COVID Liability for Healthcare Providers (Chamber Supports)
Last week, the Florida Senate passed SB 7014, related to COVID-19 claims against health care providers, by a vote of 22-13 (Senator Hutson supported).
Last year, the Florida Legislature passed COVID-19 liability protections for businesses and health care providers with overwhelming support. Unfortunately, the protections afforded to health care facilities and providers sunset at the end of March 2022 without further legislative action. SB 7014 sponsored by Senator Danny Burgess simply extends the liability protections passed last year for health care providers through June 1, 2023. The health care community, including hospitals, nursing homes, doctors and nurses, have been on the front lines fighting this ongoing pandemic and the Florida Chamber believes it is necessary to protect our health care heroes beyond the March sunset.
SB 7014 was immediately certified and now waits in “House messages” for when the House companion measure is ready for the Floor. That bill, HB 7021, has one committee hearing remaining and can be up as early as this Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee.
Necessary VISIT FLORIDA Extension Packs Bags for Trip to Final Committee in the House (Chamber Supports)
HB 489, by Representative Linda Chaney, had its first committee hearing in the House this week in the Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee and will be heard in its final committee on Monday in the House Commerce Committee.
HB 489 extends VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, through October 1, 2028. Florida’s tourism industry is a key driver of the state’s economy and for every $1 the state spends in tourism marketing, the return on investment is $3.27 in state revenue. By extending this important program, VISIT FLORIDA will have the certainty to plan for future marketing campaigns and hire or retain top talent. A similar bill in the House last year did not receive a hearing.
The Senate companion, SB 434 by Senator Ed Hooper, also has one committee hearing remaining.
Rural Economic Development (Chamber Supports)
Neither the House nor Senate took action last week.
Business Rent Tax (Chamber Supports)
Legislation passed last year begins to reduce the Florida-only business rent tax incrementally, a huge win for the Chamber last year. These bills permanently eliminate the Florida-only business rent tax after July 1, 2026. No action taken last week.
Small Business Saturday: SB 712/HB 439 (Chamber Supports)
Supports shopping at local small businesses by eliminating the sales tax on purchases on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. No action taken this week.
OTHER IMPORTANT STORYLINES:
Redistricting: Flagler Remains “Whole”
The current redistricting maps proposed by both the House and Senate keep Flagler County as one, unified legislative district. The Chamber supports the current maps and prefers residents and businesses have a larger voice in one district, as opposed to two smaller voices in two different districts. This is the beginning of a lengthy process, but we’re happy to report we’ve started off on the right foot.
It’s worth noting the input out of DeSantis’ office this week. Not only did counsel take the unprecedented step of submitting a map, but officials, including the Governor himself, said the Senate proposals present legal concerns, particularly a north Florida district they label an “unconstitutional gerrymander.” The Chamber reviewed the Governor’s Office proposed Senate map, which still keeps Flagler “whole.”
Government Regulation Impacting Businesses, Moving Forward:
SB 620, filed by Senator Travis Hutson, creates a cause of action for businesses at least 3-years-old that can prove a new local law resulted in a 15% loss of income. Eligible businesses would be entitled to recover expert-determined damages unless a city/county elects to roll back the ordinance. The Senate Appropriations Committee OK’d the measure with a mostly party-line 11-7 vote last week.
Similarly, SB 280, also by Senator Hutson, cleared its final Senate committee via a 14-2 vote. The bill would require local governments to draw up a report for every proposed ordinance detailing the estimated economic impact to businesses, including how many businesses the ordinance would affect and how much it would cost them to comply.
What’s Your Share of $1 Billion in Gas Tax Savings?
We shared with you last week that Gov. DeSantis called to “zero out gas taxes” in Florida for “as long as we can” via a $1 Billion gas tax holiday. How much would the average Florida driver save by purchasing tax free gas in Florida? In a letter penned by State CFO Jimmy Patronis, he writes, “My economist believes the Governor’s gas tax cut proposal will equate to around a $200 average savings for Florida households…” HB 851 related to school concurrency passed its first committee stop on Wednesday. This Florida-Chamber backed bill clarifies and streamlines the approval process for local developers when satisfying school concurrency requirements and requires local government action within 60 days of a tendered commitment. The Senate version, SB 706, will be heard next Tuesday in Community Affairs.