March 11, 2021
Welcome to the Greater Gainesville Chamber's Legislative Update. During interim committee weeks and the legislative session, we distribute the update on Thursdays to keep our members current on key state-level issues and legislative action. Learn more about our priorities in Focus Forward, the Chamber's 2021 State Legislative Agenda.
A New Direction for Internet Sales Tax
The State’s Unemployment Trust Fund has been hard-hit by the millions of unemployment claims filed throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Legislative leaders yesterday announced a plan to replenish it using the proceeds of Internet Sales Taxes that current legislation -- HB 15 by local delegation member Rep. Chuck Clemons and SB 50, by Joe Gruters – would require out-of-state online retailers to collect at the time of sale in the same way brick-and-mortar retailers are required to. Funds would be deposited into the Trust until it reaches pre-pandemic levels, preventing businesses from having to pay an automatic increase in unemployment (reemployment assistance) taxes to replenish the fund, while ensuring that the fund remains solvent for employees when they need to claim their benefits. A recent Revenue Estimating Conference determined the bills could result in the collection of an additional $973.6 million in Fiscal Year 2021-2022 and by $1.08 billion each year thereafter.

“By leveling the playing field in this way, we will ensure that Florida will be applying our tax laws equally to both in-state and out-of-state online retailers,” said Representative Clemons. “We cannot continue to allow free rides for out-of-state businesses that haven’t paid the sales taxes they owe Florida; it’s not fair to the businesses with a physical presence in Florida.”
In the House, HB 15 will be up for consideration in the Ways & Means Committee on Thursday, where Rep. Clemons will present an amendment to accommodate the new direction. In the Senate, SB 50 was scheduled to be taken up on the Floor on Thursday, March 11, but will be temporarily postponed to afford time for amendment.
Reforming Florida's Workforce System
House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced an intent to increase accountability and enhance outcomes in the State’s workforce system, which is comprised of CareerSource Florida, the state’s workforce policy board, the Department of Economic Opportunity and 24 regional workforce boards, including the local CareerSource North Central Florida. HB 1507 focuses on outcomes, proposing the creation of a new workforce performance funding model for workforce programs in school districts and corrections institutions, requiring a third of performance funding to be based on rewarding student job placement and the remaining two-thirds be based on student earnings as well as a Money-Back Guarantee Program, which would require each school district and corrections institution to refund the cost of tuition to students who are not able to find a job within 6 months of completing select programs. SB 98 focuses more on accountability and would require the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors to assign a letter grade to each local workforce board and also require local boards to post information about the board’s finances and their board members’ financial and ethics disclosures. Each bill has two remaining committee stops before it can be heard on the floor of its respective chamber. 
Push to Cut Bright Futures Scholarships Slows in Senate

After students rallied across the state to oppose a Senate proposal to cut state-backed Bright Futures scholarships for students in degree programs that don't "lead directly to employment," the bill – SB 86– has been put on hold and is expected to undergo changes. Opposition campaigns on social media claim the legislation – which aims to tailor the coveted financial aid to degrees that lead directly to jobs – would result in more college debt and limit students' career choices. The Senate Education Committee was scheduled to take up the bill Tuesday, but consideration was postponed Monday evening. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dennis Baxley, expressed confidence the measure remains on track. 
PIP Repeal Bill Advancing in House and Senate

HB 719, which seeks to repeal provisions of the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault law, is on the agenda in its first committee on Wednesday. The House Civil Justice & Property Rights subcommittee is expected to take up the legislation, which would also remove the personal injury protection law's tort liability limitation, making drivers at fault in an accident fully liable for any damages they cause. Similar measures have been filed in the past but so far, the personal injury protection insurance requirement in the state remains. A Senate version of the bill, SB 54, is slated to be heard in its final and third committee of reference later this week.
Bill to Limit Local Government Emergency Rules Advances in House 

A bill (HB 945) preempting emergency powers of local governments was approved in the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee Tuesday on a party-line 12-6 vote with Republicans in favor. The measure is a response to local governments that put strict COVID-19 pandemic emergency orders in place as Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican leaders were trying to prevent strict safety measures to keep the economy from being hit too hard. The bill doesn't yet have a Senate companion measure. 
Vote-by-Mail in the Spotlight This Week

The Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committed yesterday approved SB 90, which would ban voting drop boxes and require citizens to renew their request to vote by mail every election year. In a new academic analysis conducted by University of Florida Political Science, Professor Daniel Smith said the state should offer simpler instructions with vote-by-mail ballots, uniformly-designed returned VBM envelopes and other standard practices. Smith performed the analysis for the Florida Chapter of All Voting is Legal.
Local Energy Source Regulation Bill Clears Regulated Industries

Under SB 1128, which was approved by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee Tuesday, local governments would also be prohibited from putting laws or rules in place to restrict or ban certain types of fuels for public utilities.
M-Cores Repeal Advancing in Legislature

Bills introduced in the Legislature - HB 763 and SB 1030 - would repeal the 2019 legislation that directed planning and construction of three major highways, including one stretching from Polk County to Collier County. 
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, our businesses have made a herculean effort to keep the public safe and keep people on payroll while following emergency orders to reduce capacity or even temporarily stop operating. Now is not the time to keep barriers in between businesses who need high-skilled talent and Floridians who need jobs with family-supporting wages. Floridians should be free to pursue trades such as painting, flooring, remodeling and more without unnecessary licensing requirements, and businesses should be free to hire them without barriers. Click the button below to ask lawmakers to remove occupational barriers!
In the wake of COVID and the resulting budget challenges, the 2021 Legislative Session is going to be tough. Chamber Members, we're going to need your support more than ever to advance our 2021 Focus Forward State Legislative Agenda. That's why we created Session Central, a one-stop repository on the Chamber's website, where you'll find action items, the weekly legislative update and an archive of past issues. As we progress through committee weeks and into Session, we'll continue to add content there to help you stay in the loop.
Bills of Interest
More than 2,960 bills have been filed for consideration this coming session. At this time, the Chamber is monitoring over 170 of these bills on numerous issues, and we will be adding more to the list as needed. Not all of the bills below are on the Chamber's list of legislative priorities, but all are likely to be of interest to local businesses .
Small Business
SB 50 / HB 15 – Sales Tax Fairness/Internet Sales Tax: Revises conditions for certain dealers subject to sales tax; deletes exemption for certain dealers from collecting local option surtaxes; MORE
In Context: If a state has a tax already in place, but isn't collecting it, it is not a new tax. Florida is collecting a fraction of the taxes it should from online sales, and small brick-and-mortar businesses are paying the price. It's time for Florida to level the playing field and collect the conservatively estimated $612 million it is missing out on each year by not collecting this tax. 
  • SB 50 - Temporarily postponed today in the full Senate to allow time for amendment
  • HB 15 - Approved this week by the House Ways and Means Committee and now moves on to House Commerce Committee
SB 72 / HB 7 – COVID Liability Protections: Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19; Providing requirements for a civil action based on a COVID-19-related claim; providing that the plaintiff has the burden of proof in such action... MORE
In Context: Most small businesses are doing all they possibly can to keep their staff and customers safe from COVID-19. Businesses should be protected from frivolous COVID-related lawsuits at a time when they can least afford it.
  • SB 72 - Approved today by the Senate Rules Committee. Now ready for the Senate floor
  • HB 7 - Approved on Friday by full House
SB 266 / HB 403 – Home Based Businesses: Providing legislative findings and intent; specifying conditions under which a business is considered a home-based business; authorizing a home-based business to operate in a residential zone under certain circumstances... MORE
In Context: Small and home-based businesses are a critical part of Florida's economy. Residential property is often the most valuable asset a business owner has, and can be used in ways that are conducive with residential use.
  • SB 266 - Approved this week by Senate Community Affairs Committee. Now heads to the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
  • HB 403 - Approved this week by House Commerce Committee. Now heads to House Floor.
SB 134 /HB 329 – Beverage Law: Authorizing certain food service establishments to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption if specified requirements are met... MORE
In Context: This bill allows businesses in certain areas, such as specified entertainment or recreational districts, to sell or deliver alcoholic beverages in those districts.
  • SB 134 - Referred to Regulated Industries Committee
  • HB 329 - Approved by House Regulatory Reform Committee; now awaiting hearing in House Commerce Committee
  • Similar bills include SB 142 and SB 148, the latter of which was approved this week by the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee and how awaits hearing in the Senate Rules Committee

HB 751 – City of Gainesville, Alachua (Food Truck Alcohol Sales): Authorizes issuance of special license to mobile food dispensing vehicles to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption of alcoholic beverages within specified area; provides requirements; prohibits licensee from selling alcoholic.. MORE
In Context: This bill authorizes food trucks in the Innovation Square food park to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption in the food park.
  • Approved yesterday by the Local Administration and Veteran Affairs Subcommittee. Now awaiting hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee

SB 1062 /HB 73 – Cooperative Advertising Agreements/Tied-House Evil: Authorizing a manufacturer or importer of malt beverages and a vendor to enter into a written agreement for brand naming rights and associated cooperative advertising if certain requirements are met... MORE
In Context: This bill revises the state's "Tied-House Evil" laws to allow theme parks and beer companies -- including small breweries and distributors -- to collaborate on naming rights and other marketing efforts.
  • SB 1062 - Temporarily Postponed by Senate Regulated Industries Committee
  • HB 73 - Approved by House Regulatory Reform Committee and awaiting hearing in House Commerce Committee
SB 1414 – COVID-19 Relief Cash Flow Loan Program: Creating the COVID-19 Relief Cash Flow Loan Program for the purpose of assisting small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in making timely payments to .. MORE
In Context: Establishes a Cash Flow Loan program for small business impacted by COVID in paying bills necessary to keep themselves operating.
  • Referred to Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee
Talent, Education & Workforce
SB 268 / HB 735 – Preemption of Local Occupational Licensing: Preempts occupational licensing to the state and prohibits local governments from imposing additional licensing requirements or modifying licensing unless specified conditions are met…MORE
In Context: Many careers that currently require licensure at the state and/or local levels can be practiced safely without licensure. Floridians should be free to pursue trades such as painting, flooring, interior decorating, and more without unnecessary licensing requirements.
  • SB 268 - Referred to Senate Regulated Industries Committee
  • HB 735 - Awaiting hearing in House Commerce Committee
SB 1184 /HB 907 – Schools of Innovation: Provides for operation of schools of innovation by district school board; provides such schools operate pursuant to performance contract; providing requirements & monitoring of such contracts ... MORE
In Context: This bill allows school districts to apply to the Commissioner of Education to designate a public school a School of Innovation. Schools with this designation would have the authority to apply for waivers for certain school board rules and use an alternative to letter grades.
  • SB 1184 - Referred to Senate Education Committee
  • HB 907 - Awaiting hearing in House Early Learning and Elementary Education Committee
HB 1261 – Higher Education: Requires state university to waive tuition & fees for certain courses in which certain resident students are enrolled; provides specified criteria for such waiver; provides applicabilityMORE
In Context: This bill requires state universities to waive 100% of tuition fees for in-state students enrolled in courses classified in a "program of strategic emphasis." The following categories have been identified as programs of strategic emphasis: STEM courses, and critical workforce education and healthcare courses, and workforce segments identified as undersupplied.
  • Approved by House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee this week. Now ready for hearing on the senate Floor
SB 1614 – Neighborhood Learning Pod Programs: Allows the parents of children from at least two unrelated families to establish and operate a neighborhood pod learning program;…MORE
In Context: During the pandemic, many families established private learning "pods" to provide some semblance of an in-person classroom environment while providing for limited contact with others to facilitate social distancing. This bill would make it legal under any circumstances. The bill does not require teachers in learning pod programs to be certified.
  • Referred to Senate Education Committee

SB 86 – Student Financial Aid: Requiring that eligibility for state financial aid awards and tuition assistance grants be reevaluated each term and identify students’ program of study; revising the formula for calculating how Florida Public Student Assistance Grant Program funds are distributed; authorizing a Bright Futures Scholarship recipient to apply the unused portion of a Florida Academic Scholars award or Florida Medallion Scholars award toward graduate studyMORE
In Context: This bill incentivizes students to choose careers that meet the workforce needs of the state by limiting eligibility for state-sponsored financial aid programs to 60 hours unless the student is enrolled in a degree on a state-developed list of degrees that lead directly to employment.
  • Temporarily postponed this week by the Senate Education Committee
Infrastructure & Growth
SB 496 / HB 59 – Growth Management: Requires a comprehensive plan to include a property rights element; provides a statement of rights that a local government may use…MORE
In Context: Special considerations are needed when government decisions affect private property. This bill aligns the property rights elements in local comprehensive plans with statutorily provided statement of rights. Would require local comprehensive plans to include a property rights element, and provides a statement of rights that local governments may use.
  • SB 496 - Awaiting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • HB 59 - Approved by House State Affairs Committee and now ready for House floor
SB 138 – Electric Vehicles: Revising the Department of Transportation's goals relating to mobility; requiring the department to establish the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Grant ProgramMORE
In Context: Electric vehicles are driving change and innovation, and more people are beginning to use them. Our roads and infrastructure need upgrades to keep up and accommodate the changing transportation landscape.
  • Approved yesterday by Senate Transportation Committee. Now heads to Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development
  • Linked bills include SB 140, which was approved yesterday by the Senate Transportation Committee and HB 817, which awaits hearing in House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee. Both bills address Electric Vehicle-related fees

SB 750 / HB 337 – Impact Fees: Specifying instances when a local government or special district may collect an impact feeMORE
In Context: Across the state, impact fees represent a growing source of local governments’ income. This bill seeks to bring consistency to what impact fees may include, when they may be assessed and how much may be assessed.
  • SB 750 - Pending discussion during a future Revenue Estimating Impact Conference
  • HB 337 - Pending discussion during a future Revenue Estimating Impact Conference
HB 219 – Vacation Rentals: Requires advertising platforms to collect & remit specified taxes imposed for certain transactions; preempts regulation of vacation rentals to state; prohibits local law, ordinance, or regulation from allowing or requiring inspections or licensing of public lodging establishmentsMORE
In Context: This bill prohibits local governments from regulating vacation rentals and requires licensing of homes used vacation rentals.
  • HB 219 - Approved by the House Regulatory Reform Committee. Now awaiting hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee
  • SB 522 - Approved by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee and now awaiting hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee
SB 856 – State Preemption of Energy Infrastructure Regulation:  Prohibits local government from regulating energy infrastructureMORE
In Context: This bill would prohibit local governments in Florida from regulating infrastructure related to production, storage or distribution of gasoline, natural gas, electricity, solar energy, biomass and other forms of energy.
  • Approved this week by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee and awaiting hearing in the Senate Community Affairs Committee
Healthcare & Well-Being
SB 130 / HB 83: Mental Health & Substance Abuse Disorders: Providing that the use of peer specialists is an essential element of a coordinated system of care in recovery from a substance use disorder or mental illness; MORE
In Context: Experience often can be the best teacher. When a person has first-hand experience with mental illness or substance abuse, they have unique insights that allow them to contribute in the recovery of others. This bill recognizes peer specialists as an essential element of a coordinated system of care in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse.
  • SB 130 - Approved by Senate Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee. Now heads to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Health and Human Services
  • HB 83 - Awaiting hearing in the House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee
HB 1157 – Freestanding Emergency Departments: Prohibits freestanding emergency department from holding itself out to public as urgent care center; requires such departments to post signs containing specified statements; provides requirements for advertisement of such departmentsMORE
In Context: This bill prohibits freestanding emergency medical facilities that are owned and operated by a licensed hospital from referring to themselves as "urgent care centers," and codifies the distinctions between freestanding emergency medical facilities and urgent care centers.
  • Approved this week by the House Finance and Facilities Subcommittee and awaiting hearing in the House Healthcare Appropriations Subcommittee
Elections & Voting
SB 204 / HB 1179 - Abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission: Abolishes the Constitution Revision Commission; proposes amendments to the State Constitution to abolish… MORE
In Context: This bill would allow voters to decide whether to abolish the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years and has the power to bypass the legislature. In 2018, the CRC fell under heavy criticism because of “bundled amendments” containing unrelated provisions.
  • SB 204 - Calendared for hearing by full Senate
  • HB 1179 - Awaiting hearing in Civil Justice and Property Rights Subcommittee
COVID Safety Protocol

Lawmakers and staff are following special protocols to minimize transmission of COVID-19. If you are planning to meet with or visit a lawmaker, please be sure to review COVID-19 protocol memos disseminated by House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson.

  • Senate protocol can be found here.
  • House protocol is available here.
Your Policy Team
Policy Questions? Contact a member of the Chamber's Public Policy team.
Vice President, Public Policy
Grassroots Engagement Manager