From January 22 to 24, twenty of your fellow members participated in our Tallahassee Fly-In. We shared our members' thoughts on several Chamber priority issues, including transportation, education, workforce housing, healthcare and resiliency. The following is a recap of the legislative priorities and bills that were discussed during the meetings.
Shortly after our arrival, Representative Bryan Avila filed House Bill 385, a transportation bill which would force Miami-Dade County to no longer spend People’s Transportation Plan (PTP) revenue on operations and maintenance, as intended when the law was passed. Within an hour of its filing, the Chamber was in Representative Avila’s office. We expressed to Representative Avila that while we understand the need to focus on capital expenses, he should be aware that Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust (CITT) is funded through the PTP. If this bill is passed in current form, CITT would have to request general revenue funding from the county commission. This alteration would remove CITT’s independence and would transform them into a county-funded agency. HB 385 also dissolves Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) and turns the authority of their roads to the Florida Department of Transportation. We expressed the Chamber’s concern that locally collected toll revenues should stay locally to address the infrastructure issues of Miami-Dade. The proposed changes would charge tolls until debt service is paid (24 years from now) and then stop. HB 385 restructures the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) by reducing the county commission representation to 7, who are each appointed by the governor. It reduces municipality representation by increasing population to 65,000 in order to qualify to send a representative. This would in effect leave out municipalities such as Coral Gables, Doral and others. Senator Manny Diaz will sponsor a Senate companion.
We met with Representative Javier Fernandez and Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez about their coastal building zone bills, HB 159 and SB 78. These bills prohibit state-financed contractors from commencing construction of certain structures in coastal areas without first conducting a sea level impact projection study and having such study published and approved by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). They require DEP to develop standards for these studies and to publish these studies. We also learned about HB 141 by Representative Randy Fine, which impacts water quality. This bill provides appropriation for certain projects related to Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation & Management Plan. It authorizes DEP, with other specified entities, to provide grants for such projects & directs DEP to submit an annual report. Lastly, it requires each wastewater facility that unlawfully discharges sewage into waterway or aquifer to notify its customers & provides penalties. In addition to these bills, we lauded the Governor’s executive order to increase Everglades funding and stressed that they include Biscayne Bay in the funding.
We had several legislator meetings focused on workforce housing. First, Representative Javier Fernandez notified us that he’s working on a housing bill that resembles public policy in New York and enlisted our help. Next, Representative Anthony Rodriguez discussed HB 443, which provides an assessment of property with restrictive covenants and enables a local government to enter into an agreement with a property owner to use the property to provide affordable housing to extremely-low-income, very-low-income, low-income, or moderate-income persons or workforce housing. Finally, Representative Vance Aloupis shared HB 413 with us. HB 413 creates the State Workforce Housing Tax Credit Program. The Program provides credit against corporate income tax for certain taxpayers owning interests in eligible workforce housing developments. It also creates Workforce Housing Tax Credit Program, which requires Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) to administer program & determine which workforce housing developments are eligible for certain tax credits. The bill also requires state workforce housing tax credits to be allowed against insurance premium tax & retaliatory tax after applying certain deductions & credits.
Representative Dotie Joseph shared her passion to improve Florida’s healthcare disparity, particularly on racial and gender lines. She’s looking at legislation to collect demographic information from Medicaid. Florida Blue was represented in the meeting, and they shared work that is being done already in the private sector and their willingness to assist. Representative Juan Fernandez-Barquin shared his pursuit of legislation to establish a dental therapist (much akin to the Physician’s Assistant) as a licensed position, which would be overseen by dentists. He said this legislation would increase access to dental care for the 5 million Floridians who have trouble accessing a dentist, including the 3 Florida counties that have no dentist