This week both the House and Senate Appropriations
Subcommittees released their 2019-2020 Fiscal Year budget recommendations. The
Senate took a significant step towards solidifying their support of VISIT
FLORIDA by recommending $50 million in funding for the state’s tourism marking
agency. President Bill Galvano spoke of the need for the state to have a
communications and marketing strategy to combat issues such as red tide and
blue-green algae when attracting tourists to the state.
However, the House announced this week their
recommendation would be to fund VISIT FLORIDA only for an additional three
months. This announcement falls in line with their opposition towards the reauthorization
of the agency. The proposed $19 million in funding included in the House budget
would only fund the agency until it is scheduled to sunset on October 1, 2019.
These budget recommendations, which are both lower than
the $76 million recommended by the Governor, are subject to change in the
coming weeks as the House and Senate work to finalize their budgets for the
fiscal year that starts July 1. Unfortunately, it appears that without a
statutory change and the appropriate funding, VISIT FLORIDA will be allowed to
sunset this fall.
The following is a quick summary of key priorities for the
Florida Attractions Association (FAA):
Protection of Tourism Development Taxes
We believe Tourism Development Taxes (Bed Taxes) must be
preserved for their intended purpose – to promote tourism and develop
tourist-attracting facilities in the county where they are collected. These
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 (D-Orlando) 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
We support reauthorization of VISIT FLORIDA and the
abolishment of the sunset provision. According to the Office of Economic and
Demographic Research our investment in VISIT FLORIDA ranks among the top 5 ROIs
of all the state’s incentives and investment programs.
Thus far, there are bills in the House and Senate that would
repeal the sunset. Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) is the sponsor of SB 178
and Representative Mel Ponder (R-Destin) is the sponsor of HB
6031. SB 178 has passed its last committee of reference and now goes to to
the Senate floor for final consideration. However, the House version of the
bill has yet to be heard in its first committee of reference, the House
Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee. The Speaker has yet to show
support for reauthorization of the tourism marking agency.
We also support continued funding for VISIT FLORIDA. VISIT
FLORIDA continues to provide a strong ROI for Florida taxpayers and its 12,000
tourism industry partners create jobs and remains the foundation for Florida’s
robust economy. We support Governor DeSantis’ proposed funding of at $76 million for the
2019-20 fiscal year. Meanwhile, the Senate has expressed their desire to fund
the program at $50 million. The House has proposed to fund VISIT FLORIDA at $19
million until it is scheduled to sunset on October 1.
Florida attractions employ numerous strategies to sell
admission tickets. Often, these tickets are discounted based on a guest’s
profile (military, senior, Florida resident, etc.). Admission tickets are sold
through dozens of online ticket resellers.
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 (R-Miami) has filed HB
331 and Senator Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) has filed SB
736. (Update: Thanks to the lobbying efforts of our FAA members and lobby
team the HB was withdrawn by the sponsor.)
Cultural, Historical and Library Grants
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation,
Tourism and Economic Development heard a presentation from the Department of
State Deputy Secretary of the Division of Cultural and Historical Affairs on
the process for Cultural, Historical and Library grants. Senator Tom Lee
(R-Brandon) - husband of Secretary of State Laurel Lee - questioned the
department about the grant selection process and it becoming politicized when
it should remain neutral. The department responded by stating the Cultural
Council, Historical Commission and Library Board were all comprised of experts
that conduct extensive reviews of each application with a scoring system and
compiled a subsequent ranking system that was approved and provided to the
Legislture. Chairman Travis Hutson requested information on if the lists were
re-ranked by the Secretary of State.
Responsible Stewardship of Animals in Human Care
FAA members include a variety of zoos, aquariums and marine
mammalrepresents 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.
We are working to counter efforts by the Animal Legal
Defense Fund to prohibit animals held in capativity for any other reason than
research or rehabilitation purposes. They have sought to introduce legislation
this session to prohibit orcas in captivity at marine amusement parks. While
there was never legislation filed, they have issued a call to action to their
members urging a grassroots effort to contact their legislators to support
amendments to achieve this priority.
Lost and Found
We support streamlined measures for attractions and other
hospitality-related industries to secure and record lost & found items
recovered on their property, then donate unclaimed 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.
180 by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) became the first substantive policy
bill passed in the 2019 Legislative Session. Meanwhile, HB
423 by Representative Spencer Roach (R-Ft. Myers) was passed in its final committee
and will now go to the House floor for final consideration.
851 by Representative Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Ft. Myers) and SB 540
by Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) 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.
SB 540 has already passed its second committee and will now
be considered in the Senate Appropriations committee. However, the bill has
been amended and one of the provisions removed from the original draft was the issuance
of administrative fines by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants of the
Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The House bill has not yet
been heard in committee.
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 (R-Miami) and SB 414
by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon), 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. SB 414 was passed by the Senate
Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism & Economic
Development by a 6-0 vote and will now go to its final committee, the Senate
Appropriations Committee. The House bill has been passed in all three committees
and now heads to the floor for final consideration.
Expansion of Gun
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. To date, 148 bills have
been filed related to firearms ranging from mental health to social media posts
to school safety. Most bills deal with additional regulation of concealed