and businesses between $3.3- $6.5 billion in assessments.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink’s proposal to reduce the risk of billions in assessments—taxes—on Floridians and businesses was heard in the House Insurance Committee Friday. CFO Sink’s proposal would reduce Floridians’ risk in the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (Cat Fund), a state-run reinsurance program that assesses Floridians’ homes, autos and business insurance policies to make up insured losses from hurricane damage.

Florida’s Cat Fund provides low-cost reinsurance to private insurance companies writing residential policies in Florida. In an effort to reduce insurance premiums by a statewide average of 24 percent, the Cat Fund was expanded in 2007 to include an optional $12 billion coverage level, for a total exposure of $28 billion.

One year later, Floridians have not received the rate relief lawmakers expected, but consumers and businesses have taken on substantially more risk for future assessments from the Cat Fund. At the same time, private reinsurance rates have fallen substantially and the private reinsurance market has the capacity to take much of the insurance risk off the backs of Floridians.

“I hear all the time from Floridians who are wondering why they have to pay these assessments on their insurance polices,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “I will continue to work with the Legislature this session to reduce the cost of insurance for Floridians and businesses.”

Specifically, CFO Sink’s proposal would reduce exposure in the optional $12 billion coverage level of the Cat Fund by $3 billion. This risk reduction would result in a potential savings range of $112- $217 million in assessments each year for 30 years, or $3.3- $6.5 billion overall.

CFO Sink will continue working on her legislation with lawmakers and will urge legislative leaders to implement the proposal as early as possible during the upcoming special session. If signed into law in the early stages of the Legislative session, CFO Sink’s proposal will be able to reduce the risk of assessments for the 2008 Hurricane Season.


UNCLAIMED PROPERTY PHONE BANKS FIND TREASURE FOR CALLERS!

CFO Alex Sink’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property held two phone bank telethons last week at WWSB-7 in Sarasota and WZVN-7 in Ft. Myers. During the the Ft. Myers telethon, 614 claims were made for $108,000 in seven hours, and in Sarasota 99 claims were made for  $41,726 in two hours.

The phone banks prompted thousands of other citizens in the viewing areas, who could not get their calls answered during the telethons, to search the Department’s unclaimed property website and file claims from visiting the site.

The Bureau holds about 6.5 million accounts valued at more than $1.7 billion. Unclaimed property can be claimed for free at any time by the rightful owners or heirs by logging on to www.FLTreasureHunt.org  or by calling the Bureau at 1-88-VALUABLE.


CFO SINK VISITS WITH FBLA

On Tuesday, CFO Alex Sink spoke to 23 high school and college members of Future Business Leaders of America who were in Tallahassee visiting with community leaders and elected officials.
CFO Sink discussed her role as CFO and talked with the group about the benefits of serving the community through the business profession.


FIRST MEETING OF MSFH ADVISORY COUNCIL HELD MONDAY

On Monday, CFO Alex Sink welcomed members of the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) Advisory Council to their first meeting in Tallahassee. The Council, authorized by Section 215.5586, Florida Statutes, was created to provide advice and assistance to the Department of Financial Services (DFS) regarding the administration of the MSFH program.  CFO Sink will use the council’s findings to further improve the services provided to Floridians through the program.

For more information on the MSFH program or the council please visit
www.mysafefloridahome.com/AdvisoryCouncil/index.htm.  On the MSFH Advisory Council Web site, Floridians can link to information on the council, its agenda and upcoming meetings.

My Safe Florida Home submitted its annual report to the Legislature this past week, detailing the progress of the program from its inception. You may review the report on the Web site at www.MySafeFloridaHome.com or click on the annual report icon to the left.


FLORIDA'S HAZARDOUS WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK

Hazardous Weather Awareness Week
takes place from February 2-9, 2008. This year’s theme is “8 Days in ’08” and recognizes the one year anniversary of the Groundhog Day tornadoes that struck Sumter, Lake, and Volusia counties during the night of February 2, 2007. Hazardous Weather Awareness Week is an opportunity for Floridians to learn about the various weather hazards that frequently impact the state and how families and businesses can prepare for these natural events.

Each day focuses on a specific weather event. Monday’s focus is on lightning. Lightning is among the top weather-related killers in the United States, striking the ground about 25 million times each year and causing more injury and death than tornadoes.

The 2008 Florida Hazardous Weather Awareness Week is a perfect time to note that our state, out of all 50 states, is the lightning capital of the country. Florida is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. As a result, daytime heating often generates boundaries that move inland from our coasts during the day. When these boundaries collide, thunderstorms are the result.

As the #1 thunderstorms threat in Florida, lightning results in an average of 10 fatalities and 40 injuries each year. Unfortunately, 10 people in Florida died form lightning strikes on 2007.

Nearly half of all lightning deaths occur in open areas. Many people are struck when they go under a tree to keep dry during a storm. Outdoor water activities such as swimming, boating and fishing are equally as dangerous during lightning storms. Did you know that a lightning strike to the ground or water can travel more than 30 feet in all directions and has been known to strike as much as 10 miles away from a thunderstorm? Therefore, when thunderstorms are approaching, avoid outdoor activities as if your life depends on it – because it does!

The National Weather Service and Florida Division of Emergency Management promote the “30-30 Rule” in seeking shelter during thunderstorms. The 30-30 Rule states: “When you see lightning, count the time it takes until you hear thunder. If this time is less than 30 seconds, go immediately to a safer place. Wait 30 minutes ore more after hearing the last clap of thunder before leaving your shelter.”  This rule works best when a thunderstorm is approaching an area. Be alert to changes in sky conditions. A darkening cloud is often the first sign that lightning may strike. As soon as you see lightning or hear thunder, it is best to seek shelter in a substantial building and do not be tempted to watch lightning from open windows or doors.

For more information on lightning hazards and what you can do to protect yourself, go to www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov  and also www.floridadisaster.org/kids.


Consumer Services Helpline 1-877-My-FL-CFO
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