Florida Restaurant and Lodging Assoc. announces its 2012 legislative session issues

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The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) today unveiled several of its 2012 Legislative issues it will be heavily lobbying and following closely during the upcoming nine week Session. The FRLA, the state’s largest hospitality trade industry representing over 10,000 members in the hotel, restaurant, supplier and attractions arena, supports a pro-business and pro-job growth agenda.

FRLA President/CEO Carol Dover offered that the following issues have a tremendous impact on the largest employing industry, providing more than 1 million jobs in Florida, which helps fuel the economic engine that is tourism.

Destination Casino Resorts:  Florida is considered one of the most family-friendly destination locations in the world. We should not gamble our decades of hard work in building our wholesome reputation on the risky proposition that big spending foreign gamblers will solve our economic problems. The FRLA is against the expansion of gaming and believes the so called ‘mega-casino’s’ will cannibalize surrounding hotels, restaurants and convention centers currently in place.

Minimum Wage:  Florida businesses can no longer afford to continue to increase the pay of tipped employees who make well over the minimum wage. In 2004, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that increased the minimum wage and tied future increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). FRLA is in discussions with Senate and House leadership regarding a possible legislative constitutional amendment that, if passed, would appear on a statewide ballot to change that requirement. As of January 1, 2012, Florida’s minimum wage is $7.67.

Unemployment Compensation:  With Florida’s unemployment rate hitting double digits for the past several years, there has been a huge strain on employers and business owners. The State announced that the 2012 minimum rate for employers is expected to jump from $72.10 per employee to $170, and the maximum rate to increase from $378 to $459. The FRLA will support measures to stabilize and eventually lower the cost of unemployment compensation tax increases.

Workers Compensation:  The FRLA is actively supporting policies that ensure workers’ compensation premiums are fair and not inflated by unnecessary costs. The FRLA supports reform of current law to lower costs and ensure “drug repackagers” or when a physician takes an allotment of drugs, then splits it up and sells it to their patients, are required to comply with the fee schedule provided by Florida Law.

Online Travel Companies:  During the 2011 Legislative Session, a measure was discussed that would have created a special tax advantage for out-of-state OTCs such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.  The bill would have deprived Florida of more than $20 million in tax revenue annually, according to the Florida Association of Counties. The FRLA firmly believes that all companies doing business in Florida should pay their fair share of taxes. Our state policies should not put hard-working Florida companies at a disadvantage. 

Immigration: Many states believe that our nation’s immigration policy must be revamped and are implementing their own immigration policies. Some would have Florida adopt the sweeping and controversial policies that mirror other states like Arizona, Alabama, or Georgia.  However, Florida is not like other states.  Every state thus far that has passed an immigration law has found itself in federal court defending it. The costly litigation does nothing to solve the real problems that we are facing. We believe that working with the Federal government on a national solution is the best approach to the problem.

The FRLA will be discussing these issues throughout the 2012 Legislative Session and will be hosting Florida Tourism Day on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 with other travel and tourism partners across the state to bring these issues before Florida legislators.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.