Florida’s business agenda in the 2017 legislative session

Every Legislative Session, statewide business leaders have to fight to spur Florida’s job growth and to protect Florida’s job creators. Progress doesn’t happen on its own. There are always issues that arise in the legislative process that potentially can harm Florida’s prosperity or weaken the state’s businesses. Legislation pops up that must be killed or altered, in order to keep Florida’s reputation as one of America’s best places to do business.

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Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce are the leaders in these efforts to fight for an economic climate that is conducive to Florida’s growth. There are dozens of issues that business leaders are addressing in the 2017 Legislative Session. Here are some of the most important initiatives:

  • There are agencies and programs in Florida—such as Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA– that are in danger of completely losing their ability to attract high-wage jobs in Florida. Business is opposing the removal of incentives to such agencies. These incentives are investments, not corporate welfare.
  • Immigration reform is important. But it is a national problem and should be dealt with at the federal level. The effort to force Florida employers to use the E-Verify system, which requires small businesses to allocate precious manpower and to purchase very expensive equipment, places a hardship on them.
  • In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court rendered a destructive decision that caused a 14.5% increase in worker’s compensation rates. The increase is related to unchecked amounts of higher attorney’s fees. These increased attorney-fee costs on business must be lowered by attorney fee reform.
  • Another piece of legislation being pushed by Florida’s plaintiff trial bar will increase prejudgment interest awards on damages recovered in all personal injury cases. It must be deep-sixed. Florida businesses need a level playing field in the courtroom.
  • Florida’s electricity requirements are growing. All sources of energy will be needed by Florida’s people and its business community. This certainly includes both onshore and offshore exploration and preproduction of energy sources, and support for pipelines, all while protecting the environment. Forty-year-old policies banning the export of domestically produced crude oil must be repealed, and alternative energy fuels must be developed.
  • The water quality and quantity of Florida’s major springs must be improved. Business supports the completion of the various CERP projects, including water storage and treatment areas. Water solutions should not result in eliminating farming and killing jobs in the agricultural areas south of Lake Okeechobee.
  • Business supports expanding Florida’s high-tech workforce by encouraging the increase in STEM and medical program degree graduates.
  • Florida’s healthcare workforce must be increased, which will require increasing the number of graduate medical education slots.
  • The state must invest to stop significant cyber-attacks against state assets, data, and systems.
  • Florida must move into a more competitive recruiting position among states wanting to build their manufacturing industries. The tax on commercial leases must be repealed.
  • The state sales tax on commercial electricity and gas consumption must be reduced, along with the tax on rental or license fees charged for use of commercial real property, both of which would make Florida more attractive for businesses to locate here.
  • The legislature should support Gov. Scott’s plan to eliminate the corporate income tax on retail and manufacturing businesses.
  • There should be legislated a permanent 10% property tax cap on second homes and commercial property, in the form of a constitutional amendment for voter approval.
  • Business supports continuing reductions in the communications service tax on business and wireless phone service, and cable services.
  • Funding for transportation and infrastructure is needed, because for each $1 invested in the Dept. of Transportation Work Plan, almost $6 is returned to the state economy. Business opposes redirecting money from the state Transportation Trust Fund to fund other programs.
  • Florida’s seaports and maritime industry must be advanced, and regulations reduced, to make Florida more competitive in the hemisphere.

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If the Florida Legislature can adopt these initiatives, pass a pro jobs, pro-growth budget, and cut taxes, we can make Florida the gold standard among other states.

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John R. Smith


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