Florida Five: Year-end wrap-up from Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet

Wrapping up 2014, Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet issued on Wednesday these informational statements:

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Photo: MyFlorida.com

Gov. Scott encourages Florida Prepaid enrollment before year end – Gov. Scott issued the following statement urging parents to enroll in the Florida Prepaid Program before the end of the year to save money for their future students. Scott said, “We know that a great job starts with a great education and that is why we work each day to make Florida the best place to get a great education at an affordable price. We have held the line on college tuition by eliminating the tuition differential, and will continue to hold that line. To ensure our students have access to an affordable and quality education, the cost of a Prepaid plan has been cut in half in the last year alone, and now stands at its lowest point since 2007. This is great news for Florida families, and we encourage more families to sign up for the plan today.” Kevin Thompson, Executive Director of Florida Prepaid said, “If you are considering a Prepaid plan, enroll before tomorrow and Florida Prepaid will waive the $50 application fee. We look forward to continuing to work with Governor Scott to make Florida the best place to live and get a quality, affordable education.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office releases 2013 Hate Crimes Report—The Attorney General’s Office released the 2013 Hate Crimes in Florida Report, which includes detailed information on the types of hate crimes being reported throughout the state to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement under the Uniform Crime Reporting information system. Overall, the number of reported hate crimes in Florida decreased from 170 in 2012 to 124 in 2013. The Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights, which publishes the report, participates in community outreach programs that help the public recognize hate crimes, understand how the law protects victims of hate crimes, and understand how such crimes affect Florida’s communities.  To view the report, follow this link: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/JMEE-9SBKKM/$file/HateCrimesReport.pdf

Top 10 consumer complaints for 2014 from Comm. Adam Putnam – As 2014 comes to a close, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released today the top 10 consumer complaints filed this year. “One of our priorities is to assist consumers in need across Florida,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Anyone can call our 1-800-HELP-FLA consumer hotline to file a complaint, to find information about businesses and professionals, and to learn how to protect themselves from fraud and scams.” Consumers filed more than 44,000 complaints with the department’s consumer assistance center in 2014. Complaints about violators of the state’s Do Not Call list continue to be the top consumer issue, however this year there was a 4 percent decrease in Do Not Call complaints. The decrease in complaints may be contributed to the agency’s increased enforcement efforts over the past two years, which have resulted in the collection of more than $430,000 in administrative fines. In addition, more than $5.3 million was recovered on behalf of Florida consumers in 2014, almost twice as much as was recovered last year. In addition to complaints filed, the department’s consumer assistance center responded to about 200,000 calls, more than 5,000 emails and nearly 9,500 online chats this year from consumers requesting information. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. The call center is staffed with trained analysts who can respond to questions about programs and regulations under the department’s purview, provide information on a wide variety of topics or direct callers to the appropriate government agency. Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832). For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.

Building on Successes in the New Year from CFO Jeff Atwater – The end of the year is an important time to reflect on your accomplishments and make plans to improve on these successes in the year ahead. At the Department of Financial Services, I am very proud of the great strides we made in 2014 to protect Floridians from fraud as well as the damaging impacts of fire and arson. We’ve also successfully helped Florida consumers make smarter financial decisions and returned millions in unclaimed property to its rightful owners, just to name a few of our many accomplishments. While serving as your state fire marshal and as the head of our insurance fraud division, my respect for the service and commitment of our state’s law enforcement increases every day. Last month, it was my distinct honor to break ground on a memorial to honor fallen firefighters on the grounds of our state capitol building. Our dedicated service members are very deserving of our thanks and praise, and I’m proud to have led the effort to provide a place for family and friends to reflect and remember their family members and friends lost in the line of duty. I hope all of you will make plans to visit upon its completion in a few months. Our consumer services helpline has also achieved great success. They have assisted nearly one million Floridians with their insurance-related needs since 2011. They have also returned $96 million back to consumers who were not given a fair shake during their claims process. Our team continually works to educate consumers and help correct issues. In addition to the millions recovered through our consumer services helpline, our department has reached a milestone through our unclaimed property program. We’ve now returned more than $900 million in unclaimed cash and property back to Floridians, many of whom did not even know the state was holding their property. I’m looking forward to hitting the $1 billion mark, which will soon come. Don’t forget to encourage your family and friends to check the website for unclaimed property of their own. I am honored to serve the people of Florida, and I can’t wait to build on our accomplishments to make 2015 the most prosperous year for Floridians yet.

Attorney General Pam Bondi calls on Floridians to engage in the fight against human trafficking during human trafficking awareness month—Attorney General Pam Bondi is committed to making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking, and during Human Trafficking Awareness Month this January, she asks all Floridians to engage in the fight to identify and protect potential victims. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it exploits children, women and men. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates that more than 20 million people are enslaved worldwide, and the average age that children are first used for commercial sex is between 12 and 14 years old. Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking hotline, and Attorney General Bondi encourages an all-hands-on-deck approach to eradicating human trafficking. “Floridians can help battle human trafficking in our state by educating themselves about the signs of sex and labor trafficking and how to report suspected cases,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “We will continue to work with public and private partners in our effort to eradicate human trafficking. I encourage Floridians to visit www.MyFloridaLegal.com today to find useful information on human trafficking.” During Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Floridians can learn about human trafficking by visiting www.PolarisProject.org or the additional links available on www.MyFloridaLegal.com.

For more Florida political news, visit BPR’s FLORIDA NEWS page

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