Volume 8 Number 27 July 8, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
As the debate over our nation’s debt ceiling continues in Washington, James Baker—former Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan—brings clarity to the issue in an opinion piece he wrote for The Wall Street Journal entitled “How to Deal With the Debt Limit.” In it, he outlines the dire economic consequences of failing to apply a hard cap on spending.
In these challenging economic times, hard choices must be made in order to balance the federal budget. These same hard choices are faced by the Florida legislature every year; but thanks to the passage of the balanced budget amendment, our state government is required to come to terms with the reality that a responsible government lives within its means.
Florida is setting the standard in learning how to succeed and grow as a state while protecting the hard-earned dollars of its residents. Every dollar deployed must be thoughtfully and carefully scrutinized in light of its measure of return for taxpayers.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
This week, Governor Scott highlighted new laws that will financially help military families by cutting property taxes for deployed servicemembers and allowing certain military spouses to begin working sooner after being transferred to Florida. In addition, the ongoing legacy of Florida’s veterans will be recognized in the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame to be created at the Florida State Capitol building.
House Bill 1319 allows military spouses who are licensed health care professionals to begin working sooner after they relocate to Florida. When active duty members of the armed forces are transferred to Florida military bases, their spouses often cannot begin working until they receive the appropriate professional licenses, causing a financial hardship on military families. This legislation allows military spouses who are licensed health care practitioners in other states to receive temporary Florida licenses while waiting for permanent licenses.
Other bills that benefit Florida servicemembers include:
House Bill 95 – State Parks
The bill honors Gold Star parents with free lifetime entrance into all of Florida’s 160 state parks. Parents of fallen members of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or reserve components will receive a free lifetime annual entrance pass, as will surviving spouses and parents of law enforcement officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty. Free lifetime entrance to state parks is also available to veterans with service-related disabilities, and discounts are available to those who currently serve or have served in the United States Armed Forces. For more information, visit http://floridastateparks.org/thingstoknow/annualpass.cfm.
House Bill 663 – State Forests
The bill honors the service of injured war veterans by providing special outdoor recreational opportunities. The Division of Forestry will designate one or more areas of state forests as “Wounded Warrior Special Hunt Areas.” With funding from the Friends of Florida State Forests program, all active duty members and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces with combat-related injuries will now have access to specialized hunting areas that are specially adapted to assist their needs.
House Bill 465 – Veterans Hall of Fame
The Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA) will design and manage the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame to be located inside the Florida State Capitol building on the plaza level. The Governor and the Cabinet will select the nominees to be inducted based on recommendations from FDVA. Each veteran selected will have his or her name placed on a plaque in the Hall of Fame. A formal induction ceremony will coincide with the annual commemoration of Veterans Day.
House Bill 1141 – Ad Valorem Tax Exemption for Deployed Servicemembers
Authorized by the constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in November 2010, this legislation provides an additional homestead exemption on property taxes for deployed servicemembers who were on active duty outside the U.S. in the previous year. The exemption is based on the number of days the servicemember was deployed, and all deployed members of U.S. military, including Coast Guard, National Guard and the reserve units, are eligible.
For veteran benefit information and assistance, visit the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs online at www.FloridaVets.org or call (850) 487-1533.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced today that he is expanding the availability of Spanish-speaking staff to the Department of Financial Services’ Unclaimed Property Helpline.
The Unclaimed Property Helpline assists Floridians searching for unclaimed cash or property that the state may be holding for them from dormant accounts or abandoned safe deposit boxes. The toll-free helpline, at 1-88-VALUABLE (888-258-2253) or (850) 413-5555, is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is a service provided by the department’s Division of Consumer Services.
“This is one more step in our top goal to enhance the services we provide to all Floridians and will help put dollars back into the pockets of their rightful owners,” said CFO Atwater.
The Division of Consumer Services handles an average of 20,000 callers per month on insurance and financial matters, including unclaimed property. In addition, the unclaimed property website, www.FLTreasureHunt.org, gives users the option of translating content and searches to Spanish.
Currently, CFO Atwater’s department holds unclaimed property accounts valued at more than $1 billion, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings. In addition to money and securities, unclaimed property includes tangible property such as watches, jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other miscellaneous articles from abandoned safe deposit boxes.
Unclaimed money is deposited into the state school fund, where it is used for public education. There is, however, no statute of limitations, and citizens have the right to claim their property any time at no cost.
Florida consumers now have new protections in place when it comes to fortifying their homes and businesses against hurricanes. HB 849, Building Construction and Inspection passed this year and requires statewide approval of building products advertised, sold, distributed or marketed as hurricane, windstorm or impact protected from wind-borne debris during a hurricane or windstorm.
We encourage you to take steps to protect yourself and your property against hurricane damage. For tips, visit http://www.mysafefloridahome.com/default.asp. You may also qualify for mitigation discounts from your insurance company. For more information on discounts, visit the Insurance Library at www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.