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Weekly Legislative Update from February 14, 2020

Economic Development

HB 1139 – Relating to Regional Rural Development Grants

On Monday, February 10, HB 1139 by Representative Chuck Clemons (R-Jonesville) was heard by the House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee and was reported favorable with 11 yeas and 0 nays. AIF stood in support of this legislation.

Three regional economic development organizations operate in Florida. Each coincides respectively with one of the state’s three Rural Areas of Opportunity (RAO). A RAO is a rural community, or a region comprised of rural communities, which has been adversely affected by an extraordinary economic event, severe or chronic distress, or a natural disaster, or that presents a unique economic development opportunity of regional impact.

The bill amends the Regional Rural Development Grants Program to clarify how regional economic development organizations may build their professional capacity and expand grant use for technical assistance. The bill also increases the total annual grant award available to the three regional economic development organizations recognized by the DEO as serving an entire RAO, decreases the annual grant award available to other organizations located in or contracted to serve an RAO, and eliminates grant eligibility for organizations representing rural counties or communities that are not located in a RAO. Additionally, the bill reduces the percentage of grant funds that must be matched with non-state funds from 100 percent to 25 percent of the state’s contribution and increases the maximum amount of funds that DEO may expend for the program, from $750,000 to $1 million annually.

Finally, the amends the Rural Infrastructure Fund by increasing the percentage of total infrastructure costs that may be funded by a grant award, expanding eligible projects and uses to include broadband internet service.

HB 1139 will now move to the House Commerce Committee.

AIF supports efforts to increase economic development in Florida’s rural areas by increasing job growth.


HB 115 – Keep Our Graduates Working Act

On Wednesday, February 12, HB 115 by Representative Nicholas Duran (D-Miami) was read a third time on the Senate floor and passed with a vote of 35 yeas and 1 nay.

The bill removes the state authority to take disciplinary action against a healthcare practitioner who defaults on a student loan or who fails to comply with the terms of a service scholarship. Under the bill, a healthcare practitioner may not have his or her license suspended or revoked by the Department of Health (DOH) solely because of a loan default or failure to complete service scholarship obligations.

Additionally, the bill specifies that a state authority may not suspend or revoke a license that it has issued to a person who is in default on or delinquent in the payment of his or her student loans solely on the basis of such default or delinquency. The bill defines the term “state authority” to mean any department, board, or agency with the authority to grant a license to any person in this state.

HB 115, having passed both chambers, will now go to the Governor.

AIF supports efforts to protect Florida’s workforce from professional license revocation exclusively due to loan default.


SB 922 – Relating to Economic Development

On Thursday, February 13, SB 922 by Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) was heard by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services and was reported favorable with 9 yeas and 0 nays. AIF’s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis, stood in support of this legislation.

Senator Joe Gruters on SB 922


The bill makes changes to the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program. Specifically, the bill provides that certain businesses that relocate to, or expand into, a county affected by Hurricane Michael are eligible to receive an increased tax refund and authorizes certain businesses located in a county affected by Hurricane Michael to apply for an economic recovery extension. The bill also removes the scheduled repeal date for the tax refund program.

SB 922 will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

AIF supports legislation, funding and other assistance from the federal and state governments to help Florida’s panhandle recover from the impacts of Hurricane Michael.


SB 362 – Relating to Florida Tourism Marketing

On Thursday, February 13, SB 362 by Senator Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor) was read a third time on the Senate floor and passed with a vote of 36 yeas and 0 nays.

The bill extends the scheduled repeal date for the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation, doing business as VISIT FLORIDA, until October 1, 2028, and removes the scheduled repeal date for the Division of Tourism Marketing within Enterprise Florida, Inc. Without the bill, the statutory provisions for these entities will be repealed on July 1, 2020.

SB 362 will now go to the House for consideration.

AIF supports investment in building a world-class marketing engine with top talent, analytics, and funding that develops and executes data-driven branding strategies.