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Palm Coast Saturday, Apr. 1, 2017 2 years ago

Flagler County presses representatives on Enterprise Florida, vacation rental bills

The county is staking out positions on seven state legislative issues.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

The Flagler County Commission is pressing the state legislature on a number of bills moving through the Florida House and Senate, including bills on vacation rental regulation and the fate of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. The commission is preparing to vote on resolutions expressing the following positions:

1) "Retain and continue to fully fund Enterprise Florida." Bill No.: HB 9

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Republican representing Land O’Lakes, has led an initiative to get rid of the economic incentive program Enterprise Florida, as well as Visit Florida, the state's tourism development program. Rep. Paul Renner, of Palm Coast, sponsored legislation to eliminate Enterprise Florida and restrict Visit Florida's funding. It passed the House as part of House Bill 9. The county has opposed both of Corcoran's proposals, arguing for supporting both programs. At a County Commission workshop March 20, the county's economic development director, Helga Van Eckert, said she's used one of Enterprise Florida's incentive programs in the past to attempt to attract businesses to invest in Flagler County. 

2) "Retain and continue to fully fund Visit Florida, as recommended by Florida Gov. Rick Scott." Bill No.: HB 9

Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm, has been beset by transparency problems and boondoggles. It generated outrage over a multi-million dollar contract given to a former executive, a $1 million contract with rapper Pitbull and $2 million paid to sponsor a race car. But the program has also been used to support local tourism initiatives, and the county supports keeping it. Tourism Development Director Matt Dunn said that transparency issues are being addressed, and he urged the commission to support Visit Florida. Rep. Paul Renner initially supported nixing the program but later amended his position to restricting the program's funding to matching funds. A measure to restrict the program's funding passed the House as part of HB 9.

3) "Oppose HB 7065 which would create additional reporting requirements to the Auditor General and expand public notice of tax increases and new tax-supported debt issuance and advocating for additional time to bring forth meaningful transparency legislation."

Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey said the county is already transparent, and that the bill could cost the county in audits and staffing costs. The Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties and Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants have opposed the bill. The bill is in the House's Government Accountability Committee.

4) "Oppose HB 7063 which would prohibit extending or increasing local option taxes if the adopted millage rate is in excess of rolled back rate in any of three previous years and require referendum to increase property tax, local option taxes and new tax supported debt with approval of 60 percent of the voter voting on the ballot. "

Coffey called the bill impractical, and Financial Services Director Lorie Bailey Brown said she opposed it, as it would require a referendum with more than 60% of the vote during a general election to raise taxes or tax-supported debt. The bill is in the House's Government Accountability Committee.

5) "Oppose HB 17 and SB 1158 which would preempt local government home rule authority and threaten the existence of numerous and wide ranging regulations of commerce and businesses currently in effect in the County unless such regulations are expressly authorized by general law. "

The county has opposed both bills, which preempt home rule. HB 17 is in the House's Commerce Committee, and SB 1158 is in the Senate's Rules Committee.

6) "Opposing the relocation of Flagler County from the Department of Transportation District 5 to District 2."

District 5 is based in DeLand, while District 2 is based in Lake City. The county opposes the switch. County Attorney Al Hadeed said the county has regular contact with District 5 for legal and real estate issues. He argued that the county needs to maintain its relationships there.

7) "Support legislation that restores local zoning authority with respect to short-term vacation rental properties, thereby preserving the integrity of Flagler County’s neighborhoods and communities."

The County Commission has already passed a resolution opposing a state bill restricting municipalities from regulating vacation rentals, and is preparing to do so again.

The proposed bills require that all rentals be treated the same, meaning that the county would not be able to regulate vacation rentals without regulating long-term residential rentals the same way. The House version of the bill is HB 425, and is in the House's Commerce Committee. The Senate version is SB 188, and is in the Senate's Rules Committee.


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