February 12, 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.
Healthcare COVID Liability Protection, Vacation Rentals and Tied House-Evil
COVID Healthcare Liability Protection Moving Ahead
Legislation to protect healthcare businesses from frivolous COVID-related lawsuits was filed earlier in February, following proposals filed earlier this year to provide non-healthcare business entities, educational institutions, governmental entities, and religious institutions immunity to COVID-related lawsuits under certain conditions. Both the healthcare and non-healthcare versions of the bill are advancing through reference committees, despite heavy debate. Unlike the COVID-related lawsuit legislation for non-healthcare practitioners, the House and Senate versions of the protection bill for healthcare practitioners contain key differences, including types of COVID-related lawsuits that would be limited, whether to require physician affidavits when a lawsuit is filed, and the length of time legal protections should be in effect.

Vacation Rentals Heating Up Again
Legislation that would preempt local governments from regulating vacation rentals is advancing in the House and Senate. HB 219 today cleared the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee with amendments to ensure that when a guest books a vacation rental via an out-of-state "advertising platform," such as Airbnb, that company is required to remit sales tax to the state. HB 219 goes farther than vacation rental legislation in previous sessions. For example, it would require homes listed on advertising platforms to be licensed as lodging businesses by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation and taxed accordingly, and would also place regulations on the companies that market them worldwide on internet platforms to discourage them from listing Florida homes that are unlicensed. Florida law already prohibits local governments from outlawing vacation rentals. The Senate version of the bill, SB 522, is on the Feb. 16 agenda of the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries.

Tied-House Evil
The House Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would allow theme parks and beer companies -- including small breweries and distributors -- to collaborate on naming rights and other marketing efforts through a revision of the "Tied-House Evil" laws that have been in force since the end of prohibition. Tied-House Evil refers to a three-tiered set of laws created to expel high levels of criminal influence over the distribution and sale of alcohol during prohibition. The laws place limitations on the manufacture, distribution and retail sale of alcohol to prevent any one entity from wielding too much influence.
When out-of-state internet retailers don't have to charge sales tax on Florida orders, your community's small businesses lose out. Add your name to the growing list of companies who want lawmakers to level the playing field for local businesses by ensuring internet retailers pay their fair share. It's not a new tax - it's already due!
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 2099 bills have been filed for consideration this coming session. At this time, the Chamber is monitoring 88 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 - Approved by the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee on Jan. 25. Now awaiting hearing in the Senate Finance & Tax Committee and also up for discussion at tomorrow's Revenue Estimating Conference.
  • HB 15 - Awaiting hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee and also up for discussion at tomorrow's Revenue Estimating Conference.
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 on Jan. 25 by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now awaiting hearing in the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee
  • HB 7 - Previously approved by the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Committee. On the Feb. 3 agenda of 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.
  • SB 496 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
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 - Filed Jan. 19 and awaiting committee assignments
  • Similar bills include SB 142 and SB 148
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.
  • Filed on Feb. 3rd
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 - Awaiting hearing in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee
  • HB 73 - Approved by House Regulatory Reform Committee and awaiting hearing in House Commerce Committee
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.
  • 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.
  • SB 496 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
  • HB 59 - On Feb. 4 Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee agenda
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.
  • Awaiting hearing in Senate Transportation Committee
  • Linked bills include SB 140, which addresses 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 - Awaiting hearing in Senate Community Affairs Committee
  • HB 337 - Filed and awaiting committee assignments
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. On its way to the Ways and Means Committee
  • SB 522 - On Feb. 16th Agenda of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee
SB 839 – 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.
  • Referred to Regulated Industries Committee
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.
  • SB 130 - Awaiting hearing in the Senate Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee
  • HB 83 - Awaiting hearing in the House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee
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.
  • Approved Jan. 27 by Senate Governmental Oversight & Accountability Committee. Awaiting hearing in Rules Committee
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