Senate budget panel votes to keep VISIT FLORIDA alive
Ed Hooper's bill to reauthorize Visit Florida cleared another Senate panel.

The Senate's vote could give the agency eight more years of life.

The House again said funding tourism marketing was a non-starter, but the Senate budget panel gave the green light to VISIT FLORIDA reauthorization.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 362, filed by Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, which would expand embattled VISIT FLORIDA’s mission until October 2028.

Without reauthorization, the agency sunsets in July 2020.

Hooper said the bill is a “schedule extension” that ensures VISIT FLORIDA can “live eight more years.”

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Associated Industries of Florida, American Advertising Federation Florida TaxWatch, Florida Association of Counties and Florida Chamber have all gone on record supporting reauthorization.

Whatever happens in the Senate, the House will be a heavier lift, with VISIT FLORIDA zeroed-out of the budget.

VISIT FLORIDA is slated to sunset July 1 … there are no funds for this program,” Transportation and Tourism Chair Jay Trumbull remarked about the state’s tourism agency.

The Senate, meanwhile, has budgeted $52.5 million to VISIT FLORIDA.

Those in decision making capacities at the agency are just looking to get through the problems posed by current House Speaker Jose Oliva, who has contended that state-level tourism marketing is unnecessary.

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young, a former Senator, has said that she’s had productive dialogues with legislators.

As she said at a board meeting last month, the stakes are high if the agency is cut.

“Anybody who questions the reality of what happens when budgets are cut on the state level, look at Colorado. It took them decades to recover,” Young said.

Tourism directors from Georgia and South Carolina “are hoping we get cut,” Young noted.

“They will get the money that’s not coming here.”

The agency is still absorbing the impacts of the most recent cuts.

House leaders wanted to let it expire last year, but Gov Ron DeSantis’ support for the agency bought it an extension through June.

DeSantis proposed spending $76 million on VISIT FLORIDA during the upcoming year but accepted a Senate compromise of $50 million.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


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