Legislative Interim Committee Meetings Summary 

February 11-15, 2019

Recently named president and chief executive officer of VISIT FLORIDA, Dana Young, presented to the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee. The presentation focused on the record-breaking number of visitors who travel to Florida each year. Young added that people who saw VISIT FLORIDA advertising, which is not shown within the state, were twice as likely to travel to Florida. She also emphasized the importance of this agency in striving for increased transparency and accountability.

 

Her presentation also highlighted the agency’s efforts to curb the impact of tourism following a crisis event. She provided examples of how VISIT FLORIDA immediately works to correct misperceptions in the market and assists in the recovery of affected areas through tourism marketing support when the time is right. She also requested support for the program to be fully funded at $76 million. Young reiterated a statement by Governor Ron DeSantis, “Although our state has much to offer, we cannot rest on our laurels and hope that our tourism success will continue without a strong state-level marketing program.”

 

The following is a quick summary of key priorities for the Florida Attractions Association (FAA):

 

Protection of Tourism Development Taxes

We believe tourist development taxes must be preserved for their intended purpose – to promote tourism and develop tourist-attracting facilities in the county where they are collected. Our visitors also pay nearly a quarter of all sales tax collected in the state. Expansion of uses will dilute a destination’s ability to compete for visitor stays in their county.

 

This year, Senator Linda Stewart has filed SB 726 that authorizes counties imposing the tax to use the tax revenues to promote or incentivize film or television productions in the state. If revenues are used for production, they must include in its credits the statement “Created in Florida” or “Filmed in Florida.”

 

Support for VISIT FLORIDA

The fight over the future of VISIT FLORIDA continues this year, as Florida Statute states the organization will sunset in October and no longer exist. We support reauthorization of VISIT FLORIDA and the abolishment of the sunset provision. Thus far, there are bills in the House and Senate that would repeal the sunset. Senator Joe Gruters is the sponsor of SB 178 and Representative Mel Ponder is the sponsor of HB 6031.

 

SB 178 passed its first committee of reference this week as the Senate Commerce & Tourism committee passed the bill unanimously 3-0. It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism & Economic Development.

 

We also support continued funding for VISIT FLORIDA as they provide a strong ROI for Florida taxpayers and its 12,000 tourism industry partners create jobs and remain the foundation for Florida’s robust economy. Governor DeSantis has proposed that VISIT FLORIDA be funded at $76 million this year in his proposed budget recommendations.

 

Nontransferable Tickets

Legislation has been filed in the House and Senate that would allow a ticket issuer to employ a nontransferable ticketing system if the consumer is offered an option at the time of the initial sale to purchase the same ticket in a transferable form that allows tickets to be given away or resold. Representative Anthony Rodriguez has filed HB 331 and Senator Travis Hutson has filed SB 736.

 

Promote Responsible Stewardship of Animals in Care

FAA represents the finest family attractions in Florida. Our members include a variety of zoos, aquariums and marine mammal facilities that are dedicated to the welfare of the animals in their attractions and to education, conservation, and the protection of wildlife. These facilities inspire millions of people a year to help protect the natural wonders around the world. We support our members in this commitment and will oppose any legislation that would restrict the responsible stewardship of animals in human care.

 

Lost and Found Articles

We support streamlined measures for attraction operators to preserve and properly donate lost or abandoned personal property to local non-profit charities. There are measures in the House and Senate that would allow an owner or operator of a theme park, entertainment complex, zoo, museum, aquarium, public food service establishment, or public lodging establishment to elect to dispose of or donate lost or abandoned property found on its premises.

 

HB 423 by Representative Spencer Roach passed its first committee this week. The House Business & Professions Subcommittee passed the measure unanimously 15-0. It will now go to the House Civil Justice Subcommittee. Meanwhile, SB 180 by Senator Kelli Stargel is scheduled to be considered in its final committee of reference, the Senate Rules committee, next week.

 

Human Trafficking

HB 851 by Representative Heather Fitzenhagen and SB 540 by Senator Lauren Book requires an owner and operator of a public lodging establishment to train certain employees who routinely interact with guests to complete awareness training for the identification, prevention and reporting of suspected human trafficking within 30 days of being hired. These establishments would also be required to implement employee protocol to prevent, detect and report suspected human trafficking by January 1, 2020 or face an administrative fine of up to $1,000 per day.

 

State Incentives for Professional Sports Franchises

Legislation has been filed that would repeal the Sports Development program created in 2014 to provide a procedure for professional sports franchises to receive state incentives. The bills, HB 791 by Representative Bryan Avila and SB 414 by Senator Tom Lee, would remove the ability of professional sports franchises to apply for state sales and use tax revenues to pay for the construction or renovation of facilities. To date, however, no funding has been approved by the Legislature for the program.

 

Expansion of Gun Rights

We support private property-owner rights to restrict persons carrying concealed weapons; we oppose institution of Florida as an “open-carry” state. We oppose legislation that would burden private property owners with liability if terrorist acts occur on their property.


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