February 19-23, 2018

Following the Parkland school shooting tragedy, media from around the world focused its attention on the State Capitol. On Tuesday and Wednesday, students from around the state arrived in Tallahassee to meet with lawmakers regarding gun violence and school safety. In response, Governor Rick Scott held round-table discussions with leaders in law enforcement, mental health, and education to discuss preventative solutions for these types of tragedies. Some measures include raising the age to 21 for individuals to purchase firearms, restraining orders for mentally ill individuals to purchase or possess firearms, and additional mental health funding initiatives.


While much of the discussions last week were on how the state could prevent future tragedies, the Legislature also held a number of committee meetings where legislation continued to move forward. The House and Senate are each proposing ways to expand the use of tourism development taxes to include transportation, sewer, solid waste, drainage and other infrastructure – including estuary and lagoon improvements. HB 585 has already passed the House floor by a vote of 93-20, while the Senate version of the bill still has one additional committee to be heard in.


The debate over gaming in Florida continues with the House and Senate moving proposals forward. With the Voters in Charge constitutional amendment appearing to have enough support to pass on the November ballot, the Legislature seems increasingly committed to pass an agreement before their authority is ceded to the voters. SB 840 unanimously passed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance & Tax, afteradopting provisions that brought it closer to the House bill. HB 7067 will be on the Commerce Committee agenda today for its final committee hearing. It is anticipated both chambers are working towards a gaming conference to reconcile their differences.


HB 1211 by Representative Joe Abruzzo, a bill related to airboat regulations that has been monitored for several association members, will also be heard today in the Commerce Committee before going to the House floor for a full vote. The Senate bill, SB 1612 by Senator Kevin Rader, is also in its final committee. This legislation will require that a person may not operate an airboat for hire to carry one or more passengers on state waters without the following onboard:

·       A photographic identification card.

·       Proof of either:

o   Completion of an FWC-approved boater education course that meets the minimum eight-hour instruction requirement established by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, or

o   A captain’s license issued by the United States Coast Guard.

·       Proof of successful completion of an FWC-approved airboat operator course that meets the minimum standards established by FWC rule.

·       A certificate of successful course completion in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid.


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


Protection of Tourism Development Taxes


The House has 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.” Current law only allows bed taxes to be spent on tourism marketing, beach nourishment, convention centers, sports arenas, zoos, aquariums and other tourist attractions. HB 585, by Representative Randy Fine, has been passed through its committees of reference and passed the House floor by a vote of 90-23. The Senate companion bill, SB 658 by Senator Jeff Brandes, is now in its final committee of reference.


Responsible Transparency Measures


By passing HB 3 by Representative Michael Grant, the House is continuing its efforts to increase transparency for the allocation of public dollars. This bill would increase oversight for economic development agencies, including tourism groups that use public funding and limit how the groups could spend money. The bill also blocks tourism agencies from spending money on food, beverages, lodging, entertainment or gifts and from accepting any of those items from other individuals or entities. Additionally, the bill requires agencies to post contracts totaling more than $5,000 on their website within five business days. While the bill has already passed the House, SB 1714 by Senator Keith Perry still has three committees of reference left.


Support Funding for VISIT FLORIDA


The ongoing fight over VISIT FLORIDA funding continues between the House, Senate and Governor Rick Scott. The House recommended the tourism marketing agency be funded at current levels of $76 million, while the Senate originally proposed allocating

$50 million. However, the Senate announced last week they were revising their proposal to match the House’s position. Meanwhile, Governor Scott has maintained that VISIT FLORIDA should be funded at $100 million next year and has been touring the state to pressure lawmakers to boost marketing dollars.


Stop the Expansion of Gambling


The Senate took the first step towards passing comprehensive gaming reform by filing SB 840 by Senator Travis Hutson. The bill would allow dog tracks to keep poker rooms even if they end live racing, essentially decoupling the requirement that pari-mutuels who offer card rooms also maintain live racing. The bill has passed the Regulated Industries Committee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance & Tax. The House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee gaming bill, HB 7067, relates to how the state provides the Seminole Tribe of Florida exclusivity as a means to uphold the compact. HB 7067 is on the House Commerce Committee agenda today and if passed will move to the House floor for final consideration. It appears the bills are a starting point to get the two chambers into conference committee to negotiate their differences.


Another component in the discussion on gaming is the legalization of fantasy sports. It is also the subject of two bills in the House and Senate. HB 223 by Representative Jason Brodeur and SB 374 by Senator Dana Young are both moving quickly through the legislative process, with the Senate bill already on the calendar for consideration by the full Senate. The legislation, however, creates a new section in statute within the family entertainment section appearing to exempt these games from DBPR regulation under current gaming laws.


Promote Responsible Stewardship of Animals in Care


Representative Jared Moskowitz filed HB 1305 titled the Florida Orca Protection Act. The bill would have prohibited the captivity of killer whales for any purpose.

Additionally, any killer whale in captivity as of July 1, 2018, could not be used for entertainment purposes after December 31, 2018 and could only be used for educational presentations. The bill never had a companion bill in the Senate and was never placed on the agenda for the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee. Therefore, following their announcement last week that they will not hold any more meetings this session, this proposed legislation is effectively dead for the year.

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 filed the identical bill in the House, HB 409. Neither bill has been heard in a committee at this time.


Expansion of Gun Rights


In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, the House and Senate have essentially halted any discussion on expanding gun rights. One such bill would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns on the grounds of churches and other religious institutions, including schools. SB 1048 by Senator Dennis Baxley was amended to preclude the possession of firearms during hours when schools or day-care centers are operating. HB 1419 by Representatives Lawrence McClure and Ross Spano does not have the same preclusive language at this time.


Firearm legislation that has been proposed since last week’s shooting in South Florida, is SB 7022 relating to firearm safety. This legislation is part of the package discussed by the Governor and House and Senate leaders and includes provisions that provide law enforcement and courts with the tools to enhance public safety. Some provisions include raising the age to 21 for individuals to purchase firearms, restraining orders for mentally ill individuals to purchase or possess firearms and additional mental health funding. This legislation is on the fast track to go to conference and will be heard in the Senate Rules Committee today and the Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, February 27th.


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. HB 851 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. The bill is scheduled to be debated on the House floor for final consideration on Wednesday. SB 1052 is the Senate companion bill filed by Senator Dana Young and is in its final committee of reference.


Preservation of Historical and Cultural Resources


A bill to repeal the Department of State’s authority to create an “isolated finds program,” will now go to the full House following its passage by the House Government Accountability Committee. HB 6041 by Representative Cyndi Stevenson passed by a vote of 15-7 and is now scheduled for final vote by the House this week. SB 1296 by

Senator Greg Steube is waiting to be heard in the Senate Governmental Oversight & Accountability Committee. A repeal of the program is needed to protect our heritage and restrict evacuation and removal of artifacts on state-owened and sovereign submerged lands.


House and Senate Session Calendars:

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