Members of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce had an opportunity recently to hear the latest news from members of the Florida Legislature and other levels of government.
The Chamber’s Economic Development Council hosted representatives from municipal, county and state government during its quarterly breakfast Friday, June 25, at Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort.
Panelists included state Reps. Cyndi Stevenson and Paul Renner, state Sen. Travis Hutson, County Commissioner Henry Dean, St. Augustine Mayor Tracy Upchurch and St. Augustine Beach Mayor Margaret England.
The Legislature adjourned its 2021 session on April 30, having completed work on the state’s record-breaking $101 billion budget. Among the issues discussed at the EDC gathering were five bills supported by the Chamber.
Here’s a look.
- Internet sales tax revision (HB15/SB50): Signed into law April 19, the legislation requires all internet sellers of goods to collect Florida sales tax at the time of purchase. That revenue will be rolled into the state unemployment compensation fund, which was depleted in 2020. This will save employers a large unemployment tax increase.
- COVID-19 business liability protection (SB72): Signed into law March 29, this legislation was combined with a health care facilities’ COVID liability protection bill passed by the House. It requires that businesses and health care facilities show that they have enabled all CDC-recommended actions to prevent COVID-19, actions that can be used as a defense against civil suits claiming damages from exposure from customers and employees.
- Approval of and funding for an additional county judge (SB816/HB417): Hutson and Stevenson were lauded for this development, which is expected to reduce wait times to schedule trials and hearings. This could reduce expenses for businesses involved in civil trials.
- Visit Florida funding: A one-year allocation of $75 million was approved, up from the current funding level of $50 million.
- Creation of a Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund: The legislation, signed by the governor on June 2, dedicates $200 million annually for affordable housing, placing it in a trust fund that would protect it from raids by the Legislature seeking to use it for other purposes, including emergencies.
In addition, Stevenson enumerated a number of other bills passed in the Legislature, including HB1, which authorizes specified elected officials to file an appeal should a municipality act to defund law enforcement. It also mandates riot control, strengthens penalties against rioters and prohibits cyberintimidation.