Week eight tremendously impacted the 2020 Legislative Session, as policy committees met for the final time and hundreds of bills were heard on the House and Senate floors. With only one week remaining, legislators and advocates are frantically pushing to get legislation heard on the floor. After much anticipation and speculation, the budget conference process began this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, joint budget conference committees met to negotiate their respective budgets and iron out differences.
Liberty Partners is extremely proud to announce that the House and Senate have agreed to fund VISIT FLORIDA at $50 million during FY 2020-21. While the House had been silent on the issue and not appropriated any money for the agency this entire session, the breakthrough came this weekend as House Appropriations Chairman Representative Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) announced on Saturday that the agency would be funded through FY 2020-21. The future is bright for VISIT FLORIDA, as Governor Ron DeSantis has also recommended funding the agency at $50 million. Liberty Partners will fight to ensure that this funding stays in the budget and is signed into law by Governor DeSantis.HB 1265 by Representative Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) passed the House State Affairs Committee by a vote of 16-7 on Monday, March 2. This legislation would potentially affect Florida’s businesses by requiring public employers, contractors and subcontractors to register with E-Verify or an alternate employment verification system to ensure that all employees are legal citizens. If all parties have not registered to use E-Verify or a similar employment verification system, a contract cannot be entered into. Private businesses would also be affected by the legislation, as employers would be required to verify the citizenship status of new employees before hiring them and the status of current employees before renewing or extending the employee's contract. If a private employer does not register with E-Verify or a similar system, the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) would require the employer to submit documentation stating that the business will follow the verification requirements, terminate the employment of undocumented workers and not knowingly hire any undocumented workers. If a business fails to comply with DEO’s requirements within 30 days, the department would suspend the employer's licenses until the information is presented to the department. If a private employer violates these requirements three times in a three year period, the employer's licenses would be permanently suspended. We will continue to monitor this legislation closely on behalf of FAA as it could have repercussions for Florida businesses.
Legislation that would prohibit the sale of shark fins in Florida passed the Senate floor on Thursday by a vote of 37-1. SB 680 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) would additionally prohibit Floridians from importing or exporting the fins. There are exemptions in the legislation, however, as seafood dealers who legally possess and harvest sharks and shark fins and commercial fishermen that have possessed a valid shark fishing permit since January 1, 2020 or earlier would not affected by this bill.
The FY 2020-21 House tax package passed the House floor by a vote of 97-16 on Friday. Sponsored by Representative Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah), HB 7097 contains many positive provisions that will save taxpayers money and encourage business growth in the state. In the package, a seven-day Disaster Preparedness Tax Holiday and three-day Back-to-School Tax Holiday is included. The bill also provides a 0.5% reduction in the state’s communications services tax and a reduction in the state’s business rent tax from 5.5% to 5.4%. While there are several good portions contained in the tax package, Liberty Partners continues to oppose a provision that would allow tourist development tax (TDT) dollars to be used for water quality projects in counties throughout the state. The expanded usage of these dollars 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 dollars to fund the construction or improvement of non-profit or publicly-owned parks and trails. We will continue to track this tax package as it makes its way through the budget conference process and continue to fight the erosion of the appropriate uses for TDT dollars.
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 has not received 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) has unanimously passed the House floor.
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 floor. The House companion - HB 213 - by Representative Mel Ponder (R-Fort Walton Beach) has not received a 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 still awaiting its final committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. There is not 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 passed the House floor by a vote of 108-9 on Wednesday, March 4. The Senate companion - SB 1318 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) - has not been heard in any Senate committee.
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 has passed all committees and is waiting to be heard by all Representatives on the House floor. There is no companion bill 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 was temporarily postponed on the House floor on Friday, March 6. The Senate companion - SB 1128 – by Senator Manny Diaz (R- Hialeah Gardens) was temporarily postponed 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 House committees and 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 has unanimously passed the House floor. 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 unanimously passed the House floor on Tuesday, March 3. The House bill was substituted for the Senate companion - SB 752 – by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) and unanimously passed the Senate floor on Friday, March 6.
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 Housecompanion - 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) unanimously passed 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 passed the Senate floor by a vote of 37-1 on Friday, March 6. 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 unanimously passed 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 Appropriations Committee by a vote of 16-7 on Monday, March 2. The Senate companion - SB 664 – by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) passed the Senate Rules Committee by a vote of 10-7 on Monday, March 2 and awaits consideration on the Senate floor.
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 is awaiting consideration on the House floor. The Senate companion - SB 1414– by Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) unanimously passed the Senate floor on Thursday, March 5.
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 awaits consideration on the House floor. The Senate companion - SB 1514 – by Senator Ben Albrittion is awaiting its final committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.