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No sunset for VISIT FLORIDA as agency is re-authorized for three more years

Compromise worked.

The House said funding tourism marketing was a non-starter, but the Senate pushed for VISIT FLORIDA reauthorization this Session.

In the end, VISIT FLORIDA got three more years out of the House. And the Senate moved from the position of wanting eight years.

 SB 362, filed by Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper, was modified in the House to extend VISIT FLORIDA’s mission until October 2023.

Without reauthorization, the agency sunsets in July 2020.

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.

The Senate budgeted $52.5 million to VISIT FLORIDA.

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 current year but accepted a Senate compromise of $50 million.

And it’s there again.

After the back-and-forth this Session with the House and Speaker José Oliva finally backing down on efforts to strip the agency, it will get its expected full funding.

“$50 million, one year,” said Rep. Travis Cummings, the House Appropriations Chairman.

The money will not be recurring.

“We don’t want to tie the hands of future Legislatures on what that looks like,” Cummings said.

“VISIT FLORIDA deserves credit for marketing at least inside the Legislature,” Oliva said. “Now what they do outside will remain in doubt in my view forever.”

“They’ve certainly convinced the Legislature of their importance,” Oliva added. “Add to that coronavirus and the issues the cruise ship companies are having and possibly the theme parks and there is no doubt that an already difficult argument about an agency that has no power over any of that will once again convince us but for them tourists would be leaving.”

Oliva went on to say that no amount of VISIT FLORIDA money would convince tourists who didn’t want to take a cruise to take a cruise, but the argument appears to be academic since the funding was agreed to.

2019’s budget cut from $76 million to $50 million came after intense negotiations. But the legislative will to cut further was not there in 2020.

And now the fight will be tabled through the Speakership of Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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