2023 Advocacy Outlook
Expect to see a full schedule of business-related legislation this spring as the State Legislature prepares for the 2023 Session which runs from March 7 – May 5 in Tallahassee. Big ticket issues such as a continuation of the property insurance legislative review, Visit Florida funding, affordable workforce housing, and funding for numerous NE Florida hurricane relief and emergency resilience will be at the forefront. Why are these issues important to Chamber members?
Not only an issue for homeowners, but commercial property insurance rates have risen to historically high levels taking money directly out of your operating funds. Even if your business hasn’t suffered a direct loss as a result of recent hurricanes/Nor’easters, your rates are increasing and your policies might be levied an additional surcharge if the Citizens, the state-run insurance company of last resort, suffers significant losses to their reserves resulting from Hurricane Nicole on the West Coast.
Remember the damage Hurricanes Matthew and Irma caused the tourism industry in St. Johns County in 2016-2017? Remember the hit our economy took during the Covid pandemic? Visit Florida stepped in time and time again to help promote our tourism sector and show tourists the “Welcome Back, We’re Open” signals which provided untold millions of dollars in advertising that many have said saved our tourism sector from ruin. Visit Florida operates on state-provided funds appropriated each year and this year is no different. Reach out to Senator Hutson and Speaker Renner and Rep. Stevenson and tell them to fully fund Visit Florida for 2023 and beyond.
For over 30 years, the document stamp fees placed on all real estate transactions in Florida have been earmarked for affordable housing programs; a portion of which is returned to the 67 counties statewide. In 2022, St. Johns County received over $2.7 million in affordable housing fees, yet every year, the State Legislature “sweeps” some of that funding to pay for “other” programs – like a huge unsupervised piggy bank. Our state legislators need to hear that St. Johns County should receive every dollar in document stamp fees it collected to provide badly needed affordable housing for our workforce. Without an affordable place to live, employers cannot find employees to work for them and the economic engine St. Johns County has become will slow down and ultimately fall apart.
Hurricane resilience funding: We all know by now that St. Johns County is subject to the whims of Mother Nature whether it be hurricanes, flooding, beach erosion, or Nor’easters. These are big problems requiring big-dollar projects to protect not only St. Augustine but our beaches and interior lands from flooding. Whether it be millions to harden the City’s water treatment plant or combined state and federal funding to deal with beach erosion and river flooding, our state, and federal legislators need to hear from you as business owners the importance of spending the dollars necessary to protect the Oldest City, our 45 miles of beaches and our many waterways that have not been properly maintained thus causing terrible flooding in recent years. All of these issues require attention and significant funding from state and federal dollars if we are to continue to enjoy the quality of life here in St. Johns County.