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What are Florida businesses looking for from the 2013 Legislature?
Joe Saunders
Paychecks that help build families and communities, tax collections that make up a major part of Florida's general revenue: The chief business of Florida in many ways is business itself, to paraphrase Calvin Coolidge. And that business includes the one all those tourists, covered in oil, support so handsomely. With that in mind, Florida Voices asked some of the state's leading business organizations: What are Florida businesses looking for from the 2013 Legislature?
Edie Ousley
Vice President, Public Affairs, Florida Chamber of Commerce

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is focused on its 2013 agenda for jobs –-- a legislative agenda that will make Florida more competitive, ensure Florida is the perfect climate for business and lower the cost of living for Florida’'s families and small business.

With Washington bogged down in uncertainty –the fiscal cliff fiasco, increased payroll taxes, a delayed sequestration decision, and a regulatory tsunami that is emerging from the Beltway, Florida has an opportunity to lead the nation in solving challenges that will make our nation more competitive.

Florida is moving in the right direction:

  • Florida has the lowest unemployment rate in four years;
  • Florida’s education quality is No. 6 in the nation; and
  • Florida is expected to add 212,000 new residents this year according to the Florida Chamber Foundation.

However, far too many job killers are artificially holding Florida back from strong private-sector job and economic growth, including:

  • Out-of-state Internet giants get special tax treatment, while Florida'’s Main Street merchants get punished for living, working and investing in Florida;
  • Florida'’s 41st worst legal climate inhibits economic expansion;
  • Florida is one costly storm away from economic devastation; and
  • Workers’ compensation rates are rising, in part because of a costly repackaged drug loophole that'’s being exploited.

The Florida Chamber'’s legislative priorities will move Florida toward an innovation-based economy placing long-term economic policy decisions ahead of short-term political fixes. While the Florida Chamber'’s agenda is gaining momentum and pro-jobs laws are working, there is much more for the Florida Legislature to do in 2013, including:

  • Tax Reform: Leveling the playing field for small businesses and Main Street through E-Fairness, and eliminating manufacturing equipment sales tax to help grow Florida-origin exports.
  • Legal Reform: Improving Florida'’s 41st worst legal climate which, studies show, could save $2.8 billion in legal costs and increase employment by as much as 2 percent. Additionally, Florida must repair its unfair medical malpractice system that'’s causing doctors to choose other states to open their practices.
  • Business Climate Reform: Preempting special interests from creating a patchwork of local mandatory leave mandates, stabilizing and lowering workers’ comp rates that are artificially higher due to drug repackaging abuses, and reforming Florida'’s broken property insurance system by addressing major systemic flaws in Citizens Property Insurance and the CAT Fund.
  • Excellence in Education: Provide a globally competitive education by ensuring education readies Floridians for the 21st century economy, enhancing education options, preparing future generations for a changing workforce, and making Floridians competitive in the global marketplace.
  • Quality of Life: While every state is dealing with the federal health care act, the Florida Chamber looks forward to being a part of the Florida'’s debate. As we grow another 6 million people by 2030, Florida will need more health-care professionals to pursue medical residencies.
  • Gambling: The Florida Chamber continues to oppose the expansion of Las Vegas-style gambling.

These solutions will help make Florida more competitive and lead to the creation of 170,000 new jobs this year. The best way to secure Florida'’s future is to grow forward, one company at a time. When companies do well, communities do well, and when communities do well, regions do well. It'’s how we pay teachers more, fund economic development, plan for transportation, energy and water, and improve our quality of life. Free market solutions will ensure that Florida is the perfect climate for business and secure Florida's future.

Tom Feeney
President, CEO, Associated Industries of Florida

Associated Industries of Florida has been a tireless advocate and resounding voice for Florida’s business community for nearly 100 years. AIF is a sum of its parts, a collection of businesses from every area of the Sunshine State representing an array of industries that fuel our economy.

As one of the most influential allies for Florida businesses, AIF works throughout the year – and particularly during legislative session – on issues that are paramount to Florida industries.

Working in tandem, the AIF Lobby Team, the AIF staff and our board will work to champion issues that will create the best business atmosphere and increase economic opportunity. This year, our focus is on a myriad of business-related issues, including:

Health Care: AIF has long been an advocate of reducing the cost of health care for employers, while at the same time increasing Floridians' access to high-quality health care. To that end, AIF is working to develop a multi-year approach that will work to meet these goals by modernizing Florida’s health care delivery system. The proposals within this program will facilitate greater access to more affordable, high-quality health care to more Floridians utilizing innovations in technology, providing the right care in the right setting for the patient's condition, combating fraud, waste and abuse, and incentivizing Floridians to make healthy life choices.

Manufacturing: AIF is the state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturers, and is committed to advocating for an industry that generates significant economic activity and high-wage, high-value jobs to Florida communities. AIF strongly supports the “Manufacturing Competitiveness Act,” which will enable manufacturers to effectively and efficiently respond to national and world market opportunities, streamline regulation and permitting and move Florida into a global recruiting position. AIF also supports the complete elimination of the sales tax imposed on the purchase of manufacturing equipment and machinery.

Education: The key to Florida’s economic competitiveness is education. Creating and continuing to promote the most skilled workforce in the nation is paramount to job creation and our economic future. In 2013, AIF will continue its focus on education initiatives that will ensure students are well prepared to enter the workforce, including legislation that will increase the number of children entering quality early education programs, increase access to online learning opportunities, enable Florida families to choose the education path that best aligns with their students’ needs and fund programs that will increase the number of Florida STEM graduates.

For more information on AIF’s legislative priorities, and to view a full list of issues we will be advocating for, please visit www.aif.com.

Rick Mcallister
President, CEO, Florida Retail Federation

The 2013 Florida Legislative Session officially convenes on March 5, but the lawmaking process really started last year on Nov. 20, when Florida’s newly elected lawmakers convened for the first time to take their oaths of office. Thanks to a combination of term limits and redistricting, there are many new faces at the Capitol. Of the 160 sitting legislators – 40 in the Senate and 120 in the House – about one in four are serving in Tallahassee for the first time.

Part of our work at the Capitol is educating lawmakers on the important role that the retail industry plays in our state economy. First, retailers are responsible for collecting and remitting one of Florida’s most important revenue sources – the state sales tax. In the year 2012, Florida retailers collected and remitted nearly $20 billion in sales taxes for the state government alone, not counting local sales taxes. Retailers directly employ more than 1.7 million Floridians, making the industry an important engine for job growth. A healthy retail marketplace creates jobs and drives the growth of many other industries, including manufacturing, distribution, transportation, shipping, real estate and construction.

One of the highest priorities of the Florida Retail Federation this year is e-fairness legislation that would close the loophole that allows remote sellers to avoid collecting the sales tax on Internet sales. Florida retailers have been collecting sales taxes on their e-commerce all along, but several large out-of-state sellers have so far refused to collect and remit sales taxes. It’s time for this government-created competitive disadvantage to end, and we are advocating for legislation that would put state retailers on a level playing field with remote sellers.

Retail pharmacies play an important role in the state’s healthcare system, and FRF is advocating legislation this year that would expand their capacity to serve individuals by increasing the number of pharmacy technicians that may be supervised by a pharmacist. Pharmacy technicians are trained individuals who assist pharmacists in dispensing medications by doing routine pharmacy tasks such as taking customer phone calls, creating labels, and taking payment for prescriptions, which would allow pharmacists to focus more of their time on patient care. Seventeen states do not place restrictions on the number of pharmacy technicians that can be supervised by a pharmacist, and studies have shown that when a pharmacist’s time is freed up to review prescriptions, assess drug therapies, resolve clinical conflicts, speak with physicians and counsel patients, patient care is significantly improved and errors reduced.

Finally, we believe there is an urgent need in Florida to adopt legislation that would preempt to the state the regulation of any employment-related provisions regarding wages, hours of employment and employee benefits. State preemption is likely the only effective and long-term response to a situation that has been growing in Florida and around the nation – local petition drives and ordinances orchestrated by national labor unions and other activist groups. Their advancement is a coordinated attack on the freedom of individual employers to determine employment practices.

We also appreciate the strong commitment by Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders to increase Florida’s support of education. Florida’s retail businesses are among the top job creators in the state, and we depend on a well-educated workforce to help us grow. As we look ahead to the beginning of the legislative session, we are optimistic that Florida’s leadership is ready, willing and able to take on and solve the challenges facing our state.


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