As 2018 draws to a close, it is time to turn our attention to goals and priorities for 2019.
With a major election cycle in our rearview mirror, it is critical to communicate with elected officials at all levels of government about what we’d like to see with regards to policy and legislation in the coming year.
While our advocacy at the local and federal levels rarely sees a slow time, the Florida legislature is preparing to convene in March, so our efforts at the state level ramp up in January as bills begin to take shape during committee weeks.
Several priorities for our Chamber include creating the right environment for the development of more attainable housing and protection of housing trust fund dollars.
Coming off of a grant-funded study of the issue, our Chamber has created a list of priorities we believe will help with the creation of more housing for our local workforce.
We’re encouraged that the Florida legislature has begun to address reducing the commercial lease tax. Ours is the only state in the country that has this tax and our Chamber strongly advocates for full elimination.
We are also looking for continued funding for critical transportation projects, including the complete streets reconstruction project at 15th Street East/301 Blvd. from Tallevast Road to U.S. 41, the next phase of the Cortez Bridge and Anna Maria Bridge projects, and expediting the PD&E study to replace the DeSoto Bridge.
For our business community, the unexpected challenges of the red tide crisis delivered a difficult blow, but the heartening result was the way our community pulled together and focused on a think local pattern of buying goods and services and offering philanthropic help.
We’re asking for support from our elected officials on the allocation of grant funding to businesses for red tide recovery. Our Chamber also advocates for legislation to address Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research, including agency research.
On the workforce front, we are prioritizing improved access to quality early-learning programs, including Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten readiness, and support for grade-level reading initiatives.
We support increased recurring funding for workforce programs and fixed capital outlay projects at all regional higher education institutions to allow for program growth to meet critical regional employment needs.
Additionally, we support bonding of Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds to expand the amount available for K-12 and higher education fixed-capital outlay projects. Our Chamber also calls for increased funding and policy changes to encourage additional medical residency slots, including the Psychiatry specialty, to attract more physicians to Florida.
On Jan. 14, our Chamber will host a breakfast with our state delegation members from Manatee and Sarasota to hear about their priorities and provide an opportunity for our business community to share their thoughts with these elected officials, too.
If you would like information about attending the event, please call the Chamber at 941-748-3411.
To everyone who is willing to seek public office and to those who serve for the betterment of our community, we say thank you for your leadership and sacrifice. We all should take seriously the responsibility we have to share our concerns, ideas and priorities.
The Manatee Chamber looks forward to working with leaders at all levels of government to continue moving our community forward.
We wish everyone a happy, healthy start to a prosperous new year.