Dana Young Archives - Florida Politics

Cut, print: Film financing proposal moves in Senate, stalled in House

A bill that would create a financing program to bring TV and film production back to the Sunshine State cleared a Senate panel Tuesday.

But with less than three weeks left in the 2018 Legislative Session, the effort could be for naught: A House companion measure has not yet been heard.

The Commerce and Tourism Committee OK’d the bill (SB 1606) on a 4-2 vote, with Republicans Dana Young and Kelli Stargel opposed.

Taddeo

Advocates of the measure, backed by Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami-Dade County, bristle at calling it “incentives.” The current proposal would offer funding up front to producers, rather than past programs, which provided tax credits after a shoot finished.

But the thought of any public money eventually flowing into the program gave pause to Young, a Tampa Republican.

The bill would set up a “Florida Motion Picture Capital Corporation” to “encourage the use of this state as a site for scripted productions by providing financing to such productions,” but does not immediately fund it.

“To me, a motion picture is a very risky undertaking and I’m uncomfortable with using taxpayers dollars … to invest in individual motion pictures,” Young said.

Taddeo countered that her aim was to entice productions—and their jobs—that have gone to other states with strong incentive deals, including Georgia.

“We want to send a strong message to the industry that we welcome jobs back to Florida,” she said.

Gibson

And Jacksonville Democrat Audrey Gibson said the program could end up taking in more private dollars than public. She also pointed out the “Made in Georgia” logo at the end of many Tyler Perry productions, even singing the slogan.

The history of state help for TV and film in the state has a checkered history. In 2010, lawmakers set aside nearly $300 million for incentives to bring movies and television projects to Florida.

The problem, critics said, was that money was doled out on a “first come, first served” basis and quickly ran out. In fact, funds were sapped dry within the first year of the program.

Those enticements took the form of tax credits granted a production after it wrapped in the state and underwent a thorough audit, including being able to show it provided jobs for Floridians.

Chris Hudson, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, continued to deride the plan.  

“Lawmakers should not support policies that pick Hollywood as the winner and taxpayers as the losers,” he said after the meeting. “Plumbers, electricians, and small business owners aren’t asking the state to be a bank. They just want to keep more of their money.

“Florida taxpayers are not a bank,” he added. “…We commend the House for not supporting a policy that risks taxpayer dollars, and hope the Senate follows suit.”

Hudson had more to say in an AFP-FL email that went out Tuesday afternoon.

“Senator Taddeo may win the Oscar for Corporate Cronyism for this bill, but Florida citizens have already rejected this failed practice. We commend Senator Young and Senator Stargel for standing with taxpayers and we will continue to work with the committee to ensure our hard-earned taxpayer dollars are not jeopardized by Hollywood handouts,” he said.

Proposal on alternative transportation advances in Legislature

A proposal that would provide $25 million both to the Tampa Bay area and Miami-Dade County for alternative transportation projects advanced in a Senate committee Wednesday, but not before there was considerable debate and criticism from Democrats who considered it unfair that their communities were being left out.

Tampa Republican Dana Young‘s bill (SB 1200) would repurpose (or “liberate,” to use the Senator’s term) $60 million in funds originally approved by the Legislature for Orlando’s rail project known as SunRail, and divert most of those monies beginning in 2021 to the Tampa-Bay Area and Miami-Dade County to spend on alternative transportation projects.

The wish list include autonomous vehicles and bus rapid transit. The remaining $10 million would be allocated across the state.

“We are at a pivotal moment in the two metropolitan areas that I mentioned, because simply building more roads is not going to be sufficient to handle the transportation needs today and certainly not the future,” Young said at the outset of what was nearly an hour-long discussion on the bill before the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

She also presented a strike-all amendment that included a name change. Instead of being called the Statewide Alternative Transportation Authority, it will now be known as Statewide Mobility Innovation Program. It would be housed within the Department of Transportation.

Unlike the bill’s initial committee hearing in the Senate, Young received significant pushback from Democrats in this committee, mostly regarding questions about why only the Miami and Tampa regions were receiving so much funding for the bill.

Jacksonville Democrat Audrey Gibson said that a project in her district that the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is working on called the Ultimate Urban Circulator was worthy of consideration under the guidelines that Young’s legislation proposes.

The Ultimate Urban Circulator deploys driverless vehicles onto the current Skyway rail system and would expand into other neighborhoods and developments. Her amendment called for $8 million to be allocated annually to that project. While Young said she considered it a “friendly” amendment, the committee voted it down.

South Florida Democrats Perry Thurston, Bobby Powell and Kevin Rader all raised objections to Young’s proposal, saying it was essentially unfair to allocate the majority of the funding to just two regions of the state.

Young was pressed by Powell if she had specific criteria asserting that Tampa Bay and Miami-Dade were the two worst places in Florida with regard to traffic congestion, and remained unconvinced by her response.

“It’s kind of like a money grab here,” said Rader, who’s from Boca Raton. “I completely disagree with this process and how we’re dividing our taxpayers’ money in this fashion.”

Thurston proposed a different amendment that would spread the $60 million towards all 67 counties. It too failed to pass.

Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano said it was important to realize that the funds were already allocated for rail, but with transportation changing so rapidly, it makes sense to reallocate them for the future.

“If you vote no, those funds are going to stay earmarked in that particular fund, and they won’t impact any area of the state, unless we say let’s go back to the antiquated model and see it funded,” Galvano said. “I think that’s going backwards.”

The committee then approved the bill, 7-3, with Thurston, Powell and Rader voting ‘no.’

Greyhound steroids ban clears another committee

A Senate bill to bar the use of steroids in racing greyhounds cleared another committee Wednesday, as a poison-pill amendment was withdrawn at the last minute.

The measure (SB 674) was approved by the Agriculture Committee on a 8-1 vote, with only Delray Beach Democrat Kevin Rader opposed.

Rader filed and withdrew an amendment that would have allowed steroids, but only for canine birth control. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

“It wasn’t the right time,” he told Florida Politics after the meeting. “I’m working with the sponsor,” referring to Tampa Republican Dana Young.

“Sometimes you can get things done in other ways than just doing an amendment on a bill,” he added.

On Tuesday, Young had called the amendment “absurd,” saying it “takes a bill that bans the use of steroids in greyhounds, and expressly authorizes it … There is nothing about this amendment that helps protect greyhounds.”

Lobbyist Jeff Kottkamp, speaking for the Florida Greyhound Association (FGA), said only one kind of steroid is used on dogs: A “low dose” of testosterone given as a “chewable pill” to female dogs that does not enhance their performance.

State regulations—but not state law—now allow use of steroids, but only for birth control.

Kottkamp also said the bill was “really about snuffing out the industry.” Young has made no bones about her opposition to greyhound racing. A pending state constitutional amendment would ban dog racing outright.

“These are dollar bills running around a track on four legs,” she told fellow lawmakers. “Do not be fooled.”

She pointed out that dog trainers could keep male and female dogs apart and use separate kennels, but “that costs too much money.”

Young’s legislation must next clear the Rules Committee before heading to the floor. An identical House companion (HB 463) has cleared one of its two committees this Session.

During campaign kickoff, Bob Buesing gets aggressive versus Dana Young

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

That was the message Bob Buesing conveyed to a crowd of Democrats with checkbooks in their pockets Tuesday night at his campaign kickoff event at Mise en Place in Tampa. The attorney and civic activist will need the financial support as he takes on Republican state Senator Dana Young for the second time in three years.

Some Democrats in Tallahassee and Hillsborough County thought they could end the Tampa Republican’s legislative career when they rallied behind Buesing, a first-time candidate, to challenge her in what was then a newly created Senate district.

But Young proved victorious, taking 48 percent of the vote to Buesing’s 41 percent. Independent Joe Redner received 9.5 percent.

Redner won’t be a factor this time around, announcing last year that he would sit this race out and back Buesing in this year’s rematch.

Although Redner is willing to rally behind Buesing, some members of Senate Democratic leadership weren’t convinced that he was the right candidate, believing that the urbane attorney might not have the fire in his belly to win against a Republican strongly backed by her party leadership.

Maybe that’s why Buesing was so aggressive during his first official campaign event.

“For Dana, her service in Tallahassee has been all about self-service. For me, it will be all about public service,” Buesing said about halfway through his 12-minute speech, which began with a strong denunciation of President Donald Trump.

Buesing blasted Young’s support for last year’s controversial omnibus education bill, HB 7069. That legislation included measures that forced school districts to share construction money with charter schools and created financial incentives for new charters to open and compete with low-performing public schools. It was pushed in the House by Speaker Richard Corcoran, who Buesing invoked several times as being Young’s “buddy.”

Referring to the fact that HB 7069 passed the Senate by just a single vote, Buesing said it was Young who made the deciding vote (of course that comment could be made about any Senator who voted for it), and joked that if he had been in the Senate, ” I would have pushed that ‘no’ button so hard I would have broken it.”

“Gutting public education is a disgrace and Dana, we are going to hold you accountable for that vote,” he promised.

Buesing also took verbal shots at Young for failing to support Medicaid expansion and claimed that his strong opposition to fracking during the 2016 campaign led her to craft her own bill opposing the controversial process, which has been condemned by environmentalists (Young maintained throughout the 2016 campaign that she had voted against fracking in the Legislature. PolitiFact Florida later ruled that statement “half-true”).

Demonstrating how he is ready to get more personal, Buesing also brought up an issue that he never talked about on the campaign trail in 2016 — Young’s personal wealth.

“Isn’t it interesting that in her first six years (in the Legislature) her net worth went from $452,000 to more than $4.7 million?” he asked, drawing some gasps in the crowded room. “That’s more than a tenfold increase. The average portfolio went up about twice. Something’s going wrong in Tallahassee.”

As he stated in 2016, Buesing says if elected, he will donate his legislative salary to the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.

Young is sixth-generation Floridian who was raised in Tallahassee. An attorney who represented clients in regulatory compliance, permitting, zoning, and administrative law proceedings, she made her first bid for political office in what is now considered House District 60 in 2010 when she defeated the late Stacey Frank in a highly partisan race. She easily won re-election in 2012 and 2014 with virtually no Democratic opposition, before she opted to run for the newly created Senate District 18 seat (created after redistricting) in 2016.

Contacted in Tallahassee where the Legislature is in the middle of its regular session, Young’s political team is opting to stay above the fray — for now.

“Senator Young is focused on doing her job for her constituents who elected her to serve over Mr. Buesing,” said Sarah Bascom, a spokesperson for Young. “Right now is not the time for politics, but rather focusing on the needs of her community. There will come a time to address his comments, but right now she is focused on her job over political rhetoric.”

Young is a formidable fundraiser. She currently has more than $700,000 cash in hand in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, and another $192,000 in her regular campaign account.

Senate District 18 includes South Tampa, Westchase and Town ‘N Country.

Ruff and tumble: Battle of greyhound bills on in Senate

One Senate bill aims to ban giving any steroids to racing dogs. Another would allow steroids for canine birth control.

Now, the sponsor of the second bill is essentially trying to copy-paste his bill on the first.

Rader

On Tuesday afternoon, Delray Beach Democrat Kevin Rader filed an amendment on Tampa Republican Dana Young‘s steroid ban (SB 674).

Her bill, which has cleared one committee, is next on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

But the amendment is essentially Rader’s bill (SB 1774), which would allow dog trainers to give anabolic steroids to racing greyhounds. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

Rader could not be immediately reached for comment.

Young

“This amendment, being pushed by greyhound breeders, is absurd,” Young said in a text message. “It takes a bill that bans the use of steroids in greyhounds, and expressly authorizes it … There is nothing about this amendment that helps protect greyhounds.”

State regulations—but not state law—now allow use only of a “low-dose, non-performance enhancing” form of testosterone in greyhounds, and only as birth control, according to Florida Greyhound Association (FGA) lawyer-lobbyist Jeff Kottkamp.

The Rader measure also includes provisions from a draft bill circulated last year by the association, which represents breeders and owners. They include “maintaining a safe track surface” and “insulating all exposed electrical wires on the track.”

But Rader’s language also would pre-empt “regulation of the welfare of racing greyhounds to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject.”

That would include a recent Seminole County ordinance. Among other things, that local law requires public reporting of greyhound injuries at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, and puts the licensing and inspection of dogs and kennels under the county.

Carey Theil, executive director of greyhound racing opponents GREY2K USA Worldwide, said in a statement: “This amendment is a slap in the face to every volunteer who collected signatures for the Seminole County greyhound protection ordinance.

“It would cover up the greyhound injuries that are now being reported in Seminole County, pushing them back into the shadows,” he added.

Young has called steroid use in dogs “doping,” but FGA spokesman Jack Cory responds that drugs given to the dogs “are NOT performance enhancing steroids.”

He added: “This would meet the best practices as recommended by The Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI),” the official rulemaking body for professional horse and greyhound racing in North America.

Senate advances funding for alternative transit in Tampa, Miami

A Senate committee Tuesday advanced legislation to repurpose $60 million annually for alternative transportation projects in both Miami-Dade County and the Tampa Bay area.

Sponsored by Tampa Republican Dana Young, SB 1200 would use money from an existing $240 million rail fund.

Speaking to members of the Senate Transportation Committee, Young explained that the money comes from Florida Rail Enterprise, a reserve within the Department of Transporation that lawmakers approved in 2009 ahead of a proposed high-speed rail project between Orlando and Tampa.

In early 2010, former President Barack Obama announced setting aside $2.4 billion of stimulus money for Florida to create the project. However, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the money shortly after taking office in 2011.

Part of that $60 million has previously gone to fund SunRail, the 61-mile commuter-rail system for metro Orlando. That obligation ends in 2021-2022, making it the perfect time to transition those funds to Miami and Tampa.

The new project would be named “Statewide Alternative Transportation Authority.”

“This is beyond building another road,” Young told the committee. “This is using the highest and best technology available, such as autonomous vehicles, autonomous buses, bus rapid transit, and perhaps a ferry that can operate in a solvent manner.”

Kevin Rader was the only member of the Senate committee to express misgivings about the proposal. The Boca Raton Democrat questioned why — with the entire state facing issues with increased transportation — were Tampa and Miami-Dade big winners in the bill.

“Because it’s my bill in the Senate and I’m from Tampa Bay and Rep. (Jose) Oliva’s bill in the House and he’s from Miami-Dade County,” Young responded candidly. “That’s the truth.”

Bill Galvano emphasized that the $25 million annually would not simply go to the city of Tampa, but to other participating counties in TBARTA (the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority).

“This is going to an entire region that has significant growth,” said Galvano, a Manatee County Republican. Jurisdictional boundaries are only on a map, he added.

“We need innovative ways, and it will not just benefit Miami,” Miami-Dade Democrat Annette Taddeo chimed in, referring to bottleneck issues throughout the state in September as Hurricane Irma drew closer to Florida.

George Gainer, the Panama City Republican who chairs the committee, praised Young for her ability to find funds for the nascent agency.

“You showed a lot of courage and a lot of tenacity in putting this bill together,” he said.

Bob Buesing kicks-off challenge to Dana Young Tuesday

Democrat Bob Buesing is giving it another go in Senate District 18, and he’s planning a Tuesday campaign kickoff to get the ball rolling on his 2018 run against incumbent Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young.

The event will be held at Mise en Place, 442 West Grand Central Ave., and is set to start at 5:30 p.m. and run through 7 p.m.

Making the host committee for the event are former Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor, Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, former CFO Alex Sink and a host of other major Democrats in the Tampa Bay area.

Buesing, a Tampa attorney, filed for the SD 18 seat in January.

When he announced his intentions, he said he was confident that with a surge of intensity amongst Democrats, he could be successful in outsing Young from the slightly right-leaning seat.

In 2016, Buesing was the Democratic nominee and grabbed a little over 41 percent of the vote on Election Day, while Young took about 48 percent. That race had a pair of no party candidates – Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove – who combined for more than 10 percent of the vote.

Redner, an adult club entrepreneur and progressive activist, is sitting out the 2018 race and has said he is backing Buesing in the rematch.

Young filed for re-election in December 2016 and has built up a significant war chest in the months since.

At the end of 2017, she had about $160,000 in her campaign account and another $717,000 in her political committee, Friends of Dana Young.

Neither Young nor Buesing have filed their campaign finance reports for January.

The invite to Buesing’s event is below.

Buesing invitation Feb. 6, 2018

Capitol rally calls for statewide fracking ban

Bipartisan support for a statewide fracking ban doesn’t seem to carry any weight in the Legislature.

Legislation filed by Treasure Coast Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters (HB 237) and Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young (SB 462) would ban fracking — an oil and gas excavation method that involves stimulating wells with a mixture of water, sand and chemicals. According to Environment Florida, 90 fracking-opposed measures have been passed locally around the state.

Despite having multiple Republican and Democratic co-sponsors, the bills have seen little movement. The House bill has not received a committee hearing. The Senate version awaits consideration from the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

At a large rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday, Peters spoke to environmentalists from across the state about her chamber’s failure to hear the fracking ban.

“It’s crazy that we have not had any success and that particularly the House of Representatives isn’t willing to have the conversation,” Peters told the crowd. “Let’s let the bill have its time in committee and let’s have a conversation about [fracking].”

Peters was joined by Democratic Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Ben Diamond and Sean Shaw.

Rep. Smith, of Orlando, said the bipartisan legislation is “the real deal” and should begin moving through the Legislature. He insinuated fracking would taint drinking water and said he believes the public has a right to clean drinking water.

Diamond, of St. Petersburg, and Shaw, of Tampa, also pushed for the House to carry a bill similar to Sen. Rob Bradley’s SB 370, which mandates a $100 million yearly spend on Florida Forever.

Bradley’s bill cleared the Senate floor around the same time the rally took place.

Young, sponsor of the Senate’s fracking ban, was not at the meeting because it overlapped with the Senate floor session. Though in a prepared statement Young, a sixth-generation Floridian, explained her rationale for filing the legislation.

“I have been fortunate to have grown up in a family with a very deep connection, understanding and appreciation of Florida’s beautiful natural environment,” Young said. “I have filed this bill for my children and for all the current and future generations of Floridians who I believe deserve to have this same opportunity.”

alcoholic beverages

Bottoms up: Booze bills moving in House

A trio of alcoholic beverage-related bills moved through a House panel Tuesday:

— Beer advertisements in theme parks would be allowed under a bill approved by the Careers and Competition Subcommittee.

That measure (HB 669) was approved 13-2, with chair Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican, and Rep. Larry Ahern, a Seminole Republican, casting ‘no’ votes.

This is the second year the bill’s been up before lawmakers. It stoked controversy last year: Critics said it would allow theme parks to “extort” ad dollars from beer companies and ultimately favor Big Beer manufacturers who can pay to put up the biggest and most ads.

They also could sponsor concerts. other events or attractions at parks. It’s supported by SeaWorld and Universal Orlando and opposed by beer distributors and the state’s craft beer industry.

The House bill heads to the Commerce Committee; a Senate companion (SB 822) has cleared one of its three committees.

— Legislation that would allow beer distributors to give away for free glasses imprinted with product names and logos to bars and restaurants was narrowly OK’d. Under current law, glasses must be sold. 

The subcommittee cleared that bill (HB 961) on an 8-7 vote. This also is the second year this bill has been before lawmakers.

Those in favor, including small businesses, say it’ll be a help to them to cut down on glasses lost from theft and breakage. Opponents, including many craft brewers, counter that they won’t be able to afford to keep up with the stream of free glasses from Anheuser-Busch InBev, the makers of Bud Light and Stella Artois.

Josh Aubuchon, general counsel for the Florida Brewers Guild, the craft beer industry’s trade group, told panel members many of his members sell their product only in kegs, not bottles or cans. Because branded glasses effectively act as passive advertisements for a particular label, he worried that bars would push out craft beers on tap in favor of Big Beer’s offerings.

This year’s House bill, carried by Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters, would limit “the total pieces of glassware, per licensed premises, (to) 15 cases per calendar year.” That’s about 360 glasses.

“Branded glassware … is intended to be used only to serve consumers the brand advertised on the glassware,” the bill summary says. The measure also would expire in June 2021 unless renewed by legislators.

The bill now moves to the Commerce Committee; a Senate companion (SB 1224) by Appropriations chair Rob Bradley has cleared two panels and will next be considered by his committee.

— A bill that would expressly allow Floridians to use a smartphone app to order alcoholic beverages to be delivered also cleared the subcommittee.

The panel OK’d the measure (HB 667) on a 13-2 vote. Republican Reps. Ben Albritton of Wauchula and Julio Gonzalez of Venice opposed it.

Services with apps such as Drizly and Shipt already deliver in the state, but “current law does not address orders received via the internet or other electronic forms of communication,” a staff analysis says.

The bill, carried by Miami Republican Daniel Perez, is supported by retail and restaurant groups, and by Target. The House measure now heads to the Commerce Committee; a Senate companion (SB 1020) sponsored by Tampa Republican Dana Young has cleared two of its three committees unanimously.

Franchisee bill squeaks by first Senate panel

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee narrowly voted in favor of a bill Tuesday that aims to put franchisees on a level playing field with their franchisor.

SB 1076, known as the “Small Business Parity Act,” would shield business owners from restrictions on selling their franchises or passing them on to an heir, and would give franchisees the right to fight legal disputes against the corporate brand in Florida court and under Florida law.

The bill would also block brands from yanking away a franchise without “good cause,” which the bill says includes the owner being convicted of a felony or the bulk of the franchise’s assets being signed over to a creditor.

Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube is sponsoring the bill, which was originally carried by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, who resigned his Senate seat before the 2018 Legislative Session.

Members were split on the bill after hearing from many business groups who said the proposal was an overreach seeking to put the state in the middle of private contracts.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Americans for Prosperity, the Florida Retail Federation, and individual brands from McDonalds to Pinch A Penny came out against the bill on the grounds that franchisees and franchisors are already capable of hammering out their own agreements.

“Nobody forces anyone to sign a contract … it’s contract 101, you learn that in the first year of law school,” said lobbyist Ron Book, who represents franchise brand 7-Eleven.

Business groups also contended the bill would create an uneven business climate among franchisees by putting new franchise agreements into a different class from old ones – the bill states only new or renewed agreements would operate under the rules.

Matt Holmes, who owns four Firehouse Subs franchises in Tallahassee, said if franchise agreements seem tough, that’s because the franchisor is looking out for all stakeholders, including other franchisees who thrive on a brand maintaining a good reputation.

“What’s made us successful over the years is that we’ve had a franchisor whose held us to a high standard and held other franchisees to a high standard,” he said.

If Firehouse didn’t do that, he said people wouldn’t stop at his shops when they pass through Tallahassee.

Still, proponents say the bill isn’t aimed at smacking companies that develop good and mutually beneficial franchisor-franchisee relationships, but some others that have proven to be bad actors.

Miami attorney Leon Hirzel said he’s been on a few cases where franchisors have pulled the rug out from under a franchisee, either to make a quick buck pulling in another franchise fee or, more nefariously, because after the owner has built up the name and stature of their franchise, corporate doesn’t think they need to keep them around anymore.

When that happens, Hirzel said “the franchisor gets to take back all the good will of the business, and the franchisee gets little to nothing” due to equipment or other large capital outlays being depreciated to, on paper, worthlessness over a handful of year.

“Franchisors who want to treat their franchisees fairly have nothing to worry about under this bill,” he said. “This bill does, however, require franchisors to respect the investments franchisees make.”

That sentiment was shared by Henry Patel, a member of the City of Miami’s code enforcement and tourism development boards and past chair of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association.

“This bill addresses bad apples, not good ones,” he said, adding that he would gladly “buy a Marriott or Hilton,” but stressing that not all franchisors are as fair to owner-operators as premier brands.

Dady & Gardner attorney Jeff Haff said franchisors also keep a couple gotchas up their sleeves, such as requiring franchisees agree to comply with “operations manuals” that can run from 80 to 1,000 pages and be amended at any time. The kicker: Many brands won’t hand over the tome before the prospective franchisee signs on the dotted line.

In the end, the bill passed 5-4, with a couple of the yea votes coming from Senators whose support was tenuous at best.

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young said she was “torn” on the issue, because she wants to “look out for the little guy,” but the breadth of the bill would make it unpalatable if it came to the floor in its current form.

Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston also dreaded the implications it could have for contracts already in place, but said something needs to be done about how franchisees are treated when they break up with their brand.

“We’re not talking about the marriage with this bill, we’re talking about the divorce,” he said before voting in the affirmative.

Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson, however, said the bill wasn’t ready for primetime. She said even one bad experience with a franchise, from inconsistency in staff friendliness to the comfort of a mattress, has led her to write off a chain for good, and franchisors should have the latitude they desire to keep the customer experience at a high standard.

Despite questions on the bill’s future, Coalition of Franchisee Associations Vice Chair Terry Hutchinson its passage in a statement released Tuesday night, calling the bill “a major step in the right direction for Florida’s small businesses.”

“We applaud Senator Steube for his leadership in sponsoring this good bill and for the members of the Senate that voted for the bill today. As a Florida franchise owner and Vice Chairman of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations and on behalf of the 40,000 small franchise operations in our state, I am proud of our legislators for taking action to level the playing field and protect Florida small businesses and jobs.“

SB 1076 now moves on to the Judiciary Committee and, if successful, the Rules Committee.

The House version of the bill, HB 1219 by Fort Myers Republican Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, has not yet been heard in committee.

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