TALLAHASSEE, FL. (February 2, 2021)—The Florida Chamber of Commerce today revealed its 2021 Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda highlighting where it stands on key business priorities for the upcoming legislative session. The Florida Chamber represents businesses of all sizes from Pensacola to Key West, and represents all economic sectors and industries across the state. While COVID-19 may have slightly diverged the path that Florida is on, the Florida Chamber remains committed to Florida becoming the 10th largest economy in the world and this year’s Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda creates a blueprint on how we will get there.
“Florida is at a crossroads and we are facing a lot of change as Florida continues relaunching its economy from the pandemic,” said Mark Wilson, President & CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Regardless of any diversions, the Florida Chamber’s 2030 Blueprint goals have not changed, and we are uniting the business community for good to ensure the right outcomes happen on the road to becoming the 10th largest economy in the world by 2030. We need to continue forging a path forward, and while the approach may look slightly different, our overall direction is still focused on putting the long term ahead of the short term to keep Florida the best state to live, work, own a business, and raise a family.”
The impact of COVID-19 on Florida, the economy and the business community will serve as the lens with which the Florida Chamber will examine and address its legislative priorities. While the Chamber’s 2021 Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda focuses on everything from education to transportation, environmental affairs, affordable housing, telecommunications and beyond, the following are a few highlights the Chamber will be focusing on this legislative session.
Providing Certainty for Florida Job Creators with COVID-19 Liability Protections
The number one priority of the Florida Chamber is safely getting the economy back on track. COVID-19 liability protections are a necessary component to provide certainty that if businesses are following health and safety guidelines, they can fully re-open, add jobs, and engage in commerce without the fear of being sued. From the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the Florida Chamber began discussions with businesses, lawmakers and the Governor’s office on why these protections were necessary. Even if the source of exposure would be difficult to prove in a court of law, the cost and time associated with defending these cases are a significant burden and diverts resources that could be spent on creating jobs and investing back into the business.
Legislation has already been filed and the Florida Chamber supports HB 7 and SB 72 by Representative Lawrence McClure and Senator Jeff Brandes. The Florida Chamber will also be supportive of liability protections for healthcare facilities that responded to COVID-19.
Leveling the Playing Field by Modernizing the Internet Sales Tax
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on how Floridians make purchases and internet sales have accelerated as a result. Currently, Florida is one of only two states that do not have an economic nexus test to collect online sales tax on purchases, and instead relies on a physical presence or for consumers to remit the tax themselves. The Florida Chamber urges the Legislature to modernize Florida’s sales tax law to collect from out-of-state retailers that have a substantial economic nexus to Florida. This is not a new tax but would shift the burden from Floridians remitting the tax to internet retailers. This also levels the playing field between local, hometown businesses that are at a 6 percent disadvantage and struggling through the pandemic and their internet competitors.
Enhancing Florida’s Competitiveness by Improving Florida’s Bottom Five Legal Climate
A perennial issue, the Florida Chamber urges the legislature to tackle meaningful lawsuit abuse reform. The Florida Chamber has set a goal to improve Florida’s legal climate to the top 12 in the country by 2030, and while strides have been made through the Florida Supreme Court, we still have a long way to go. Florida currently has a bottom-five legal climate compared to all 50 states according to the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform. The result of inaction is costing Florida families an additional $4,442 a year in increased costs on everything from a gallon of milk to the cost of auto insurance. While there are hundreds of ways to improve Florida’s legal climate, the Florida Chamber urges tackling inflated medical damages in personal injury cases, meaningful bad faith reform, and addressing rising costs in property insurance.
Retooling of Florida’s Workforce for the post-COVID 19 economy
COVID-19 has accelerated shifting trends within Florida’s economy, including automation and the nature of work. To that end, the Florida Chamber will work with Florida Legislature to pursue legislation that helps incentivize high-value credentials, degrees, and certifications with the goal of upskilling unemployed Floridians in as little as 12-18 months.
Investing in Florida’s Future
COVID-19 may have an impact on the state’s budget, but with 4 million more people planning to call Florida home by 2030, now is not the time to quit investing in Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber urges prioritizing long-term investments such as in smart, science-driven energy infrastructure, transportation, telecommunications and by securing smart water policy.
The Florida Chamber tracks each bill identified by our board of directors in the annual Florida Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda, and grades lawmakers on these bills at the conclusion of the Legislative Session. We look forward to working with Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls to keep Florida on a forward path to becoming the 10th largest economy in the world.
To view the Florida Chamber’s 2021 Jobs and Competitiveness Agenda, visit www.flchamber.com/WhereWeStand.