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CFO Atwater Commends Legislature for Increasing Transparency, Protecting Consumers, Fighting Fraud and Reducing Regulatory Burdens


Contact: Alexis Lambert 
(850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today offered praise to the Florida Legislature for supporting and passing key initiatives he proposed that will increase transparency on how taxpayer dollars are spent, better protect consumers from identity theft or financial harm, and help fight insurance fraud and reduce regulatory burdens.
“I applaud the Florida Legislature for another successful session of staying the course on no new tax or fee burdens on Florida families and businesses,” CFO Atwater said.  “It is clear that Florida’s elected leaders are committed to fostering economic success and reducing financial burdens to guide our state through these challenging times.”
CFO Atwater said these legislative reforms help keep money in the pockets of Floridians by fostering conditions for economic success for Florida’s businesses and families. Key reforms he pursued this session include:
• Transparency in Contracts and Government Spending:
Transparency in State Contracting: The Legislature supported and identified the resources needed to implement transparency initiatives passed during the 2011 Legislative Session.  The resources will be used to fully develop an online, state contract tracking system. The new, comprehensive online tool will offer Floridians greater visibility into contract spending and how their government is doing business with tax dollars. 
“A robust and complete contract tracking system is an important first step in multi-phased state contracting reforms,” CFO Atwater said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor, state agencies and legislative leaders on additional reforms in the coming year.”

• Protecting Consumers:  

Protecting Floridians’ Personal Information (SB 1208/HB 7111): CFO Atwater championed an effort to close a loophole that allows certain groups to obtain social security information from the CFO’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property. 
“It defies logic that Florida, the state with the highest levels of identity theft complaints in the nation, would mandate a state agency to release social security numbers for any purpose,” CFO Atwater said. “There are few roles more important to a public servant than that of protector, and I’m relieved that my agency will no longer be required to release Floridians’ personal information.”  

Guarantees to Florida’s Insurance Consumers (HB 1101/SB 1620): In the unfortunate circumstance that an insurance company must be liquidated because it is financially impaired and unable to pay claims, the receiver will now have authority to pay interest on impacted consumers’ claims. Previously, money would have been returned to insurance company shareholders that had contributed to the company’s insolvency. This bill will create more equity in the claims paying process for consumers.

• Fighting Fraud:

Personal Injury Protection (HB 119/SB 1860): CFO Atwater and Governor Scott worked tirelessly with legislative leaders this session to pass reforms to the state’s PIP system and stop the estimated $1 billion fraud tax on Florida’s consumers.  Reforms championed by CFO Atwater and passed this session target staged accident fraud, strengthen billing practices so appropriate services are provided to those who need care, tighten requirements for clinic ownership and provide rate relief for Florida’s consumers.
A report released in November by Insurance Consumer Advocate (ICA) Robin Westcott, appointed by CFO Atwater, highlighted the need for reforms through concrete and meaningful data.  According to the ICA’s report, the number of Florida drivers has remained stable, and the frequency of crashes declined between 2006 to 2010 while the number of PIP claims opened or recorded during the same time increased 28 percent. In addition, the payment on PIP claims increased 66 percent during the same period.

“When I took office as Florida’s CFO, I made a commitment to do all I could to go after the fraudsters cheating Floridians out of their hard-earned dollars,” CFO Atwater said.  “With the passage of this bill and the help of Florida’s Legislature, I know we have gone a long way in fulfilling that promise.  I’m eager to start seeing the positive impacts of this bill in the form of rate relief for Florida’s consumers.”

Workers’ Compensation (SB 1586/HB 1277): CFO Atwater convened a working group in August 2011 to review the practices of certain bad actors in the check cashing services industry who were aiding in a complex workers’ compensation premium fraud scheme.  The work group released its report in November, recommending reforms to combat this scheme to the Legislature. 
“As a result of bringing all stakeholders to the table last fall, we were able to recommend policy solutions that protect the responsible players in the marketplace while ensuring those who are diverting more than a billion dollars from Florida’s economy are caught and held accountable,” CFO Atwater said. “I look forward to continuing the fight against this most insidious type of fraud in order to eliminate an inexcusable cost driver on honest small businesses throughout the state.”
• Reducing Regulatory Burdens:
Cutting Red Tape (SB 938/HB 725 and HB 941/SB 1428): Last fall, CFO Atwater initiated a thorough review of regulations in place at the Department of Financial Services (DFS). The initial review indentified burdensome, unnecessary or redundant regulations within the divisions of Insurance Agent and Agency Services and Workers’ Compensation, which CFO Atwater asked the Legislature to repeal or rework.  The reforms consolidate 49 insurance agent and agency license types into seven master categories and provide parity for small businesses that purchase workers’ compensation, thus ensuring that all corporations and partnerships are treated equally while allowing them to submit electronic certificates of insurance.
“Overreaching government regulations stifle growth and hinder our state’s economic recovery,” CFO Atwater said. “Looking at regulations through a new scope, we were able to quickly identify burdens we could remove from the businesses that fall within the jurisdiction of our department.” 
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services.  CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.