2020 Legislative Preview
The Issues: Florida's 2020 legislative preview
Online Sales Tax
Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) says his top priority is passing his “e-fairness” online sales tax bill. The legislation, backed by the Florida Retail Federation, would require online retailers with no brick-and-mortar stores in the state to collect and remit a 6% sales tax on purchases by Florida customers. Most consumers ignore existing law that requires them to keep track of their online purchases and send the taxes they owe to the Department of Revenue. Local retailers, meanwhile, and many online sellers such as Amazon with a physical presence in Florida already collect the sales tax. “To me, it’s all about fairness and leveling the playing field,” says Gruters, who rejects any claim that the proposal amounts to a tax increase. “Since it’s already owed, it’s not a new tax,” he says. He also thinks his colleagues could make good use of the $750 million in revenue the bill would generate.
Calling it the “best way to deter illegal immigration,” DeSantis is pushing a bill filed by Sens. Tom Lee (R-Thonotosassa) and Gruters that would require all private employers in the state to run new hires through a web-based E-Verify system to verify their eligibility to work in the United States. Under the proposal, companies that don’t comply could be subject to fines or even lose their business licenses. The agriculture, tourism and construction industries and the state’s business lobbies are opposed. “We currently support the voluntary system. If it works for your business model, then go ahead, knock yourself out,” says Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida. “It’s not like we don’t have a system in place already.”
Lawmakers are expected to debate a host of other controversial issues, including abortion, gun control and alimony reform. Attorney General Ashley Moody has asked lawmakers to crack down on the epidemic of teen vaping and consider banning flavored vaping products. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the highest-ranking Democrat in the state, is pushing for energy and climate legislation, including a greenhouse gas inventory for state buildings; $5 million in funding for energy and water audits on Florida farms; funding for a climate adaptation research grant program; and $20 million for a clean energy research center at one of the state’s universities. Battles between state and local governments are also heating up. As Key West prepares to ban the sale of certain types of chemical sunscreens in 2021 that it believes are contributing to coral bleaching, state lawmakers appear poised to stop them. Rep. Bob Rommel (R-Naples), meanwhile, has reintroduced legislation that would prevent local governments from regulating minimum wage and other conditions of employment. Sen. Jeff Brandes’ efforts to abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission are gaining traction in the Senate. His proposal would put a question on the 2020 ballot asking voters whether the appointed body, which meets every 20 years to suggest changes to the state constitution, should be dissolved.
Read more in Florida Trend's January 2020 issue.
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