On March 14 and 15, FCMA held our annual Legislative Days event in Tallahassee. Our group represented a cross section of manufacturers and partners. This year we invited members of other regional manufacturer associations (RMA) from across the state. The event was attended by twenty-four companies including representatives from six RMA’s.
Each legislative session brings a number of challenges and opportunities that potentially impact manufacturers either positively or negatively. This year there are a number of issues that were presented to our attendees for discussion with members of the legislature. The following is a recap of the status of our legislative agenda following our event, while action continues on these issues until the close of session on May 5.
Workers’ Compensation –
An opinion rendered last year by the Florida Supreme Court struck down existing statutes pertaining to workers’ comp. The result is that all workers’ comp insurance will increase by 14.5% and previously settled claims can be reopened back to 2009. Several plans have been considered, some of which would reverse the increased rate and modify the existing statute. The legislation that is currently moving forward in both chambers will limit the hourly rate of legal fees and restructure language to reduce the number of claims that can be reopened. While better solutions exist, this is the only available opportunity to stave off some of the effects of this questionable Court decision. We are working to keep this legislation moving although there are better solutions. Failure to alter the current scenario rendered by the Court will result in continued increases in insurance rates estimated to increase approximately 40% or more in total.
Enterprise Florida –
The organization is a quasi-governmental agency for promoting businesses to relocate and expand in Florida. They work with a wide range of companies and develop packages, including various incentives to locate in the state. The center of the legislative session appears focused on the fate of this organization. The Governor has made it his priority to fund and operate Enterprise Florida, while the Speaker of the House is determined to dismantle the organization and defund it entirely. The difference in policy is based on political philosophy verses pragmatic business action. FCMA has taken the position to support the Governor’s position and lobbied members of our legislature to support Enterprise Florida. The two differing positions will likely remain heated until an agreement is reached for moving forward. The likely agreement will be to partially fund Enterprise Florida and change some of its functions adding more accountability to the organization.
FloridaMakes Funding –
FCMA entered into a partnership program with FloridaMakes in November of last year. FloridaMakes provides a number of resources for business advancement and training, which is available to our members. The funding request is $2MM, which can be used as a match for Federal funding. The appropriation is caught in a similar legislative showdown as Enterprise Florida and any economic development appropriations request. The appropriation will not be heard in the House but is moving forward in the Senate budget, sponsored by Senator Keith Perry (an FCMA member), which is being finalized for release this week. Our lobbying effort focused mostly in the Senate will likely prove beneficial as the Senate will be working to fund FloridaMakes. The budget item will likely become a resolution item in the budget negotiations before the close of the session.
QTI Funding –
Qualified Targeted Industries (QTI) funding for training has been deemed as economic development along with Enterprise Florida and will not be included in the House Budget proposal. QTI funding is expected to face greater challenges to be funded during budget reconciliation.
Commercial Rental Sales Tax Elimination –
Bills in the House and Senate are making their way through committees. The bills propose reducing sales tax on commercial rentals by one percent, with the intention of continuing to reduce the tax in succeeding years until eliminated. The sales tax reduction is likely to encounter a great amount of resistance in budget negotiations. Our team lobbied to support the tax reduction and we will continue to work to support this legislation.