Let 2019 be the Year the Legislature Puts Consumers Ahead of Trial Lawyer Scams

Right now, your state legislators in Tallahassee have an opportunity to lower the cost of living for Floridians. That’s good news for everyone, but it’s particularly good news for those living in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that are artificially paying higher home and auto insurance rates than they should.

The reason rates are unusually high in the tri-county region is because Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are at the epicenter of a home and auto repair abuse scheme that’s sending rates skyrocketing. It’s known as “assignment of benefits,” or AOB, and last year there were more than 135,000 AOB-related lawsuits in Florida – up from just 1,300 in 2000. The numbers are real and alarming.

AOB abuse rewards a few at the expense of many. It’s become a cottage industry for trial lawyers and shady contractors and vendors who roam neighborhoods looking for their next victims.

 

Here’s How It Works

A homeowner wakes up to a water leak in their kitchen and calls a plumber. The plumber encourages the homeowner to hire a vendor for clean-up and damage mitigation. Often secretly, the vendor pays the plumber a “referral fee.”

The vendor then asks the homeowner to sign some forms, saying that they’ll take care of everything including dealing with the insurance company. What the homeowner doesn’t know is their signature transferred all of the rights to their insurance policy over to the vendor who doesn’t have their best interest in mind.

Far too many homeowners are left with shoddy repairs or no repairs made at all, and then the vendor submits inflated repair bills to the insurance company – setting it up to deny the claim because of the overpriced bill. When the claim is denied, the vendor teams up with a trial lawyer to sue the insurance company in the name of the policyholder – without you ever knowing!

 

It Gets Worse

Florida law allows for one-way attorney fees, meaning the vendor’s lawyer gets paid if the insurer settles the lawsuit to avoid a costly legal battle or loses by as little as $1 in court. Bottom line: Vendors are incentivized to sue because they don’t have much to lose.

The AOB scheme didn’t exist until several years ago when a few creative trial lawyers discovered a loophole and started teaching vendors how to use AOBs to pad their profits. From 2008 to 2018, AOB lawsuits increased by over 900 percent, while total lawsuits in that same period increased just over 400 percent. Five firms filed more than 20 percent of all property AOB lawsuits, and even worse, nine firms filed nearly 85 percent of all auto glass AOB cases.

According to the Florida Justice Reform Institute, AOB lawsuits are growing much faster than the population, going from little more than a few hundredths of a point as a fraction of Florida’s population to nearly a full three-quarters of a percent now.

Eleanor Posner of Delray Beach can attest to how bad the problem is. She became a victim of AOB abuse following a water leak in her laundry room. A vendor charged her insurance company $12,000 for the water removal and drying, then filed a lawsuit when the insurer disputed the inflated amount. Because she signed an AOB, she was powerless to do anything about it and lived in fear of the vendor coming after her for the balance or placing a lien on her home.

 

Helping to Stop AOB Abuse

The Consumer Protection Coalition, spearheaded by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, is leading the effort to help stop these abusive practices. AOB reform is vital to lowering the cost of living on families – Floridians that fill the jobs that keep our state’s economy growing.

We’ve joined in supporting AOB reform legislation in the Florida House and Senate – reform that the Wall Street Journal has for two years said is long overdue. Governor Ron DeSantis said recently he hopes lawmakers pass legislation to reform AOB, which has “degenerated into a racket.” Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President and CEO Barry Gilway also have warned that something must be done to stop the abuse.

 

Floridians Supporting a Legislative Fix March to Capitol

Shoring up that support are the voices of more than 10,000 Floridians who have signed petitions calling on lawmakers to close the loophole that lines the pockets of a few trial lawyers while it harms everyday Floridians.

With hurricane season only a few months away, Floridians simply can’t wait any longer.

Join Us in Calling on Lawmakers to Make 2019 the Year AOB Reform Finally Passes

  1. Contact your Representative and Senators – encourage them to pass AOB reform (SB 122 & HB 7065).
  2. Sign the petition for AOB reform.
  3. Be the first to know when registration opens for the Florida Chamber’s annual Insurance Summit taking place November 2019.

 

PS: Earlier this morning, the Florida House took an additional step toward AOB reform when it passed HB 7065 out of the House Judiciary Committee. It is expected to be heard by the full House soon.

 

 

March 28, 2019

Preparing Florida’s Infrastructure for Smart Growth and Development

Think about it. Florida is already the third largest state in America and we’re growing by over 1,000 new residents every day. We have 21 million residents and we’ll grow by five million more by 2030. By then, we’ll have three million more drivers on our roads, 50 million more visitors and we’ll need 20 percent more water. The good news is that Florida’s business leaders have a plan and it’s getting traction. This is good for Florida, good for job creation and it’s a great way to Secure Florida’s Future.

While we’re growing, Florida is also becoming more diverse. Aging Baby Boomers will continue to swell Florida’s elder population and at the same time, the Millennial and GenX generations are growing as a share of Florida’s total population. As Florida’s population changes, it is important that our infrastructure systems respond to their changing needs. Creating long-term investments in Florida’s transportation, energy, water, telecommunications and agriculture infrastructure is essential. Our infrastructure needs to support growing demand as well as a wide range of options – from sustainable water solutions to autonomous transportation systems.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 research outlines where Florida needs to be by 2030 to remain globally competitive. To secure Florida’s future, we must consider the water and energy needs for nearly five million more residents, be ready for the hard and soft infrastructure needs like broader telecommunications, improved roadways and railways, air, space and sea ports, ensure Floridians can connect to job opportunities, education, healthcare options, each other and the world, as well as support continued economic growth while preserving Florida’s essential environment and community assets.

 

How Do We Make Sure Florida Is Prepared for Smarter Growth?

The Florida Chamber’s Infrastructure Coalition, chaired by former Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, is focused on creating long-term investments in Florida’s energy, water, transportation, telecommunications, and agriculture infrastructure. With Washington, D.C.’s likely focus on infrastructure, the Florida Chamber’s Infrastructure Coalition aims to maximize Florida’s economic growth opportunities. And, here at the state level, double down on efforts to prepare for Florida’s growing population through infrastructure investments. As part of the Florida Chamber’s continuing efforts, we are working closely with state leaders like Senate President Bill Galvano to enact smarter growth policies that meet Florida’s long-term needs and will, this week, present recommendations the Florida Chamber’s Infrastructure Coalition has prepared for Florida’s elected officials to consider.

The Florida Chamber understands the importance innovation and technology play in Florida’s future- specifically as they relate to Florida’s infrastructure future. Florida 2030 research estimates that by 2030, more than 25 percent of all miles driven (including freight) could be by autonomous vehicles. With guidance and leadership from state leaders like Senator Jeff Brandes, Syd Kitson of Babcock Ranch and Grayson Brulte of Brulte & Company, the Florida Chamber created Autonomous Florida, a statewide initiative that works to ensure Florida continues leading the way in autonomous transportation. Our vision? To make Florida the autonomous capital of “all things autonomous” in North America.

I believe Florida will continue to grow and we can remain competitive if we plan better for the next five million residents than we did for the last five million.

 

This week, leaders from around Florida and the nation will gather at American’s first solar powered town, Babcock Ranch for the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2018 Growth & Infrastructure Summit, to discuss the future of Florida’s transportation and infrastructure systems, as well as outline the strategies needed to grow smarter. Governor-elect DeSantis, Senate President Galvano and House Speaker Oliva have all signaled an interest in keeping innovation and infrastructure at the core of Florida’s economic development future. This is great news as we fight to Secure Florida’s Future.

December 10, 2018

Florida’s New $1 Trillion Economy Creates Opportunities

July 30, 2018

Opportunities That Can Also Overcome Challenges

I’ll never forget where I was on September 29, 2007.

It was a Saturday, and I was in the Atlanta airport, walking to my next connection to catch a flight to D.C. for a meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As I was keeping pace with others focused on catching their next flight, I happened to look over and saw a Wall Street Journal newspaper box and was immediately frozen in time.

The front-page headline said, “Is Florida Over?” Well, as the CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, you can probably imagine that it was not the type of headline you’d want to see in one of the nation’s most widely read newspapers.

A few years later, Florida made an incredible economic turnaround, and soon, even the WSJ would notice and write part two of that story – Has Florida found the secret to saving the economy?

Florida has come a long way in the last 10 years. In fact, in the past five years, Florida’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by 27.2 percent, a rate that puts Florida’s GDP growth among the top five states in the country. And during the same time, Florida has produced more than 1 out of 11 jobs in the U.S.

 

As Will Weatherford, Managing Partner of Weatherford Capitol, former Speaker of the Florida House, and Florida Chamber Board member, recently wrote in Florida Politics:

“You would be hard pressed to find another economy with such robust growth. Florida has seen year-over-year GDP growth, jobs continue to be created and our unemployment rate continues to drop and has remained below the national average for the past several years.”

The good news is that Florida continues to break economic records. Earlier this month, Florida’s GDP topped $1 trillion.  Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish, just this past January, predicted that Florida would reach this new milestone during 2018. And just as Dr. Parrish predicted, Florida officially hit the new $1 trillion GDP in the last few weeks. To put this into perspective, if Florida was an independent country, our $1 trillion economy now ranks us as the 17th largest economy in the world – ahead of Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Argentina. Now, as Dr. Parrish explains, Florida is adding $2.74 billion each day to the state’s GDP.

“Becoming a $1 trillion economy means Florida is continuing to grow and create jobs, keeping unemployment lower than the national average, and creating economic opportunity,” Dr. Parrish said recently.

Florida’s GDP Milestone Garnered the Attention of National and International Headlines

  • Palm Beach PostU.S. News
  • Orlando Sentinel
  • Tampa Bay Times
  • The Capitolist
  • Atlanta Journal Constitution
  • MyFox Memphis
  • ForeignAffairsNZL
  • News4Jax
  • KISS 104.1
  • Dayton Daily News
  • Statesman
  • SpringfieldNews-Sun
  • WFTV9 ABC
  • Sunshine State News.

Of course, achieving a $1 trillion GDP is due in large part to Governor Scott, the Florida Cabinet and Florida Legislature. Consider that, until just a few years ago, Florida punished manufacturing investments twice (once at the state level, once at the local level). At the urging of the Florida Chamber, the legislature and Governor Scott removed the Machinery & Equipment (M&E) sales tax. Understanding that manufacturing jobs have the highest value added, removing this tax is making great strides and helping Florida climb in GDP rankings.

 

“This is an historic moment for Florida reaching a record $1 trillion in GDP. By working every day to create private-sector jobs, we’ve been able to increase Florida’s GDP by more than $270 billion – 37 percent – since 2010. When I came into office I made it very clear that we would get our economy back on track. Within seven and a half years, private-sector businesses have created more than 1.5 million jobs and Florida’s unemployment is at a low 3.8 percent. Florida’s growing economy is producing real results for families across our state and we now have the 17th largest economy in the world,” said Governor Rick Scott.

 

 

“Getting Florida’s economy out of the ditch and back on track has long been one of our state’s top priorities, and today’s announcement that our economy surpassed $1 trillion is incredible news for all Floridians. This milestone is further evidence that the pro-business policies and priorities championed by Governor Scott, the Cabinet and the legislature are working. Florida’s economy is on a roll, but complacency is not a strategy and we must continue to do all that we can to make the Florida’s economy as strong and resilient as possible,” said Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture.

 

 

“Florida’s strong economy is a testament to the work done over the past seven years to create an environment that keeps taxes low, reduces our debt, and makes Florida an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family. When we remove unnecessary burdens and overregulation, businesses can grow and create new jobs, while attracting new talent and companies to our state. It’s important that we continue this growth trend, and the policies that have helped us achieve this feat, to ensure Florida remains a top global economy,” said Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer.

 

 

According to TheFloridaScorecard.org, Florida has created 170,500 jobs over the past year, and has steadily kept unemployment rates below the national average. At the same time, achievement gaps are closing in Florida’s Pre-K-12 system, Florida continues to break visitation records, and our state is continuing to diversify its economy.

And while this growth is good news for Florida, challenges and opportunities remain. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 research initiative (being released this year) shows the gaps Florida must close in order to continue to be globally competitive and grow smarter by 2030 and beyond. Consider that while achievement gaps are closing, 43 percent of 3rd graders aren’t reading at or above grade level. And while 1 in 11 jobs in the nation in the last five years were created in Florida, our state’s 14.8 percent poverty rate includes 21.3 percent of children under age 18. While Florida is better suited than most states in these areas, the Florida Chamber will continue to lead reforms that create economic opportunity.

As former Speaker Weatherford has said, “A $1 trillion economy is proof that when we stay focused on Florida’s long-term future and remain stalwart in our commitment to quality education, free enterprise and an unmatched quality of life, it suggests that we can continue to be one of the most exciting economic stories in the world.”

While we can certainly pay tribute to Florida’s new $1 trillion GDP success, we must also stay focused. The challenges that remain should be viewed as opportunities to further secure Florida’s future. Your dedication toward the common goal of making Florida more competitive, will help ensure that future Wall Street Journal headlines focus on economic prosperity for all.

Join Us

Register today for Florida’s premier forum focused on growing Florida to its full potential – the 2018 Florida Chamber Foundation Future of Florida Forum.

Talent is Florida’s Best Economic Currency

Each month, I have the honor of being able to travel across Florida and meet with business leaders who are working hard to create jobs and economic opportunity for Floridians. Across the board, businesses tell me that the biggest issue keeping them up at night is having a talented workforce that will allow them to continue to create jobs and grow in the future. If we look at the jobs in Florida today there are 242,500 open jobs. Said differently, there are 242,500 jobs today looking for people. On the other side we have 391,000 people looking to fill those vacant jobs.

 

Earlier this month, the Florida Chamber Foundation held their annual Learners to Earners Workforce Summit, where they took a deep dive into how Florida can prepare for the future of work. And these conversations, which centered around building a workforce, are far reaching in scope — we can’t talk about a talented workforce without talking about prosperity, we can’t talk about investments in early learning without talking about Florida’s business climate and, perhaps most importantly, we can’t have any discussions on the challenges and opportunities Florida’s cradle to career continuum faces unless we have them together and work toward one goal.

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam at the Learners to Earners Workforce Summit

 

“What are the things we have to do to diversify our economy and truly become the launch pad for the American dream? First, I think we have to recognize that the diversity of our state is a strength,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said. “We need to recognize the successes when they are there. Not enough people know we have the number one state college system in America. There are not enough people who recognize that what they are getting for their families is a world class education.”

 

When it comes to economic development, talent has already replaced the tax incentive as the number one most important tool in an economic developer’s toolkit. If you don’t believe that, just look at California or Seattle and ask yourself- why would a business add jobs there? Despite their undesirable tax environment and regulatory climate, if that’s where the talent is, talent wins.

Today, if you ask a junior or senior in university or in any of our colleges, they’ll give you a place where they want to live and will bring their skills with them. If Florida can be the best place in the hemisphere in attracting and retaining high-skilled talent, families are going to want to stay here and move here, and businesses would never think of moving anywhere else.

However, in order for Florida to continue to grow we must acknowledge that Florida is changing. Our economics, our demographics and our politics are all changing and these changes are both opportunities and challenges.

What Florida has, is an opportunity to move forward. If we get early learning right, K-12 right, career training right, and lifelong learning right, we won’t have a skills gap in the future. I want to challenge the business community to do a better job communicating to the talent generators what we will need in the future. That might not mean a degree; that may mean a certification or more apprenticeship programs. I want us all to double down on the issue of how important talent is.

To help Florida move in the right direction, it’s vital that we look at what the data shows us. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s first Cornerstone Report in 1989 showed Florida ranked almost dead last in many K-12 metrics- just barely above Mississippi. Fast forward 20 years later and we are now in the top quartile for educational outcomes. We have come a long way with the help of our dedicated partners, a business community that is focused on outcomes and state leadership who is committed to excellence, however, we still have a long way to go. While Florida may be a leader in the United States in education initiatives, the real problem is that the U.S. is rapidly falling in comparison to other countries.

By 2030 Florida will have 5.7 million more people, 3 million new drivers on our roads, 50 million more visitors each year and will need to create at least 1.7 million new jobs over and above what we have right now. There is some great work being done in Florida but at the same time, Florida still has more than 1 million children living in poverty. And while job growth is increasing, Florida will lose more than 1 million jobs due to autonomation.

We Can’t Improve Without the Help of Florida’s Business Community

At the 2018 Learners to Earners Workforce Summit, we released the in-depth recommendations on Talent Supply & Education from our Florida 2030 research. These recommendations show where Florida is, where we need to be and more importantly, how we can work together to get there. I encourage you to take a look and provide your comments and thoughts.

Register today for the annual Future of Florida Forum where we will continue the conversation and release the full Florida 2030 report.

What Others Are Saying

The Tampa Bay Time’s Graham Brink wrote: Florida is in a must-win fight for talented workers. See the Florida Trend’s article about strategic thinking about Florida’s future. Check out the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s:  Early childhood learning dominates Tampa business summit.

 

Thank you to the Florida Chamber Foundation Board of Trustees, for your 50 years of providing leadership in Florida, and to the many partners and businesses who continue to make sure that the right things happen in Florida.

The “Florida Plan” for School Safety Should Become a National Model

Last fall, just two months before the start of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Florida Chamber of Commerce put forward the business community’s legislative recommendations designed to make Florida more competitive and help businesses create good jobs and economic opportunity for everyone.

And, while these priorities will need and deserve attention in the future, the truth is, nothing on Florida’s business agenda matters if Florida, in this new world we live in, is not doing what is needed to protect our children, and to provide them a safe place to learn, explore and grow. In the days since the Parkland tragedy, I’ve heard from business and local chamber leaders throughout Florida – each expressing concern, and urging us to unite for reasoned and positive action while balancing individual freedoms and security of our children.

In many ways, Florida is moving in the right direction. As the third largest state, Florida is creating one in every 10 new jobs in America. More than 21 million people from all walks of life call Florida home, and more than 112 million visit our great state. Florida will become a $1 trillion economy this year, and employers will create more than 180,000 jobs in 2018 – outpacing the U.S. economy in job growth for the eighth year in a row.

As you know, the bookends of the Florida Chamber’s Six Pillars for economic prosperity are education and quality of life. From championing the talent developed in our education system, to protecting Florida’s family-friendly brand, we’ve made it our business to ensure today’s learners become tomorrow’s earners, and that Florida is the best place to live, work, learn, raise a family and pursue the American dream.

Business and local chamber leaders throughout Florida are encouraging our Governor and legislative leaders to ensure Florida has the procedures and laws in place to give our children, as well as their parents, the assurances they need to learn. Frankly, nothing else matters. As parents, we also recognize that, but for the grace of God, it could have been our children.

In my view, what unites us is far greater than what divides us. From picking up the pieces after Hurricanes Andrew and Irma, to uniting after the Pulse and Parkland massacres, there are many things that make Florida a national leader.

Our character is being tested yet again as voters throughout America are waiting for politicians to put partisanship aside, and put Americans first. Right now, Florida has an opportunity to set a national example to balance quality of life, safety, and important constitutional rights.

Therefore, on behalf of employers throughout Florida, I have encouraged our state’s leaders to show our residents, employers and the nation that Florida leads regardless of the political consequences.

If members of the Florida Legislature do the right thing for our schools, for our future, and they lose an election because of it, that’s one of the most honorable things an elected leader could do. I believe Floridians will reward them for putting the long-term best interest of Florida ahead of short-term political fixes. I believe their actions, can begin to restore unity in a nation where so much polarization keeps good people from agreeing on smart reforms.

Last week I respectfully encouraged Governor Rick Scott, President Joe Negron and Speaker Richard Corcoran to pursue the following four guiding principles to better protect our most precious resources – our children and families.

  1. Expanding mental health services, improving background checks, and empowering law enforcement with the tools they need to keep our young learners safe.
  2. Hardening schools and increasing School Resource Officer staffing.
  3. Increasing the age to purchase certain long guns to 21 years of age.
  4. Ensuring accessories to convert semi-automatic guns to fully automatic status are illegal.

Additionally, toward their consideration of the guiding principles toward new or revised policies, we requested their support include appropriate investments to ensure immediate implementation.

Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature have put forth their recommendations, and those proposals are actively moving through the legislative process. You can read more about those efforts at www.FloridaChamber.com/Safety.

On behalf of Florida’s leading employers, the Florida Chamber encourages lawmakers to take action – sacrifice the day-to-day details of legislative activities and secure Florida’s future by putting the safety of our students, Florida’s global brand, individual freedoms, and the future of our diverse state first.

Our hearts and prayers remain with the families and victims of the Parkland tragedy. By putting security, common sense and Florida’s quality of life first, we can secure Florida’s future.

Good Jobs for All Means Investing in Florida’s Workforce Colleges

Mark Wilson, Guest Columnist, Pensacola News Journal

As the president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, my job is to listen to the concerns and needs of Florida employers and then share them with legislators and our governor. One of the biggest concerns I hear is that employers have jobs to fill, yet they cannot find all the talent they need.

Quarter after quarter, results from the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Index Survey show finding qualified employees as the top priority for employers across Florida. Right now, right here in Florida, despite a near record low unemployment, we have 261,600 jobs looking for people, and 374,000 people looking for jobs.

Workforce colleges are part of the solution to closing the skills gap, and Floridians need the legislature to follow Governor Scott’s lead and fully invest in the Florida College System.

To help close the gap, higher education institutions and workforce colleges are converting learners into earners. Florida’s universities, research institutions and career academies are preparing students with higher education for the workforce of tomorrow. Meanwhile, workforce colleges are training students – many of whom are economically disadvantaged, working adults and first-generation-in college students – with skills that match Florida jobs.Between now and 2030, two million more jobs will be needed in Florida. In fact, by 2030, 60 percent of jobs will require a post-secondary degree or advanced training.

And innovation and disruptive technologies are increasing the need for stronger skills. Many of these new jobs will require a shift in the skills and competencies of Florida’s workforce.

Simply put, talent is quickly replacing the tax incentive as Florida’s best economic development tool. But with lawmakers threatening to limit access to Florida’s workforce colleges and to cut funding that helps best match student interests with the right job skill training, you might not think improving educational opportunities in Florida is a priority of everyone in the Florida Legislature.

Job creators need our state legislature to put the long-term needs of Florida ahead of short-term fixes, and properly invest in Florida’s College System. Florida’s 28 workforce colleges develop and expand programs and certifications that directly speak to the workforce employment gaps in their region and produce the training and skills necessary to fill the voids.

Limiting investments and placing arbitrary caps on the number of students who can enroll in a workforce college will stifle a region’s ability to grow its labor force and prevent it from being a viable option for companies to relocate and call Florida home.

Florida should continue to strategically align the higher education systems to prepare for Florida’s future growth. By empowering Florida’s workforce colleges to foster innovative programs and certifications for targeted skills development, we can ensure the workforce pipeline will remain strong.

If you’re reading this and you want your kids and grandkids to live and work in Florida, please call your state legislator and ask them to do the right thing and fully fund Florida’s workforce colleges.

Mark Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at mwilson@flchamber.com.

Florida Chamber Jobs Agenda Seeks Workers’ Comp Fix

As a business leader, you know all too well the fight for free enterprise never ends. The cost of doing business is a daily reminder of the challenges job creators face.

Florida’s business community has faced a $1.5 billion impact from workers’ compensation rates that remain 14.5 percent higher than they should be. Florida’s bottom five legal environment is an open invitation for “gotcha” lawsuits that cost Florida families an average of $3,400 each year in lawsuit abuse costs. And discouraging and discriminatory tax policies, like the Florida-only business rent tax, are uncompetitive.

Despite the economic, political and demographic shifts that have placed Florida in a fragile position, I believe Florida’s best days are yet to come. By reducing the cost of living and cost of doing business, redoubling efforts on workforce and investing in infrastructure, Florida’s economy will continue to strengthen jobs, wages and opportunities for Floridians.

Year after year, the Florida Chamber has been at the forefront of solving issues that impact the competitiveness and future of Florida’s business climate. And the Florida Chamber’s 2018 Jobs Agenda – reinforced by the united support of Florida’s business community – once again will be the driving force to create economic opportunity and grow jobs.

Legislative leaders, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, more than a dozen members of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives, along with Florida Chamber Board Chair Bob Grammig joined us at Florida’s Capitol recently as we unveiled the jobs agenda, and called on lawmakers to strengthen Florida’s economy, spur smart growth, and create jobs and economic opportunity.

Among the 41 priorities on the 2018 Jobs Agenda is a fix to Florida’s workers’ comp system. By addressing the true cost drivers of the system, including attorney fees, Florida can experience stability to the system and lower unnecessary costs.

See What Others Are Saying

“I think workers’ comp is one of the biggest issues facing the state of Florida, especially if you put it in the context of working families. There is a tremendous amount of pressure for companies, like mine, that provide basic services to keep wages low.” – Senator Keith Perry, Florida Chamber Bottom Line.

 

“A competitive and predictable workers’ comp system that protects workers and job creators is vital to making Florida more competitive. Lawmakers should consider the long-term ramifications for the future of the state if they fail on reform this session.” – Carol Roberts, President and CEO, Bay County Chamber of Commerce.

 

“When it was first developed it had a good purpose. But, by the time you allow government to take over and attorneys to get involved, it has been completely run amuck. – Todd Gates, Southwest Florida Region Chair, Florida Chamber Board of Directors and Founder and Chairman of GATES.

 

The Orlando Business Journal, Florida Politics, WJHG News Channel 7, and more were among those talking about the 2018 Jobs Agenda.

Workers’ Comp Task Force

The 2018 Legislative Session begins January 9, and the Florida Chamber and its Workers’ Comp Task Force will once again be leading the charge to reform Florida’s broken workers’ comp system. As a leader in Florida’s business community, your help is needed.

 

Here are three ways you can help:

  1. Share this message,
  2. Join our Worker’s Comp Task Force, 
  3. Engage with our lead lobbyists on this issue, Carolyn Johnson (cjohnson@flchamber.com) for in-depth legislative details.

As always, thank you for your support of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Gov. Scott Requests $100 Million for VISIT FLORIDA

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 18, 2017) – Today, after meeting with tourism leaders from across the state, Governor Rick Scott urged the Florida Legislature to fully fund VISIT FLORIDA at $100 million.

 

WATCH: Remarks by Governor Scott

 

WATCH: Remarks by Mark Wilson, President and CEO of Florida Chamber of Commerce

 

WATCH: Remarks by Russell Daws, President and CEO of Tallahassee Museum

Legislation Eliminating Economic Development Will Make Florida Less Competitive

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (March 10, 2017) – Today, Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson released the following statement on the economic development vote in the Florida House of Representatives:

“Today’s decision by the Florida House of Representatives to dismantle economic incentive initiatives sends the message that Florida isn’t interested in growing jobs and businesses as it once was.

 

“Eliminating Florida’s targeted and proven economic development programs is not the way forward. At the Florida Chamber, we understand incentives are rarely ever used and are usually inappropriate. However, in the 1-5 percent of the cases where incentives matter, site selectors tell us that these incentives are often the difference maker which is why the Florida Chamber continues to support a limited use of targeted incentives.

 

“Until the Florida Legislature makes Florida the most competitive business climate in the world — by continuing to reduce regulation, lowering workers compensation costs, eliminating lawsuit abuse, insurance fraud, and the business rent tax, as well as providing targeted incentives for high-paying, sustainable jobs — the last thing Florida should do is take tools off the table. Today’s move to take economic development strategies that work off the table is frankly, irresponsible and severally damages Florida’s ability to continue to lead the nation in job creation, particularly from small businesses who create most of the new jobs in Florida, and economic opportunities.

 

“If we could compete on our sunshine-soaked beaches and current lack of income tax alone, we would win. But the fact is, at the Florida Chamber we are living in the real world, where our competitors are not giving up these important economic development tools anytime soon.”

 

###

Ax Economic Incentives? Whoa, Says Florida Chamber’s Mark Wilson

Orlando Sentinel, February 21, 2017
By Michael Joe Murphy

WATCH Sentinel Opinions Editor Paul Owens checks in with Florida Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Wilson on hot business and economic issues in the upcoming Florida legislative session.

Less than a month before the Legislature convenes for its annual session, a House subcommittee has approved a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, along with several tax incentives for businesses. The bill pits House Speaker Richard Corcoran, no fan of tax incentives, against Gov. Rick Scott, a champion of both agencies and of tax breaks to lure businesses here. With opposing sides hunkered down, all eyes are on the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the state’s leading business organization. To gauge chamber sentiments, the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board interviewed Mark Wilson, chamber president and CEO.

 

Q: Where does the chamber stand in the battle over taxpayer incentives for businesses that create jobs?

A:  Everything we’re doing is a about job creation, and everything we’re doing is about making Florida more competitive.  It’s interesting that, in Washington, the fight’s between Republicans and Democrats, but here in Florida it’s increasingly between Republicans and Republicans.  Where we come down on the issue of job creation and economic opportunity is that Florida should keep every tool on the table … that protects taxpayers, including taxpayer incentives.

I want to be clear about this: Incentives are almost always inappropriate, and they should rarely ever be used.  In fact, they are rarely ever used.  Only about 2 percent of the time do incentives come into play.  Most jobs are created because small and mid-sized businesses say Florida is a good market … to create a job.  But to send a message to the world that Florida is closed for business and that we don’t want to create jobs here anymore… We have a – [let’s] call it a philosophical difference if you want:  We think the best way to protect taxpayers is, in fact, to have a system in place that creates jobs that generates more tax revenue so that we can fund teachers, firefighters and police [officers].   Now is not the time to send the message … that … we don’t want to create jobs anymore.

 

Q:   Few chamber members receive a taxpayer incentive for creating jobs. So isn’t there an issue of fairness when certain employers get incentives?

A:  We hear this a lot … [people ask], “Is it fair?”  Some people … talk about picking winners and losers.  What we do in Florida is very different than what’s [done] in other states.  Remember, I was here 20 years ago talking about how   … to diversify our economy in Florida.  We have an agriculture-tourism based economy, and that’s always … important, but we also need modeling and simulation, and aerospace and advance manufacturing, life sciences and so forth.  So what we say to the world is: “We want to accelerate the diversification of high-paying jobs and economic opportunity.”  For everyone in the world … in those targeted industries, “If you come to Florida, and if you create jobs, it doesn’t matter what company you are. Anyone can have access.”  So … we’re talking about diversifying … and creating more jobs and economic opportunity.  And that’s an opportunity for every single Floridian – it’s also an opportunity for every … person … in [an] industry … to create job[s].

Florida doesn’t pick this company or that company – the companies … pick Florida.  And remember, this is a competitive environment – [these companies] could pick Georgia; they could pick Brazil; they could pick Mexico; they could pick California.  This is an incredibly competitive environment when you’re talking about high-wage, high-skilled jobs.  That’s the part of the discussion I think some people are missing.

 

Q: Eliminating Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida could save taxpayers $100 million. How does the chamber view these proposals?

A:  … All proposals deserve a fair hearing.  …  What we want to look at is, “What happens when you do these proposals?”  Take tourism, as an example:  Here we are in Florida, arguably the tourism capital of the world.  [There is no] … personal income tax in Florida because of our tourism economy.  We have over 100 million people visit our state every year, and in many ways it’s because we are marketing to them.  We’re talking to them about why Florida is a good place. …  .  And some of them actually end up moving here, which helps drive our economy.

If we [were] eliminate Visit Florida, this … [would be equivalent to] a $90 million tax increase in Florida.  If we …   eliminate Enterprise Florida [and] Visit Florida – it [would amount to] an immediate $90 million increase, not to mention the over $11 billion of tax revenue that’s generated in Florida from the tourism industry alone.  So, to suggest that … with all the taxpayer protections that are in [incentives],  if we stop them [that] is somehow a way to save money, we are actually going to have to look at these like personal income taxes.

If we pull back from marketing Florida as a place for people to visit, if we send a message to the world that we’re not open for business anymore – where do you think [our] taxes [will] come from?  … [Taxes]   come from creating jobs; they come from people buying things.  And if we don’t have people coming to Florida to rent hotels, to rent cars, to buy things from small businesses … that revenue engine [would] stop.  … These programs not only pay for themselves, they provide an even bigger return back to the taxpayer, so we can have more dollars for roads like we’re [building] right now in Orlando — more dollars for teachers.  … It’s a false narrative that … [to cut] … targeted incentives [that have] … taxpayer protections, [Florida would achieve] a …  savings.  It actually [would be] a huge cost.  We could be looking at income taxes, and we could be looking at an immediate $90 million tax increase. …

 

Q:  Senate President Joe Negron has a couple of proposals:  Partner with the federal government on a $2.4 billion reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to handle polluted runoff  … and invest an additional $1 billion dollars … in higher education.  Does the Chamber have any feelings on these?

A:  … Both of those proposals are worth talking about.  Like I said earlier, we should discuss everything because beneath all of these proposals [we] get us to better policies.

…[Regarding] education policy:  We know from the Florida Chamber Foundation and research that talent is quickly replacing the tax incentive as the most important tool in the economic tool kit.  We have 500,000 people in Florida … without a job, and we have 250,000 jobs without people.  So investing more in the education to build that talent pipeline – … President Negron is on exactly the right track of investing more in higher education where the benefit is a trained work force; it benefits [research and development]. The science tells us, the economics tell us [that] this is exactly what we should be doing.

Now, on the flip side of this … Some people are suggesting building a second Lake Okeechobee south of the current lake.  … I have personally traveled to Martin County; I have personally traveled to Stuart and … seen the blue-green algae. …  It is a major problem. … But where the Florida Chamber always comes down on these issues is: We step back, and we say “Let’s take the politics out of it for a minute – what’s the right thing to do?  What did the scientists say needs to be done?”

The science on what to do about the water challenges that are in Florida are very clear.  We need to clean up the septic [tanks] north of the lake; we need to finish all the projects that the federal government has approved.  I think Governor [Rick] Scott is exactly right: We need to do a cost-sharing program where the government pays for part of this, and we ask the individual homeowners and business to pay part of the conversion to septic tanks.  So in terms of building a second Lake Okeechobee, it’s not that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, it’s  not on the list of things that should be on the table. … [Science] tells us it’s not the first thing, second thing or third thing that we should [do] …  to actually solve the problem.  And so, I don’t think it’s as easy as [asking] … “Are you against it or are you for it?”  I think the right conversation to be had is, “What’s the first thing you would do if you actually wanted to deal with the problem?” “what’s the second thing” “what’s the third thing”?”  …

[There] are a lot of things we could do with a couple of billion dollars right now, and to actually solve the blue-green algae problem in the first place.  And converting septic tanks north of the lake is the A-number-1 issue that everybody agrees on.  So it’s a matter of when you do it.  And we don’t think doing it first is what the science tells us to do.

Mark Wilson Talks to the Orlando Sentinel on Enterprise Florida and Legislative Issues

In our continued efforts to save Florida’s economic development and tourism efforts, Mark Wilson, President and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce recently spoke to the Orlando Sentinel. Watch the video as Mark Wilson discusses Enterprise Florida and legislative issues with Opinions Editor Paul Owens.

Securing Florida’s Water Future, Together

July 8, 2016

WATCH: President and CEO Mark Wilson meets with local business leaders to talk algae solutions.

 

One hundred years ago, the biggest threat facing Florida’s economy was a parasite – the cattle tick. Times were dire – the entire state was under federal quarantine and the very safety and security of Florida’s economic core were in danger of collapse.

Much has changed in the last century. With 20 million-plus residents, Florida is now the third most populous state in the country, and our economy is thriving. In fact, if Florida was a country, we’d be the 16th largest economy in the world.

Much of Florida’s economic success is attributed to our state’s unique quality of life. From the Panhandle’s white sandy beaches to the distinctive natural resources of the Keys, ensuring Florida remains the best place to live, work, learn and play has been a top priority for the Florida Chamber for the last 100 years. We’ve long championed long-term, sustainable water policy—science-based water policy – to protect Florida’s natural and economic resources for the future.

In fact, it’s why – for more than 30 years – the Florida Chamber Foundation has hosted a continuing education summer school to focus specifically on Florida’s fragile environment. We believe, providing resources like the Florida Chamber’s Environmental Permitting Summer School highlights science-based research and best management practices to help ensure communities across Florida grow smarter.  Environmental experts from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nature Conservancy, local and state environmental leaders and more make a point of attending annually.

Recently, I walked along the edges of the Indian River Lagoon and witnessed first-hand the blue green algae that is impacting families and job creators in Florida’s Treasure Coast. Shortly after that tour, I sat down with business leaders from the Stuart are in Martin County to learn more about the algae and its impact on their businesses. It’s a message I also shared with CNBC and WPBF 25.

While there was indeed an algae problem, the tourists the national media claimed were all gone where walking on the beaches and filling up the hotels, and enjoying the natural surroundings. And, while business leaders in the community shared their frustration of some lost business, they also shared their sense of urgency to spread the word the region is open for business.

At the Florida Chamber, we share in the frustration blue green algae has created, and we continue our long-standing commitment to seek real solutions to help provide relief.

In fact, as part of our ongoing efforts to help secure Florida’s water future, the Florida Chamber has been working with one of the world’s foremost experts on water science. Dr. Brian Lapointe, Research Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has presented at the Florida Chamber’s Annual Meeting, appeared on our television program Bottom Line, and is helping us educate businesses and employees on the real causes – and solutions – to Florida’s water challenges.

With six million more residents expected to call Florida home by 2030, and our state’s water demand expected to increase by 20 percent by 2030, strong, science-based water quality standards will continue to play a vital role in Florida’s economy and quality of life.

While we should look at several possible solutions, one of the most promising and effective is septic tank conversions. Dr. Lapointe has extensive experience in water quality research in South Florida and the Caribbean region. His latest scientific research shows that septic tank sewage nitrogen is one of the threats to Florida’s waterways, including the Indian River Lagoon.

Over the years, Dr. Lapointe’s research has led to greater nutrient removal from sewage effluents in Monroe County, his long-term water quality monitoring at Looe Key reef in the Florida Keys represents the longest low-level nutrient record for a coral reef anywhere in the world.

While it may have been the cattle tick that brought Florida’s business community together 100 years ago and created the Florida Chamber of Commerce to protect the economic wellbeing of our state, protecting Florida’s water bodies and unique quality of life are vital to Florida’s future economy.

We’re proud to stand up for Florida families and job creators to do everything we can to ensure our economy is not only vibrant, but that it’s sustainable.

 

Florida Chamber President Urges Congress to Begin Breaking The Cycle of Generational Poverty Through Economic Opportunity

“The battle of this generation is between economic equality and economic opportunity – between those who believe
that everyone is entitled to prosperity and those who believe everyone is entitled to the opportunity to succeed.”

– Mark Wilson, President and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 1, 2016) – While voters in 11 states are casting ballots for their preferred presidential candidate today, Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce took to Capitol Hill to encourage the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Human Resources to seek ways to end generational poverty by lifting up Americans through economic opportunity instead of entitlements.

“The battle of this generation is between economic equality and economic opportunity – between those who believe that everyone is entitled to prosperity and those who believe everyone is entitled to the opportunity to succeed,” Mark Wilson said during testimony before the Congressional Committee.

As Wilson explained, there will always be poverty, the kind that results from temporary setbacks such as job loss, foreclosures, or unexpected challenges, and the Florida Chamber believes social safety nets are needed and necessary to help bridge a family back to a productive “work based solution.”

“While sometimes necessary, certain entitlement programs can have the unintended consequences of creating dependency, exacerbating the underlying issues and enabling a system that keeps those within it captive, unable to climb out,” Wilson explained. “We can break this cycle and create greater opportunities for the next generation by removing the shackles of government entitlement programs that are holding the poorest of the poor back, incorporating greater educational opportunities and allowing free enterprise to create more private-sector jobs. We can make generational poverty a thing of the past and the American Dream of economic freedom a reality.”

To break the cycle, Wilson urges Members of Congress to focus on closing the education gap and increasing workforce training and work based solutions.

“Jobs and education create equal opportunity and hope for all Floridians, including our most vulnerable residents. Florida’s business leaders have accepted the challenge to focus on prosperity as an economic driver and find solutions to curb generational poverty. If we are going to help solve the poverty problem, leadership must come from the business community, not just the tax base,” Wilson told members of the congressional committee.

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee is Chaired by Congressman Vern Buchanan, a former Florida Chamber Chair. This is the first committee meeting of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee that Congressman Buchanan is chairing.

Read Mark Wilson’s comments to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee by clicking here.

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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.

Statement On Solar Choice Amendment

TALLAHASSEE (October 22, 2015) – Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson today released the below statement on the Florida Supreme Court’s approval of a solar choice amendment.

“With Florida’s population expected to increase by six million people by the year 2030, the Florida Chamber of Commerce believes we must prepare Florida’s infrastructure for smart growth and development.

“To provide Florida families with reliable and cost-effective energy options, including solar, the Florida Chamber supports energy policies that focus on the long-term demands of our state that will help meet the needs of Florida’s growing population. Reliable and sustainable infrastructure is important to the prosperity of all Floridians, as well as Florida’s competitiveness.

“The Florida Chamber has a long-standing history of opposing constitutional amendments that can be achieved through the legislative or budget process, and therefore opposes the solar choice amendment. Additionally, the Florida Chamber has a strong history of advocating for a comprehensive state energy portfolio, including solar energy.

“The solar choice amendment is driven by special interest who seek to raise electricity prices on Florida families and make Florida less competitive. There’s a right way to do solar, but Florida’s Constitution isn’t it.

“The Florida Chamber will continue to encourage voters to protect our constitution by opposing this amendment that provides protections and unrestricted and unregulated growth for a specific industry.”

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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.

Viewpoint: Keep Florida’s Workers’ Comp System Working

Job creators beware … even though your business’ workers’ compensation rates continue decreasing, several pending Florida Supreme court case outcomes could reverse that trend – potentially pushing your rates toward the near record levels of the early 2000’s.

As Florida’s leading advocate fighting to keep workers’ comp working, the potential impact of the high court’s ruling could threaten Florida’s improving business climate.

Consider the facts: for more than 10 years, the Florida Chamber has led efforts to help lower workers’ comp rates by almost 60 percent. In 2003, when Florida’s rates were the second highest in the country, a united business community joined with the Florida Chamber in successfully urging elected leaders to address cost drivers like outrageous, higher-than-the-national-average plaintiff lawyer fees.

 

Click here to see the complete article in the Pensacola News Journal.