The Public Policy Committee was created in November, 2016 to provide input and recommendations to the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors on significant state, local and national policy issues affecting the St. Johns County business committee. Membership is comprised of former senior Chamber leaders, former EDC Chairs and representatives from various geographical, industry and professions to insure the intellectual depth of knowledge in the areas of land use, taxation, public safety, tourism and environment.
Highlights of the Public Policy Committee’s successes in the 2017/2018 Fiscal Year
City of St. Augustine Panhandling Ordinance
Beginning in October, 2017, the PPC and the Chamber’s Historic Area Council worked with the City, outside counsel and the Visitors and Convention Bureau to develop informational materials for the business community addressing the topic. We collected evidence from downtown businesses and forwarded them to outside counsel. Identified and prepped members of the Chamber’s Historic Area Council to testify in favor of the new ordinance before the COSA Commission at their March 26 public hearing. The COSA Commission voted 4-0 to approve the new ordinance becoming effective on April 6, 2018. The Chamber has made the information rack card available to the membership in PDF form so they can download and print it.
St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners Economic Development Impact Fees
Starting in July, 2017 with the publication of the University of Florida consultant’s report recommending dramatic increases in both residential and commercial impact fees, Chamber staff and PPC members regularly met with County Commissioners to urge a reduction, not increase in impact fees. Over the course of the following 8 months, the Chamber mounted a campaign urging members to contact the Commissioners and support a reduction in the fees. In February, 2018, BCC Chairman Henry Dean successfully moved a motion to instruct County Administration to present a new proposal lowering impact fees for non-residential construction. On March 6, PPC Chairman Michael Scine presented testimony to the BCC urging support for Chairman Dean’s proposal, which the Commission unanimously approved on April 3.
Continuing our longstanding support for the reduction and/or elimination of the tax on commercial leases, the Chamber voiced its support once again to House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Renner, Representative Cyndi Stevenson and Senator Travis Hutson. The “tax package” as finally approved by the Florida legislature contained a modest reduction in the tax rate from 5.8% to 5.7% after initially agreeing to a reduction to 5.5%. The additional funds were earmarked to the Parkland School Safety legislation.
City of St. Augustine Beach Commission Proposal to Ban Plastic Bags at Retail
The Chamber was contacted in December, 2017 by one of our member companies to monitor a proposed plastic bag ban at retail. The PPC discussed and approved the following action plan: working with retailers and the SAB Commission, support a proposed voluntary plastic bag effort urging businesses to use recyclable bags with a kick-off scheduled to coincide with Arbor Day, 2018. The Commission approved this approach. The Commission agreed to revisit the issue again in 2019.