Florida Chamber racks up wins in the 2022 Legislative Session
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COVID-19 liability protections, VISIT FLORIDA funding, net metering reform — and more.

The 2022 Legislative Session has wrapped, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce has a slew of wins to celebrate.

One of the Florida Chamber’s biggest victories this year was a repeat of their 2021 win on COVID-19 liability protections.

The current law that shields businesses and health care providers from COVID-19-related lawsuits was one of the first measures passed by the Legislature during the 2021 Session. But the shield protecting health care providers was set to expire this year.

However, lawmakers last month approved a bill (SB 7014) sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess that extends the protections through June 1, 2023. It has since been signed by the Governor.

Though the liability protections bill was passed along mostly partisan lines, the debate surrounding it was minimal compared to the “Local Business Protection Act.” The highly contentious bill (SB 620) allows businesses to sue local governments if they can prove a new ordinance caused a 15% income loss in one year.

The bill was tempered down to exempt certain types of ordinances and to specify that businesses must have been within the jurisdiction for three years, not just in the state. But the bill cleared the Legislature last week and is ready for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ approval.

Yet another win came when lawmakers agreed to push back the sunset date for VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing arm. Though extending the authorization has long had traction in the Senate, it faces seemingly annual uncertainty in the House.

It went unresolved until late in the Legislative Session this year, too, with lawmakers agreeing to keep the organization around through 2028 and staking it with $50 million. Had the extension bill (SB 434) not passed, VISIT FLORIDA would have shuttered on Oct. 1, 2023.

The Florida Chamber also ended up on the winning side of the net metering debate after lawmakers approved a measure (HB 741) that would eventually end subsidies its sponsors said would overburden nonsolar customers through a process known as net metering.

Under net metering, Florida’s electric utilities are mandated to buy back at the retail rate “banked” energy stored by homes that gather more energy than they produce. That energy is added to the utility’s grid and can be redistributed to nonsolar customers.

The bill, if signed, would begin kicking in at the start of 2023, when panel owners would start getting 75% credit. That would fall to 60% in 2026 and 50% in 2027 and then drop to the market rate in 2029.

According to Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson, the successful Session was a product of Florida’s business community coming together for a common cause.

“Florida needs to create 1.63 million net new jobs by 2030 and working together as a unified business community is how we will keep Florida’s economy growing and competitive,” he said.

“As Florida continues to pace the nation’s economic recovery out of the pandemic, Florida’s business climate must remain a priority if we are going to continue on a path to grow private-sector jobs, diversify our economy, and create additional economic opportunities for Floridians.”

Florida Chamber Board of Directors Chairman and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits CEO Charles Bailes III echoed the sentiment.

“Year-round, the Florida Chamber team advocates for Florida’s Business Agenda. Uniting Florida’s job creators is essential to keeping Florida, Florida so the right things continue to happen to ensure Florida remains competitive and the best place to live, work, raise a family, start a business, and retire.”

As important as what passed, often is what does not, and the Chamber earned a share of the credit in stamping legislation (HB 9) that aimed to give consumers more control over how their online data is shared and sold.

While broadly popular with voters, the Chamber, other business groups and Florida TaxWatch warned of potentially dire impacts on the business community — FTW research showed it would have reduced Florida’s gross operating surplus — the total profit of private enterprise sans immediate costs and workers — by $21 billion.

The record-setting $112 billion budget was also stocked with Chamber priorities. After the hankie drop, the organization highlighted full funding for Enterprise Florida, Space Florida and VISIT FLORIDA, each of which the Chamber says play an important role in making Florida a top 10 global economy by 2030.

Other budget items on their list included $10 billion-plus for the Florida Department of Transportation’s five-year work plan, approximately $362 million for attainable workforce housing, and record funding for water quality, resiliency, and environmental restoration efforts.

The Florida Chamber won’t spend much time patting itself on the back — it’s already got an eye on 2023.

“It is encouraging that the Florida Chamber saw passage of multiple priorities drawn from our 2022 Jobs and Competitiveness agenda,” said Florida Chamber Executive Vice President of Governmental and Political Relations Frank Walker.

“However, much unfinished business remains as we prepare our 2023 legislative agenda. The Florida Chamber will continue uniting the business community to ensure Florida capitalizes on its economic momentum to reach the goal of becoming the 10th largest economy in the world by 2030.”

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.



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