The hustle and bustle around the Capitol continued this week, as legislators and those involved in the political process continued to make strides in passing meaningful legislation. With a mere two weeks remaining in the 2020 Legislative Session, lawmakers and advocates are making final efforts to get legislation passed out of committee and heard on the House and Senate floors. Rumors of budget conference are beginning to swirl, as we inch close to Sine Die on March 13.
Important legislation that Liberty Partners and FAA have been working on together, in coordination with the Florida Department of Agriculure and Consumer Services (FDACS), crossed the finish line in the House this week, as HB 1275 by Representative Sharon Pritchett (D-Miami Gardens) unanimously passed the House floor on Wednesday, February 26. A high priority of FAA and its members, the bill ensures the safety of amusement rides by requiring temporary rides such as fair or carnival tides to be inspected by FDACS each time the ride moves to a new location. Under the bill, ride managers would be responsible for complying with state regulations and administrative and operational fines would increase. However, permanent rides would be exempt from these frequent inspections as long as the rides are inspected twice a year by an accredited trade organization. Liberty Partners and FAA have worked diligently to ensure that this provision is contained in the bill and look forward to seeing this legislation pass in the Senate.
Liberty Partners continues to closely monitor HB 1265 by Representative Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) that would require certain private employers to register with E-Verify or an alternate employment verification system. The bill would also require certain public employers, contractors and subcontractors must to register and use an employment verification system to confirm that their employees are not unauthorized aliens. Contractors or subcontractors that have less than 10 employees in Florida and that have contracts valued under $65,000 and $35,000, respectively, are exempt from the employment verification process. Public employers and their contractors and subcontractors, as well as private employers of 100 or more employees must register with a verification system by July 1, 2021. Private employers of 20 or more employees must register with a system by January 1, 2022. After being fully implemented, the bill would apply to private employers that have 20 or more employees in the state. If the employer does not register with an employment verification system, the employer may face a $500 fine and have 30 days to register. If the employer has still not registered within those 30 days, the Department of Economic Opportunity will order the appropriate agency to suspend the employer’s business license. We will continue to track this bill on behalf of FAA and keep the association updated on the possible effect that the legislation could have on its members.
After extended discussion and debate, the House Appropriations Committee passed the chamber's proposed FY 2020-21 tax package on Tuesday. HB 7097 by Representative Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah) contains several positive provisions, including a reduction in the state's business rent tax from 5.5% to 5.4%, a seven-day Disaster Preparedness Tax Holiday and three-day Back-to-School Tax Holiday. The legislation also clarifies that School Capital Outlay surtaxes must be shared equally with charter schools and reduces the communications services tax by 0.5%. A concerning provision in the tax package would allow counties to use tourist development tax (TDT) dollars to fund water quality improvement and enhancement projects. This expansion of TDT usage would also apply to the Convention Development Tax levied in Duval, Miami-Dade and Volusia counties as well as the Local Option Food and Beverage Tax levied within parts of Miami-Dade County. Under the bill, counties would also be able to use these specific dollars to fund the construction or improvement of non-profit or publicly-owned parks and trails. During public testimony on Tuesday, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Florida Association of Counties spoke against the expanded uses of TDT revenues and urged legislators to put safeguards and parameters around the expansion. The continued erosion of these funds create a sense of uneasiness for FAA and the tourism industry. We will continue to fight to ensure that these dollars are used for their intended purposes.
Following is a quick summary of bills that have been filed and other items of interest to the Florida Attractions Association (FAA):
SB 1228 by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) would require amusement ride managers to meet certain requirements and revise standards for rules adopted by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services relating to amusement rides. The bill would also remove the exemption from safety standards for certain museums and institutions and revise inspection standards for amusement rides. The bill is awaiting its second hearing in the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee. The House companion - HB 1275 by Representative Sharon Pritchett (D- Miami Gardens) unanimously passed the House floor on Wednesday, February 26.
FAA continues to support legislation that would extend the scheduled 2020 sunset of VISIT FLORIDA until 2028. SB 362 by Senator Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor) has passed the Senate. The House companion - HB 213 - by Representative Mel Ponder (R-Fort Walton Beach) has not received its first hearing in the House Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee.
Tourism Development Tax
SB 334 by Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) would authorize counties imposing a tourism development tax to use the tax revenues to promote or incentivize film or television productions in the state. The bill would also require a specified statement to be included in the production’s credits. The bill is awaiting its final committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill does not have a House companion.
HB 991 by Representative Will Robinson (R-Bradenton) would prohibit an electronic device from being used to play any lottery game and would prohibit the Department of Lottery (DOL) from authorizing operation of a specified lottery game. The bill would require DOL to include a specified warning in all advertisements & promotions of lottery games and require contracts between DOL & a vendor to require that the vendor print a specified warning on all lottery tickets. Under the bill, certain funds in the Operating Trust Fund would be used for a specified annual payment for services relating to prevention of compulsive & addictive gambling. The bill is scheduled to be considered on the House floor on Tuesday, March 3. The Senate companion - SB 1318 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) - has not received a committee hearing.
Sports Franchises and Facilities
HB 1369 by Representative Cary Pigman (R-Sebring) would delete provisions authorizing counties to impose specified taxes to pay debt service on bonds related to sports facilities and prohibit a county from leasing specified professional sports franchise facilities. It would prohibit the lease of public lands for purposes related to sports franchises & their facilities and require the lease of a facility on public lands to be at fair market value. The bill would require a sports franchise to repay specified debt incurred by local government related to construction of facilities. The bill is waiting to be heard by all Representatives on the House floor. The bill does not have a companion in the Senate.
HB 1011 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) would preempt regulation of vacation rentals to the state and prohibit local law, ordinance or regulation from allowing or requiring inspections or licensing of vacation rentals. The bill would require licenses issued by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to be displayed conspicuously inside a licensed establishment and preempt regulation of advertising platforms for vacation rentals to the state. It would also provide requirements for advertising platforms. The bill is awaiting consideration on the House floor by all Representatives. The Senate companion - SB 1128 – by Senator Manny Diaz (R- Hialeah Gardens) is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, March 2.
SB 530 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) would create the Film, Television, and Digital Media Targeted Rebate Program within the Department of Economic Opportunity. Projects that are eligible for the rebate program must provide the highest return on investment and economic benefit to the state. The bill has not been heard in its second stop in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee. The House companion - HB 497 - by Representative James Buchanan (R-North Port) has not received its first committee hearing in the House Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee.
Declawing of Cats
SB 48 by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) makes it illegal for any person to declaw a cat in Florida. Violations can result in a $1,000 fine and veterinarians found to be declawing the cat are subject to discipline by the Board of Veterinary Medicine. An exemption is made in the instance that a cat is declawed for therapeutic purposes. The bill is awaiting its second hearing in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee. There is no House companion bill.
Regulation of Recreational Activities
HB 647 by Representative Brad Drake (R-Defuniak Springs) would revise provisions relating to recreational vehicle parks, including permit application, preemption, rebuilding of park, abandoned property, ejection of certain persons and removal of property from park and immunity from liability. The bill has passed all of its committee references now awaits a hearing on the House floor. The Senate companion - SB 772 – by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) is awaiting its final committee hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.
HB 757 by Representative Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) would rename the Division of Cultural Affairs as Division of Arts & Culture and provide that the Secretary of State shall be known as "Florida's Chief Arts & Culture Officer". The bill would repeal provisions relating to Cultural Endowment Program short title, legislative intent, definitions and rulemaking. The bill unanimously passed the House floor on Wednesday, February 26. The Senate companion - SB 1632 – by Senator Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) awaits its final hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.
Emergency Sheltering of Persons with Pets
HB 705 by Representative Sam Killebrew (R-Winter Haven) would require Department of Education to assist Division of Emergency Management in determining strategies regarding evacuation of persons with pets and would require certain counties to designate shelter that can accommodate persons with pets. It would also specify requirements for such shelters. The bill is scheduled to be considered on the House floor on Tuesday, March 3. The Senate companion - SB 752 – by Senator Aaron Bean (R- Jacksonville) unanimously passed the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, February 26 and awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
SB 482 by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) would repeal provisions relating to limits to the size of wine and cider containers. Provisions that allow patrons of a restaurant to take partially consumed bottles of wine off the restaurant’s premises would also be changed under this law. The bill has not received its first committee hearing in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee. The House companion - HB 583 - by Representative Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) is awaiting its final hearing in the House Commerce Committee.
Captive-bred Animal Culture
SB 1176 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) would create the "Florida Animal Policy Act". The bill would provide duties of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and require the department to submit a list of specified research and development projects with its annual legislative budget request to the Governor and the Legislature. It would require a captive-bred producer to apply to the department for a certificate of registration and create the Captive-bred Animal Culture Advisory Council adjunct to the department. The bill has not received its first hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The House companion - HB 933 - by Representative Clovis Watson (D-Gainesville) has not received a hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.
HB 243 by Representative Bruce Antone (D-Orlando) would prohibit nonservice animals from entering certain food service establishments or places of business. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation would also create and update a website for filed complaints. The bill has not been heard in the House Business and Professions Subcommittee. The Senate companion - SB 1814 – by Senator Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach) has not received its first hearing in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
Emotional Support Animals
HB 209 by Representative Sam Killebrew (R-Winter Haven) would prohibit discrimination in a rental dwelling to a person with a disability or disability-related needs who has an emotional support animal. It would also prohibit a landlord from requiring such person to pay extra compensation and authorize the landlord to request certain written documentation. The bill has passed all committees and is awaiting to be heard on the House floor. The Senate companion - SB 1084 – by Senator Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah Gardens) has passed all committees and is scheduled to be considered by all Senators on the Senate floor on Tuesday, March 3.
SB 680 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) would prohibit the importation, exportation, and sale of shark fins. The bill is scheduled to receive its final committee hearing in the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, March 2. The House companion - HB 401 - by Representative Kristin Jacobs (D-Coconut Creek) awaits consideration on the House floor.
Individual Wine Containers
HB 6037 by Representative Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) would repeal provisions relating to a limitation of size of individual wine containers. The bill has passed the House chamber. The Senate companion - SB 138 - by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee.
Public Records/Trade Secrets
HB 799 by Representative Tommy Gregory (R-Bradenton) would provide a public record exemption for trade secrets held by an agency, provide notice requirements and exceptions and provide that the agency employee is not liable for release of records in compliance with act. The bill would also provide applicability and future legislative review & repeal. The bill is scheduled to be heard on the House floor on Tuesday, March 3. The Senate companion - SB 1532 – by Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake) has not received its first hearing in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
Verification of Employment Eligibility
HB 1265 by Representative Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) would require public employers, contractors, & subcontractors to use the E-Verify system for specified purposes and prohibits such entities from entering into a contract unless each party uses the E-Verify system. The bill would authorize termination of the contract and require private employers to verify employment eligibility of newly hired employees. The bill passed the House Commerce Committee by a vote of 15-8 on Thursday, February 27 and now moves to the House Appropriations Committee. The Senate companion - SB 664 – by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) is scheduled to receive its final committee hearing in the Senate Rules Committee on Monday, March 2.
HB 981 by Representative Tyler Sirois (R-Merritt Island) would establish the Florida Space Exploration Monument and provide for administration of the monument. The design shall be chosen by committee from entries submitted by the public. DMS would be directed to develop specified plan for placement & cost of the monument & submit the plan to the Governor & Legislature by a specified date. The bill has not been heard in the House Oversight, Transparency and Public Management Subcommittee. The Senate companion - SB 1260 – by Senator Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) awaits its final committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee .
Fish and Wildlife Activities
HB 777 by Representative Tommy Gregory (R-Bradenton) would prohibit certain harassment of hunters, trappers and fishers in or on specified lands, areas and waters and would authorize FWCC to designate additional free fishing days. The bill would prohibit certain possession of specified reptiles and designate green iguanas and tegu lizards as prohibited reptiles. It would authorize certain persons and entities to exhibit, sell, or breed green iguanas and tegu lizards commercially under specified conditions. The bill unanimously passed the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday, February 27 and now moves to the House floor for consideration. The Senate companion - SB 1414 – by Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) has passed all committees and moves to the Senate floor for consideration.
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
HB 921 by Representative Chuck Brannan (R-Lake City) would revise the application of agricultural load securing requirements and authorize DACS to purchase private insurance policies and to revoke aquaculture certificates of registration. The bill would extend the scheduled expiration for use of funds from the Pest Control Trust Fund and direct the Florida Forest Service to develop training curriculum for wildland firefighters. It would also provide wildland firefighter training and certification for certain firefighters. The bill unanimously passed the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday, February 27 and moves to the House floor for consideration. The Senate companion - SB 1514 – by Senator Ben Albrittion is awaiting its final committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.