Legislative Interim Committee Meetings Summary 

December 4-8, 2017

Florida lawmakers were back in Tallahassee this week for the last “interim committee week” prior to the start of the 2018 Legislative Session on January 9. Much of the discussions were regarding the record-setting budget proposal recommended by Governor Rick Scott. The Governor’s approximately $87 billion proposal had hearings in several of the House and Senate appropriation committees. Also, the House has filed over 1,000 budget bills totaling close to $2 billion. Additionally, the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness has received 141 recommendations to deal with storm-related issues.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee heard a presentation from VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO, Ken Lawson, on the 2017-2018 operating budget. The Legislature provided $76 million to the tourism marketing agency this year and Governor Scott has included a $24 million increase for a total of $100 million in marketing dollars for the upcoming fiscal year in his recommendations. Members of the committee requested justification for the proposed increase by showing how many visitors came to Florida last year because of the agency’s marketing efforts. President Lawson cited recent record-breaking tourism numbers and offered to provide to the committee. 

The following is a quick rundown where the Legislature currently stands on legislation impacting FAA: 

Protection of Tourism Development Taxes

This week the Senate Community Affairs Committee passed a bill that would allow the use of tourist development taxes by local governments to spend on roads, sewers, drainage projects and sidewalks that “are needed to increase tourist-related business activities.” SB 658 by Senator Jeff Brandes it makes clear that environmental projects like the Indian River Lagoon can be funding with these dollars by adding estuaries and inland lakes to the funding authority. A similar bill, HB585, has been filed in the House by Representative Randy Fine.


Stop the Expansion of Gambling

SB 374 by Senator Dana Young was passed this week by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. The bill makes clear that fantasy sports contests are a game of skill, not chance, and therefore exempt from state gambling regulations. The bill has received concerns from the Seminole Tribe of Florida that the proposal could violate the gambling agreement between the tribe and the state. The bill defines “fantasy contest operator” as a participant in a fantasy contest, serves as the commissioner of no more than 10 fantasy contests in a calendar year, and distributes all entry fees as prizes or awards to participants. Representative Jason Brodeur filed a similar bill in the House, HB223, though it has yet to be heard in committee.


Tax Cuts for Commercial Leases

Senator Keith Perry filed legislation on commercial and real estate property taxes that he sponsored last session. SB 902 would repeal the statute related to rental taxes on the first $10,000 and increase by increments of $10,000 for each year until reaching the threshold of the first $90,000 in 2026. Representative Larry Ahern has also filed the identical bill in the House, HB409. Neither bill has been heard in a committee at this time.


School Calendars

Senator Jeff Brandes has filed the companion bill SB 668 to HB587 by Representative Newt Newton that would authorize a district school board to create a year-round school program for any school within its district that is one of the 300 lowest-performing schools in the state.


Lost and Found Articles

A bill filed by newly-elected Representative Bobby Olszewski would allow facilities, such as zoos, museums, and aquariums, to give unclaimed items to a charitable institution without first having to turn them over to law enforcement. HB851 has provisions that require theme parks and other institutions to hold on to items for at least 30 days, but they can store them longer if they choose. The rightful owner may reclaim the property at any time before the disposition, sale or donation of the property in accordance with the established policies and procedures of the facility operator. SB 1052 is the Senate companion bill filed by Senator Dana Young.


Expansion of Gun Rights

Three bills related to the increased protection for gun rights were defeated in Senate Judiciary, where the sponsor Senator Greg Steube is Chairman. The bills included allowing concealed weapons at private religious schools located on church properties (SB 134) and a bill that would have decreased the penalty for accidentally displaying a concealed weapon in public (SB148). SB 274 by Senator Kelli Stargel contained components of both bills, along with provisions that would allow concealed weapons to be carried into courthouses and left with security, however this bill was also defeated. These votes mean it is unlikely the Senate will consider any gun-related legislation during the annual session in January.


2018 Legislative Session Dates

Tuesday, January 9th – Friday, March 9th (60-day annual session)

House and Senate calendars can be found at www.myfloridahouse.gov and www.flsenate.gov.