Business Columns & Blogs

Manatee Chamber has long list of priorities as it advocates for business community

Bob Bartz
Bob Bartz

I hear political chatter and the smell of pancakes, so Monday must be the Manatee Chamber’s annual Pancakes & Politics breakfast.

It’s a pre-legislative session event when our Florida legislative delegation sits front and center, providing a personal preview of the upcoming session. This provides our local business community a unique opportunity to ask state leaders direct questions regarding the issues that matter the most to them.

The insight garnered from this dialogue gives the Manatee Chamber the information we need to fine tune the agenda for our annual trip to Tallahassee, where we advocate for the business community.

The Chamber’s 2017 Florida legislative priorities recently were published and much of it picks up where we left off last session. While we had many successes last year, there is always legislation that doesn’t make it to the governor’s desk, is not signed or is vetoed. While we have a number of new issues that are top of mind for the health of our economy and quality of life, we first determine whether we have any unfinished business.

This year we will continue our goal of reducing the business rent tax or tax on commercial leases. Florida is the only state in the nation that taxes businesses that rent space.

The insight garnered from the dialogue during Monday’s annual Pancakes & Politics breakfast will give the Manatee Chamber the information we need to fine tune the agenda for our annual trip to Tallahassee, where we advocate for the business community.

We will continue to support funding for Enterprise Florida to incentivize corporations to relocate to the state to create more jobs for Floridians.

We must remain vigilant in the protection of transportation trust funds. Often, these funds are low-hanging fruit for raiding in tight budget years, but it’s critical we continue to fund local transportation projects.

In March, the Chamber’s Tallahassee team will meet with key senators, representatives, cabinet members and executive branch agency heads, including the leadership of important committees where the bulk of legislative decisions are made. We believe it is vitally important that our business community is at the table during the legislative process to protect our quality of life and continue to strengthen our business environment.

Additional priorities we will advocate on behalf of our business community include:

▪ Expedited replacement of the DeSoto Bridge, as well as support for other local transportation projects that include the Cortez Bridge, Anna Maria Bridge and 15th Street East/301 Boulevard projects.

▪ Legislation that would reduce workers’ compensation insurance rates.

▪ Expansion of economic incentives, including access to capital, for small businesses and entrepreneurs to increase job opportunities for the state’s workforce.

▪ Full funding of K-12 public schools at 2002 per pupil levels.

▪ Funding to support STEM education at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

▪ Legislation that provides expanded access to health care and increases quality of care with a reduction in overall per-patient cost.

▪ Will not support legislation that would place a cap or reduce the number of students allowed in baccalaureate programs at state colleges.

Identifying the legislative processes and bills that may impact our community is often like aiming at a moving target – and a fast one at that.

The Manatee Chamber will closely monitor progress during the 60-day Florida legislative session and be prepared to take the necessary action to best represent the voice of our business members.

Bob Bartz is the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at or 941-748-3411.