Linking the Passion and Creativity of the
Florida Attractions Industry


Legislative Updates, Alerts and Reports

Periodically throughout the year - especially during Florida Legislative Session - members receive important communications from the FAA regarding issues involving the tourism industry. Please remember that if you receive a LEGISLATIVE ALERT, timing is critical and minutes matter - read it and take immediate action on behalf of the FAA.




A Legislative Update is a summary of recent activity in the Florida State Legislature.

LEGISLATIVE ALERT is an immediate call to action on behalf of the tourism industry.

Legislative Report is information provided by Liberty Partners of Tallahassee on important industry issues.

Latest Updates, Alerts and Reports

  • March 26, 2021 5:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Updated Thursday, March 25, 2021

    Dangerous bills that would fundamentally affect the way counties can use the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds are quickly moving though the Florida Legislature this Session. HB1429 sponsored by Representative Bryan Avila (111 – Hialeah) and SB2008 sponsored by Senator Manny Diaz (36 – Hialeah Gardens) are companion bills. 

    The House Bill unanimously passed through its first two Committees. HB 1429 is on the Agenda for its final committee, the House State Affairs Committee next Monday, March 29, 2021 at 12:30pm.

    Senate Bill 2008 will be heard in its first committee of reference, the Senate Committee on Community Affairs next Tuesday, March 30 at 3:30pm.

    These bills allow county governments to siphon funds collected through the TDT in your county intended for tourism promotion and use them for “flood mitigation.” Our focus isn’t on this specific expanded use, rather ANY use aside from tourism promotion and marketing weakens our state’s tourism marketing efforts. Tourist Development Taxes invested by Florida destinations result in billions of dollars in sales tax revenue generated by tourists affording a lower tax burden for Florida residents.


    *** CALL TO ACTION ***

    As our industry begins to rebound from the ravages of the pandemic, these bills imperil our ability to recover. Elected officials need to support our economic recovery, not disrupt it. Here is where we need your help!

    1.    Please contact YOUR REPRESENTATIVE and SENATOR. Tell them how the Tourist Development Tax in your county helps market your county destination and attractions. Share how you depend on the efforts of your Tourist Development Committee and/or CVB to bring visitors to your county, increasing your county’s tax base and generating additional TDT funds.

    2.    Please email all members of the House State Affairs Committee and ask them to VOTE NO on HB 1429. Download Committee Database Here.

    3.    Please email all members of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs and ask them to VOTE NO on SB 2008. Download Committee Database Here.


    Thank you for all you do for the FAA and our collective industry. Keep advocating for the protection of Florida tourism!


  • March 23, 2021 1:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The legislative process is in full swing in the State’s Capitol, as committees and subcommittees continue to consider policy and appropriation bills. As the Legislature enters the fourth week of the 2021 Legislative Session, the House and Senate will begin spending more time on their respective floors and both chambers will begin the process of crafting their preliminary budgets for FY 2021-22.

    In statewide news, Governor Ron DeSantis outlined his spending recommendations last week for Florida’s allocation of funds that are available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Governor DeSantis is recommending that the Legislature spend $1.4 billion in federal funding to fund environmental, economic development, educational, behavioral and infrastructure projects during the current fiscal year. Notably, the Governor is recommending that $50 million in federal stimulus funds be used to support VISIT FLORIDA. This investment would be in addition to the $50 million that Governor DeSantis has proposed in his FY 2020-21 budget and would bring the Governor’s total proposed allocation to VISIT FLORIDA to $100 million in FY 2020-21.

    Governor DeSantis also issued Executive Order 21-67 on Friday. This executive order lowers COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to all Floridians age 50 and above, beginning Monday, March 22.

    Below is a summary of bills that have been filed that are of interest to the Florida Attractions Association (FAA):

    Tourist and Convention Development Taxes

    HB 1429 by Representative Bryan Avila (R-Miami) would revise provisions concerning voting procedures for & authorized uses of tourist development taxes (TDT) & convention development taxes (CDT). The bill unanimously passed the House Ways & Means Committee on Monday and awaits its final stop in the House State Affairs Committee. The Senate companion – SB 2008 – by Senator Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah Gardens) has not received a committee hearing. On behalf of FAA, we continue to advocate against the expanded uses of TDT & CDT dollars. Ahead of the committee meeting on Monday, we assisted FAA in drafting a “call to action” for all FAA members that urged them to contact House Ways & Means Committee members and ask them to vote “no” on HB 1429. We urge you to draft an email to your legislators, highlighting how the TDT in your county helps market your attraction and how you depend on these important dollars to bring visitors to your attraction. To find your district’s legislators and their email addresses, click here.

    Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19

    HB 7 by Representative Lawrence McClure (R-Plant City) would provide requirements for civil action based on COVID-19-related claim; provide that the plaintiff has burden of proof in such action and provide a statute of limitations. The bill has passed the House floor. The Senate companion – SB 72 – by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) passed the Senate floor by a vote of 24-15 on Thursday and is awaiting consideration on the House floor.

    Sports Wagering

    HB 1317 by Representative Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) would authorize wagers on sports events; provide duties of Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering; authorize application to division for license to operate sports pool; require annual renewal of license; prohibit sports pools from being offered by anyone other than division or licensee; specify requirements for accepting wagers; authorize provision of benefits to induce wagering; require background checks for licensee employees; prohibit & require adoption of procedures to prevent certain persons from wagering; prohibit accepting wagers from certain persons; provide for distribution of unclaimed winnings; require deposit of certain penalties into DBPR's Pari-mutuel Wagering Trust Fund. The bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee. The Senate companion – SB 392 – by Senator Jeff Brandes is awaiting its first committee stop in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

    Alcoholic Beverage Licenses

    HB 329 by Representative Josie Tomkow (R-Auburndale) would authorize food service establishments to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption if requirements are met; revise provisions that authorize restaurant to allow patrons to remove partially consumed bottles of wine from restaurant for off-premises consumption; revise requirements for sale of alcoholic beverages by certain vendors. The bill unanimously passed the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday. The Senate companion – SB 134 – by Senator Jeff Brandes is still awaiting its first stop in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. A related bill – SB 148 – by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Orange Park) is awaiting its final hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.

    Sales & Use Tax

    HB 15 by Representative Chuck Clemons (R-Jonesville) would revise conditions for certain dealers subject to sales tax; delete exemption for certain dealers from collecting local option surtaxes; provide certain marketplace providers are subject to registration, collection, & remittance requirements for sales

    taxes; require marketplace providers to provide certification to marketplace sellers; specify requirements for marketplace sellers; require marketplace providers to allow DOR to audit books & records; provide that marketplace seller is liable for sales tax collection & remittance; authorize marketplace providers & marketplace sellers to enter into agreements to recover certain taxes, interest, & penalties; grant DOR settlement & compromise authority for marketplace sales; remove authority of DOR to negotiate collection allowance with certain dealers. The House bill is awaiting its final committee stop in the House Commerce Committee. The Senate companion – SB 50 – by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor.

    Protecting Consumers Against Pandemic-related Fraud

    HB 9 by Representative Ardian Zika (R-Land O’Lakes) would define "personal protective equipment"; prohibit dissemination of false or misleading information relating to personal protective equipment with specified intent; prohibit dissemination of false or misleading vaccine information with specified intent; authorize state attorney or statewide prosecutor to prosecute violation; authorize AG to seek civil remedies. The bill has been passed by the full House and is waiting for action on the Senate bill. The Senate companion – SB 1608 – by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) unanimously passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committeeon Tuesday and awaits its final hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.

    Zoological and Aquarium Grant Program

    HB 1175 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) would authorize DEO to establish grant program for support of zoos & aquariums located within state; provide eligibility requirements; authorizes use of grant funds for certain purposes; require DEO to adopt rules; provide that DEO has final grant approval authority. The bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee. The Senate companion – SB 1312 by Senator Jennifer Bradley – unanimously passed the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee on Monday, March 22.

    Technology Transparency

    HB 7013 by Representative Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) would create cause of action against social media platform for unlawful practices related to censoring deplatforming or shadow banning; specify instances when private cause of action may be brought; specify calculation of damages; specify powers of DLA related to investigations of social media platforms; provide requirements for public contracts & economic incentives related to entities who have been convicted or held civilly liable for antitrust violations; require DMS to maintain antitrust violator vendor list; provide procedural & legal rights for person to challenge placement on list; prohibit person on antitrust violator vendor list from receiving certain economic incentives; prohibit social media platforms from knowingly deplatforming candidate; specify fines. The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee by a vote of 19-8 on Monday. The Senate companion – SB 520 – by Senator Danny Burgess (R-Zephryhills) is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Cultural and Historical Programs

    HB 909 by Representative Tyler Sirois (R-Merritt Island) would designate the Museum of Florida History as the official state history museum; rename the Division of Cultural Affairs as the Division of Arts & Culture; transfer certain responsibilities from Division of Cultural Affairs to Division of Historical Resources; revise provisions relating to Museum of Florida History museum store; provide for disposition of abandoned property. The bill unanimously passed the House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday. The Senate companion – SB 1404 – by Senator Ed Hooper is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 23.

    Tourism Marketing Entities

    HB 675 by Representative Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando) would authorize the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation – VISIT FLORIDA - to carry forward unexpended state appropriations into succeeding fiscal years; abrogate the repeal of provisions establishing Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation, direct-support organization of Enterprise Florida, Inc., & Division of Tourism Marketing within Enterprise Florida, Inc. The bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee. The Senate companion – SB 778 – by Senator Ed Hooper is awaiting its final hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    Vacation Rentals

    HB 219 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) would require advertising platforms to collect & remit specified taxes imposed for certain transactions; preempt regulation of vacation rentals to the state; prohibit a local law, ordinance, or regulation from allowing or requiring inspections or licensing of public lodging establishments, including vacation rentals, or public food service establishments and require licenses issued by Division of Hotels & Restaurants of DBPR to be displayed conspicuously to the public inside the licensed establishment. The House bill was temporarily postponed in the House Ways & Means Committee on Monday, March 22. The Senate companion – SB 522 – by Senator Manny Diaz is awaiting its final stop in the Senate Rules Committee.


    2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION SCHEDULE

     

    January 11 – January 15, 2021                                1st Interim Committee Week

    January 25 – January 29, 2021                                2nd Interim Committee Week

    February 1 – February 5, 2021                                3rd Interim Committee Week

    February 8 – February 12, 2021                              4th Interim Committee Week

    February 15 – February 19, 2021                            5th Interim Committee Week

    March 2, 2021                                                            Regular Session Convenes

    April 20, 2021                                                            Last Day for Regular Committee Meetings

    April 30, 2021                                                            Last Day of Regular Session


  • March 22, 2021 7:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Risky bills that would fundamentally affect the way counties use the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funds have been introduced this Session. HB1429 sponsored by Representative Bryan Avila (111 – Hialeah) and SB2008 sponsored by Senator Manny Diaz (36 – Hialeah Gardens) are companion bills. 

    The Senate Bill has three committees of reference and has not been considered yet.

    The House Bill unanimously passed the Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee last Monday. HB 1429 is on the agenda for the House Ways & Means Committee TODAY, Monday, March 22 at 12:30pm.

    The bill makes two fundamental changes to the Tourist Development Tax:

    1. Adds “flood mitigation projects and improvements” as permissible uses of the TDT. In effect, it allows county governments to siphon funds collected through the TDT in your county intended for tourism promotion and use them for “flood mitigation.”
    2. Requires that TDT Taxes and Convention Development Taxes (CDT – applies to Duval, Miami-Dade and Volusia Counties) be reauthorized by public referendum every five years.

    *** CALL TO ACTION ***

    Please contact YOUR REPRESENTAIVE and members of the House Ways and Means Committee . Tell them how the Tourist Development Tax in your county help market your county destination and attraction. Share how you depend on the efforts of your Tourist Development Committee and CVB to bring visitors to your county, increasing your county’s tax base and generating additional TDT funds.

    As our industry begins to rebound from the ravages of the pandemic, this bill imperils our ability to recover. Elected officials need to support our economic recovery, not disrupt it. Here is where we need your help!

    Please email all of the members of the House Ways and Means Committee and ask them to VOTE NO on HB 1429.

    Download Committee Database Here. 

    Thank you for all you do for the FAA and our collective industry. Keep advocating for the protection of Florida tourism!


  • March 15, 2021 12:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The legislative process was in full swing in Tallahassee this week, as legislators convened for the second week of the 2021 Legislative Session. Many bills continue to make their way through the committee process, while other bills have not made any movement. The Legislature has filed 2,995 bills so far this session, while 3,578 bills were filed during last year’s session.

    In statewide news, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that all individuals 60 years of age and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. He also announced that numerous counties will increase the number of vaccination sites that they have, while more Walgreens & CVS pharmacies across the state will also begin administering the vaccine.

    Several pieces of legislation that could impact the state’s tourism industry moved forward in the legislative process this week. Below is a summary of bills that have been filed that are of interest to the Florida Attractions Association (FAA):

    Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19
    HB 7 by Representative Lawrence McClure (R-Plant City) would provide requirements for civil action based on COVID-19-related claim; provide that the plaintiff has burden of proof in such action and provide a statute of limitations. The bill has passed the House floor. The Senate companion – SB 72 – by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) passed the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday and now moves to the Senate floor for consideration.

    Tourist And Convention Development Taxes
    HB 1429 by Representative Bryan Avila (R-Miami) would revise provisions concerning voting procedures for & authorized uses of tourist development taxes & convention development taxes. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee on Monday. The Senate companion – SB 2008 – by Senator Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah Gardens) is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

    Vacation Rentals
    HB 219 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) would require advertising platforms to collect & remit specified taxes imposed for certain transactions; preempt regulation of vacation rentals to the state; prohibit a local law, ordinance, or regulation from allowing or requiring inspections or licensing of public lodging establishments, including vacation rentals, or public food service establishments and require licenses issued by Division of Hotels & Restaurants of DBPR to be displayed conspicuously to the public inside the licensed establishment. The House bill is awaiting its second committee stop in the House Ways & Means Committee. The Senate companion – SB 522 – by Senator Manny Diaz passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 13-5 on Thursday.

    Sports Wagering
    HB 1317 by Representative Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) would authorize wagers on sports events; provide duties of Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering; authorize application to division for license to operate sports pool; require annual renewal of license; prohibit sports pools from being offered by anyone other than division or licensee; specify requirements for accepting wagers; authorize provision of benefits to induce wagering; require background checks for licensee employees; prohibit & require adoption of procedures to prevent certain persons from wagering; prohibit accepting wagers from certain persons; provide for distribution of unclaimed winnings; require deposit of certain penalties into DBPR's Pari-mutuel Wagering Trust Fund. The bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee. The Senate companion – SB 392 – by Senator Jeff Brandes is awaiting its first committee stop in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

    Alcoholic Beverage Licenses
    HB 329 by Representative Josie Tomkow (R-Auburndale) would authorize food service establishments to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption if requirements are met; revise provisions that authorize restaurant to allow patrons to remove partially consumed bottles of wine from restaurant for off-premises consumption; revise requirements for sale of alcoholic beverages by certain vendors. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday. The Senate companion – SB 134 – by Senator Jeff Brandes is awaiting its first stop in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. A related bill – SB 148 – by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Orange Park) is awaiting its final hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.

    Sales & Use Tax
    HB 15 by Representative Chuck Clemons (R-Jonesville) would revise conditions for certain dealers subject to sales tax; delete exemption for certain dealers from collecting local option surtaxes; provide certain marketplace providers are subject to registration, collection, & remittance requirements for sales taxes; require marketplace providers to provide certification to marketplace sellers; specify requirements for marketplace sellers; require marketplace providers to allow DOR to audit books & records; provide that marketplace seller is liable for sales tax collection & remittance; authorize marketplace providers & marketplace sellers to enter into agreements to recover certain taxes, interest, & penalties; grant DOR settlement & compromise authority for marketplace sales; remove authority of DOR to negotiate collection allowance with certain dealers. The bill passed the House Ways & Means Committee by a vote of 16-2 on Thursday. The Senate companion – SB 50 – by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor.

    Protecting Consumers Against Pandemic-related Fraud
    HB 9 by Representative Ardian Zika (R-Land O’Lakes) would define "personal protective equipment"; prohibit dissemination of false or misleading information relating to personal protective equipment with specified intent; prohibit dissemination of false or misleading vaccine information with specified intent; authorize state attorney or statewide prosecutor to prosecute violation; authorize AG to seek civil remedies. The bill has been passed by the full House and is waiting for action on the Senate bill. The Senate companion – SB 1608 – by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committeeon Tuesday.

    Zoological and Aquarium Grant Program
    HB 1175 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) would authorize DEO to establish grant program for support of zoos & aquariums located within state; provide eligibility requirements; authorizes use of grant funds for certain purposes; require DEO to adopt rules; provide that DEO has final grant approval authority. The bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee. The Senate companion – SB 1312 by Senator Jennifer Bradley – is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee.

    Technology Transparency
    HB 7013 by Representative Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) would create cause of action against social media platform for unlawful practices related to censoring deplatforming or shadow banning; specify instances when private cause of action may be brought; specify calculation of damages; specify powers of DLA related to investigations of social media platforms; provide requirements for public contracts & economic incentives related to entities who have been convicted or held civilly liable for antitrust violations; require DMS to maintain antitrust violator vendor list; provide procedural & legal rights for person to challenge placement on list; prohibit person on antitrust violator vendor list from receiving certain economic incentives; prohibit social media platforms from knowingly deplatforming candidate; specify fines. The bill is scheduled to heard in the House Appropriations Committee on Monday. The Senate companion – SB 520 – by Senator Danny Burgess (R-Zephryhills) is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Cultural and Historical Programs
    HB 909 by Representative Tyler Sirois (R-Merritt Island) would designate the Museum of Florida History as the official state history museum; rename the Division of Cultural Affairs as the Division of Arts & Culture; transfer certain responsibilities from Division of Cultural Affairs to Division of Historical Resources; revise provisions relating to Museum of Florida History museum store; provide for disposition of abandoned property. The bill is awaiting its second hearing in the House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee. The Senate companion – SB 1404 – by Senator Ed Hooper is awaiting its second hearing in the Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

    Tourism Marketing Entities
    HB 675 by Representative Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando) would authorize the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation – VISIT FLORIDA - to carry forward unexpended state appropriations into succeeding fiscal years; abrogate the repeal of provisions establishing Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation, direct-support organization of Enterprise Florida, Inc., & Division of Tourism Marketing within Enterprise Florida, Inc. The bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee. The Senate companion – SB 778 – by Senator Ed Hooper is awaiting its final hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION SCHEDULE

    January 11 – January 15, 2021                                1st Interim Committee Week

    January 25 – January 29, 2021                                2nd Interim Committee Week

    February 1 – February 5, 2021                                3rd Interim Committee Week

    February 8 – February 12, 2021                              4th Interim Committee Week

    February 15 – February 19, 2021                            5th Interim Committee Week

    March 2, 2021                                                            Regular Session Convenes

    April 20, 2021                                                            Last Day for Regular Committee Meetings

    April 30, 2021                                                            Last Day of Regular Session  


  • March 10, 2021 9:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our partners at Destinations Florida, our state’s county DMO association has published a new research study entitled Destination Promotion: Empowering Florida’s Growth.  The publication makes a conceiving case for public support of out state and county DMOS.  Click here  <link> to read or download the report – and feel free to share it with your Legislators, local public officials and tourism colleagues.  Special thanks to Destinations Florida for their work on this important report.

    Destination-Promotion-Empowering-Floridas-Growth-v1.pdf (fadmo.org)


  • March 06, 2021 8:50 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The 2021 Legislative Session officially kicked off on Tuesday, as lawmakers in the House and Senate convened in Tallahassee for opening day ceremonies. While the legislative process looks quite different than in previous years, House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater), Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and Governor Ron DeSantis laid out their visions for the 60-day legislative session.

    During the House’s opening session on Tuesday, Speaker Sprowls focused on the importance of education, childhood literacy and expanding workforce education programs in the state. Health care is also a priority of the Speaker, as he looks to improve health outcomes in minority communities. Improvements to the state’s foster care and child welfare systems are also on Speaker Sprowls’ radar, as well as addressing environmental concerns such as sea level rise throughout the state’s communities.

    President Simpson spoke in detail about his goals for session during his speech to Senate colleagues. He began his address by thanking all health care workers, first responders and essential workers for their perseverance and determination during these unprecedented times. President Simpson is also concerned about the state’s economic health and shared that federal economic relief dollars will go toward road projects, water infrastructure and replenishing the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund. President Simpson will also look to tackle numerous policy issues during this year’s session, including COVID-19 liability protections, pension plans and child welfare. Increasing educational options for students in the K-12 education system is also important, as he discussed the need to expand and streamline the state’s scholarship programs, while also encouraging workforce education programs.

    To conclude Tuesday’s ceremonies, Governor Ron DeSantis presented his State of the State address to members of the House and Senate. In the weeks ahead, the Governor will be focused on keeping Florida’s schools and businesses open, protecting businesses from frivolous litigation, and maintaining Florida’s fiscal health. Governor DeSantis also noted that the state’s revenues are currently exceeding previous forecasts and that tourism revenues are expected to increase in the coming months. He will also look to bolster Florida’s reputation as an educational leader. Through increased school choice options, vocational training opportunities and course certifications, the Governor is optimistic that Florida will be able to meet future workforce needs.

    Water quality and natural resource preservation are also high on Governor DeSantis’ priority list. During his speech, he encouraged legislators to fund environmental projects such as Resilient Florida. Resilient Florida is a $1 billion investment that would help communities prepare for flooding and other environmental threats that stem from sea level rise and natural disasters.

    To conclude his State of the State, Governor DeSantis reiterated his support for law enforcement and highlighted legislation that seeks to crack down on rioting and violent protests. He also voiced the need for large technology companies to be held accountable when de-platforming or censoring users.

    While Tuesday’s activities were mainly ceremonial, several committees in the House and Senate met throughout the week and advanced impactful legislation. Following is a quick summary of bills that have been filed that are of interest to the Florida Attractions Association (FAA):

    Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19
    HB 7 by Representative Lawrence McClure (R-Plant City) would provide requirements for civil action based on COVID-19-related claim; provide that the plaintiff has burden of proof in such action and provide a statute of limitations. The bill passed the House floor on Friday, March 5. The Senate companion – SB 72 – by Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is awaiting its final committee hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.

    Tourist And Convention Development Taxes
    HB 1429 by Representative Bryan Avila (R-Miami) would revise provisions concerning voting procedures for & authorized uses of tourist development taxes & convention development taxes. The House bill has not been referred to any committees. The Senate companion – SB 2008 – by Senator Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah Gardens) is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

    Vacation Rentals
    HB 219 by Representative Jason Fischer (R-Jacksonville) would require advertising platforms to collect & remit specified taxes imposed for certain transactions; preempt regulation of vacation rentals to the state; prohibit a local law, ordinance, or regulation from allowing or requiring inspections or licensing of public lodging establishments, including vacation rentals, or public food service establishments and require licenses issued by Division of Hotels & Restaurants of DBPR to be displayed conspicuously to the public inside the licensed establishment. The House bill is awaiting its second committee stop in the House Ways & Means Committee. The Senate companion – SB 522 – by Senator Manny Diaz is awaiting its second committee stop in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    Sports Wagering
    HB 1317 by Representative Chip LaMarca (R-Lighthouse Point) would authorize wagers on sports events; provide duties of Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering; authorize application to division for license to operate sports pool; require annual renewal of license; prohibit sports pools from being offered by anyone other than division or licensee; specify requirements for accepting wagers; authorize provision of benefits to induce wagering; require background checks for licensee employees; prohibit & require adoption of procedures to prevent certain persons from wagering; prohibit accepting wagers from certain persons; provide for distribution of unclaimed winnings; require deposit of certain penalties into DBPR's Pari-mutuel Wagering Trust Fund. The bill has not received any committee references. The Senate companion – SB 392 – by Senator Jeff Brandes is awaiting its first committee stop in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

    Alcoholic Beverage Licenses
    HB 329 by Representative Josie Tomkow (R-Auburndale) would authorize food service establishments to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption if requirements are met; revise provisions that authorize restaurant to allow patrons to remove partially consumed bottles of wine from restaurant for off-premises consumption; revise requirements for sale of alcoholic beverages by certain vendors. The House bill is awaiting its final committee stop in the House Commerce Committee. The Senate companion – SB 134 – by Senator Jeff Brandes is awaiting its first stop in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. A related bill – SB 148 – by Senator Jennifer Bradley (R-Orange Park) is awaiting its second hearing in the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee.

    Sales & Use Tax
    HB 15 by Representative Chuck Clemons (R-Jonesville) would revise conditions for certain dealers subject to sales tax; delete exemption for certain dealers from collecting local option surtaxes; provide certain marketplace providers are subject to registration, collection, & remittance requirements for sales taxes; require marketplace providers to provide certification to marketplace sellers; specify requirements for marketplace sellers; require marketplace providers to allow DOR to audit books & records; provide that marketplace seller is liable for sales tax collection & remittance; authorize marketplace providers & marketplace sellers to enter into agreements to recover certain taxes, interest, & penalties; grant DOR settlement & compromise authority for marketplace sales; remove authority of DOR to negotiate collection allowance with certain dealers. The House bill is awaiting its first hearing in the House Ways & Means Committee. The Senate companion – SB 50 – by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) has passed all committee references and heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

    Protecting Consumers Against Pandemic-related Fraud
    HB 9 by Representative Ardian Zika (R-Land O’Lakes) would define "personal protective equipment"; prohibit dissemination of false or misleading information relating to personal protective equipment with specified intent; prohibit dissemination of false or misleading vaccine information with specified intent; authorize state attorney or statewide prosecutor to prosecute violation; authorize AG to seek civil remedies. The bill has been passed by the full House and is waiting for action on the Senate bill. The Senate companion – SB 1608 – by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) is awaiting its first committee hearing in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.


    2021 LEGISLATIVE SESSION SCHEDULE

    January 11 – January 15, 2021 1st Interim Committee Week

    January 25 – January 29, 2021 2nd Interim Committee Week

    February 1 – February 5, 2021 3rd Interim Committee Week

    February 8 – February 12, 2021 4th Interim Committee Week

    February 15 – February 19, 2021 5th Interim Committee Week

    March 2, 2021 Regular Session Convenes

    April 20, 2021 Last Day for Regular Committee Meetings

    April 30, 2021 Last Day of Regular Session


  • December 01, 2020 2:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On Tuesday, November 17, lawmakers gathered in Tallahassee for the 2020 Organization Session. During the ceremonies, Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater) were formally elected by their respective bodies and assumed their leadership positions for the 2020-22 Legislative Term. Senate President Pro Tempore Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), House Speaker Pro Tempore Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah), Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale), Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach), House Majority Whip Michael Grant (R-Port Charlotte) and House Minority Leaders Evan Jenne (D-Dania Beach) and Bobby DuBose (D-Ft. Lauderdale) were also formally elected as legislative officers for the 2020-22 Legislative Term.

    Newly-elected and reelected legislators were sworn in during Organization Session, with Governor Ron DeSantis and members of the Florida Cabinet present. The 2020 Organization Session protocols were significantly modified this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a precautionary measure, only current legislators were allowed to be on the floor during Organization Session. According to the Senate's Organization Session Protocols, only newly-elected Senators were allowed to bring one guest or a spouse into the chamber and each Senator and guest were required to take a COVID-19 rapid test and have a negative result before entering the chamber. The Senate gallery was closed to visitors, as friends, families and those involved in the political process watched virtually. In addition to testing negative for COVID-19, each Senator and guest were required to have their temperatures checked before entering the chamber.

    The House followed similar protocols, with each Representative – newly-elected or an incumbent – allowed to bring one guest to watch the ceremony from the House gallery. Each Representative and their guest were also required to test negative for COVID-19 and pass a temperature check before entering the chamber or gallery. In addition to this measure, Representatives on the House floor were required to wear a mask during the day’s events.

    Although COVID-19 is on the forefront of Floridians’ minds, President Simpson and Speaker Sprowls were able to share a vision for Florida’s future in their acceptance speeches. Speaker Sprowls covered many issues during his acceptance speech, including the connection between water quality and the quality of human life. Child welfare was also a theme of his acceptance speech, as he spoke about the importance of creating support systems for children in foster care and employing quality caseworkers. Speaker Sprowls also spoke at length concerning closing the achievement gaps in the education sector and implementing accountability measures in the education system. It is his hope that by increasing literacy rates among children and getting parents involved in their children’s education, students in our state’s school system will be able to meet employment demands in the future.

    The scope of President Simpson’s acceptance speech was much narrower, focusing on the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the need for a structural change to the state’s yearly budget. President Simpson noted that while budget reductions must take place in some areas, investments in water quality, child welfare and infrastructure are needed. He also called on all Senators to examine past legislative priorities and determine which programs have not been successful.

    In addition to the swearing in of officers and elected officials, the House and Senate passed their respective rules, as well as the Joint Rules Resolution. Senators and Representatives will now remain in their districts before reconvening in Tallahassee during the week of January 11 for the first Interim Committee Week.


    Provided by Liberty Partners of Tallahassee

  • May 11, 2020 2:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Liberty Partners would like to wish all mothers a Happy Mother's Day. We hope that you spend this time with family and friends and enjoy your time together.

    Floridians' attention was on the state returning to a sense of normalcy this week, as Phase 1 of Governor Ron DeSantis' Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida's Recovery began on Monday. Restaurants, retail establishments and small businesses are breathing a sigh of relief, as it appears the first week of 25% capacity was a success. Florida's healthcare industry also fared well this week, as a decline in new COVID-19 cases was seen, while hospitalization and fatality rates remained steady. Palm Beach County will enter Phase 1 on May 11, while Miami-Dade and Broward counties have their eyes on reopening in the near future. Local leaders from these counties will look to craft reopening recommendations that can be submitted to Governor DeSantis for final approval in the coming weeks.

    The Governor also announced two executive orders this week in response to COVID-19. These executive orders ensure the safety of all Floridians while allowing hardworking individuals to return to work.

    While hotels, motels and various lodging establishments have stayed open through the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing has remained constant - vacation rentals continue to be prohibited. Questions surrounding the ban on vacation rentals persist as these short-term rental properties pose a much lower risk of spreading the virus than hotels and motels. By using a short-term vacation rental, common areas such as a lobby or concierge desk are eliminated, therefore creating a safe and protected environment. As we move forward in the reopening process, the Expedia Group and vacation rental owners statewide urge the Governor to lift these unfair restrictions.

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, firefighters and first responders involved in the devastating wildfires in Santa Rosa and Walton counties. While property and homes can be replaced, the utmost priority is ensuring that lives are protected. Our neighbors in the Panhandle are resilient and we know that these communities will come back stronger than ever before.

    Read below to catch up on all of the key developments, events and client actions that took place across the state this week.


    AMOUNT OF NEW COVID-19 CASES DECREASE AS STATE BEGINS TO REOPEN

    With a total of 40,596 positive COVID-19 cases in Florida to date, the percentage of new cases continues to decrease, even as testing is extensively expanded across the state. While last week saw 4,550 new cases reported, 4,518 new cases were reported this week. The percentage of individuals hospitalized or dying due to the virus held steady, with hospitalization rates of 18% and death rates of 4%. Drive-thru and walk-up sites around the state are administering a high volume of tests with Florida having tested approximately 2.5% of the state's population. These testing methods - combined with antibody and serological testing - ensure that Florida is a leader in pandemic response and recovery.

    While 64 Florida counties reopened for business this week, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties maintain a slower, methodical approach. With nearly 60% of statewide COVID-19 cases clustered in this region, county leaders look to outline reopening recommendations and present these recommendations to Governor DeSantis within the coming weeks. As previously mentioned, Palm Beach County has submitted recommendations to the Governor and will begin Phase 1 of recovery on May 11.

    As beaches, parks, stores and restaurants reopen throughout the state, a key point of focus will be on the COVID-19 positivity rate trends. If the positivity rates continue to decrease, Florida will be in a good position to begin Phase 2 of the Governor's recovery plan. It is anticipated that if trends remain the same or continue to improve, the state is on track to enter Phase 2 by the middle of May.

    To read more statistics and receive frequent updates, visit the Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.

    Click the links below to learn more and remember that you are #SaferAtHome.


    VACATION RENTAL GIANT VRBO URGES GOVERNOR TO OPEN VACATION RENTALS

    Vacation rentals in Florida are "short term rentals" meaning they are rental under 6 months. These include houses, duplexes and condos and are largely single-family homes. Since the beginning of Florida's near "lockdown" due to the rise of COVID-19, vacation rentals have been banned for use in the state. In essence, these type of short-term rentals are the only type of public lodging establishment with limitations on occupancy.

    Why hotels and motels were not also included in Governor DeSantis' Executive Order banning vacation rentals, is curious because unlike hotels, these properties have no common areas for guests to congregate in groups of more than 10 like lobbies and elevator waiting areas. More importantly, short term rentals typically have their own kitchens - which would be a much more controlled environment than a hotel. What is the difference between 10 people staying in a vacation home versus 10 people staying in five rooms at a hotel?

    In a post-COVID-19 environment, short term rentals are going to be incredibly important for travelers. Guests want to be safe and would more likely want to be in a private property that can be completely controlled as to who can access, eat in it, etc. Vacation rentals are already licensed by the state of Florida and have inspection and sanitation standards. There is no reason that sanitation standards for all lodging establishments can't continue to be enforced and additional CDC guidelines or standards can be provided to all vacation rental licensees to display for consumers.

    Short term rentals are vital in areas like the panhandle. Many owners of vacation homes use them as rentals for additional income and are desperate for income as they have lost jobs themselves or seen their housekeepers, managers and handymen lose their ability to make a living as well. As Florida heads towards the 2020 Memorial Day Weekend, many supporters of vacation rentals like Rep. Jayer Williamson are urging Governor DeSantis to reconsider his ban on vacation rentals and allow property owners to rent their properties on or before the May 25, 2020 holiday (to read coverage on Rep. Williamson's letter to Governor DeSantis.).

      

    GOVERNOR DESANTIS ISSUES TWO MORE EXECUTIVE ORDERS

    Governor DeSantis issued two executive orders related to COVID-19 this week. Executive Order #2020-114 extends Executive Order #2020-52 which declared a State of Emergency for the entire state due to COVID-19. Originally issued on March 9, Executive Order #2020-52 was set to expire or be extended by Governor DeSantis within 60 days, with the Governor choosing the latter. Executive Order #2020-114 will remain in effect for 60 days, unless amended by the Governor.

    Issued by the Governor on Saturday, Executive Order #2020-120 expands Phase 1 of his Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida's Recovery. Under the Executive Order, Palm Beach County will be allowed to enter Phase 1 of recovery and begin to reopen their economy on Monday, May 11. Additionally, the Executive Order authorizes barbershops, cosmetology salons and cosmetology specialty salons to resume services on Monday, May 11, as long as they adopt social distancing and safety measures outlined by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The decision to reopen salons and barbershops comes on the heels of many business leaders urging the Governor to take action on this issue.

      

    VRBO LAYS OUT NEW VACATION RENTA SANITATION GUIDELINES

    In a Friday press releaseVrbo announced new measures the vacation rental company is taking to ensure guests feel comfortable when it is time to rent a vacation destination. Upon working with government officials, travel experts and health professionals, Vrbo announced new cleaning and disinfection guidelines. These guidelines combine information from the CDC, WHO and Cristal International Standards to inform rental owners and property managers of sanitation measures they should take in between guest stays. Homeowners will be able to report if the rental has been cleaned with the disinfectant, if guests can have non-contact check ins and check outs and if the property has a 24-hour unavailability period between renters.

    Vrbo is also introducing flexible cancellation search filters that will allow guests to have access to flexible cancellation policies when booking a vacation rental. Families can use search filters to find properties that offer full refunds upon cancellation by a certain date, while Vrbo will also highlight listings that have the most relaxed cancellation policies.

    Finally, the company will give travelers suggestions for vacation rentals within driving distance by providing drivable destination locations to users within the Vrbo app. For more information on Vrbo's drivable vacation rental destinations, click here.

    Owned by the Expedia Group, Vrbo is taking a proactive approach to reopening vacation rentals in the state and the team at Liberty Partners is thankful to represent Expedia Group and their companies Vrbo and HomeAway.

      

    FLORIDA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CONTINUES EXTENSIVE UPDATES AMID COVID-19

    The Florida Chamber of Commerce - a Liberty Partners client - has been providing key resources and updates during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the Chamber's daily membership update this week, President and CEO Mark Wilson highlighted the gradual reopening of Florida's economy and measures that must be taken to ensure Florida does not experience a second wave of the virus. Members of the Florida Chamber are also encouraged to take a brief survey that will help guide the Chamber as the economy begins to restart. The daily updates provide a list of scheduled events that keep members and local chapters aware of upcoming meetings and webinars, as well as federal recovery program updates. The Chamber reminds Floridians to follow facts, not fear during this pandemic. We are grateful for the work that is being done by the Chamber during these uncertain times and continue to assist them in any way possible.

       

    FAA DEVELOPS BEST PRACTICES FOR REOPENING ATTRACTIONS

    On the heels of Governor DeSantis announcing his Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida's Recovery, the Florida Attractions Association (FAA) has released an update for Reopening Florida's Attractions. FAA has crafted Best Practice Considerations that lay a foundation for reopening attractions in the state. With a primary focus on safety, the considerations provide an industry-wide framework that requires each attraction to adopt and adhere to CDC and OSHA guidelines, as well as social distancing guidelines that are required during the various statewide reopening phases. While opening public museums is a commendable start, FAA would like to see Florida's attractions reopened under an amended Phase 1 of the Governor's plan or under the upcoming Phase 2. 

    In addition to these efforts, FAA encourages their members to reach out to their respective state legislators to advocate for attractions across the state and urge the Governor to take action to reopen these attractions. Once the Governor decides to allow these attractions to reopen, each member of FAA will make an educated decision on how and when to reopen. With Florida's world-class attractions being a major driver of the state's tremendous tourism industry, it is imperative that attractions in the state have clear, concise operation guidelines. We are proud to represent FAA and look forward to the Governor giving industry guidance in the near future.

  • April 27, 2020 3:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Florida's focus remains on COVID-19 response and recovery. Statistically, the number of new cases in the state is increasing at a lower rate. As of Sunday morning, 30,680 total cases had been reported - an increase of 4,366 new cases. The state has seen 4,957 hospitalizations and 1,074 casualties as a result of the pandemic. The number of cases in the state are overwhelming concentrated in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, with these two counties accounting for 52% of statewide cases.

    On Monday, Governor Desantis announced the creation of the "Re-Open Florida Task Force" to make recommendations and suggestions for reopening Florida's economy after the statewide Stay-at-Home Order expires on April 30. The executive committee and working groups will submit their recommendations to the Governor's staff. The Governor's staff will then compile the recommendations into a report and allow the executive committee and working groups to review the report before submitting to the Governor for final approval. In addition to these measures, the Governor launched a Re-Open Florida Public Comment website that will allow members of the public to submit recommendations and suggestions for reopening the state.

    Uber continues to lead the way in private-sector COVID-19 response. This week, Uber launched two new programs - Uber Direct and Uber Connect. Uber Direct will allow manufacturers and retailers to ship products directly to consumers in a safe and efficient manner. Uber Connect will allow users in select cities to send packages to friends and loved ones. This feature will let packages be sent via same-day, no-contact delivery at a reasonable cost.

    Dr. John Schultz, a Master Corporal with the Florida Highway Patrol and a Liberty Partners of Tallahassee alumni, is joining the National Police Foundation in an advisory role. A decorated state trooper, Dr. Schultz currently serves as Master Corporal in the Florida Highway Patrol's Traffic Homicide Advanced Investigation and Reconstruction Team. With more than 28 years of experience, Dr. Schultz has received numerous accolades and honors, including the Florida State Trooper of the month for Troop-F in 2016 and 2017, the Sons of American Revolution Law Enforcement Commendation 2016 Award, and the Governor's Medal of Heroism Award in 2017. We are extremely proud of Dr. Schultz and are proud to call him a friend and former member of the Liberty Partners team.

    On Friday evening, Senate President Bill Galvano released a memo that provides key updates on the March General Revenue Collections Report and COVID-19. In the report, President Galvano commends the work done by healthcare professionals in the state and touts the state's response to the coronavirus. Galvano also thanks the Department of Economic Opportunity for their hard work in processing and paying out unemployment claims. On Friday afternoon, the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) released their final General Revenue Collection Report for March. While state sales tax collections came in $12.4M lower than previous projections, overall tax collections were $61.3M more than previous projections. EDR cautioned against being overly optimistic, noting that the report only accounts for one week of collections in March. President Galvano noted that $4.6B in federal CARES Act funding has been given to the state for funding stabilization. Galvano is hopeful that this funding - combined with Florida's strong reserves - will allow the Legislature to not meet for a Special Session.

    Read below to catch up on all the key events that took place across the state last week.

    STATE SEES DECREASE IN NEW COVID-19 CASES

    Floridians are beginning to see signs of hope, as the rate of new COVID-19 cases in the state is decreasing. While the state reported 26,314 cases last week, as of Sunday evening, the state reported 31,528. This statistic reflects the fact that many statewide leaders believe Florida has reached a plateau and will begin seeing a consisten decrease in cases per week. The state did, however, see a significant increase in the amount of Floridians hospitalized due to the virus, with the total number of hospitalizations rising to 4,957. The state also saw 300 additional Floridians succumb to the pandemic this week, bring the total number of casualties to 1,074. The majority of cases continue to be concentrated in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

    A main priority of Governor DeSantis remains increasing testing throughout the state. As the number of tests administered increases, the number of positive cases can also expect to increase. However, Florida has seen and is projected to continue to see a low percentage of the total population infected with the virus. Many citizens have taken advantage of the state's drive-thru testing sites in a convenient and simple manner. Additionally, individuals in underserved  communities have seen increased access to testing by using the state's new walk-up testing sites.

    It is our hope that by continuing testing and identifying asymptomatic carriers of the virus, the state can move toward reopening and overcoming this global health crisis in a safe and efficient manner.

    To read more statistics and receive frequent updates, visit the Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.

    As the pandemic spreads and impacts individuals across the nation and world, state officials and agencies have provided an extensive list of resources for Floridians during this time. Click the links below to learn more and remember that you are #SaferAtHome.

    RE-OPEN FLORIDA TASK FORCE MEETS

    Governor DeSantis and the State of Florida are taking steps to reopen Florida's economy and put Floridians back to work. On Monday, DeSantis announced the appointment of a Task Force to Re-open Florida comprised of elected officials and business leaders. The task force structure includes an Executive Committee and three working groups:

    • Executive Committee - This group includes 22 people total - 10 are elected officials from Cabinet members to legislators to mayors. The group is chaired by Lt. Governor Jeanette Nunez.
    • Industry Working Group on Agriculture, Finance, Government, Healthcare, Management and Professional Services. The group includes 30 members and is headed by Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson.
    • Industry Working Group on Tourism, Construction, Real Estate, Recreation, Retail and Transportation headed by Dana Young, VisitFlorida CEO. The task force includes 35 people.
    • Industry Working Group on Administrative, Education, Information & Technology, Manufacturing, Utilities and Wholesale is headed by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. There are 24 people in this group.

    During the working group meetings, officials and industry leaders presented recommendations and outlined strategies for reopening the state. These comprehensive discussions allowed the working groups to discuss best practices and share ideas in a thoughtful manner. 

    The working groups met from Tuesday until Friday and discussed measures that could be taken in their respective industries to get Florida back on its feet. Meeting a total of nine times, the groups heard from a variety of leaders and had robust discussions on the most effective ways to open up the state in a safe manner. Leaders of the working groups provided summaries of their meetings and shared recommendations during the executive committee meetings each afternoon.

    On Monday, the Governor held his first conference call with the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee. A series of presenters spoke to the committee on the steps that Florida is taking to combat COVID-19 and what Phase 2 will look like moving forward. 

    DeSantis began the call by touting measures that the administration has taken for elderly and vulnerable populations in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and hospitals. He also announced that the state will ramp up coronavirus testing efforts and is exploring options for receiving test results quickly. The Governor noted that it is important for businesses to have guidelines to follow once they reopen and that instilling consumer confidence will be key once they reopen.

    Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson and Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish provided an overview of Florida's economy to task force members. During their presentation, Wilson noted that Florida has the 17th largest economy in the world and that people from around the world are watching Florida's response to the pandemic. He also spoke to the importance of the tourism industry, which employs 11% of the state's workforce and saw 127 million tourists visit the state last year. Dr. Parrish spoke to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and shared that the risk of unemployment varies depending on different job sectors. According to Dr. Parrish, the healthcare industry is likely to see small unemployment numbers, while the manufacturing industry can expect to see moderate rates of unemployment. He concluded his presentation by noting that rural counties will have the most difficulty recovering economically from the pandemic.

    Following Dr. Parrish's presentation, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz summarized the division's efforts in response to COVID-19. Director Moskowitz applauded private businesses that have donated equipment and supplies and assured the task force that the agency is taking all necessary steps to fill in the supply gaps. Moskowitz concluded by noting the increase in testing across the state and recommending that the task force look at data-driven approaches.

    Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees then gave the task force an overview of COVID-19 cases and health information. Dr. Rivkees warned of the symptoms of the virus and emphasized that younger individuals can be asymptomatic carriers. Rivkees also urged the task force to analyze the data and highlighted the state's response.

    Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Mary Mayhew concluded the meeting by highlighting the strong partnerships between state and local healthcare officials. Mayhew noted that has increased data reporting on hospital capacity, rate of hospitalizations and hospitals' PPE needs.

    The executive committee met five times last week and will play a critical role in helping the Governor set the framework for re-opening Florida's economy. More information about the Governor's Task Force to Re-open Florida can be found here.

    Members of the public can submit their comments and suggestions to the Task Force through the Public Submission Portal.

    SENATE PRESIDENT GALVANO RELEASES REVENUE REPORT AND SENATE UPDATE

    On Friday evening, Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) released a memo that consisted of the March General Revenue Collections Report and COVID-19 updates. In the memo, President Galvano notes that Florida has tested more than 300,000 individuals - putting Florida in the top three for testing nationwide. He also highlights the fact that the state has contracted with two new testing laboratories that will allow 18,000 more test results to be processed each day. Galvano also noted that hospital capacity has actually increased during the pandemic and that Florida has seen a steady rate of new cases and hospitalizations for the past two weeks.

    Senator Galvano applauded the hard work that is being done by the Department of Economic Opportunity in processing and paying unemployment claims in wake of the pandemic. From March 15 to April 23, the department has paid 153,788 unemployment claims, totaling $157,507,046.

    On Friday afternoon, EDR released their final General Revenue Collection Report for March. State sales tax collections were $12.4M lower than the Revenue Estimating Conference's previous projections. EDR cautioned that this slight decrease mainly represents the month of February and only accounts for one week of the impacts felt by COVID-19. EDR explained that the relatively positive outlook of this data is likely influenced by the fact that consumers began buying goods in preparation of the virus. While there was a modest loss in sales tax revenue, overall tax collections were $61.3M more than previous projections and $202.4M more than prior year-to-date estimates.

    On Thursday, Galvano received a letter that was sent to Governor DeSantis on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus. In the letter, the caucus expresses concerns regarding Florida's reemployment system, COVID-19 testing and available food resources. The letter also suggests that legislative action be taken to address the impact the coronavirus will have on the upcoming primary and general elections. To see the steps that President Galvano and Florida's Supervisors of Elections are taking to address these election concerns, click here.

    The Senate President also refers to Florida's Division of Bond Finance's Voluntary Disclosure Regarding Impacts of COVID-19. This document is resourceful and affirms timelines and benchmarks that the Senate's professional staff has advised.

    The memo concludes by noting that as of Friday, $4.6B in federal CARES Act funding has been deposited into Florida's state treasury for the purpose of state funding stabilization. This funding will assist the state in funding expenses through March and can possibly reduce the need for the Legislature to return for a Special Session in the wake of the pandemic.


  • March 19, 2020 3:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Each annual legislative session is defined by significant events that set the overall tone and priorities for the Florida Legislature. While the last two sessions were hyper-focused on an appropriate legislative response to the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and the devastation of Hurricane Michael to the Panhandle, the 2020 session proceeded without prominent theme until the very last week of the scheduled 60-day annual session when the threat of the COVID-19 or coronavirus began to paralyze the nation and impact Florida’s economy.

    During one of the final floor sessions, the House chose to temporarily interrupt their proceedings to announce that several Representatives may have been recently exposed to the virus while attending a conference. The remainder of the session was focused on measures that would help the state prepare for the spread of the virus and the subsequent impact on the state. In fact, the Legislature decided to extend the regular session from March 13, 2020 to March 20, 2020 to finalize the FY 2020-2021 state budget. All regular bills died after midnight on March 13 and members were directed to head home to their districts until a final vote on the budget scheduled for Thursday, March 19, 2020. Given the daily developments on COVID-19 and the certain impact on Florida’s economy, the Legislature has signaled they will likely return to Tallahassee this summer to adjust both the FY 2019-2020 and FY 2020-2021 budgets.

    Although most of the 3,578 bills filed this year died, of the 207 bill that did pass both chambers, there were several victories for the House Speaker, Senate President and Governor. House Speaker Jose Oliva was able to pass meaningful health care reforms including a bill to allow nurse practitioners to independently operate primary care practices, including family medicine, general pediatrics and general internal medicine without an attending doctor’s supervision. Senate President Bill Galvano quietly oversaw the Florida Senate achieve another productive session but without his longtime efforts on reaching a renewal of the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Compact with the state and the $350 million in annual payments that come with it. Meanwhile, Governor Ron DeSantis was successful in pushing for a bill requiring employers to check the immigration status of new hires as well as a major teacher pay raise.

    Legislators were able to agree on a state spending plan two days after the scheduled March 13 adjournment. The General Appropriations Act (GAA), HB 5001 was placed on legislators’ desks on Sunday, March 15 at 7:07 pm which began the Constitutionally required 72-hour “cooling off” period before the budget could be voted on. After 66 days in the Capitol, legislators passed a $93.2 billion budget for FY 2020-2021 on Thursday, March 19, 2020 (House vote 104-0, Senate vote 32-0). The GAA now heads to the Governor’s desk for final action, as he possesses line item veto authority. It is anticipated that the Governor will have a heavy veto pen in the wake of the economic downturn on the country’s horizon.


    KEY ISSUES THAT PASSED

    The Legislature succeeded in passing several bold and meaningful legislation this session that included some of the issues below:

    Tax Package, Back to School Tax Holiday - The Legislature passed a tax package that includes several revisions including another back to school tax holiday and hurricane supplies tax holiday.

    Scope of Practice Expansion - The bill allows for qualified nurse practitioners to provide primary care without physician supervision. Pharmacists will be able to help patients manage their chronic conditions in collaboration with a physician and may test and treat the flu.

    Extension of Visit Florida Sunset – Legislation was passed this year to extend the upcoming sunset for the tourism marketing agency to 2023. Additionally, the Florida Legislature agreed to maintain funding for the agency at $50 million. The future of Visit Florida will be critical in the face of the economic downturn anticipated ahead.

    School Panic Alarms - The bill would require public and charter schools in the state to implement a mobile panic alarm system that would connect emergency officials with firstresponders in the event of a school emergency. The Florida Legislature agreed to $8 million in funding through the Florida Department of Education.

    Child Welfare Reform – One of the priorities of First Lady Casey DeSantis was to bring accountability to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) by moving toward a “prevention” model and bringing some of the services back to the department that have been outsourced. Legislation passed to move toward statewide standards for both DCF and outsourced programs to Sheriffs and other entities.

    Affordable Housing – For the first time since 2007, the Florida House and Senate have agreed to fully fund the state’s affordable housing trust fund, known as the Sadowski fund. Both chambers agreed to dedicate the full $370 million to the fund.

    Water Quality – The comprehensive legislation is designed to improve water data collection and make investments into inspecting septic systems and replacing them with sewer infrastructure.

    Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations – The legislation would make several enhancements to the state’s infrastructure system, including a framework for increasing the amount of EV charging stations on Florida’s roadways and includes a cooperative report from the Florida

    Department of Transportation – in consultation with the Florida Public Service Commission, Florida Office of Energy and appropriate public or private entities – to have a report to the Legislature and Governor by July 1, 2021.

    Private School Voucher Expansion – The bill makes several revisions and expansions to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and Family Empowerment Scholarship. Under both programs, scholarship eligibility would be expanded, allowing more students to attend schools that meet their individual educational needs.

    Teacher Salary Increase – The bill requires local school districts to use money set aside by the Legislature to raise minimum teacher salaries to $47,500 and provide raises for teachers who are already above that minimum. The increase would place Florida behind only New Jersey among state base salaries.

    Employment Verification – The bill would require public employers, contractors and subcontractors to use the E-Verify employment verification system by January 1, 2021 to ensure that all employees are legal citizens. Private employers would also be required to use E-Verify or information documented in an employee’s I-9 form to determine the legal status of its employees.

    College Athletes – The bill would allow student-athletes to earn outside compensation for their likeness, image or persona and to get professional representation through athletic agents.

    State Employee Pay Raises – The House and Senate agreed to a 3-percent across-the-board pay raise for all state employees.

    Parental Consent for Abortion – The bill would require pregnant minors and physicians to get consent from a parent or legal guardian before receiving or performing an abortion.


    KEY ISSUES THAT FAILED

    Several other high-profile issues that did not end up passing during the 2020 Legislative Session include:

    Remote Sales Tax Collection/Wayfair – The bill would have authorized the state to impose sales tax collection responsibilities on remote sellers lacking a physical presence in Florida and streamline administration of current sales tax laws by extending sales tax collection responsibilities to marketplace providers increasing General Revenue Fund receipts by $479 million annually.

    Vacation Rentals – The bill would have pre-empted to the state the authority to license and inspect short-term rentals and only allow local governments the ability to enact regulations that apply to all homes equally, whether short-term or not. Any ordinances that were passed before 2011 would not have been impacted.

    Gambling/Sports Betting – There were discussions on the state negotiating a deal with the Seminole Tribe to restore revenue sharing through the gaming compact as well as the potential for sports betting. However, these negotiations never materialized. There was a bill introduced to create a “buyback” of facility permits but it was not heard in committee.

    Restoration of Voting Rights – Efforts to clarify a controversial measure passed last session requiring convicted felons to pay restitution before regaining their voting rights were unsuccessful.

    Criminal Justice Reform – There were several measures relating to criminal justice reform passed by the Senate, including mandatory-minimum criminal sentencing and gain time for inmates, however, the measures failed in the House.

    School Safety – The House and Senate failed to agree to legislation to adopt recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Commission’s 2019 report citing failures in implementing school safety improvements.

    Office of Energy Move – The House proposed legislation to move the Office of Energy from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to the Department of Environmental Protection under Governor Ron DeSantis. However, the Senate did not support the measure.

    Constitutional Revision Commission Repeal – The Commission that meets every 20 years to propose constitutional amendments, which is one of only five ways to be added to the Florida Constitution, would have been repealed by a bill that passed the House. However, the same measure never received a hearing in the Senate.

    Transportation Package – The annual omnibus transportation package would make multiple changes including authorizing portable radar speed display units to display flashing red and blue lights under certain circumstances, staging areas along the Florida Turnpike System and require certain vessels to be removed from marinas.


    2020 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR
    FLORIDA ATTRACTIONS ASSOCIATION

    VISIT FLORIDA Sunset Extension and Funding:

    VISIT FLORIDA had an incredible session, as the tourism-marketing agency was fully-funded at $50 million in the FY 2020-21 budget proposed by the Legislature. While the House and Senate had been at odds about funding the agency, during the beginning of the budget conference process on March 7, House Appropriations Chairman Representative Travis Cummings (ROrange Park) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Senator Rob Bradley announced that the two chambers had reached an agreement to fully-fund VISIT FLORIDA. The Legislature’s decision of fund the agency at $50 million aligns with Governor DeSantis’ proposed funding levels. Liberty Partners will fight to ensure that this line-item remains in the budget and is signed into law by the Governor.

    The ninth week of the 2020 Legislative Session held surprising news, as the House passed legislation that will extend VISIT FLORIDA’s scheduled sunset from 2020 until 2023. While SB 362 by Senator Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor) passed through each Senate committee unanimously and had passed the Senate floor unanimously by February 13, the House companion did not receive a single committee or floor hearing leading up to week nine. March 11 signaled a turn of events however, as the Senate bill by Senator Hooper was substituted for HB 213 by Representative Mel Ponder (R-Fort Walton Beach) and passed the House floor by an overwhelming favorable vote of 114-2. As this legislation heads to DeSantis’ desk for final approval, we will work to ensure that the bill is not vetoed.

    Liberty Partners recognizes the impact that VISIT FLORIDA has on FAA and its members. We are proud to have spoken in support of SB 362 during each committee stop and see this legislation clear both chambers. We were also happy to work with FAA to create a call-to-action so that FAA members could email their legislators and urge them to reauthorize VISIT FLORIDA and fully-fund the agency. Additionally, we were able to work with FAA to craft a welcome letter outlining FAA’s priorities and distribute this welcome letter to all legislators during the beginning of the 2020 Legislative Session.


    Amusement Ride Inspections:

    Throughout the legislative session, we worked diligently with FAA and the Florida Departmentof Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) on legislation that would revise and modernize temporary amusement ride regulations and inspections across the state. SB 1228 by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation), which was substituted for HB 1275 by Representative Sharon Pritchett (D-Miami Gardens) makes several revisions to the inspection process, most notably the frequency that certain rides must be inspected. Temporary amusement rides such as carnival or fair rides must be inspected each time the ride is set up at a different location and must receive a certificate of inspection from FDACS. Permanent amusement rides, however, must only be inspected twice a year by an accredited inspection organization.

    With FAA’s members operating permanent facilities, Liberty Partners offered amendment language and worked with FDACS, Senator Book and Representative Pritchett to ensure that FAA members would be exempt from the frequent, burdensome inspections that temporary amusement ride facilities are subject to.

    The House bill moved swiftly through the legislative process, unanimously passing all committee references by February 13 and unanimously passing the House floor on February 26. Liberty Partners testified before each committee on behalf of FAA in support of the legislation and shared FAA’s position with committee members. The Senate companion passed the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously on February 18, with Liberty Partners speaking in support of the bill on behalf of FAA.

    During the final week of session, the Senate bill was substituted for the House bill and unanimously passed the Senate floor on March 13. For more than a month, we monitored this legislation and worked with Senator Book and Representative Pritchett to ensure that the bill remained favorable to FAA and its members. We will now shift our attention and efforts to making sure that the Governor signs this legislation into law.


    Verification of Employment Eligibility:

    Liberty Partners monitored controversial legislation this legislative session that could have a potentially significant impact on public and private employers in the state. The verification of employment eligibility has been a top-priority of Governor DeSantis, as he has pushed for employers across the state to use E-Verify or a similar system to ensure that employees are legal residents.

    SB 664 by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) will 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. A contract will not be able to be entered into if any of the parties have failed to register with E-Verify. A private employer would have the ability to use either E-Verify or an employee's I9 form to confirm the employment eligibility and would be required to keep the employee's documentation on file for three years after the employee begins working. Beginning 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 but the employee's citizenship status would have to be verified before the employee could receive a contract extension or renewal. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Attorney General, statewide prosecutor and state attorney will have the authority to enforce these requirements by requesting documentation from the employers at any given time. If a private employer fails to comply with these requirements, the employer must provide FDLE with an affidavit that states they will begin compliance, terminate the unauthorized worker's employment and not knowingly hire an authorized worker. If the business fails to send an affidavit to FDLE within 30 days, the private employer's license will be suspended by the 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.

    The Senate bill passed all committees of reference by a narrow margin and passed the Senate floor by a vote of 23-17. The House companion - HB 1265 by Representative Cord Byrd (R-Jacksonville Beach) passed both of its committee references but was then “laid on the table” and replaced by SB 664.

    We will continue to monitor this bill as it is sent to Governor DeSantis for final approval. We understand that this legislation could have impacts on FAA members and will keep FAA abreast on the implementation of the legislation.

    Preservation of Tourist Development Tax:

    We are happy to announce that tourist development taxes (TDT) will stay limited to certain purposes. When the House’s proposed tax package - HB 7097 by Representative Bryan Avila (R-Hialeah) was filed on February 20, FAA became concerned about a provision contained in the bill that would allow counties to use TDT dollars to fund water quality improvement projects, as well as publicly-owned parks and trails. The expanded usage of these dollars would have also applied 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.

    During each committee stop, Liberty Partners spoke in opposition to this provision on behalf of FAA and urged House members to not further erode TDT dollars by expanding usage. Thankfully, once the tax package made its way to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) filed an amendment that removed the provisions within the bill that would have expanded the use of TDT dollars. As the bill continued to make its way through the legislative process, the Senate held steady on the removal of these provisions, and as a result, these harmful provisions were removed from HB 7097. HB 7097 passed the full Legislature and will go to the Governor for his signature.


    OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST

    There were more than 3,500 bills filed for the 2020 Legislative Session, however only 207 passed both chambers and will become law with approval by the Governor. Below is a list of priority bills that we monitored on behalf of FAA and the status of the bills:

    SB 1084 by Senator Manny Diaz and Representative Sam Killebrew – Emotional Support Animals
    Defines the terms “emotional support animal” and “housing provider”; prohibits discrimination in housing provided to a person with a disability or a disability-related need for an emotional support animal; prohibits a health care practitioner from providing information regarding a person’s need for an emotional support animal without having personal knowledge of that person’s need for the animal; prohibits the falsification of information or other fraudulent misrepresentation regarding the use of an emotional support animal, etc. The bill passed both chambers and moves to Governor DeSantis for final action.

    SB 680 by Senator Travis Hutson and Representative Kristen Jacobs – Shark Fins
    Cites this act as the “Kristin Jacobs Ocean Conservation Act”; prohibits the import, export, and sale of shark fins in this state; provides exceptions; requires the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to evaluate the potential economic impacts to the commercial shark fishing industry in this state; requires the commission to review the potential impact on shark populations; requires a report to the Legislature by a specified date; authorizes the Legislature to impose a ban on the domestic production of shark fins based upon the findings of the report, etc. The bill passed both chambers and heads to the Governor for his signature before becoming law.

    HB 757 by Representative Holly Raschein and Senator Darryl Rouson – Cultural Affairs
    Renames Division of Cultural Affairs as Division of Arts & Culture; provides that Secretary of State shall be known as "Florida's Chief Arts & Culture Officer". The bill died in the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee.

    HB 1011 by Representative Jason Fischer, SB 1128 by Senator Manny Diaz – Vacation Rentals
    Preempts the regulation of vacation rentals to the state; prohibits a local law, ordinance, or regulation from allowing or requiring inspections or licensing of public lodging establishments, including vacation rentals, or public food service establishments; requires licenses issued by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to be displayed conspicuously to the public inside the licensed establishment, etc. The House bill died on the House floor and the Senate bill died in the Senate Rules Committee.

    SB 334 by Senator Linda Stewart – Tourist Development Tax
    Authorizes counties imposing the tax to use the tax revenues to promote or incentivize film or television productions in this state; requires such counties to require certain productions to include a specified statement in the production’s credits, etc. The bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    SB 772 by Senator Travis Hutson, HB 647 by Representative Brad Drake – Department of Health’s Regulation of Recreational Activities
    Provides a timeframe for certain owners or transferees to apply for a permit; preempts to the Department of Health the regulatory authority for permitting standards; provides that evidence of a certain length of stay in a guest register creates a rebuttable presumption that a guest is transient; specifies when certain property becomes abandoned; authorizes a park operator to refuse certain individuals access to the premises and to eject transient guests or visitors based on specified conduct; provides that certain surf pools are exempt from supervision under certain circumstances, etc. The Senate bill died in the Senate Rules Committee and the House bill died on the House floor.

    HB 991 by Representative Will Robinson and Senator Keith Perry – Lottery Games
    Prohibits electronic device from being used to play any lottery game; prohibits DOL from authorizing operation of specified lottery game; requires DOL to include specified warning in all advertisements & promotions of lottery games; requires contracts between DOL & vendor to require vendor to print specified warning on all lottery tickets. The bill died in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee.

    LOOKING AHEAD

    Pursuant to Article III, section 8, of the Florida Constitution, "Every bill passed by the Legislature shall be presented to the governor for approval and shall become a law if the governor approves and signs it or fails to veto it within seven consecutive days after presentation. If during that period or on the seventh day the legislature adjourns sine die or takes a recess of more than thirty days, the governor shall have fifteen consecutive days from the date of presentation to act on the bill."

    Therefore, Governor Ron DeSantis will now have 15 days to take action on the state spending plan along with more than 200 bills that will be sent his way. He also possesses line item veto authority which may be used with the General Appropriations Act (GAA). After the Governor has completed his line item vetoes, he will then sign the GAA into law, establishing the statewide budget for the next fiscal year beginning on July 1. A two-thirds majority vote of both the Senate and House is required to overturn any of the Governor’s line item vetoes.

    Following the recent cancelation of several major events and a surge of Floridians testing positive for COVID-19, the Legislature ensured the FY 2020-2021 GAA contained a $300 million contingency plan to address the economic impact the crisis will have on the state budget. However, while state policymakers are unable to accurately forecast the ultimate economic impact the virus will have before the budget has to be in place on June 30, it is anticipated that a special session may become necessary when new revenue outlook numbers by the Office of Economic & Demographic Research (EDR) become available in the coming weeks.

    Since the Presidential Preference Primary Election was held on Tuesday, March 17, the state will now begin getting ready for the Primary Election on Tuesday, August 18 and the General Election scheduled for Tuesday, November 3. We will be watching to see what the impact of this year’s elections will have on the makeup of the Florida Legislature. Currently, the Florida Senate is split 23-17 between Republicans and Democrats while the Florida House is split 73-47.

    Once again, Liberty Partners considers it a great privilege to serve as your advocates in Tallahassee. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any member of our team for additional information.


Strategic Partners


        












 

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