January 14, 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.
SESSION 2021
A Different Landscape
At this time a year ago, we were celebrating the turn of a decade. COVID-19 was a scary virus in another country, not yet a global pandemic that would fundamentally change the way we live and work. Our economic outlook has shifted from being focused on fueling growth to ramping up recovery.

Navigating our way out of the pandemic, addressing residual economic challenges and narrowing the social divide that has plagued 2020 will take strategy, intent and focus. That is why the Chamber's 2020-2021 State Legislative agenda includes a set of four focused priorities: supporting small business, keeping our talent pipeline flowing, addressing critical infrastructure needs and keeping people at the center. Learn more about these priorities in Focus Forward, the Chamber's 2021 State Legislative Agenda.

Interim committee weeks are now underway in Tallahassee, where lawmakers are working under new COVID-19 safety protocols and face budget constraints and high-stakes issues that will dictate our state's recovery.

You can learn more about legislative leaders' priority areas in the organizational session speeches by Senate President Wilton Simpson (begins at about 44:56) and House Speaker Chris Sprowls .
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.
Capitol Security

Intelligence from the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement indicates that protesters are likely to gather outside of state capitols this Sunday, the 17th. Governor Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that the Florida Capitol will be prepared with "reinforcements" if any violence should break out at protests forecasted to happen this Sunday.

With the exception of law enforcement, Capitol staff will be working remotely.
Standing Up for Small Business

Sales Tax Fairness
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. 

HB 15, sponsored by Representative Chuck Clemons, would level the sales tax playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses and help the state collect the additional revenue it needs to restore its post-COVID budget. Members, we're going to be calling on you this year to share your thoughts on why it is so important that we get this bill over the finish line in2021.

COVID Liability Protections for Businesses
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.

Legislation filed last week in the House (HB 7) and Senate (SB 72) would provide certain business entities, educational institutions, governmental entities, and religious institutions immunity to COVID-related lawsuits. HB 7 cleared its first committee hurdle yesterday and now heads to the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee. More details on these bills can be found here.
Keep The Talent Pipeline Flowing

Remove Occupational Barriers
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 others without unnecessary licensing requirements.

SB 268, sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry, would eliminate requirements that certain professions receive licensure from the Construction Industry Licensing Board and authorize counties and municipalities to issue certain licenses while restricting other licensure requirements at the state's discretion.
Address Critical Infrastructure Needs

Water Infrastructure & Septic-to-Sewer Projects
During November's Organizing Session, legislative leaders articulated support for prioritizing water projects -- in particular those focused on helping Floridians convert from septic to sewer -- in environmental protection. As we progress toward the official start of the Legislative Session, we will keep you updated on relevant bills introduced in this area.
Keep People at the Center
2020 has been tough. It's never been more important for us to keep up the momentum Florida has built in recent years in the area of mental health. We also should ensure all of our healthcare institutions are empowered to provide the best care by supporting policies that ensure reimbursement dollars follow the patient.

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Disorders
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. SB 130, sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson, recognizes peer specialists as an essential element of a coordinated system of care in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse.
Other Bills of Interest
More than 430 bills have been filed for consideration this coming session. At this time, the Chamber is monitoring 45 of these bills on numerous issues, and 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. 
Status:
  • SB 50 - Awaiting hearing in the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee
  • HB 15 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
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.
Status:
  • SB 72 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
  • HB 7 - Approved yesterday by the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Committee Now awaiting hearing in the House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee
SB 266 – 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.
Status:
  • SB 496 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
SB 134 – 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.
Status:
  • SB 134 - Referred to Regulated Industries Committee
  • Similar bills include SB 142 and SB 148
Talent, Education & Workforce
SB 268 – 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.
Status:
  • Awaiting hearing in Senate Regulated Industries 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.
Status:
  • SB 496 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
  • HB 59 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
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.
Status:
  • Awaiting hearing in Senate Transportation Committee
  • Linked bills include SB 140, which addresses related fees
Healthcare & Well-Being
SB 130 / HB 83: Mental Health & Substance Abuse Disorders: Designates the “Florida Rural Jobs and Business Recovery Act” and requires the Department of Economic Opportunity to accept applications for approval as growth funds in a specified manner…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.
Status:
  • SB 130 - Awaiting hearing in the Senate Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee
  • HB 83 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
Elections & Voting
SB 204Abolishing 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.
Status: 
  • Referred to Governmental Oversight & Accountability Committee
Your Policy Team
Policy Questions? Contact a member of the Chamber's Public Policy team.
Vice President, Public Policy
Grassroots Engagement Manager