February 25, 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
As Session Approaches, Watch These Fast-Moving Bills
Session Kicks Off this Tuesday
The regular legislative session begins this Tuesday, March 2 and lawmakers are teed up to address a litany of complex issues, with a constrained budget looming as an overarching challenge. Read below for six issues to watch as we ramp up for session.

  • No-Fault May Soon be No More - A Senate proposal to repeal the state's longstanding No-Fault Insurance laws is making gains, with one more committee to go before it's ready for consideration by the full Senate. SB 54 would require motorists to carry personal injury protection as they do now. However, they would also be required to pay for bodily injury coverage at levels of $25,000 for one injured person and $50,000 for two or more. The bill includes reduced coverage requirements for students and low-income families - $15,000 for one injured person and $30,000 for two or more - as well as deductible options for windshield repairs, which currently are available to motorists at no cost. One point of contention yet to be resolved is that the bill doesn't require proof from motorists that meet the qualifications for lower coverage amounts, creating an honor system of sorts. HB 719, which is similar to the Senate proposal, was filed on Feb. 3 in the House, but has yet to be heard in any reference committees.

  • Aligning Financial Aid with Workforce Needs and Employment - A Senate proposal announced this week would limit state-sponsored financial aid to 60 hours unless or until a student is enrolled in a program that is on a list of market-driven degree programs to be compiled annually by the Board of Governors. The bill also affects Bright Futures scholarships by reduces the number of credit hours that can be funded by the number of hours a student earned through dual-enrollment and other acceleration mechanisms while in high school. Students who have unused Bright Futures hours will be allowed to apply those hours to graduate studies in some instances. The legislation also establishes the program for students without a high school diploma who wish to enroll in a certificate or high school equivalency program at a career center or college.

  • Internet Sales Tax on the Move in the Senate - The Senate version of the Internet Sales Tax Fairness bill is in the Appropriations Committee, its last stop before it heads to the Senate Floor. The bill requires out-of-state merchants with $100,000 or more in Florida sales to collect sales tax at the point of sale and remit it to the state in the same way brick-and-mortar businesses are required to, thus leveling what today is a very uneven playing field. The bill also clarifies responsibilities between merchants and fulfillment services, ensuring that merchants be responsible for collecting and remitting sales tax to the state. The House version of the bill is up for discussion in an upcoming Revenue Estimating conference of the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Conservative, pre-COVID estimates indicate the state could realize $600 million per year from the additional sales tax revenue.

  • COVID Liability Ready for House Floor - HB 7, legislation to protect businesses from frivolous COVID-related lawsuits, sprinted through approval by three committees of reference, albeit not unanimously, and is now calendared for hearing on the House floor. House Speaker Chris Sprowls has said he intends to move quickly on the bill. The bill would provide certain business entities, educational institutions, governmental entities, and religious institutions immunity to COVID-related lawsuits. This bill does not apply to healthcare providers or hospitals.

  • Healthcare COVID Liability Protection Moving Ahead - SB 74, which protects healthcare providers from frivolous, COVID-related lawsuits, is awaiting hearing in its second reference committee. A House counterpart was filed yesterday and now heads the Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee. For obvious reasons, these bills present a significantly greater number of complexities than their non-healthcare counterparts, however House Speaker Chris Sprowls has expressed early support for the House version. The legislation provides immunity from civil liability for healthcare providers (including, but not limited to, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health providers, and doctors) if supplies or personnel were not available to comply with government health standards or guidance related to the pandemic. Unlike the non-healthcare versions of the legislation, the current version of this legislation does not require a physician’s affidavit in order to file suit. Additionally, the first claim must be made within one year of the death of the person injured by COVID, hospitalization due to COVID, first diagnoses of COVID or the effective date of the legislation.

  • Vaccine Fraud Under Attack - On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee will tee up HB 9, a bill that targets scammers who provide fraudulent information about COVID vaccines. If the bill is approved, it will be ready to go to the House Floor after session begins officially on Tuesday. The House Speaker has placed a sense of urgency on this legislation as well. The news release announcing the bill specifies fake websites that offer the vaccine in exchange for money as an example of the kind of operation the bill targets.
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 2700 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. 
Status:
  • SB 50 - Approved by first two reference committees and waiting for hearing in Senate Appropriations Committee
  • 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.
Status:
  • SB 72 - Awaiting hearing in the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee
  • HB 7 - Approved by all reference committees and calendared for hearing on the Senate floor
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.
Status:
  • SB 496 - 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.
Status:
  • 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 heads to 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.
Status:
  • Referred to Local Administration and Veteran Affairs Subcommittee

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.
Status:
  • SB 1062 - On the next Senate Regulated Industries Committee agenda for March 1
  • 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.
Status:
  • Referred to Local Administration and Veteran Affairs Subcommittee
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.
Status:
  • SB 268 - Awaiting hearing in Senate Regulated Industries Committee
  • HB 735 - Awaiting hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee
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.
Status:
  • 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.
Status:
  • Filed Feb. 24 and awaiting committee assignments
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.
Status:
  • Filed Feb. 24

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.
Status:
  • Referred to 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.
Status:
  • SB 496 - Referred to Senate Community Affairs 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.
Status:
  • Referred to the Senate Transportation Committee
  • Linked bills include SB 140 and HB 819, 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.
Status:
  • SB 750 - Referred to the Senate Community Affairs Committee
  • HB 337 - Awaiting hearing in House Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee
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.
Status:
  • HB 219 - Approved by the House Regulatory Reform Committee. On its way to the Ways and Means Committee
  • SB 522 - Approved by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee and now heads to the Senate Appropriations 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.
Status:
  • Referred to Regulated Industries Committee
  • Similar bills include SB 856, which is headed to 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.
Status:
  • SB 130 - Referred to the Senate Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee
  • 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.
Status:
  • Filed Feb. 19 and pending committee assignments
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.
Status: 
  • SB 204 - Approved by all reference committees and ready for Senate floor
  • HB 1179 - Filed on Feb. 19
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