The Small Business Council is building on the recent past accomplishments of the Florida Chamber in advocating for small businesses.
During the 2016 legislative session, the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council had several victories. First, it was successful in securing recurring funding for international export assistance which helps small businesses learn to export and increase their market capacity. Additionally, the Small Business Council supported making the sales tax exemption for manufacturing machinery and equipment permanent, which was passed by the Florida Legislature. Many Small Business Council member’s helped defeat legislation that would have added an additional mandate on businesses in the form of mandated leave by e-mailing and calling legislators. The Small Business Council was unable to secure a 1 percent reduction in the business rent tax, which many of its members pay, and will continue to focus on that for future legislative sessions.
In what was an unprecedented legislative session with the Florida House adjourning 3 days early, the end result was that no harm was done. Several bills were filed during the 2015 legislative session that would have added additional mandates for small businesses, including increasing the minimum wage and making “wage theft” a crime. The Legislature returned a few weeks later to pass the FY 2015-2016 budget and tax package, which included the Florida Chamber-backed reduction of the communications services tax, a tax paid on all cell phones, cable and landlines.
The Small Business Council secured during the 2014 legislative session the ability to make unemployment compensation payments in quarterly installments instead of a lump sum payment to the state. Additionally, the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council fought to address workers’ comp reimbursements for hospital inpatient and outpatient services, which was a cost driver on the workers’ compensation system. While unsuccessful before the Florida Legislature to pass legislation, the Division of Workers’ Compensation was successful in creating a rule that would address the definition of “usual and customary” charges and track the cost of hospital services moving forward.
The Small Business Council secured a three year sales tax exemption on manufacturing machinery and equipment. This exemption will help small businesses expand and increase their output. Additionally, during the 2013 legislative session, the Florida Legislature pre-empted the issue of mandated leave to the state level, prohibiting local governments from requiring businesses to offer paid leave, an increased expense for business owners. The Small Business Council also worked on eliminating a loophole that was driving up workers’ compensation costs.
- During the 2012 Legislative Session, the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council supported leveling the playing field for Florida’s small businesses by closing the internet-only sales tax loophole and eliminated the 6.5%+ competitive advantage out-of-state online-only retailers have against Florida small businesses. While this did not pass the legislative session, “E-fairness” will remain a top priority of the Small Business Council during future legislative sessions.
- The Florida Chamber worked to save Florida’s business community $549 million in unemployment compensation tax relief during the 2012 Legislative Session. If nothing was done, Florida’s employers would have been hit with a massive $817 million tax increase this year. SB 1416 reduced the tax increase by almost $50 per employee, saving businesses $549 million over two years.
- Also in 2012, as part of his Jobs Package, Governor Rick Scott has signed a Florida Chamber priority that includes legislation providing Florida’s manufacturing community with important and necessary incentives to increase production and grow the manufacturing sector of Florida’s economy. These economic development incentives were supported by the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council.
- The Florida Chamber Small Business Council supported a one-stop government portal, which Governor Scott has signed. This legislation helps streamline Florida’s permitting process, limits excessive costs on employers and encourages greater efficiency within state government, and is extremely beneficial to Florida’s entrepreneurs looking to expand and grow their business.
- The Florida Chamber and its Small Business Council supported the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 to help provide financing for Florida business expansion. The U.S. Treasury Department announced a new initiative created by the Small Business Jobs Act that will help spur private companies to lend businesses in the state nearly $1 billion. The State Small Business Credit Initiative allowed states to apply for $1.5 billion to be distributed to state-run programs that work with lenders to boost credit available to small businesses. Enterprise Florida will get half of Florida’s $97.7 million to invest in small businesses through a venture-capital fund. The state’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development will use the other half to assure local lenders that they will be repaid any money they loan to businesses.
- “Jobs for Florida” package geared to provide economic incentives to Florida-based manufacturers to invest in machinery and equipment, established the State University Research Commercialization Grant Program, a source of seed capital to take to market products developed by publically sponsored research, and implement 12 other economic development policies. (Passed in 2010, as Senate Bill 1752 & House Bill 1509)
- Creation of a Florida Research Commercialization Matching Grant Program to assist small or startup companies that take advantage of federal and state partnerships to accelerate their growth and market penetration. To be eligible for the grant program, a business must meet a number of requirements, including receipt of a Phase 1 federal research grant. (Passed in 2010 as Senate Bill 1472 & House Bill 983)
- The Florida Chamber successfully advocated for the state to begin an economic gardening program in 2009 before the Florida Legislature. The program was funded in November 2009 to be headquartered at the University of Central Florida’s Office of Research & Commercialization in Orlando. More information is available at GrowFL.com
- The Florida Chamber was successful in 2009 in passing a bill to restore a cap on attorneys’ fees in workers’ compensation cases. This led to an immediate reduction in workers’ compensation costs for small businesses
- In 2008 and 2009, the Florida Chamber defeated the elimination of arbitration, an attempt of plaintiff trial lawyers to pass legislation that would encourage more lawsuits to be filed against small businesses over disputes rather than using lower cost arbitration measures
In 2008, the Florida Chamber of Commerce advocated for and passed a bill in the state legislature that immediately led to the formation of the Florida Growth Fund. The fund has $250 million of capital dedicated to investment in technology and growth related businesses with significant presence in the state of Florida. More information is available at FloridaGrowthFund.com