What Business Needs from the Florida Legislature: Part 2 in a Series

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PART 2 IN A SERIES 

The state legislature can do a lot of things to help or hurt the ability of business to create jobs, and to improve their community’s quality of life. For that reason, for business to remain healthy, it’s important for legislators to know what our priorities are.

Part 1 in this series dealt with 1) the need for business to create jobs, to stay viable, and to continue to drive the quality of life in Florida’s communities, 2) Florida’s budget, 3) Unemployment Compensation taxes, and 4) Tort Reform.

Continuing, here’s what business needs:

 

IMMIGRATION:

The current U.S. immigration system is broken, and needs to be fixed by the feds. Business needs a guest worker program allowing legal immigrants to come here and work legally. Students and other people overstaying their visas are the problem, even moreso than illegal immigrants coming to Florida. A full-blown Arizona-style bill creates problems that could potentially tarnish Florida’s reputation as a global trade hub.

The E-Verify System is a voluntary program that can be used by employers to verify the citizenship of new hires. It is prone to errors. Efforts are being made to mandate the use of the system. Mandating this system will have a negative effect on business owners and subject them to lawsuits. Because employers MUST offer the person a job before E-Verify can be used, this means terminated employees can sue employers on the basis of racial profiling. Another problem is that E-Verify is internet-based, and mom-and-pop businesses don’t always have resources to use it.

The business community contends that immigration reform is a national problem best dealt with at the federal level, with input from Florida, and opposes efforts to mandate the use of the E-Verify system for all employers.

 

PROPERTY INSURANCE:

The legislature needs to take action to attract private insurance companies to come back to Florida. Populist demagoguery by elected officials, and a refusal to recognize that insurers have a right to earn a reasonable profit, has pushed them out. Specifically, the rate review process of the Office of Insurance Regulation discourages insurance companies from entering, expanding, or remaining in Florida.

Legislation passed 3 years ago exposes business to billions of dollars of potential hurricane taxes. Further, the state-run Citizens Insurance has been expanded and is an unfair market competitor, creating a shortage of private insurers willing to write property insurance. The same legislation has resulted in insurance fraud and abuse, pushing up non-hurricane claims costs.

The business community wants legislation that makes competition the primary determinant of insurance rates, including consumer choice for homeowners. Because Citizens unfairly competes and lacks liquidity to meet its projected obligations, business advocates a 15% annual rate increase for all Citizens’ policy holders until its rates are actuarially sound. Business supports incentives for homeowners to spend monies to hurricane-proof their homes, to protect homes and families against major storms.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:

“Numeric Nutrient Criteria” are 3 words that should strike fear into the heart of Floridians everywhere. Why? EarthJustice, a radical environmental law group, sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over Florida’s “impaired water”, causing EPA to impose a commandment to Florida to adopt outrageously restrictive water quality standards for fresh water. These standards are higher than any other state in America.

Environmental issues are important to Florida business. We must be good stewards of our land and water because our natural resources draw not only tourists but businesses that want to grow or locate here. But these federally imposed standards are scientifically and technically flawed, and very costly (some estimates show a price tag of $50 billion).

The Florida legislature needs to help Florida’s Congressional delegation to stop the EPA from imposing unreasonably restrictive water quality standards, for which Florida taxpayers and businesses will pay exorbitant sums. The feds should not unilaterally dictate what laws we should institute in our State, much less impose standards that no other state must obey.

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John R. Smith

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