March 4, 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 Day: Legislative Leaders Aligned on Bold Priorities
Opening Day
On Day One of the 2021 Legislative Session, legislative leaders communicated bold priorities for the next 60 days with common themes being supporting business, economic rejuvenation, fiscal conservatism, government accountability and more. While each expressed an individual focus, Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls are rowing in the same direction to foster forward momentum without sacrificing accountability as we continue to emerge from the pandemic. Highlights of each leader's message below.
DeSantis: Florida's Open for Business and Ready for Reforms

Governor Ron DeSantis began his State of the State address by touting Florida's successes throughout the pandemic, from efforts to keep seniors safe to never having to touch the state's reserve funds. With December State revenues coming in at more than $800 million over what was projected, the Governor says Florida is still in a position to honor its priorities in water quality, infrastructure and education.

DeSantis also named law and order, Big Tech reform, election integrity and protecting businesses from frivolous COVID lawsuits as priorities. View the Governor's address here.

Key Quote: "The bottom line is that we saved the economy and as a result, our budget outlook is positive."
Simpson: All Hands on Deck

Senate President Wilton Simpson's Opening Day address began on a serious note, pointing to the work ahead to address the needs created by the pandemic without losing momentum on other priorities. Budget topped Simpson's list of priorities, along with leveraging shovel-ready infrastructure projects to both jump-start the economy and rebuild the State's unemployment trust fund as a tax cut for business. COVID liability protections, reforms in foster care and the Department of Children and Families, along with school choice, vocational training and addressing the state's unfunded pension liability also ranked high on Simpson's list. View President Simpson's address here (speech begins at 13:41).

Key Quote: "This is an opening day like no other. Fewer people. Less ceremony. But all hands on deck to tackle the needs of our state. And there are many needs."
Sprowls: A New Conservative Vision

House Speaker Chris Sprowls briefly reinforced his commitment to the priorities he articulated at November 2020's organizational session: children's literacy, workforce reform, refocusing higher education, black maternal health, government accountability and entrepreneurship. Sprowls also voiced a desire to see swift legislation to enact COVID liability protections for businesses. View Speaker Sprowls' address here (speech begins at 15:37).

Key Quote: "Over the last decade, the House has been successful in pursuing a consistent and familiar agenda. But as we begin this new decade, I see fresh ideas in the bills that have been filed and the beginnings of a new conservative vision that empowers individuals, holds government to account and prepares Florida today for the problems of tomorrow."
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 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 - Approved today by Senate Appropriations Committee. Now ready for hearing by the full Senate
  • HB 15 - Awaiting hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee and also up for discussion at a future 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 this week by Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee. Now awaiting hearing in the Senate Rules Committee
  • HB 7 - Was debated today by the full House, but held up by contention related to several amendments. Will be taken up again tomorrow 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 - Referred to Senate Community Affairs Committee
  • HB 403 - Approved by House Regulatory Reform Committee and pending hearing in House Commerce Committee
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 on to second stop, House Commerce Committee
  • Similar bills include SB 142 and SB 148, the latter of which passed a first reference committee and now awaits hearing in the Senate Commerce & Tourism 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 - Approved this week by House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee. Now 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 Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee. On March 8th agenda for the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee
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 tis 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.
  • On the March 9th agenda of 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 - Approved this week by Senate Community Affairs Committee. Now moves on to Senate Judiciary Committee
  • HB 59 - Approved by first two reference committees and now awaiting hearing in House State Affairs Committee
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.
  • Referred to the Senate Transportation Committee
  • Linked bills include SB 140 and HB 817, which 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 - Was slated for discussion during today's Revenue Estimating Impact Conference
  • HB 337 - Was slated for discussion during today's 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.
  • On the March 9th agenda of the Senate 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 - 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.
  • On the March 8th agenda of the House Finance and Facilities 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