Guest Author, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 148

Guest Author

Emmett Reed: Improve elder care; pass nursing center reimbursement reform

Emmett Reed is executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.

President Ronald Reagan once noted, “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’”

Florida has gone to great lengths over the years to lead our nation in the quality of care we provide for our elders, and we have made tremendous strides in recent years. But new opportunities remain, as do significant challenges, and this year has a big share of each.

At the Florida Health Care Association, we are all too familiar with the challenges facing those who care for the more frail members of America’s greatest generation. Our organization represents 82 percent of the 600-plus skilled nursing centers across Florida, providing the best care possible for over 71,000 long-term care residents.

The 280,000 dedicated employees who provide high-quality care have a passion for meeting the needs of seniors, and it’s something we’ve been doing for more than 60 years.

On Wednesday, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the issue of a Prospective Payment System (PPS), an approach to reimbursement of nursing centers.

We applaud the Legislature for tackling this complicated issue, and the result of this hard work will be a payment system that is, for the first time ever, tied to health quality outcomes. Think about that — Florida could have a reimbursement system that rewards a commitment to quality, something we have never had.

Our current system simply reimburses providers for the costs associated with operating their nursing centers. Our members have for years been investing extensive resources to upgrade the centers and improve the quality of life for their residents. They have made investments far beyond what the state requires and reimburses in order to improve services that greatly enrich the lives of residents.

Moving forward, we want to create incentives not just based on what centers spend, but to actually reward the ones that invest in their resident’s health and comfort for their twilight years.

Change is never easy. But FHCA members have looked beyond current “winners and losers” to help create a reimbursement model that puts the interests of their residents at the forefront. Under the system coming before the Senate Appropriations Committee, all homes will have the same opportunity to succeed.

This bill is supported by the overwhelming number of nursing centers in Florida, all of whom have had a seat at the table. I am so proud that many of our members have testified publicly in support of this new system, even though their centers are doing well under the status quo. They have already invested valuable resources on recent capital improvements, and they recognize the proposed system will be far more beneficial for their residents and those living in care centers across Florida.

Unfortunately, a small but vocal number of providers have weighed in against the legislation. They argue that under the improved model Florida’s quality nursing centers will lose money.

That assertion is, frankly, incorrect.

Under the bill, over 300 four- and five-star rated centers will receive over $26 million in added funding, and a three-year transition period will allow time for all homes to adjust their care systems to the new plan.

Our seniors deserve more than a shortsighted approach, and the vast majority of care centers — more than 550 of Florida’s nursing centers — are embracing this change. We are united on this issue.

I encourage the Legislature to pass this important legislation. Let’s continue to be a model for the nation in how to improve elder care across the spectrum of services.

Quality of care and quality of life should, and can, go hand in hand. Our residents deserve nothing less.

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Emmett Reed is executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.

Keith Miller: Florida’s small businesses need protections in state law

Keith Miller

Two Orlando residents are out $8 million after a large, out-of-state corporation forced their local businesses to shut down.

The local entrepreneurs were originally enticed by the corporation to open 10 Mexican-themed fast food restaurants in the Orlando area. The California-based corporation used unrealistic sales projections and profit margins to convince the group to sign on to the deal.

However, after only three years in business, they were forced to walk away and left with no state legal protections to recover their $8 million in investments and their businesses were sold for just 35 percent of their original purchase amount. Additionally, the investors secured loans from the Small Business Association (SBA), a federal program that uses taxpayer dollars to assist and support small business growth.

Since it was a California-based corporation and Florida does not currently have laws on the books to protect our own small-business owners and their investments, these Floridians were bound by California law which favored the corporation.

Florida cannot continue to lose our small businesses, their investments, or risk taxpayer dollars due to unfair corporate franchisor practices.

It is an all-too-common story where local business owners are at the mercy of the more powerful corporations and are taken advantage of. In this instance, the California-based corporation was issuing directives to the Florida owners based on California demographics and sales patterns which simply did not fit the Florida locations. When these locations were unable to comply with the unreasonable demands, and sales goals, they were left with no choice but to walk away from their businesses, leaving behind millions of dollars in property, equipment and supplies.

Owning and operating a successful business is challenging enough without the constant stress and fear that everything you’ve worked for can be taken away in the blink of an eye. 23 other states have already enacted laws to provide greater protection for small business franchise owners and Florida should do the same.

Similarly situated businesses in Florida, such as automobile dealers, agricultural equipment dealers and beer distributors are protected under Florida law.

In Florida, there are more than 40,000 small businesses owned and operated by franchisees who provide over 404,000 jobs and generate $35 billion in economic activity annually.

State Sen. Jack Latvala and State Rep. Jason Brodeur have introduced “The Protect Florida Small Business Act,” legislation that will provide protections to Florida’s small-business owners. Florida citizens can log on to www.ProtectFLBusiness.com to support passage of this important legislation.

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Keith Miller is the Chairman of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA), an organization founded in 2007 to provide a forum for franchisees to share best practices, knowledge, resources and training. Mr. Miller and the CFA are supporting this legislation and giving a voice to the individual franchisee owners who are at risk of speaking out themselves.

 

Dennis Ross: Working to keep Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable

Since I was first elected to Congress, I have fought to hold government agencies and Washington bureaucrats more accountable to Floridians and all Americans. Unfortunately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) continues to operate in a manner unaccountable to Congress, the president and American taxpayers.

You don’t have to take my word on this.

On Oct. 11, 2016, the D.C. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the CFPB’s leadership structure unconstitutional. In its decision, the court stated, “The Director enjoys significantly more unilateral power than any single member of any other independent agency … power that is not checked by the president or by other colleagues. Indeed, other than the president, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire United States Government …”

This unsettling unilateral power, coupled with the inability for other arms of the federal government to review or disapprove of the CFPB’s actions, not only flies in the face of our government’s system of checks and balances, but also promotes rogue operations and regulations that have the potential to grossly alter our economy and harm the livelihoods of millions of Americans.

The CFPB was created by Democrats in response to the 2008 financial crisis as a provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank). This 2,300-page piece of legislation was sold to the public as a means to hold bad financial actors accountable, prevent future systemic failures of our financial system, and provide increased transparency and consumer protections for investors. President Obama promised Dodd-Frank would “lift the economy,” but once again, he gave the American people false hope.

Instead, in the years since it was enacted, the big banks have grown bigger, while community financial institutions are disappearing at an average rate of one per day. Consumer credit has tightened up, and low and middle-income borrowers are feeling these effects more than most.

Although many financial service providers are already regulated at a state and federal level, CFPB creates excessive red-tape for industries across the entire financial services spectrum without accountability to Congress. Dodd-Frank completely disregarded the important congressional appropriations process and specifically allowed the CFPB to receive its funding directly from the Federal Reserve’s operating expenses so the CFPB could operate outside of congressional oversight.

The CFPB’s authority to regulate financial services transactions is so expansive, it goes well beyond banks and other depository institutions. The sole director is appointed to a five-year term and, once appointed, can set implement policies in whatever way he or she sees fit. To make matters worse, the CFPB lacks the internal checks and balances to which other independent regulatory agencies are subject to.

Instead of issuing clear and specific guidance, the CFPB uses enforcement tactics that financial institutions have to measure against their own practices and then somehow implement, often to the consumers’ detriment.

For example, the CFPB does not distinguish credit unions and community banks from large financial institutions and nonbank lenders. As a result, the CFPB’s broad and overly burdensome regulations are severely impairing these important community-based financial institutions by limiting consumer credit availability and choice, as well as increasing costs for credit union members and community bank customers. Additionally, new CFPB rules and regulations have prevented many new mortgage loans from being made, particularly for low and middle-income borrowers.

There is no question about it, we must start easing the regulatory burdens faced by our community financiers, and reign in the unilateral power the CFPB Director has over hardworking taxpayers. As a Member of the House Financial Services Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues to enact legislation that holds the CFPB accountable to all Americans, and to ensure its actions stop harming the consumers it was charged to protect.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

Payton Alexander: Neil Gorsuch confirmation would be great for Latinos

Payton Alexander

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch is coming up for a vote in the Senate this month, with lawmakers debating the nomination of the Colorado judge to the highest court in the country.

Like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Gorsuch has a track record of interpreting the Constitution as written and intended by the founders. He also served in the Justice Department, and clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. For Latinos that value individual rights and the rule of law, there’s a lot to be excited about in his selection to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Judge Gorsuch is an excellent pick to strengthen the free and open society that makes that dream possible. With millions of Latinos across the United States who value entrepreneurship and the American Dream, this is welcome news. Judges have a responsibility to protect our liberties from government meddling, and Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated that he will uphold Constitutional limits on government power no matter who is in charge — the foundation of a free and prosperous society.

Far beyond his record as a defender of individual liberty, Judge Gorsuch’s career reflects a solid understanding of the way that progressive interpretations of regulatory and criminal codes have hurt the least fortunate and contributed to the two-tiered society that is emerging in this country. As a Supreme Court Justice, Judge Gorsuch shows promise that he would uphold the rights of all people — immigrants and native-born citizens alike. All of these issues disproportionately impact the Latino community.

More than two hundred years of growing the size and scope of our government have taken their toll on the Constitution. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch will interpret the law and the Constitution faithfully, rather than seeking to erode the checks on government power that it provides. An originalist interpretation of the Constitution, as championed by the late Justice Scalia, prevents judges from legislating from the bench and serves as a vital check against lawmaking by judicial fiat. Judge Gorsuch will help ensure that our constitutional rights are protected, while advancing the foundations of a free society through the rule of law.

There are good reasons for Senators in both parties to support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and, in fact, he was unanimously approved to serve on the Court of Appeals — we encourage the Senate to show him the same wide support now.

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Payton Alexander serves as a policy analyst for The LIBRE Initiative.

Pat Arends: Missed opportunity – continuing care retirement community reform in Florida

We’re nearly halfway through the 2017 Florida Legislative Session and lawmakers are missing an opportunity to protect the 30,000 senior citizens who live in Florida’s 71 continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Vastly different from most long-term care retirement options. CCRCs provide a campus environment that offer independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing all in one setting.

Historically, Florida’s CCRC law has been considered one of the strongest in the country. However, market forces and situations change over time and regulations have to keep pace with current trends and developments. Two important bills, Senate Bill 1430 sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee and House Bill 1349 sponsored by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, were filed to improve the law governing CCRCs, but neither bill has received a committee hearing in either legislative chamber.

Due to the unique nature of this long-term care option, CCRCs are regulated as a specialty insurance product.

Seniors who move into a CCRC pay an entrance fee at move-in followed by a monthly fee that covers housing, health care and meals. Costs can vary widely depending on the type of contract, location of the community, and other deliverables. Entrance fees can be sizable and are equivalent to buying a home in the traditional sense, even though residents do not generally own their living unit in the CCRC.

Since 2013, there have been three CCRC bankruptcies in Florida. This is the most in over 20 years.

The most recent and most concerning bankruptcy of a CCRC occurred at University Village in Tampa. This particular case prompted Sen. Lee and Rep. Stevenson to file legislation this year to achieve meaningful reform.

During the last two years, the more than five hundred senior citizens who reside at University Village have lived under a cloud of anxiety every day, literally not knowing what was going to happen to their community. Further, the residents have seen collectively millions of dollars of hard earned retirement funds invested into their CCRC disappear.

The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA) supports elements of the proposed legislation that would improve the ability of the Office of Insurance Regulation to protect the rights and welfare of the 30,000 residents living in Florida CCRCs. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not yet heard either bill. FLiCRA urges the Senate to consider giving CCRC Reform a hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee while there is still time during the 2017 Legislative Session.

FLiCRA fully agrees with other stakeholders, including LeadingAge Florida, that the vast majority of CCRC operators and owners are experienced, dedicated and successful in delivering quality services to tens of thousands of seniors on a daily basis. This makes it even more important to improve the law, to ensure that CCRCs continue to be seen as a vibrant and desirable long-term care option for seniors.

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Retiree Pat Arends is a resident of Freedom Village, a CCRC in Bradenton. She is president of the 14,000-member Florida Life Care Residents Association. During her career, Arends served as President of the Florida Association of City Clerks and has served as an officer with the Manatee League of Women Voters.

The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA) was established in 1989, and is the oldest and largest association of continuing care residents in the country. Its mission is to ensure quality of life for residents living in such communities.

For more information visit www.flicra.com.

 

Michael Richardson: Is there an adult in the room?

Michael Richardson

The national Democrat Party stands at a defining crossroads. In the wake of an epic fail over health care on the part of Republicans in Congress and the dilettantes in the White House, Democrats have a choice to make: either become a reprehensible copycat “Party of No” or embark on a nobler path for the common good.

Democrats can hardly be blamed for reveling, at least briefly, in the misfortune of their political foes’ most recent humiliation. After all, the national Republican Party has devoted itself to being as recalcitrant and bellicose as possible over the last eight years. They have brazenly fanned the flames of partisanship by, among other things, repeatedly challenging the very legitimacy of the previous president, defiantly refusing even to hold public hearings on his last Supreme Court nominee and many other judges and high-level federal appointees, as well as relentlessly pursuing a campaign of undermining the federal government’s ability to function effectively. And they have carried out these flagrant assaults on public institutions with apparent impunity, thus far at least.

Still, this is not the time for Democrats to score political points. In addition, simply emulating the obstructive tactics of the Republican Party would be shortsighted at best. As tempting as this strategy might be, even an unlikely electoral rout of Republicans in 2018 would be a pyrrhic victory. It would only precipitate a vicious cycle of retaliation and one-upmanship into the future as legislative control inevitably switches back and forth between increasingly hostile political parties, both unwilling to compromise because of arrogant self-righteousness and mutual disdain. Such puerile behavior is a surefire roadmap for national decline and eventual disintegration.

Instead, Democrats need to do the responsible thing and be the adults in the room. Effective leadership in addressing major problems facing our nation entails laying out practical solutions that enjoy broad-based popular support. This should start with proposed modifications to the Affordable Care Act, which virtually everyone recognizes as in need of significant improvement for the good of the public.

It should not have come as a surprise that Republicans failed to muster enough votes from their own party to pass their “repeal and replace” health care bill in the House. After all, the chasm between today’s conservative Republican orthodoxy and popular opinion on this and so many other issues is wide and growing. As evidence, consider that the Republican nominee has won the popular vote nationwide in only 1 of the 7 (14 percent) presidential elections of the last quarter century. And that one time was the re-election of an incumbent, George W. Bush, whose conservative bona fides were constantly castigated by his party’s right wing because of his centrist positions on many non-military issues, the most notable being his role in the enactment of drug coverage under Medicare.

If the Democrats had provided a detailed proposal for improving the health care law during the 2016 presidential campaign instead of focusing almost exclusively on why the other side was so bad, the result might have been different. But the Clinton campaign decided to err on the side of caution and play defense, almost always a questionable strategy, but especially so given the electorate’s clearly demonstrated craving for courageous action, not feel-good platitudes or tired right-wing nostrums.

Given the current political atmosphere, I suspect the lion’s share of Republicans in Congress would summarily reject any health care fix proffered by the Democrats, however centrist or popular it might be. But that is beside the point. The public deserves to know how the Democrats intend to improve the current health care system, and more importantly, it is the right thing to do. A widely popular, pragmatic plan to make our health care system better would stand in stark contrast to the Republican “repeal and replace” bill, which failed miserably due to gaping divisions within their own party.

Then, when the “repeal and replace” bill tanked, President Donald Trump promptly threatened to let the health care system “explode,” and perhaps even to hasten its collapse, before riding to the rescue with a “beautiful, more affordable” replacement that will provide better coverage for all.  Such malarkey.  That’s not leadership. That’s recklessness and spite run amok.

I’m hopeful the majority of voters would see the sharp difference between the two parties’ contrasting approaches and reward the adults in the room, not only in 2018, but for the foreseeable future as well.

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Until retiring in 2011, Michael Richardson was assistant secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs under Gov. Charlie Crist. He has also served as a committee staff member in the Florida Senate, a policy adviser to Govs. Bob Graham and Bob Martinez, and from 1990 through 2006, a self-employed management consultant to state and local governments.

Herschel Vinyard Jr.: Listen to water experts in Lake Okeechobee debate

In my previous role as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, it wasn’t often I would find consensus on issues involving local water management districts, the state and federal government. But after years of studying the options to best reduce the occurrence of discharges used to lower Lake Okeechobee, those involved in these three levels of governance all agree that buying additional acres of land south of the lake doesn’t solve the problem.

Instead, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the state, Florida’s Congressional Delegation, and the Florida leaders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remain firm on finishing the projects included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP.

So, what are the water quality experts responsible for Everglades restoration and fixing Lake Okeechobee saying?

Starting at the district level, SFWMD scientists and engineers earlier this month reported district modeling shows that storage north of the lake included in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Planning Project (LOWP) – which includes solutions such as a 250,000 acre-foot above-ground northern reservoir and 110 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells – will “reduce the total discharge volume to the estuaries by more than 60 percent.”

For the state’s part, under Governor Scott’s leadership, it has increased annual funding for the completion of CERP projects to the tune of $200 million more through the Legacy Florida program. Since 2011, Governor Scott’s administration has also invested more than $688 million in the completion of critical Everglades restoration projects as designed through CERP. This has included the state’s share of dollars that are necessary for the completion the C-44 and C-43 reservoirs, which when completed will provide up to 75 billion gallons of water storage in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie river basins.

At the federal level, the entire Florida Congressional delegation – all 27 Republicans and Democrats – wrote a February letter to President Donald J. Trump urging him to stay the course on congressionally-authorized projects that are proven to provide the most benefits to the Lake Okeechobee system. In the letter, which was released by Congressman Francis Rooney, the members noted that the CERP projects “are an important step in achieving more optimal water flow” and asked for a continued partnership through CERP and the recently-approved Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).

Most recently, Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District and the person in charge of releasing excess water from Lake Okeechobee, said that the currently planned projects – and not the plan to buy more land south of Lake Okeechobee – are “the optimal sequence of restoration activities.”

With so much consensus at every level of government, it’s clear the buying land south of Lake Okeechobee is the latest shiny object, and collectively, Florida must not get distracted by it. Unfortunately, the real science behind the decisions our partners in government are making sometimes gets buried by detractors looking to grab headlines. The state has invested too much to abandon the projects that science shows will provide a tremendous boost to Florida’s historic efforts to restore the Everglades, fix Lake Okeechobee and reduce the coastal discharges.

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Herschel Vinyard is former secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

 

Donato (Danny) Pietrodangelo: It won’t happen

Donato (Danny) Pietrodangelo

The alphabet of American culture – the NEA, NEH and NPR – won’t lose public funding.

No, the president and Congress didn’t have a Eureka moment and realize art and cultural and the capacity for creative expression differentiate us from the primordial slime from which we came.

And, it’s not because lawmakers got all warm and fuzzy about projects that extending the paint-smeared hand of arts experiences to disenfranchised inner-city programs and not so disenfranchised charter schools.

And, it’s not because experts concluded that, well, Bert and Ernie – it’s just a bromance.

Real reasons?

First, it was never the plan. It was all part of the Deal. And, I won’t debase the word “Art” by putting it in that sentence. No one expects to get asking price, especially a man who gloats about the size of his deals.

Second, political realities.

Will Marco Rubio put the big kibosh on funding for the International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami with its, “… all-day event for children and their families in Little Havana featuring performing arts workshops and …”?

And, it’s not the Senator will kill the minuscule $820,520 the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs received from the NEA in 2015 -2016. It’s seed money – for an industry, Secretary of State Ken Detzner says puts more than $1.2 billion in the Florida economy. Americans for the Arts, Arts & Economic Prosperity puts the figure at $3.1 billion and 88,236 full-time equivalent jobs.

Nationally, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports arts and cultural productions contribute more than $704 billion to economy, more than 4.3 percent of GDP –  more than construction, agriculture, mining, utilities, and travel and tourism sectors

The Senator and Governor “Jobs” aren’t going to step into that can of paint.

The NEA gets $146 million annually – 0.004 of the budget. (The government pays more to keep the first family in Trump Tower.) It gives 80 percent to large and small arts groups ranging from the Harlem Dance Theater to the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Inc. in Mississippi to the New York City Ballet (and Tallahassee Ballet).

Defunding these would unleash political wrath of biblical proportions.

Tax dollars help support (just 7 percent of their budgets) the pastimes and passions of art lovers, many of whom are well-heeled. That makes support a win-win for politicians – a double-dipping bonanza. They get cultural creds with the home folk, and garner favor with the corporations and moneyed individuals who contribute about 40 percent to the cost of art.

Sipping champagne at a premiere or opening is surely more profitable than tipping back Red Solo Cups with the rest of us at the Monster Truck Mash.

(Whatever the motive, as an artist, it’s all good. The end justifies the means, so rare in Washington.)

No one knows the symbiosis of art and politics better than the president. He’s been rubbing elbows with the glitterati his whole adult life. This brings us back to the Deal. With the arts, he’s holding a royal flush, in a game that will play out sort of like this:

“I want 90 more of those awesome F-35s, at about $90 million a pop,” he says.

 “We’ll give you 85, but you give us $445 million for public television.“

“OK, losers. Now cut the IRS by $268 million.”

“Who cares?” If you use it for NEA and NEH, we’ll throw in the $168 million for those charter schools.”

“Tremendous.”

“Let’s go guys, great food, open bar and deep pockets at that new gallery opening.”

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Donato (Danny) Pietrodangelo is a fine art photographer and writer, former recipient of an NEA/Division of Cultural Affairs Individual Fine Arts Fellowship, and solo exhibitor at a number NEA supported galleries and museums in Florida.

Andrew Gillum, Mayors: State preemption hurts local values

Among Thomas Jefferson’s many famous sayings is this: “The government closest to the people, serves the people best.”

Across our state and nation, that sentiment holds true for all who favor local control, whenever possible. But it seems as though our state lawmakers have forgotten this.

For the past few years, state legislators in Tallahassee have steadily eroded the ability of towns, villages, cities and counties to govern. They’ve passed new laws to prevent citizens from having their say through local government. And now, they’re threatening to silence local voices with fines and other punishment.

It’s called preemption. And it’s a threat to our democracy.

State lawmakers don’t like when our communities pass ordinances to preserve quality of life, protect our environment, promote public safety, improve wages and sick leave, regulate utility infrastructure, development and vacation rentals, and restrict threats to public health. They don’t like when cities and counties govern according to their own values. So, they strip local authority with ill-advised preemption.

Experts say these preemption bills are overly broad, waste taxpayer money, create confusion and may be unconstitutional. An analysis by the National League of Cities shows this is a problem nationwide. And preemption comes with real consequences.

In recent years, Florida’s local governments have recouped millions in stolen wages for workers, created jobs with local hiring preferences, cleaned up neighborhoods, protected their communities’ character, and fostered innovation. Those local efforts would be struck down by state lawmakers hungry for power, disguised as “easing regulatory burdens.”

But you know better. When you vote in local elections, you’re voting for local problem solvers. You’re voting your values. You know what’s best for our communities — not out-of-touch state legislators, hundreds of miles away.

And you certainly know better than unaccountable lobbyists who push these bad ideas through Tallahassee. Shadowy special interests know it’s easier to get one state legislature to do their bidding than 67 counties and 410 municipalities.

We stand with you, the people — not corporate bottom lines.

We’re your mayors, commissioners and council members. We’re your neighbors, small-business owners, native Floridians, immigrants and veterans. And we’re the people you’ve trusted to keep the lights on in the places we all call home.

That’s why we’ve joined the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, a non-partisan, grassroots coalition to protect our residents from state preemption. We’re encouraging people to learn how preemption threatens local control and local voices — and to sign up to fight back at DefendLocal.com.

Together, we can send a message to our state lawmakers that local communities want local solutions to local problems — not a legislature controlled by special interests.

Andrew Gillum
Mayor, City of Tallahassee

Charlie Latham
Mayor, City of Jacksonville Beach

Chris Arbutine
Mayor, City of Belleair Bluffs

Dan Daley
Vice Mayor, City of Coral Springs

Frank Ortis
Mayor, City of Pembroke Pines

Kevin Ruane
Mayor, City of Sanibel

Harry Dressler
Mayor, City of Tamarac

Jack Seiler
Mayor, City of Fort Lauderdale

Jim Simmons
Mayor, Town of Melbourne Beach

Joe Barkley
Vice Mayor, City of Belleair Bluffs

Lisa Wheeler-Bowman
Council Vice Chair, City of St. Petersburg

Marni Sawicki
Mayor, City of Cape Coral

Matthew Surrency
Mayor, City of Hawthorne

Michael Udine
County Commissioner, Broward County

Russ Barley
Mayor, City of Freeport

 

Mark Wilson, Dominic Calabro: Strangling Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA costly to Sunshine State future

Right now, jobs and the future of Florida’s economy are in jeopardy. That’s because some politicians in Tallahassee want to eliminate Florida’s economic development programs and slash the state’s tourism marketing efforts.

Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA, Florida’s economic development and tourism marketing programs, are essential to the economic well-being of our state. Eliminating Florida’s targeted and proven economic development programs is not the way forward, and will slam the brakes on the amazing job creation success Florida has seen since the end of the Great Recession.

While incentives paid for by hardworking taxpayers are rarely if ever used and are almost always inappropriate, Enterprise Florida has safeguards in place to ensure taxpayer dollars are not used as corporate welfare to skimp on contractual obligations. As Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida TaxWatch, have often said, programs offered by Enterprise Florida are not paid until the business achieves what is outlined in the contract.

If the Florida House has its way, VISIT FLORIDA will see its budget slashed by $50 million — a move that would cut two-thirds funding. Tourism is still one of Florida’s top industries for jobs and economic growth, despite Florida having a more diverse economic portfolio than at any other time in state history.

Florida has advantages, but the Sunshine State also has a major lawsuit abuse problem, we’re the only state that taxes small business rent, and our unfunded pensions cost eight times what we invest in economic development. The point is that until the Florida Legislature puts jobs and families first, now is the worst possible time to make Florida less competitive.

Taking economic development strategies that work off the table is short sighted, and without question, harms Florida’s ability to continue to lead the nation in job creation. Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA are important pieces to Florida’s economic puzzle and strangling their resources will hurt our state, our taxpayers, job creators and 20-plus million residents for years to come.

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Mark Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

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