Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) is boasting about their accomplishments in advancing legislation this year that would position Florida to be one of the best places in the nation to do business.
And they have a right to be boastful.
With a successful formula of new laws that provide businesses with tax relief, promote investments to foster economic development opportunities, improvements to the insurance climate and reductions to restrictive regulations that impede growth, businesses will be met with an easier road as they continue to whether the storms of the recent economic downturn.
“This was another incredible year for AIF members and for the business community as a whole. Working in partnership with Gov. Scott, legislative leaders and other policy makers, AIF helped to drive Florida forward by passing legislation that will enable our citizens, our businesses and our economy to thrive,” said Tom Feeney, AIF President and CEO. “A business-friendly climate is vital to a healthy economy and robust job market. Florida’s lawmakers clearly understand that connection and their efforts this session are to be commended.”
Specific legislative advances were made in the following areas:
- Environment: 1) Numeric Nutrient Criteria—create responsible water quality standards for our state. In a unique partnership with businesses and local and state governments, the Numeric Nutrient Criteria Task Force will continue to work with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to ensure there will be clean water for future generations of Floridians without laying a heavy and unnecessary financial burden on businesses and governments responsible for meeting water quality standards. 2) Environmental Permitting—create a statewide Environmental Resource Permitting (ERP) system, supported by the DEP, which will eliminate duplicate government reviews of permit applications, bring consistency to the permitting process and offer businesses predictable outcomes irrespective of where they are located within the state. This also will include comprehensive reform of the environmental permitting process that will streamline applications and shorten the time frames for businesses to receive a permit.
- Taxes: 1) Unemployment Compensation—legislation that lessens the unemployment compensation tax increase to a more manageable level so Florida businesses can keep people employed and unemployed Floridians can continue to receive the benefits they need. 2) Tangible Personal Property Tax Exemption Amendment—if signed by the Governor, and approved by voters, small businesses across the state will benefit from an additional ad valorem tax exemption on tangible personal property valued between $25,000 and $50,000.
- Insurance: 1) Personal Injury Protection—legislation that will help prevent rampant Personal Injury Protection (PIP) fraud and reduce auto insurance premiums for Florida drivers was passed in the final day of session. 2) Citizens Property Insurance Assessments—amending property insurance legislation to include protections from potential assessments or “hurricane taxes” for all Florida citizen and business policyholders.
- Economic Development: The comprehensive economic development package passed by the Legislature contains a number of issues important to AIF and its members including the reauthorization of the New Markets Tax Credit program, expansion of the state’s corporate income tax exemption, sales tax exemptions that will help grow the state’s manufacturing industry and incentives for the film, agriculture and aerospace industries.
Equally critical to the passage of pro-business legislation is the ability to thwart bad policy that could have a harmful effect on business and industry, and great efforts were made to ensure this happened.
This includes a major victory for Florida’s brick-and-mortar businesses with the defeat of legislation that would have permanently provided online travel companies with an unfair tax advantage. Florida hoteliers who, for years, have been collecting and remitting occupancy taxes to the state, counties and municipalities will now be on a level playing field with giants like Travelocity. This also closes the door on other wholesale-to-retail businesses seeking a similar market-distorting tax advantage in the Sunshine State.
Also thwarted was a proposal to force hospitals to contract with smaller health care plans for Medicaid services. This would have significantly altered last year’s Medicaid reforms and jeopardized savings to the state accomplished through that landmark legislation.
In the coming weeks, AIF will release its 2012 Session Wrap-Up Publication, annual Voting Records Report and announce its annual Champion for Business Awards.
According to AIF, “The Session Wrap-up provides a detailed analysis of legislation affecting Florida’s business community. The Voting Records Report compares state lawmakers’ votes on legislation impacting Florida’s businesses and employers to AIF’s 2012 legislative priorities. AIF’s Champion for Business Awards recognize those elected officials who have proven to be strong and forceful advocates for Florida business. Award recipients are chosen for their support of meaningful and often controversial pro-business legislation that benefits employers and their workers.”