Florida’s statewide business leadership has provided Florida’s legislative leaders with a comprehensive list of our needs and concerns. We will be meeting in Tallahassee in just a few days to fine-tune our requests before the legislature convenes on January 10. In addition to the three business priorities I described earlier for readers (workers compensation and drug repackaging, the online sales tax loophole, and auto insurance), here are the other most important business needs we will be discussing with legislators.
Environmental regulations: the Federal government’s proposed numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) standards imposed on Florida were outrageous. The EPA singled out Florida to “improve” our water quality levels to unimaginably high standards. This, in spite of the fact that Florida already has one of the best water quality laws in America. If the Feds aren’t stopped, the water bill for the average Floridian will be $746 per year. Local governments, public utilities, business groups, and the SFWMD are all against the Feds’ power move, while Attorney General Bondi and Agricultural Commissioner Putnam have filed suit against the EPA.
Citizens Property Insurance and the Cat Fund: If Florida is hit by a major hurricane, the Catastrophe (Cat) Fund cannot meet its obligations to pay, and taxpayers would be stuck with the cleanup and rebuilding bill. We must reduce the financial exposure of Citizens and the Cat Fund. Citizens was created as an insurer of last resort, but it’s now the largest homeowners’ insurer in Florida. Its low premium rates are mandated by legislative fiat. These artificially low rates are driving private insurers out of the state, so Citizens has become the insurer of first resort. It is anticipated that a major hurricane would cause a $3.2 billion shortfall for taxpayers to pay. Business supports legislation to right-size the Cat Fund and return Citizens to an insurer of last resort.
The statewide business community is split over the issue of Destination Resorts. This concept is designed to “create an overall world-class experience” for out-of-state and international tourists to Florida. It would attract visitors with restaurants, spas, gaming facilities, high-end retail, entertainment venues, beach and boating activities, convention space, pools and outdoor recreation. Associated Industries of Florida supports Destination Resorts on the basis that it will attract thousands of jobs and grow Florida’s economy. The Florida Chamber is opposed, citing moral issues and danger to existing businesses in the tourism industry. What the business community appears united about is protecting the state’s pari-mutuel industry, a long-standing and loyal member of Florida’s business community, providing 31,000 jobs in 21 state locales. Pari-mutuels must be given the ability to compete.
Business also supports legislative action in education, workforce development, E-Learning and higher education, energy independence and renewable energy, Medicaid reform, streamlining of permits across all state agencies especially environmental agencies, adequate funding for Florida’s judicial system, reforms that reduce Florida’s reputation for being a “judicial hellhole”, and economic development incentives for Florida’s 14 deepwater ports.
Every day they are in session, we know that governmental bodies like the Florida legislature can take actions which devastate business or make it prosper. When they’re not careful about it, legislators can unwittingly cause great destruction. That’s why BIZPAC leaders work hard to educate politicians, so business owners do not face sleepless nights and an unpredictable political/economic climate.
Politicians sometimes seem oblivious to the simple fact that a businessman or woman is rarely going to place capital at risk in an unfriendly, even hostile, political environment. Capital flows to where it is welcome. It makes no sense for us to put more capital on the line when politicians make the future unpredictable, when lawmakers seem hell-bent to birth new taxes and regulations, and when business owners are treated as cash cows for the latest liberal spending whims.
To keep us healthy and prosperous, business needs government to get out of the way. If the legislature addresses our items above and successfully resolves them, business will prosper in Florida.
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