Florida Legislature Passes 18 Florida Chamber of Commerce-Backed Bills

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Edie Ousley
(850) 521-1231
eousley@flchamber.com

More Work Remains to Help Make Florida More Competitive

TALLAHASSEE, FL (March 11, 2016) – During a time when other states’ budget woes have legislatures increasing taxes, cutting education funding, laying off university faculty and staff, drastically cutting social services, and imposing job killing regulations, the Florida Legislature instead took steps to help secure Florida’s future, the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced today.

“Lawmakers passed 18 Florida Chamber-backed bills that will lower the cost of living on families and small businesses, provide sustainable water resources for Florida’s future, strengthen education opportunities and build on Florida’s economic competitiveness,” said Tracy Duda Chapman, Chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Senior Vice President/General Counsel for A. Duda & Sons, Inc.

This session, the Florida Chamber team testified more than 80 times, and tracked nearly 6,000 individual votes on the more than 262 bills that passed. While major opportunities such as a $1 billion tax cut, renewing the Seminole Compact in a way that would have limited the expansion of gambling, lawsuit abuse reforms, smarter regulations on ride-sharing programs, a $250 million incentive fund and pension reform didn’t make it through the legislative process, lawmakers cut taxes on families and small businesses, instituted comprehensive science-based water policy, strengthened educational programs and investments for Florida’s students, invested record levels in transportation and infrastructure, made government more efficient, and invested in Florida’s strong tourism industry as well as targeted industries like space and international trade.

However, philosophical differences and competing priorities left a few important initiatives on the table that would have further helped Florida continue attracting private-sector jobs to our state’s growing population, and further improved Florida’s business climate through targeted tax reforms like reducing the business rent tax and further phasing out the corporate income tax.

“While Florida is moving in the right direction, and lawmakers took steps to strengthen Florida’s future, the truth is things are fragile in Florida and many state leaders expected more” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Political risk and uncertainty, changing demographics and an unprecedented amount of out-of-state resources will continue creating storm clouds on Florida’s horizon.”

During the 2016 Legislative Session, the following 18 Florida Chamber-backed bills passed:

 

Closing Florida’s Talent Gap:

“It’s clear that talent has taken over as the new economic development currency, and a quality education is the best way to ensure our students can compete in the new, global economy,” said Brittney Hunt, Florida Chamber Director of Talent, Education and Quality of Life Policy.

Did You Know: The Florida Chamber Foundation estimates that by 2030, Florida will need to create and fill approximately two million net new jobs as one-third of today’s workforce will be retired, and half of current occupations will be obsolete?

During the just completed legislative session, lawmakers:
  • Provided greater opportunities for children with unique abilities,
  • Expanded volunteer options toward earning a Bright Future Scholarship, including encouraging students to explore businesses and nonprofit community service organizations as potential careers,
  • Further improved professional development and benefit options for Florida’s teachers so that we attract and retain the best educators,
  • Provided opportunities for personalized and customized education tracks for students based on unique needs of mastery without impeding the needs of the students through the Competency Based Education Pilot Program.
  • Further improved the John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program to allow more students with disabilities access high quality education programs,
  • Created an alternative, streamlined certification route for highly effective professional educators wanting to teach STEM subjects, and

 

Continuing to Diversify and Grow Florida’s Economy:

“While agriculture, construction and tourism continue to provide a strong and healthy foundation, Florida wins when we continue to diversify our base of job creators, and strategically invest in international trade, manufacturing, and other targeted industries,” said Carolyn Johnson, Florida Chamber Director of Business, Economic Development and Innovation Policy.

Did You Know: 95 percent of Florida’s exporters are small- to mid-sized businesses? And, 92 percent of Florida’s exports are manufactured goods?

During the 2016 Legislative Session, lawmakers:
  • Provided investments to promote global opportunities through trade for small businesses and manufacturing ($1 million),
  • Invested in Space Florida ($10 million), Space Tourism Marketing ($1.5 million), and the Aerospace Financing Fund ($7 million),
  • Invested in marketing Florida’s business climate ($8.5 million),
  • Further strengthened investments in VISIT FLORIDA to help the Sunshine State build on its record breaking 105 million visitors ($76 million).

 

Preparing Florida’s Infrastructure for Smart Growth and Development:

“In order to position our state for the future, Florida has to make investments in infrastructure now. This session, lawmakers accomplished two major strategic goals – a comprehensive science-based water policy and record funding of the Florida Department of Transportation.  These long-term investments will pay dividends as our state grows and continues to host millions of visitors from across the globe,” said Christopher Emmanuel, Florida Chamber Director of Infrastructure and Governance Policy.

Did You Know: The Florida Chamber Foundation estimates that by 2030, Florida’s water demand will increase by 20 percent – that’s an increase of nearly nine billion gallons per day?

During the just completed legislative session, lawmakers:
  • Passed, and Governor Rick Scott signed into law, comprehensive water legislation that will secure Florida’s water future through science-based water policy,
  • Invested, for the third year in a row, record funding to meet Florida’s infrastructure needs ($10.8 billion), and
  • Reduced bureaucratic red tape in the development of regional impact process.

 

Building the Perfect Business Climate:

“While Florida is moving in the right direction, lawmakers took additional steps to lower the cost of living on families and small businesses,” said Carolyn Johnson, Florida Chamber Director of Business, Economic Development and Innovation Policy.

During the just completed legislative session, lawmakers:
  • Permanently eliminated the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment,
  • Provided a back-to-school sales tax holiday, and
  • Invested in economic development marketing.

 

Did You Know: Lawsuit abuse taxes cost a family of four approximately $3,400 in lawsuit abuse taxes annually and drive businesses away from Florida?

 

During the just completed legislative session, the Florida Chamber successfully worked to defeat legislation that would harm Florida’s business climate, including:

  • Bills that would further drive up the cost of Florida’s already dismal legal climate,
  • Government mandates determining employee policies and benefits, and
  • Legislation that would have intruded on the property rights of small businesses.

 

Making Government More Efficient:

“Florida’s businesses need a streamlined, certain and effective regulatory environment in order to be successful,” said Christopher Emmanuel, Florida Chamber Director of Infrastructure and Governance Policy.

Did You Know: Since December 2010, more than 3,000 regulations have been cut in Florida?

During the just completed legislative session, lawmakers:
  • Passed legislation that prevents mandates on businesses that use polystyrene and Styrofoam products for food products, while continuing to allow local governments to ban these products from areas like public beaches and parks in order to protect Florida’s precious natural resources.

The Florida Chamber successfully advocated the defeat of legislation that would have:

  • Created a patchwork of local regulations on the use of disposable plastic bags.

 

Championing Florida’s Quality of Life:

“As talent and a strong workforce begins to rival Florida’s business climate as a key to economic success, protecting Florida’s unique quality of life is essential,” said Brittney Hunt, Florida Chamber Director of Talent, Education and Quality of Life Policy.

Did You Know: The Florida Chamber Foundation estimates that by 2030, six million more residents will call Florida home, all of which will require access to smarter healthcare options?

During the just completed legislative session, lawmakers:
  • Protected Florida’s family-friendly brand by not expanding Law Vegas-style casino gambling, and
  • Took steps toward increasing the healthcare system capacity by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to practice to their fullest potential.

 

The Florida Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Summary outlines priorities from the Florida Chamber’s 2016 Competitiveness Agenda that passed during the recently completed legislative session. The Florida Chamber’s 2016 Competitiveness Agenda was developed based on input from Florida Chamber members, local chambers of commerce, partner associations, research, and unfinished business. The chamber’s agenda serves as a blueprint of legislative priorities that help secure Florida’s future and lead Florida to a new and sustainable economy.

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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.