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Adam Putnam: Florida is a tinderbox, Florida Forest Service works around the clock

In every corner of our state, severe drought conditions have made Florida a tinderbox. Roughly 100 wildfires are currently burning about 75,000 acres, and our Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters are working side-by-side with partnering agencies to battle these fires and protect life, property and wildlife.

On Friday, Collier County had to evacuate approximately 7,000 homes due to a massive wildfire. We’ve not seen fire conditions this bad since 2011, and we have wildfires burning from the state line to Miami.

Current conditions conjure memories of one of the worst years on record—1998, when at one time I-4, I-75, and I-10 were all closed at the same time, Disney World was closed, the Pepsi 400 was postponed, and an entire county, Flagler County, was evacuated. In 2017 so far, more than 130,000 acres have burned due to wildfires. Many homes have been saved, but some have been lost.

My grandfather used to say, “extremes beget extremes.” Some of the wettest El Nino cycles that we have are followed by the driest conditions that are ripe for wildfire. These tough drought conditions are worsened by the abundance of undergrowth—brush and weeds—that grows and thrives due to the heavy rainfall the prior year. With dry conditions, all of it turns into kindling that fuels large and swiftly moving wildfires, whether caused by people or nature.

Recently, I asked Governor Rick Scott to issue an executive order to enable us to use all available resources to combat these wildfires. National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters are assisting our other aircrafts fighting these wildfires. One of the most concerning aspects of these conditions is the last time an emergency order was issued in 2011, it was mid-June. June is typically the peak of wildfire season, so it’s a very serious situation that it’s even earlier in the year that we’re seeing such extreme conditions.

Unfortunately, the two most common causes of wildfire are people. The leading cause of wildfire is human carelessness, such as allowing a debris pile to grow out of control or a spark from an intentional fire to land on dry land and start a wildfire. The second leading cause is arson. We’ve seen a 70 percent increase in arson cases this year compared to last year with 240 cases so far.

Education and awareness are important components of preventing wildfires. Residents should obey county burn bans, which can be found on FreshFromFlorida.com. They can also track current fire conditions on the website and learn how to create defensible spaces around their homes. Most importantly, if evacuation orders are given, residents and visitors should heed those warnings and keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

Combatting wildfires is truly a partnership. When we recently had a fire on St. George Island, our Florida Forest Service firefighters were out there cutting fire lines, bringing down the intensity of the flames, while the local structural firefighters were up against the houses, making sure they were the last line of defense to protect those homes. As a result, no homes were lost in that fire.

We recently had a firefighter overtaken by flames in his dozer in Okeechobee, and Okeechobee County Fire and Rescue were already on the scene and assisted in getting him out safely. Thanks to their swift rescue efforts, our firefighter is safe and in good health. The comradery of the firefighting service is an extraordinary one, and we should all be proud of them.

The Florida Forest Service will continue to work around the clock to protect residents and visitors, property and wildlife from fire. And I encourage every Floridian to do their part to help prevent wildfires and report any suspected cases of arson by calling local authorities. May God bless our firefighters.

Adam Putnam is Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

Blake Dowling: Look out for hackers (and the government)

U.S. Rep Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) with gavel and dog.

What now? More breaches. More leaks. Internet carriers selling your data? Hackers coming at us like United Airlines security?

(For an interesting read, see Nader v. Airlines 1972)

So you are worried about hackers, and — of course — the National Security Agency is watching (and logging) you surf on PredictIT.com or Lolcats.com. Or are you stressing because you might be in the World-Check database (bet on it — just by being an elected official, because it may consider you bribable, and, yes, this site was also breached/leaked recently).

Yes. All of that, and much, much more.

The Internet of Things and the Cyber Renaissance (or apocalypse, depending on your point of view) that we are experiencing in 2017 truly has us going where no one has gone before.

This past weekend, I used a vending machine that would not take cash. ACK! Since I only had cash, no Mountain Dew for me.

Is it too much tech? Too much internetting? Too much exposure?

Last week, one of our elected officials had something to say about the internet. U.S. House Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, had some truly amazing advice for his constituents: you don’t have to use the internet if you don’t like it (according to TheRegister.com). Hmmm.

In today’s world, that’s about the same as saying if you don’t like the air don’t breathe it, same with roads and driving.

Hopefully, Jimbo was just hitting the Hendricks a little hard the night before and was having a fuzzy day. If not we have problems. As the powers that be in D.C. look to an era of deregulation, we are going to potentially see internet providers that have very little oversight. With customer service rankings right there with our pals at United Airlines.

We have a lot to watch out for.

The new law Jimbo was defending involved the ability for national internet carriers to sell customer info/history.

Advocates for digital privacy are outraged, as they should; this is the real deal. I don’t want my info sold to anyone, and if ol’ Jimbo is my advocate, it’s not looking good. Don’t we get harassed enough? Say I visit Solider of Fortune Magazine online a couple of times, and I mysteriously get emails wanting to sell me night vision goggles.

I mean I love some good NV hardware but get outta my business.

As consumers, we are constantly stalked digitally. Jimbo and the gang need to get their heads out of their … err … sand and look out for Mr. and Mrs. Citizen.

The big 5 (Comcast, Charter (now Spectrum), Verizon, CenturyLink, and AT&T) have control over approx. 80 percent of the market; most Americans have only 1 or 2 providers to choose.

Some parting words from Dunder Mifflin’s Corporate office, that is practical advice for all things: tech, driving, politics, social media, business, talking, lawn care, etc. … while staying off the internet for a 73-year-old congressman with aides and assistants galore may be practical; it ain’t so good for you and me, peeps.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlinb@aegisbiztech.com

Blake Dowling: Legislative Session 2017 – I’m just a bill

Last weekend, I was on the road in Gainesville for some spring football.

As I sat in my mobile command station (aka the Wyndham) the following day — watching an epic Masters, NBA and college baseball weekend — I couldn’t get the old PSA from Saturday Morning Cartoons out of my head, and I started writing …

“I’m just a bill on Capitol Hill waiting to become law, but today I am still just a bill.”

Man, they do not make them like that anymore; 1976 was a hell of a year: KC & the Sunshine Band ruled the charts and TV had class – before reality TV, before the INTERNET.

Speaking of bills, I had the chance to write on innovative technology earlier this year, AI-powered personal delivery devices made by Starship Technologies.

Last week, I received a call from its lobbying team; they were actually at the Capital showcasing the machine. The performance was a success, as Mitch Perry reported April 6; House Bill 601 passed 115-0.

I enjoyed the experience of doing some investigative reporting and quicker than you can say, ‘Nole Day Bathroom Shenanigans at the Capitol, it’s law.

This new tech will change the game with delivery services, although I don’t know if they are ready for North Florida. I can see some Wakulla County residents making up a game where you shoot the PDD’s with shotguns. Am I wrong?

As rewarding was that was, tracking Senate Bill 772 on assistive technologies was game changing.

James Harding, an Instructional Specialist at Florida State University’s College of Business, shared some testimonial with me about the bill. I was genuinely moved.

I immediately wrote something about the issue, as kids that need assistive tech to communicate were only allowed to use the tech in school and not at home. As the one young lady testified, “do you only get to talk from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. sir?” Powerful. I won’t know if I swayed anyone, but I will know in my heart that I tried to bring some awareness to this remarkable piece of legislation.

Rep. Loranne Ausley, who sponsored the bill, sent a tweet about it after reading my column. Harding from FSU and I ended up in a meeting about it. I was introduced to Michael Daniels from FAAST.

Awareness of the issue, having a conversation about it and taking action. That’s what it’s all about.

Dr. Harding with Gov. of Florida Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott.

Harding and I talked about doing a presentation for the Chamber on assistive tech, working on an update about SB 772 (you’re reading it).

Here is what Daniels had to say about where the bill stands: “I couldn’t be more pleased with the enthusiastic reception this bill has received.  It is incredibly cool seeing the attention Michael Phillips and Jennifer Perry Breen have received with their personal stories.  I know from the OMG looks on the legislators faces this is the first time they have seen a person testify with a speech generating device.  Goes back to the first lesson I learned from my mentor, Jean Issacs, technology levels the playing field for people with disabilities in ways we still can’t imagine.”

Harding added: “Without technology, success in school or in the workplace would not be possible. It is all about independence.”

Thank you to everyone who has supported SB 772 and the people counting on it.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

 

 

Blake Dowling: Making a good first (or millionth) impression on Twitter

Twitter is an interesting beast, created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass and others.

Within six years, 100 million users were on the platform — cranking out 300 plus million tweets a day.

I joined the Twitter Army in May 2009 and 3,881 tweets later, I am still at it. It is a great way to launch our company Newsletter, POLITICO factoids, Crucial Gator Madness, Tech Industry news, Rando Band/Music info and the columns that I write.

I had a column retweeted from the maker of a personal delivery device that was featured in the column, Starship Technology. They were at the Florida State Capital this week displaying for lawmakers in attendance their artificially charged delivery machines, which could transform the way delivery services work. (CS/HB 601: Personal Delivery Devices)

You can also check out my February 2017 column showcasing that kind of tech.

@StarshipRobots has about the same ballpark number of followers that I do, so the retweet doubles the number of impressions.

If I really wanted to get stir crazy I could launch a paid Twitter campaign via the “Tweet Activity” function in Twitter.

However, I have no Pryor and Wilder feelings today so I will leave it at that.

I recently wrote a column about Russian hackers and wove my college acquaintance, present day comedian @BertKreischer into the mix (see the Machine story).

Because he has 200K followers, the number of impressions on that tweet were high. That tweet was not only featuring my company brand but the brand of FloridaPolitics.com and a lot of new folks were exposed to the site, in theory. Pretty cool.

Same with the band @SisterHazel, I tweeted about their Memphis show (which they retweeted) and quite a few folks saw it, as they have close to a million followers.

Blake Dowling @AegisSales: “A guy I knew in college named @bertkreischer is a comedian. He is in my new column @Fla_Pol on Russia. Enjoy http://floridapolitics.com/archives/231563-blake-dowling-russian-hackers-coming” (Impressions: 15,556 times people saw this tweet on Twitter).

I certainly am not claiming to be a Twitter master; not by any stretch of the imagination.

If I were, however, I would be like Logan Paul, hauling in six-figure afternoons with my crazy videos and other content that his 7 million followers slurp up like nickel beer night at the Palace Saloon.

According to 60 Minutes, Logan was indeed paid almost $200k for one day’s work for Dunkin’ Donuts.

He got their message out to just as many people as a prime-time TV ad with nowhere close to the cost.

If you are not using Twitter, take the plunge.

It can give you some interesting branding opportunities, and there is more to it than getting celebs to retweet your stuff click here for a guide on how to get started.

if you are in the middle like me don’t forget to use hashtags to tighten up your messaging, follow those that you want to engage and keep your content SFW, no matter if you work at the White House or McDonald’s.

If you are past beginner status, let’s close with some tips.

— Pin a compelling tweet at the top of your profile.

— Add a period or exclamation point to your mentions and that will send them as tweets to all your followers.

That’s it for today, cache you ousside, tweet about that.

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Did you hear that this person is getting a TV show, it could be a sign of the apocalypse.

Blake Dowling is CEO for Aegis Business Technologies and is CEO for Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Pat Neal: Business rent tax stifles Florida’s economic future

The business rent tax is the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire country and Florida is the not-so-proud holder of that title. Not even tax-happy havens like California and New York impose this state tax on its businesses. Due to this burdensome tax, Florida businesses shell out more than $1.7 billion every year to the state. As a result, our state economy dramatically suffers in the form of suppressed job growth and economic activity.

Luckily, Gov. Rick Scott is committed to cutting this tax on hardworking small-business owners and budding entrepreneurs. The governor has repeatedly made cutting or abolishing this tax one of his top priorities for numerous years as part of his commitment to creating jobs for Florida families. Recently, he has hit the road advocating for a 25 percent cut in the tax –  a move that could save Florida businesses more than $400 million per year and reduce prices for Florida consumers.

The business rent tax places a disproportionate burden on small businesses and startups that do not have the capital to purchase bigger office space, hire new employees or expand to other locations. All of this creates a chilling effect on many of Florida’s more than 2 million small businesses.

Since businesses must pay a 6 percent state sales tax on their rent, including added costs to that lease – such as property taxes, maintenance and the cost of insurance –  and local governments can add an additional 1.5 percent, your local retailer could be easily paying more than $100,000 yearly in taxes on their lease alone. Those costs are ultimately passed down to consumers in the form of higher prices. Floridians still trying to recover from the Great Recession cannot continue to afford these cost increases.

The business rent tax undoubtedly puts Florida at a distinct competitive disadvantage, one that is not shared by any other state in the country. It gives the impression that we are closed for business and makes our competitor states look more attractive. It doesn’t make sense for a company to move to Florida if they can get similar benefits in another state without paying a burdensome tax on their rent.

Florida TaxWatch’s research has shown that this rent tax presents an impediment to the success of the state’s businesses, and TaxWatch’s long-standing recommendation has been that Florida’s policymakers should take efforts toward reducing or eliminating this tax.

Unfortunately, despite the support of many lawmakers in the Legislature, this common-sense tax reform has repeatedly languished in the halls of the Capitol. Despite a tighter budget outlook this session, there is still enough money to consider a reduction in the business rent tax.

The fairness and competitiveness of our tax structure is paramount to Florida’s continued success. If we want to continue to be recognized as the top place in the country for business, we must promote incentive programs like Enterprise Florida and commit to reduce or eliminate the business rent tax. This is the one area where Florida cannot afford to be unique.

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Pat Neal is a former state senator and former chair of the Christian Coalition of Florida. He currently serves as chairman-elect for the board of directors of Florida TaxWatch, the state’s independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog, and is the president of Neal Communities.

Keith Miller: Florida’s small businesses need protections in state law

Keith Miller

Two Orlando residents are out $8 million after a large, out-of-state corporation forced their local businesses to shut down.

The local entrepreneurs were originally enticed by the corporation to open 10 Mexican-themed fast food restaurants in the Orlando area. The California-based corporation used unrealistic sales projections and profit margins to convince the group to sign on to the deal.

However, after only three years in business, they were forced to walk away and left with no state legal protections to recover their $8 million in investments and their businesses were sold for just 35 percent of their original purchase amount. Additionally, the investors secured loans from the Small Business Association (SBA), a federal program that uses taxpayer dollars to assist and support small business growth.

Since it was a California-based corporation and Florida does not currently have laws on the books to protect our own small-business owners and their investments, these Floridians were bound by California law which favored the corporation.

Florida cannot continue to lose our small businesses, their investments, or risk taxpayer dollars due to unfair corporate franchisor practices.

It is an all-too-common story where local business owners are at the mercy of the more powerful corporations and are taken advantage of. In this instance, the California-based corporation was issuing directives to the Florida owners based on California demographics and sales patterns which simply did not fit the Florida locations. When these locations were unable to comply with the unreasonable demands, and sales goals, they were left with no choice but to walk away from their businesses, leaving behind millions of dollars in property, equipment and supplies.

Owning and operating a successful business is challenging enough without the constant stress and fear that everything you’ve worked for can be taken away in the blink of an eye. 23 other states have already enacted laws to provide greater protection for small business franchise owners and Florida should do the same.

Similarly situated businesses in Florida, such as automobile dealers, agricultural equipment dealers and beer distributors are protected under Florida law.

In Florida, there are more than 40,000 small businesses owned and operated by franchisees who provide over 404,000 jobs and generate $35 billion in economic activity annually.

State Sen. Jack Latvala and State Rep. Jason Brodeur have introduced “The Protect Florida Small Business Act,” legislation that will provide protections to Florida’s small-business owners. Florida citizens can log on to www.ProtectFLBusiness.com to support passage of this important legislation.

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Keith Miller is the Chairman of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA), an organization founded in 2007 to provide a forum for franchisees to share best practices, knowledge, resources and training. Mr. Miller and the CFA are supporting this legislation and giving a voice to the individual franchisee owners who are at risk of speaking out themselves.

Dennis Ross: Working to keep Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable

Since I was first elected to Congress, I have fought to hold government agencies and Washington bureaucrats more accountable to Floridians and all Americans. Unfortunately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) continues to operate in a manner unaccountable to Congress, the president and American taxpayers.

You don’t have to take my word on this.

On Oct. 11, 2016, the D.C. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the CFPB’s leadership structure unconstitutional. In its decision, the court stated, “The Director enjoys significantly more unilateral power than any single member of any other independent agency … power that is not checked by the president or by other colleagues. Indeed, other than the president, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire United States Government …”

This unsettling unilateral power, coupled with the inability for other arms of the federal government to review or disapprove of the CFPB’s actions, not only flies in the face of our government’s system of checks and balances, but also promotes rogue operations and regulations that have the potential to grossly alter our economy and harm the livelihoods of millions of Americans.

The CFPB was created by Democrats in response to the 2008 financial crisis as a provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank). This 2,300-page piece of legislation was sold to the public as a means to hold bad financial actors accountable, prevent future systemic failures of our financial system, and provide increased transparency and consumer protections for investors. President Obama promised Dodd-Frank would “lift the economy,” but once again, he gave the American people false hope.

Instead, in the years since it was enacted, the big banks have grown bigger, while community financial institutions are disappearing at an average rate of one per day. Consumer credit has tightened up, and low and middle-income borrowers are feeling these effects more than most.

Although many financial service providers are already regulated at a state and federal level, CFPB creates excessive red-tape for industries across the entire financial services spectrum without accountability to Congress. Dodd-Frank completely disregarded the important congressional appropriations process and specifically allowed the CFPB to receive its funding directly from the Federal Reserve’s operating expenses so the CFPB could operate outside of congressional oversight.

The CFPB’s authority to regulate financial services transactions is so expansive, it goes well beyond banks and other depository institutions. The sole director is appointed to a five-year term and, once appointed, can set implement policies in whatever way he or she sees fit. To make matters worse, the CFPB lacks the internal checks and balances to which other independent regulatory agencies are subject to.

Instead of issuing clear and specific guidance, the CFPB uses enforcement tactics that financial institutions have to measure against their own practices and then somehow implement, often to the consumers’ detriment.

For example, the CFPB does not distinguish credit unions and community banks from large financial institutions and nonbank lenders. As a result, the CFPB’s broad and overly burdensome regulations are severely impairing these important community-based financial institutions by limiting consumer credit availability and choice, as well as increasing costs for credit union members and community bank customers. Additionally, new CFPB rules and regulations have prevented many new mortgage loans from being made, particularly for low and middle-income borrowers.

There is no question about it, we must start easing the regulatory burdens faced by our community financiers, and reign in the unilateral power the CFPB Director has over hardworking taxpayers. As a Member of the House Financial Services Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues to enact legislation that holds the CFPB accountable to all Americans, and to ensure its actions stop harming the consumers it was charged to protect.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

Payton Alexander: Neil Gorsuch confirmation would be great for Latinos

Payton Alexander

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch is coming up for a vote in the Senate this month, with lawmakers debating the nomination of the Colorado judge to the highest court in the country.

Like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Gorsuch has a track record of interpreting the Constitution as written and intended by the founders. He also served in the Justice Department, and clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. For Latinos that value individual rights and the rule of law, there’s a lot to be excited about in his selection to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Judge Gorsuch is an excellent pick to strengthen the free and open society that makes that dream possible. With millions of Latinos across the United States who value entrepreneurship and the American Dream, this is welcome news. Judges have a responsibility to protect our liberties from government meddling, and Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated that he will uphold Constitutional limits on government power no matter who is in charge — the foundation of a free and prosperous society.

Far beyond his record as a defender of individual liberty, Judge Gorsuch’s career reflects a solid understanding of the way that progressive interpretations of regulatory and criminal codes have hurt the least fortunate and contributed to the two-tiered society that is emerging in this country. As a Supreme Court Justice, Judge Gorsuch shows promise that he would uphold the rights of all people — immigrants and native-born citizens alike. All of these issues disproportionately impact the Latino community.

More than two hundred years of growing the size and scope of our government have taken their toll on the Constitution. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch will interpret the law and the Constitution faithfully, rather than seeking to erode the checks on government power that it provides. An originalist interpretation of the Constitution, as championed by the late Justice Scalia, prevents judges from legislating from the bench and serves as a vital check against lawmaking by judicial fiat. Judge Gorsuch will help ensure that our constitutional rights are protected, while advancing the foundations of a free society through the rule of law.

There are good reasons for Senators in both parties to support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and, in fact, he was unanimously approved to serve on the Court of Appeals — we encourage the Senate to show him the same wide support now.

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Payton Alexander serves as a policy analyst for The LIBRE Initiative.

Blake Dowling: New ransomware kicks it up a notch

Meeting this week with one of our national security partners, SonicWall, we had a fantastic luncheon with some local media partners, clients and Aegis staff.

A big topic of conversation — ransomware.

A SonicWall firewall can certainly help minimize risk, but there is no 100 percent protection from the constantly changing landscape of cyber threats.

Say you are a successful lobbyist, and legislation you want to pass is passing; you keep tweets clean, your email is in a secure cloud, your hardware is under warranty, with a solid backup, password-protected wireless network, two factor authentications for financial institutions, solid anti-virus, anti-spam protection firewall, and so on.

You rock through Session, rolling in a Maserati or other fly ride, feeling confident, successful — think Vince Vaughn in Swingers — confident. Then an intern clicks a link in a bogus ransomware email they thought was from the bank.

Now the game has changed; suddenly all your files are encrypted.

You are hosed.

Making things even worse is that this particular variation of ransomware not only encrypts files, but — if you do not pay the ransom — publishes your data on the web. That could include sensitive client info, financials, browsing history, everything.

This is happening, like a Cary Pigman late-night DUI. It’s not pretty, but it is a reality.

Let’s say; perhaps you spent the past three days logged on to Vegasinsider.com (or streaming episodes of Days of Our Lives), your clients and the whole wide world will know.

QuickBooks files? Yup. All of it.

Over the past few years, ransomware threats (like CryptoLocker) have hauled in over $325 million, with growth that more than doubles each year. How? Why?

Side note, why was Chris Kattan on Dancing with the Stars, what a spectacle. Even worse, why am I admitting to watching? Talk about shame.

Anyway; the “why” is indeed Intriguing.

The business model of ransomware cons is awesome (the crime is not awesome, but it is a classic pyramid scheme).

Go on the dark web and buy a ransomware tool kit for next to nothing; “they” show you how to launch ransomware campaigns via the web and they want half the cut (usually of any of the profits you make).

One variation is particularly devious.

After infection, they will send you the encryption keys to your files, but only if you get two other people you know to click on the same email. They also encourage you to send it to people you don’t like.

Wow. Talk about preying on fears and weak spots.

The threats are real, so keep your Maserati clean, and keep the intern off the internet.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com

Mark Wilson, Dominic Calabro: Strangling Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA costly to Sunshine State future

Right now, jobs and the future of Florida’s economy are in jeopardy. That’s because some politicians in Tallahassee want to eliminate Florida’s economic development programs and slash the state’s tourism marketing efforts.

Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA, Florida’s economic development and tourism marketing programs, are essential to the economic well-being of our state. Eliminating Florida’s targeted and proven economic development programs is not the way forward, and will slam the brakes on the amazing job creation success Florida has seen since the end of the Great Recession.

While incentives paid for by hardworking taxpayers are rarely if ever used and are almost always inappropriate, Enterprise Florida has safeguards in place to ensure taxpayer dollars are not used as corporate welfare to skimp on contractual obligations. As Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida TaxWatch, have often said, programs offered by Enterprise Florida are not paid until the business achieves what is outlined in the contract.

If the Florida House has its way, VISIT FLORIDA will see its budget slashed by $50 million — a move that would cut two-thirds funding. Tourism is still one of Florida’s top industries for jobs and economic growth, despite Florida having a more diverse economic portfolio than at any other time in state history.

Florida has advantages, but the Sunshine State also has a major lawsuit abuse problem, we’re the only state that taxes small business rent, and our unfunded pensions cost eight times what we invest in economic development. The point is that until the Florida Legislature puts jobs and families first, now is the worst possible time to make Florida less competitive.

Taking economic development strategies that work off the table is short sighted, and without question, harms Florida’s ability to continue to lead the nation in job creation. Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA are important pieces to Florida’s economic puzzle and strangling their resources will hurt our state, our taxpayers, job creators and 20-plus million residents for years to come.

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Mark Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

 

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