Consumer eViews

         Volume 5, Number 16, April 18, 2008

Dateline NBC aired an eye-opening report last week on unscrupulous insurance agents taking advantage of seniors—an issue that continues to affect Floridians. A growing number of Florida seniors are being persuaded to purchase life insurance or annuity products that are harmful or financially devastating.

On Monday, April 21, at 10:00 a.m. CFO Sink, AARP, and the University of South Florida will host the first annual Florida Summit on Financial Security.  Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will discuss her legislation to increase criminal penalties for using deceptive and misleading life insurance and annuities sales practices against seniors and the mentally disabled.

CFO Sink will be joined by AARP Florida State Director Lori Parham, AARP Director of Issues Agenda and Financial Security Jean Setzfand, a representative from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and consumer services representatives from the Department of Financial Services, who will assist audience members with specific questions.

All are invited to attend this free event in Tampa. For more information on the Financial Security Summit, contact AARP at 888-687-2277.


Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink this week recognized the Coral Springs Fire Academy and honored 10 fire and rescue service personnel for exceptional dedication to fire and rescue services during the past year. CFO Sink presented each honoree with an individual resolution signed by Governor Charlie Crist and members of the Cabinet at Monday evening’s Fire Service Awards ceremony. The honorees were also recognized jointly at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting in the Capitol.

“Every day, brave firefighters across the state risk their lives to protect Florida’s families,” said CFO Sink. “Today, we honor the men and women who went above and beyond the call of duty and exemplify a deep commitment to their profession.”

In addition to honoring these individuals, the Florida Cabinet designated April 13-19, 2008, as Florida Firefighter Appreciation Week. During the week, Florida’s firefighters and paramedics are recognized for efforts to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Last year, Florida’s firefighters raised a record amount-- nearly $2.6 million-- during their annual “Fill the Boot” campaign.

CFO Sink presented the following Fire Service Awards:
Florida Firefighter of the Year-- Martha Scott, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue
Florida Professional Firefighter of the Year-- George Sucarichi, second from left, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue
Fire Marshal of the Year-- Randall A. Mells, left, Division of State Fire Marshal
Forestry Firefighter of the Year-- Sidney Brown, second from right, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Forestry
• Training Center of the Year-- Coral Springs Fire Academy, accepted by Chief Robert Bertone, third from left, Chief of Training
• Volunteer Firefighter of the Year-- Chad Destories, second from right, Hillsborough County Fire-Rescue Department
Fire Service Inspector of the Year-- Kevin M. Rausch, middle, Clermont Fire Department
Emergency Preparedness Manager of the Year-- Dan Summers, second from right, Collier County Department of Emergency Management
Fire Chief of the Year-- Bill Gulbrandsen, West Palm Beach Fire-Rescue Department
Fire Instructor of the Year-- Gregory L. Lanning, City of St. Petersburg Fire Rescue
Fire Investigator of the Year-- Tim Robles, second from right, Sanford Fire Department

Fire Service Awards are coordinated through the State Fire Marshal’s Office annually and are sponsored by one or more of the following fire-service related organizations: the Florida Joint Council of Fire & Emergency Services, the Fire Training Director’s Association, the Florida State Firefighters Association, the Fire Chiefs’ Association, the Fire Marshal and Inspectors Association, the Professional Firefighters Association and the Emergency Preparedness Association.


Guests: Alex Sink, Florida's Chief Financial Officer and
Kevin McCarty, Commissioner, Office of Insurance Regulation

Topics:  Originally broadcast on April 10, host Beth Switzer talks with CFO Sink about legislation to fight annuity fraud among Florida's seniors.  The CFO also discusses Florida's Catastrophe Fund and Citizens Property Insurance Company.  Commissioner McCarty discusses recent court decisions including the suspension of Allstate Insurance Company's certificate to write new policies in Florida.



Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink announced over 150 volunteer firefighters from across the state will journey to the Florida State Fire College in Ocala for an intensive five-day training. At the training, which begins today and ends Sunday, firefighters will get the latest on firefighting and investigative techniques dealing with potential threats from agribusiness chemical accidents to bombs.

“The State Fire Marshal’s Office is proud to host free training sessions for volunteer firefighters, who so courageously give of their time to protect Floridians,” said CFO Sink. “There is no better way to thank them for their service and reduce fire damage in Florida, than to provide these volunteers with the training they need to help protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

The 15th annual training week provides volunteer firefighters access to high quality training. Participating firefighters will receive four to 40 hours of training from 10 classes and are awarded continuing education credits to help them build their careers. Training subjects include: basic fire skills, special survival techniques, bomb and drug lab awareness, and flammable liquid fires. Saturday evening at dusk propane flames will light the sky, shooting 60 feet into the air so that participants can practice how to safely mitigate potentially dangerous situations.

The Florida State Fire College is located at 11655 NW Gainesville Road in Ocala.


Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today that the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program received more than 1,100 applications for a free wind inspection at the Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE) Hurricane Expo held at the Pensacola Civic Center.  Consumer Outreach Coordinator Cliff Long joined with program representatives Saturday to sign up homeowners for the MSFH program, in addition to assisting attendees who had insurance questions.

More than 3,000 residents attended this year’s first annual BRACE Hurricane Expo, matching the attendance at last year’s Pensacola MSFH Fair.

“Last year, Floridians were lucky to see a quiet hurricane season,” said CFO Sink.  “With the next hurricane season right around the corner, I am pleased to see Pensacola residents are taking the necessary precautions to prepare their homes and families.”

Approximately 63 percent of homeowners receiving free wind inspections have learned they are already eligible for an average wind insurance savings of $227—without making a single improvement. Floridians whose homes have received free wind inspections from the MSFH program may also be eligible to apply for matching tax-free grants of up to $5,000 to make improvements to their homes. To date, the MSFH program has awarded more than 5,769 homeowners grants totaling more than $18.5 million, with an additional 15,000 homeowners currently working with the program to make improvements. To learn more about the MSFH program, visit


Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink applauded members of the Florida House Policy & Budget Council for unanimously passing House Bill 7021 sponsored by State Representative Ron Reagan (R-Sarasota/Bradenton), which reduces the risk of hurricane assessments from the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund on Florida’s insurance consumers.

“Through fiscally responsible legislation, we can eliminate $5.5 billion in hurricane assessments if our state gets hit by a bad storm,” said CFO Sink. “Representative Reagan and his colleagues today have shown leadership in passing this bipartisan proposal to reduce the risk of hurricane assessments on Florida’s families and businesses.”

Companion Senate Bill 2156 by State Senator Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) was unanimously passed last week by the Senate Committee on General Government Appropriations and awaits a hearing on the Senate Floor.

Money-Smart Idea of the Week

Idea: Stay on top of your savings

A simple money saving idea to ensure that you stay on top of your savings is to automatically deduct even a small amount, $20 or $40, from your paycheck each month. By the end of the year, you will have built up modest savings without much effort. The key to smart saving is to pay your debts and your savings first, and then purchase what you need.

For more financial savings tips click here


The Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida declared April 16, 2008, as Truckers Day in the State of Florida. Florida Departments of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Agriculture and Consumer Services and Transportation were commended for their demonstrated commitment to economic prosperity and industry safety and to raising the awareness of the importance of the trucking industry to all Floridians.

The industry features trucks moving freight safely and efficiently to every community throughout Florida; and commercial truck traffic is vital to our nation’s economic prosperity and plays a significant role in mitigating adverse economic effects during a national or regional emergency. Our economy depends on trucks to deliver 10 billion tons of virtually every commodity consumed, or nearly 70 percent of all freight transported annually by weight and nearly 85 percent of all freight transported annually by value. Travel by large trucks increased by 150% from 1998 to 2004, while the rate of large truck crash fatalities declined by 60%, based on miles driven and is near all-time recorded lows. The trucking industry in Florida has been represented by the Florida Trucking Association (FTA) since 1934 and FTA’s Road Team, composed of professional drivers of member companies, conducts and presents safe driving classes to driver education students, civic groups and other public entities across Florida through its “Share the Road Safely with Big Trucks” program.

Florida law enforcement officers inspected 84,160 trucks in 2006, and weighed 14.5 million trucks at Florida’s 25 fixed weigh stations and out of every 1,000 trucks inspected, only 3 were found in violation of weight restrictions.


Every day throughout Florida and our nation, firefighters demonstrate bravery, courage and dedication to the preservation of human life and property. While off duty on Sunday, September 24, 2006, Volunteer Firefighter Chad DeStories was at home in Apollo Beach, Florida, when he received a call that five units had been dispatched to a reported structure fire at a residence down the street from his home.

Racing down the street, DeStories discovered a home with heavy dark smoke billowing from the open front door with three children visibly shaken in the front yard; and the children informed DeStories that the babysitter was still inside the home. Upon entering the smoke-filled structure, DeStories heard a banging noise coming from the direction of the kitchen; and discovering the babysitter pounding on the locked pantry door attempting to locate a fire extinguisher, DeStories guided the babysitter outside while flames engulfed the oven, cabinets and ceiling.

Once outside, a fire medic and resident of the neighborhood checked over the children and babysitter while awaiting the arrival of the engine; and while the medic attended to the children and the babysitter, DeStories used a wrench from the engine to turn off the gas to the home, ensuring the safety of all who were on scene.

The Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida commended by resolution the bravery and the outstanding accomplishments of Chad DeStories, and congratulated him for being selected by the Florida State Firefighters Association as the 2007 Florida Volunteer Firefighter of the Year.


This is a special time of the year when all firefighters are honored, not only for their courageous dedication to their profession but also for their generous and caring spirit.

Hands are joined with the Muscular Dystrophy Association in expressing appreciation for the volunteer work firefighters do to raise money for the MDA.

Iris Roberts, 10, is the MDA Goodwill Ambassador from Lake City who has been the star of this project in Florida since she was four. Her mother, Kimi, runs support to help Iris raise awareness for MDA to help fill the boot.

For the past 54 years, firefighters throughout Florida and across the Nation have been partners with the Muscular Dystrophy Association in the fight against neuromuscular diseases.

Last year, Florida firefighters raised more than $2,657,483 in over 300 metropolitan and rural communities with their “Fill the Boot” drive for MDA, again ranking #2 in the Nation and making them MDA’s largest single source of funding in Florida.

Through the firefighters' financial support statewide and nationally, more than $25 million were raised
in 2007 to support MDA’s life saving research, leading to the discovery of the first definitive treatment for a muscular disorder, Pompe’s Disease.

Funds collected by Florida firefighters assist MDA in providing medical services at local clinics, summer camps, research grants, support groups, and public education seminars at no cost to Florida’s children and adults served by the Association.

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