Politics meets the State Fair: Governor and Cabinet meet in Tampa on opening day
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02/09/12 Janelle Irwin
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Governor Rick Scott got to have some fun in Tampa at the opening day of the Florida State Fair today where he held a Cabinet meeting. Aside from tours and eating fried food, Scott also got kudos from Tampa Bay area locals.

At the cabinet meeting a group of about 50 Floridians wore shirts advertising their coalition: Put the Brakes on Accident Fraud. Austin Curry was one of many advocates waving signs thanking the Governor and Cabinet for their efforts to stop the loss of 1 billion dollars they say is being lost to personal injury protection auto insurance fraud statewide.

“We have to stamp this out because it’s not only impacting the elders, it’s everybody. Everybody is paying for fraud whether they realize it or not. In the heavy concentrated areas – Miami-Dade, Orlando and Tampa – increases of 200-300 dollars per individual is not uncommon. It’s criminal and we’ve got to eliminate it. What we’re doing is absolutely wrong and we’ve got to realize this. Governor Scott and CFO Atwater are to be commended for their valiant stand to eliminate this and save the citizens of Florida needed dollars.”

The coalition is proposing a 3 point program that includes shutting down clinics, suspending licenses and arresting anyone found participating in auto insurance fraud. Governor Scott has said he will make it a priority to address the problem, but he can’t do it alone.

“I hope everybody calls their legislators to make sure that you let them know that you are tired of a billion dollars in fraud in this state and you’re tired of the cost of auto insurance going up in this manner, 30%, year after year after year.”

And Florida’s Governor wasn’t the only one recognized at the meeting. So were the football and girls’ cross country teams from Plant High School for their state championship titles and academic achievements and a Boy Scout group for making sure homes were equipped with smoke detectors. Attorney General Pam Bondi also issued a resolution to Tampa.

“The City of Tampa, as we all know, is a vibrant metropolitan area and I’ve worked in Hillsborough County as a prosecutor for almost 20 years. And thanks to our Mayor, Bob Buckhorn, who is here today and our police chief, Jane Castor, we’ve worked together for 20 years and won’t tell how old we are. Thank you for all the great work.”

In a report to Cabinet officials, Julie Jones, the executive director for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said wait times for drivers’ licenses in the state are still lagging far below acceptable levels. However, she added that wait times did improve by 10 percent since the last quarter.

“We’ve done this by increasing staffing, doing a better education, mentoring, front desk performance measures and reorganizing our offices so our office managers are responsible for specific measures in that office. And that’s the message I’ve gotten from the Governor and cabinet several times. Push this down, have local supervisors be more accountable and so we are pushing this needle.”

Today’s Cabinet meeting was held at the Florida State Fair Grounds in a symbolic show of support for Florida’s strong agricultural economy. Florida Future Farmers of America Foundation president, Charlie Brown, said on a trip to China he saw just how important U.S. farming is to the world.

“It’s because of American agriculture that we are able to feed ourselves and also the majority of the world. While we were there, I’ll be happy to tell you that we saw many things that were produced here in America and here in Florida.”

He also told Governor Scott that agriculture makes up 17% of the workforce in the U.S. Scott added that farming related business is a substantial part of Florida’s economy too.

“So, we have got to do everything we can to continue to support the agriculture community if we want to continue to grow jobs in our state.”

The next Cabinet meeting is scheduled for February 28 back in Tallahassee.

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