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Following the Currents that Guide Florida's Future
What does the hospitality industry need from the 2013 session?
Joe Saunders
February in Florida is a great time to remember -- or in some places, to be forcibly reminded -- how big an impact tourism has on this state. The money, in the billions annually; the jobs, more than a million statewide in 2012; and the lifestyle with which tourism blankets the Sunshine State: That's all part of our makeup. With that in mind, Florida Voices asked the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association: What does the hospitality industry need from the 2013 legislative session?
Carol Dover
President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association's mission is to “Protect, Educate and Promote” Florida's hospitality industry - which represents a $62.4 billion industry, 20 percent of Florida's economy, $3.4 billion in sales tax revenue, and more than one million employees, making it Florida's largest employer.

The original Florida Restaurant Association was established in 1946 and later expanded to include lodging establishments, restaurants and thousands of suppliers to the industry. It is Florida's premier non-profit, hospitality industry trade association representing and serving more than 10,000 independent and household name members, including theme parks. FRLA has been effective in influencing legislation that has saved the industry $1.2 billion in taxes and fees over the past 10 years.

The FRLA works closely with legislators and their staff members to advance a pro-business and pro-growth environment for its members, which in turn attracts local residents and national and international travelers to the Sunshine State. Several measures to further encourage job growth in our industry include:

Paid Leave: Mandated paid leave is a costly new mandate that has been considered by both the Orange County and Miami-Dade County Commissions. Similar measures across the country have mandated all private sector employers provide their workers some arbitrary level of paid leave per hours worked. The issue is whether businesses should be required to provide a particular benefit. FRLA supports one, fair rule covering the entire state of Florida and will work to pass preemptive legislation so if paid leave is ever mandated; a fair law covering the entire state of Florida is put into place. Without preemption at the state level, there is a threat to one day have 67 different paid leave laws to follow placing a competitive disadvantage over local businesses from one county to the next.

Gaming: The FRLA is against the expansion of gaming in our state. One only needs to look at numbers from Atlantic City, where within the first year of casino operations, 40 percent of restaurants and one-third of retail establishments closed their doors. Each dollar spent in a casino will be one less dollar spent in local restaurants, local hotels, local entertainment complexes, local theaters, and local night clubs. The goal of every successful casino is to keep customers within their footprint, offering free or deeply discounted hotel rooms, meals, stores, and entertainment options. By design, one never needs to leave the property. It is hard to compete with comped rooms and free food. This is a bad bet for Florida and a gamble we cannot afford to take.

Hospitality Education Program: The FRLA supports the continued funding for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's HEP program. The dollars in the Trust Fund are derived from a $10 license surcharge paid exclusively by Florida's restaurant and lodging establishments for the sole purpose of funding this important program. Approximately 21,000 students in over 200 Florida high schools participate in HEP which grows its future workforce by producing a pool of certified and immediately employable workers with the proper skill set to begin a career in the hospitality industry.

For more information on these and other initiatives, please visit our website at www.FRLA.org.

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