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My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Every year, I look forward to working with the Legislature in an effort to increase efficiencies and keep more money in the pockets of hard-working Floridians. The 2014 Legislative Session began last week, and this year I am focusing on ensuring consumer rights and protections, reducing regulatory burdens and fighting fraud.CFO addresses a Senate committee.

Ensuring Consumer Rights and Protections

I have listened to residents throughout the state on issues facing them as insurance consumers. Their feedback, along with input from our department’s Division of Consumer Services and the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate, has led to the creation of Senate Bill 708, sponsored by Senator Aaron Bean, and House Bill 759, sponsored by Representative George Moraitis, which enhance consumer protections, improve standards and provide greater transparency to the claims process.

Among the several ways these bills help consumers is the creation of a Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights. These rights will be provided to every policyholder who files a claim and will reference current Florida law regarding claims handling in order to provide the policyholder with information about their rights in the claims process. The bill of rights will also inform policyholders of what they should expect and provide advice on the next steps they should take in the process.

Enacting Regulatory Reforms

Since taking office, I have had every division within our department undergo regulatory reviews that ensure laws, rules, policies and procedures are meeting the needs of regulated industries without being overly burdensome or unnecessarily complex. Senate Bill 1210, also sponsored by Senator Bean, and House Bill 633, sponsored by Representative Clay Ingram, are the latest steps toward ensuring that the efficiency needs of regulated entities are being met without being overly burdensome or unnecessarily complex by improving administrative processes and customer service within the Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services.

The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Workers’ Compensation has also reviewed the Stop-Work-Order process with the goal of getting employers back up and running again more quickly after a stop-work order has been issued, while continuing to encourage employer compliance and maintaining employees’ protection. Senate Bill 444, sponsored by Senator Bill Galvano, and House Bill 271, sponsored by Representative Travis Cummings, propose steps to make this possible in a way that meets employee and employer needs.

Additionally, Senate Bill 564, sponsored by Senator Garrett Richter, and House Bill 7009, sponsored by Representative George Moraitis, will improve the Division of Treasury’s ability to manage, control and report regulatory collateral deposits. This division administers Chapter 280, known as the “Florida Security for Public Deposits Act.” This is a statewide program that protects public deposits of the state and governmental units from loss due to failure of a financial institution. Chapter 280 has not been significantly updated since 2003 and is outdated with respect to current practices. This legislation proposes to make necessary updates.

Enhancing the Fight Against Fraud

Currently our department’s Division of Public Assistance Fraud (PAF) investigators do not have the authority to issue subpoenas for business and education records that are necessary for public assistance fraud investigations. Instead, investigators must request that state attorneys issue subpoenas, which can be time consuming for PAF and for the state attorney offices. Senate Bill 308, sponsored by Senator Jeff Brandes, and House Bill 171, sponsored by Representative Jose Diaz, will bring PAF in line with the other DFS investigatory divisions and provide greater efficiency in its processes.

I am grateful for the input and support I receive everyday from Floridians about fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government; reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses; and providing transparency and accountability in state spending. I am also grateful for the legislators who are working with us on these efforts, which will make our state more consumer and business friendly.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

Associated Press: Stock and housing gains put U.S. net worth at record

CBS Moneywatch: Investing for life: A smart plan for paying for college

Jacksonville Business Journal: Jacksonville tops the list of 2014 best cities to start a business

CNBC: Aging population sees opportunity in small business

Reuters: U.S. employers add 175K jobs despite harsh weather

USA Today: Florida remains spring break hotspot

Florida Economic Briefs

U.S. unemployment rate rises to 6.7 percent in February; economy adds 175,000 jobs
The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent in February from 6.6 percent a month earlier as businesses added 175,000 jobs. The largest job gains were in professional and business services and in wholesale trade, while the information sector lost jobs. The civilian labor force participation rate (63 percent) was unchanged in February.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Small business optimism drops in February; however, business owners report wage increases
The National Federation of Independent Business reported that its Small Business Optimism Index for February dropped 2.7 points to 91.4, ending three months of consecutive gains. Nonetheless, a net 23 percent of small business owners reported paying higher compensation, the best reading since 2008.

Source: The National Federation of Independent Business

Florida's Bottom LineFlorida's Bottom Line

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