Tallahassee Mid-Session Update

Posted On 04/08/2019 by Matt Lettelleir

This week marked the middle of the 2019 Florida Legislative Session. The House and Senate budget proposals have been released and general bills are either moving through the committee process or are no longer viable.

With just 30 days left, here’s an update on where things stand.

Governor and Legislative Leader Priorities

While the Florida Legislature followed through on Governor DeSantis’ request and passed a smokable medical marijuana bill which he signed into law on March 18th, the real negotiations are just now beginning. DeSantis has requested $625 million in his budget proposal for Everglades restoration and water-improvement projects. The House nearly matched his request with $607.4 million while the Senate came in at $656 million.

Much of the budget negotiations on other appropriations will be affected by the passage of House Speaker Jose Oliva and Senate President Bill Galvano’s top priorities: repealing hospital expansion Certificate of Need requirements for Oliva and connecting rural areas of the state via toll road for Galvano.

Now that bills addressing these initiatives are moving through committees in both chambers, it can be expected that these priorities will be used as chits during budget negotiations.

Chamber Priorities

The Chamber released the following slate of Legislative Priorities earlier this spring that were vetted by the Legislative Committee, Public Policy Council, and the Board of Governors:

St. Petersburg Museum of History Appropriation– The Chamber supports the request for $1.3 million for renovations and expansion. The Senate budget includes just $200,000 and the House has zero. Unlikely the full request is funded due to large amount.

Arts/Division of Cultural Affairs Grant Program– The Chamber is advocating for the full funding of $61.6 million ($2.5 million for Pinellas). Currently $17 million is in the Senate budget and $11.2 million in the House version. At these levels several St. Pete projects would be funded, including the St. Pete Arts Alliance.

Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority– TBARTA is requesting a minimum of $1.5 million to fund operations and additional money to fund studies and other projects. There is $4.8 million in the Senate budget, $0 in House budget.

Affordable Housing– The Chamber supports protecting the State Housing Trust Fund and Local Government Trust Fund from being swept into other funds. Bills mandating protection are not moving but the funds are protected in both budgets.

Economic Development Corporations– The Chamber supports preserving local control of EDCs without burdensome regulations and limitations. No bills filed affecting the operation of local EDCs this session.

Community Redevelopment Areas– The Chamber is advocating to protect CRAs and allow local governments to administer them without burdensome regulations and limitations. A bill affecting the creation of new CRAs is advancing in House but not moving in the Senate.

With many of the items being budgetary in nature, we will not know their fate until the budget is passed and eventually signed into law. (The Governor of Florida can utilize a line-item veto on budget appropriations after the budget is passed.)

The End of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida?

Both Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, and Visit Florida, the state’s tourism arm, are in jeopardy of being shut down. The House budget would only fund Visit Florida until October of this year and completely cuts all funding for Enterprise Florida while the Senate budget contains funding for both.

We encourage our members and community leaders to reach out to our local delegation and legislative leaders in support of both of these organizations. Please reach out to Matt Lettelleir if you have any questions at mlettelleir@stpete.com.

Other Agenda Items

A bill clarifying last year’s USF Consolidation and mandating USFSP and USFSM campuses be designated as branch campuses is moving through the House and Senate. This is very good news for both campuses as they will retain more control under a branch campus model versus that of an instructional site.

Senator Jeff Brandes (St. Pete) passed his Mobility Devices and Motorized Scooters bill through its first committee stop last week. This bill would allow micro mobility devices, like scooters, to operate on city streets and bike lanes. Local jurisdictions would then be able to contract with e-scooter companies like JUMP to provide scooters using a system similar to bike share.

Lastly, despite successfully decreasing the sales tax on commercial leases in recent years, the legislature has not advanced any bills this session that would do so. Two Senate bills (SB 1112- Gruters and SB 1642- Gainer) were filed but have not seen action since March 11th. No House bills were filed.

If you would like to learn more or get involved with the Chamber’s Advocacy Program, please reach out to Matt Lettelleir at mlettelleir@stpete.com.

Category: Advocacy, Featured