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Sponsor proposes changes to VISIT FLORIDA bill

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As the House gets ready to start considering a bill to overhaul VISIT FLORIDA, its sponsor filed an amendment to dilute some of its strict requirements.

The measure (HB 9) will be on the House floor today (Thursday) for questions. Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, filed the amendment Tuesday, records show.

It would impose new reporting requirements on the state’s tourism marketing agency only when a project it funds is slated to get over 50 percent of its budget “from funds derived from a tax.” The bill now applies to deals that involve any amount of public dollars.  

But the proposal still mandates disclosures such as “specific performance standards,” “the value of any services provided,” and “salaries of all employees and board members … and (their) projected travel and entertainment expenses.”

Originally, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, aimed to abolish both Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization and dispenser of many of the state’s business incentives, and VISIT FLORIDA.

Both are officially public-private endeavors, but both are overwhelmingly funded through taxpayers’ dollars. House leadership later decided to split the legislation, still eliminating Enterprise Florida but saving and overhauling VISIT FLORIDA.

The speaker had threatened to sue VISIT FLORIDA after it refused to reveal a secret deal with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism, later revealed to be worth up to $1 million. The ensuing controversy cost former agency CEO Will Seccombe his job.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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