After more than a week of negotiations, the Legislature's proposed FY 2020-21 budget was published on Sunday night at 7:07 p.m. A 72-hour "cooling off" period will now take place, during which the budget cannot be considered or discussed by legislators. On Thursday, March 19, the Legislature will convene at 12:00 p.m. to vote on the final budget. Historic Sine Die traditions - such as "dropping the hankie" on the final day of session - will not take place, as officials have instituted strict safety guidelines for the final day due to the coronavirus outbreak. Additional safety precautions include closing the House and Senate galleries to the public during Thursday's final vote. Legislators have been encouraged to travel alone by car to Tallahassee to vote on the budget and to not travel if displaying any symptoms of the virus. Upon passage, the budget will be submitted to the Governor - who wields line-item veto power - for final approval before being signed into law.
While Friday marked the 60th day of the 2020 Legislative Session, legislators were forced to extend session for another week due to unforeseen developments. Lawmakers and state leaders were faced with much adversity and many decisions this week, as the outbreak of COVID-19 dominated state and national headlines.
On Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order Number 20-52, which declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus. In an attempt to contain the virus, the Governor suspended official travel for state employees for a minimum of 30 days and ordered the Director of the Division of Emergency Management to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the pandemic. For more information from the Florida Department of Health on COVID-19, click here.
With legislators already pressed to complete session by March 13, the chambers passed a concurrent resolution that will extend session until Friday, March 20 at 11:59 p.m. so that the Legislature can pass a Constitutionally-required balanced budget and other related legislation.
In an unforeseen move, the House passed legislation this week that would extend VISIT FLORIDA’s scheduled sunset from 2020 until 2023. Despite not receiving a hearing in a single House committee during session, SB 362 by Senator Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor) was
substituted for HB 213 by Representative Mel Ponder (R-Fort Walton Beach) and passed the House floor by an overwhelming vote of 114-2 on Wednesday. The legislation heads to the Governor’s desk for final approval. This tremendous development signals great news for the tourism industry in the state and will provide stability to VISIT FLORIDA. We are proud to have worked on this legislation on behalf of FAA and look forward to the agency’s extension.
On Friday night, the Legislature passed their proposed FY 2020-21 tax package - HB 7097 by Representative Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah). We are pleased to report that Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) proposed and passed an amendment to the tax package that removed provisions from the bill that would have allowed counties to use TDT dollars to fund water quality improvements and enhancements. We understand how important these funds are to FAA members and that the preservation of the intended uses of these funds are crucial and must be protected at all costs. Overall, the tax package contains many favorable provisions that will keep more money in Floridians' pockets, including a three-day Back-to-School Tax Holiday and seven-day Disaster Preparedness Tax Holiday. In the education sector, future School Capital Outlay sale surtaxes must be proportionately shared with charter schools. Furthermore, in an attempt to continue bringing tourists to our state, the aviation fuel tax would be reduced from $2.85 per gallon to $1.89 per gallon in the tax package.
In another win for FAA members, legislation that would modernize amusement ride inspections and regulations in the state passed the Senate floor this week and heads to the Governor for final approval. SB 1228 by Senator Lauren Book (R-Plantation) would make several revisions to the inspection process, including the frequency of which certain rides must be inspected. Under the bill, temporary amusement rides such as rides at a carnival or fair would be inspected each time the ride is set up at a different location and must receive a certificate of inspection from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). Permanent amusement rides, however, would be exempt from the DACS inspection as long as the rides are inspected twice a year by an accredited inspection organization. The bill would also increase operational accountability for the facilities and managers. Ride managers would be considered the responsible party in ensuring compliance with state standards and the material, testing, electricity and fire standards would be aligned with federal standards. Fines would also serve as a deterrent under the bill, as the maximum fine for an administrative violation would increase from $2,500 to $10,000. DACS would also have the authority to impose fines of $10,000 or more for violations resulting in serious energy or death.
Additionally, after much debate and consideration by members, legislation that seeks to verify the employment eligibility of Florida workers has passed both chambers and heads to Governor DeSantis' desk to be signed into law. A high priority of the Governor, SB 664 by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) would require private and public employers, as well as contractors and subcontractors to use technology to ensure that all employees are legal. Beginning January 1, 2021, a public employer, contractor or subcontractor must register with and implement the E-
Verify system to verify the work status of all employees. If one of the parties has not registered
with E-Verify and has not begun using the system, a contract cannot be entered into. In relation to private employment, beginning on January 1, 2021, a private employer must verify a new worker's status before the employee can begin working. If an employee has worked with the business since before January 1, 2021, the worker's status would not be required to be verified. However, the employee's citizenship status would have to be verified before the employee could receive a contract extension or renewal. While public employers would be limited to using only E-Verify, a private employer would have the ability to use either E-Verify or the information
contained on an employee's I9 form to confirm the employment eligibility. Additionally, the private employer would be required to keep the employee's documentation on file for three years after the employee begins working. In order to enforce these provisions, the Department of Law Enforcement, Attorney General, statewide prosecutor and state attorney may request the employee verification documentation from employers at any time. If a private employer does not comply with these provisions, the employer must provide the Department of Law Enforcement with an affidavit that states they will begin compliance, terminate the unauthorized worker's employment and not knowingly hire an authorized worker. Failure to send an affidavit to FDLE within 30 days would allow the private employer's license to be suspended by appropriate licensing agency until the employer complies with the affidavit submission. If a private employer commits three violations within three years, the business license would be permanently suspended. As previously mentioned, the implementation of this legislation has been a high priority for the Governor since he ran for Governor in 2018 and could have several effects on the business climate in the state.
Following is a quick summary of bills that passed or failed during the 2020 Legislative Session and other items of interest to the Florida Attractions Association (FAA):
HB 1275 by Representative Sharon Pritchett (D-Miami Gardens) was substituted for SB 1228 by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation), unanimously passed the Senate floor on Friday and awaits final approval by Governor DeSantis. The bill 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.
SB 362 by Senator Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor) passed the House floor by a vote of 114-2 on Wednesday with an amendment by Representative Mel Ponder (R-Fort Walton Beach) that would extend the scheduled sunset of VISIT FLORIDA until 2023 instead of 2028. The bill was then sent back to the Senate and passed unanimously. This critical tourism legislation now awaits the Governor’s final action.
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 died in its final committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
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 has passed the House floor and is awaiting consideration in the Senate. The Senate companion - SB 1318 by Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) – died in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology 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 passed all committees but died on the House floor.
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 and never reconsidered. The Senate companion - SB 1128 – by Senator Manny Diaz (R- Hialeah Gardens) died in the Senate Rules Committee.
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 died in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee. The House companion - HB 497 - by Representative James Buchanan (R-North Port) died 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 died in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee.
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 passed all committees but died on the House floor. The Senate companion - SB 772– by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) died in 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 passed the House floor but was never considered in the Senate. The Senate companion - SB 1632 – by Senator Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) died 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 - was substituted for the Senate companion - SB 752 – by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) and unanimously passed the Senate floor. The legislation now awaits the Governor’s final action.
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 died in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee, while the House companion - HB 583 - by Representative Anthony Sabatini (R-Clermont) died 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 died in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The House companion - HB 933 - by Representative Clovis Watson (D-Gainesville) died 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 died in the House Business and Professions Subcommittee. The Senate companion - SB 1814 – by Senator Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach) died 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 Senate companion - SB 1084 – by Senator Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah Gardens) was substituted for the House bill and unanimously passed the House floor on Tuesday, March 10. The bill now heads to the desk of Governor DeSantis for final action.
SB 680 by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) would prohibit the importation, exportation, and sale of shark fins. The bill was substituted for the House companion - HB 401 - by Representative Kristin Jacobs (D-Coconut Creek) and passed the House floor by a vote of 119-1 on Monday, March 9 and the Senate floor unanimously on Thursday, March 12. The bill heads to the Governor for his signature before becoming law.
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 passed the House chamber but the Senate companion - SB 138- by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) died 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 but died in the Senate.
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 Senate companion - SB 664 – by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) was substituted for the House bill and passed the Senate floor by a vote of 23-17 on
Thursday, March 12 and passed the House floor by a vote of 73-45 on Wednesday, March 11. The bill now moves to the Governor for final action.
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 died in the House Oversight, Transparency and Public Management Subcommittee. The Senate companion - SB 1260 – by Senator Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) died 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 Senate companion - SB 1414– by Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) passed the Senate floor on March 5, was substituted for the House bill and unanimously passed the House floor on Wednesday, March 11. The legislation now heads to Governor DeSantis’ desk for final action.
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 authorize the DACS to revoke an aquaculture certificate of registration under certain conditions. The House bill unanimously passed the House floor on Monday, March 9, was substituted for SB 1514 by Senator Ben Albritton and unanimously passed the Senate floor on Friday, March 13. The legislation now heads to Governor DeSantis for final action.
It is our honor to represent FAA and its members and we look forward to seeing legislation that is of priority to the association signed into law. We will also continue to track developments related to the budget and send updates to the association.