The Manatee Chamber recently spent several days in Tallahassee meeting with state-elected officials, legislative staff and agency leaders. In addition to being a successful trip in terms of voicing our priorities, we believe meeting face-to-face with our legislators and their teams in the Capitol adds significant strength to our advocacy efforts.
We kicked off two days of meetings in Senate president Bill Galvano’s office. He was generous with his time as we shared with him the business community’s interest in water quality, workforce housing, infrastructure, and education and workforce development, among other topics.
We also had lively discussions with Senator Joe Gruters, Representative Will Robinson, Representative Tommy Gregory, Representative Wengay Newton, Representative James Buchanan and Representative Margaret Good.
At each of these meetings, the Chamber highlighted issues that our business community says are important to our community’s economic health, business success and quality of life.
With the start of Florida’s 60-day legislative session less than one month away, we are carefully monitoring a large number of issues, bills and topics, including:
▪ Water quality is on everyone’s mind. The Manatee Chamber will continue to be vocal on this issue to ensure our policy-makers enact meaningful legislation. We believe this is a consensus issue in Tallahassee and predict an important start to providing resources for research and mitigation.
▪ We strongly support protection of dollars in the Sadowski Act housing trust fund to be used only for housing programs and not swept for other uses. The Governor’s recently released budget preserves the housing trust fund and our delegation leaders indicated similar support.
▪ Our Chamber was an early leader in our state for the reduction and eventual elimination of Florida’s business rent tax. We are the only state in the country that taxes business that lease their space. Over the last two legislative sessions we have seen small reductions and are encouraging our policy makers to stay the course by providing further relief.
▪ We addressed several transportation priorities for Manatee County businesses including our strong support for funding and expediting of the PD&E study to replace the Desoto Bridge and consideration of all capacity improvement options. In addition to covering this topic with our legislators, the Chamber’s team met with Florida’s new Secretary of the Department of Transportation for in-depth discussion.
As our senators and representatives move through their committee weeks this month, bills are filed and changed daily. It’s a good reminder to know that during the 2018 Florida legislative session, 3,192 bills were filed while only 200 passed.
And, unlike our national government, the Florida Constitution requires the legislature to produce a balanced budget each year. This creates challenges but also opportunities for prioritization and collaboration.
The Chamber strives to be a resource and subject matter expert for our elected officials regarding local businesses and their needs. The importance of this Chamber role is underscored by the fact that of the 160 lawmakers in the Florida Legislature, 114 have two or less years of legislative experience.
The Manatee Chamber — representing business interests from Lakewood Ranch to Anna Maria Island, Parrish to South County, Bradenton, Palmetto and all areas in between and beyond — seeks consensus on issues that support business growth and an enhancement of our region’s quality of life.
Once the legislative session concludes, the Chamber will provide an important opportunity for businesses to hear from our lawmakers on the results of their work. Our Annual “Politics and Pints” legislative wrap-up will be held on May 15 to give local businesses the chance to hear directly from our delegation and share their thoughts on the results.