The last Chamber event of 2019, the 2020 Legislative Preview, welcomed Pinellas Legislators to the Staybridge Suites in St. Pete to preview the upcoming Legislative Session. State Senators Jeff Brandes and Darryl Rouson were joined by State House Representatives Ben Diamond, Nick DiCeglie, Jennifer Webb, and Wengay Newton for the luncheon sponsored by Spectrum Communications.
The program, moderated by Albie Kaminsky, Senior Manager, Government Affairs for Spectrum, began with each legislator highlighting their individual priorities for the upcoming session.
Senator Brandes stated he is focused on Electric Vehicle and Criminal Justice legislation as well as insurance reform. Senator Rouson is also focused on criminal justice reform in addition to funding for the arts.
Representative Diamond, who will be the Democratic leader in 2023 and 2024, joins the Senators in focusing on criminal justice reform but is also looking to pass some environmental protection legislation.
Rep. DiCeglie is focused on reducing regulations for small businesses and ensuring impact fees are used for their intended purposes.
Rep. Webb will be working on teacher salary increases and school nutrition programs as well as environmental appropriations.
Lastly, Rep. Newton gave a passionate speech about his top priority, the Home Instruction for Parents and Preschool Youngsters Grant Program.
The Chamber released a draft of their 2020 Legislative Priorities earlier this month focusing on funding for USF St. Pete, Arts and Museums, the Tampa Bay Innovation Center Incubator, TBARTA, Affordable Housing, and Behavioral Health. The consensus among the legislators is that the Chamber can expect some of these priorities to be funded at various levels but unlikely for them all to succeed and be fully funded given the budget constraints expected.
Much news has been made in recent weeks regarding the future of VISIT Florida, the states tourism marketing agency. Governor DeSantis has championed extending the authorization of the agency and maintaining funding of $50 million while House Speaker Jose Oliva has the agency slated for elimination. Senate President Bill Galvano has expressed support for the agency but it’s future will be decided in the budget negotiations between the House and Senate in late February/early March. Senator Brandes told the audience that while he doesn’t have a “crystal ball”, he believes VISIT Florida will be reauthorized but be subject to a “haircut” in funding.
Senator Rouson expressed his opposition to property tax exemptions for hospitals and his support for additional protection from assault and battery for hospital workers. Rep. Diceglie is excited about teacher raises and mental health funding. Rep. Diamond expressed his appreciation for the partnership with Senators Brandes and Rouson and for the Chamber’s advocacy for St. Pete and Tampa Bay.
St. Pete Day in Tallahassee: February 19-20
The Chamber will be traveling to Tallahassee on February 19-20 to advocate for our city and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater/Tampa Area. Stay tuned after the first of the year for registration information.
Lastly, on a personal note, have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year. 2020 will be the biggest year yet for Advocacy at the Chamber and I look forward to working with all our members to make St. Pete an even better place to live, work, and play. – Matt