Despite Missed Opportunities and Philosophical Differences, Florida Legislature Passes 20 Florida Chamber-Backed Measures During Regular and Special Legislative Sessions
By: Edie Ousley
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
TALLAHASSEE, FL. (June 19 , 2015) – Despite a regular and special legislative session at times filled with missed opportunities and philosophical differences, lawmakers introduced 1,795 bills and passed 232 bills – including 20 Florida Chamber of Commerce-backed measures, the Florida Chamber announced today.
“While Florida lawmakers passed 20 Florida Chamber-backed competitiveness measures, and helped stop 12 attacks on Florida’s business climate, the 2015 legislative sessions will likely be known for missed opportunities,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber.
As the Florida Chamber expected, despite their inability to pass a budget during the 60-day regular session, lawmakers were able to finish the 20-day scheduled Special Session A before the June deadline. However, the philosophical differences between the House and Senate led to many important votes not being taken on pro-business priorities.
Florida voters are paying attention. According to the latest Florida Chamber political poll, 41 percent disapprove of the job the Florida Legislature is doing, while 40 percent approve.
“Although the League of Women Voters’ push to expand Medicaid failed, the Florida Chamber of Commerce looks forward to further uniting Florida’s business community behind our ‘Smarter Healthcare Coverage in Florida’ plan in the coming session,” Wilson added.
Despite lawmakers not having a chance to vote on securing Florida’s water future, ending the what the Florida Hospital Association calls an eight percent “cost shift” on Floridians, phasing out the sales tax on commercial leases, ending the taxpayers $500 million annual bailout of government pensions, and resolving Florida’s broken and unfair legal system, the Florida Legislature moved much of the Florida Chamber’s agenda forward. Among Florida Chamber-backed priorities that passed in the just completed Special Session A:
Targeted Tax Reform:
- Communication Services Tax
Reduces cell phone and TV taxes. ($226 million savings)
- R&D Tax Credits
Increases the cap from $9 million to $23 million for 2016.
- Sales Tax Holiday
10 day back-to-school sales tax holiday.
- Enterprise Zones
Allows current businesses receiving incentives to continue receiving them for three years.
Championing Educational Reforms for a Globally Competitive Workforce:
- Bright Futures Scholarships
Changes community service requirements to include workplace-based internships.
- Personal Student Learning Accounts
Expands the pool of students eligible for the Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Account Program. ($55 million)
- Digital Classrooms
Establishes classroom digital technology standards.
- Educational Professional Practices
Establishes teacher liability insurance through the state of Florida.
Infrastructure and Transportation Investments:
- Investing approximately $10 billion into Florida’s transportation and infrastructure.
Strengthened Florida’s Economic Development Efforts:
- Market Florida
Against all odds, the Florida Chamber was able to secure a $10 million investment in Florida’s first statewide business climate marketing effort.
- Economic Development Toolkit
While not all that was needed, lawmakers invested $43 million to help attract and retain businesses to Florida.
- International Export Grants and Programs
$1 million for export assistance grants and international programs for small- and medium-sized businesses. The Florida Chamber’s International Office looks forward to working with Enterprise Florida, Inc. to raise awareness of this program.
- Military Base Protection and Defense Reinvestment
A $1 million investment to continue protecting and improving Florida’s military bases.
- Space Florida
A $17.5 million investment for space projects and infrastructure.
Amendment 1 Implementation:
- Better management of land Florida already owns (over $700 million total).
- Securing Florida’s water future by focusing on springs protection ($38 million), Everglades ($58 million) and non-Amendment 1 water projects ($50 million).
Addressed Florida’s Forthcoming Doctor Shortage:
- A $100 million investment in Florida’s medical residency education.
The Florida Chamber’s 2015 Legislative Summary Report provides a more comprehensive list of Florida Chamber measures supported by lawmakers during the regular and special session.
“On behalf of the Florida Chamber, I appreciate the dozens of local chambers of commerce and business associations that partnered with us and worked tirelessly to pass many pro-business issues as possible,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber.
Now that both sessions have concluded, the Florida Chamber will activate its grassroots network to urge Governor Scott to approve Florida Chamber-backed priorities to help make Florida more competitive. Additionally, the Florida Chamber is actively calculating actual records of all 160 legislators on pro-jobs, pro-business legislation in preparation for releasing the Florida Chamber’s annual Legislative Report Card and How They Voted publication.
The Florida Chamber’s Political Operations Team is already interviewing candidates for 2016 elections, and the Florida Chamber’s Policy Department is already developing the 2016 Florida Business Agenda.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.