A release that landed in my inbox just minutes ago indicates that House Speaker Richard Corcoran is willing to cut a deal to save Visit Florida – albeit a very harsh and strict deal. So, no, he didn’t so much as blink in the staredown between the House and Governor’s office, but he did squint his eyes narrowly and perhaps grit his teeth.
Here’s the full release from Corcoran:
SLUSH FUND OR SUNSHINE? – SPEAKER CORCORAN GIVES VISIT FLORIDA A CHANCE TO DEMONSTRATE IT WANTS TO BE ACCOUNTABLE AND TRANSPARENT TO THE TAXPAYER
Amendment by Rep. Paul Renner Would Save Taxpayers $500 million Over 10 Years and Bring Unprecedented Accountability and Sunshine to an Agency Mired in Scandal
Tallahassee, FL – Today, Speaker Richard Corcoran released the following statement on the amendment filed by Representative Renner to HB 7005. The amendment would end business as usual at VISIT FLORIDA and impose unprecedented levels of accountability and openness. Upon the filing of the Amendment, Speaker Corcoran said:
“Since this debate began, the defenders of VISIT FLORIDA have grown increasingly hysterical, complete with their ‘Chicken Little’ predictions of economic collapse, state income taxes, and tens of thousands out of work. I am skeptical that the most vocal cheerleaders of VISIT FLORIDA want anything less than the status quo. So we are going to put that to the test. This amendment will preserve VISIT FLORIDA while putting a permanent end to its history of slush funds, corporate negligence, and secret insider deals. The burden is now on the defenders of VISIT FLORIDA to decide if they are willing to accept accountability and transparency or if they are looking only to return to the good old days of operating in the shadows.”
“As I stated back in December, it is the House’s job to, ‘decide if Visit Florida should exist.’ That remains to be seen, but agreeing to these changes would be a giant leap in the right direction. Rest assured the House will not spend another penny on VISIT FLORIDA should accountability and transparency measures be rejected. It is my hope that with these new measures in place, we will not have to revisit VISIT FLORIDA.”
Problems and Solutions – What the Amendment Does
If agreed to, VISIT FLORIDA WOULD BE REQUIRED TO –
–Comply with ALL state procurement laws.
–Limit travel and per diem expenses of Visit Florida employees to those of state employees.
–Limit compensation of Visit Florida employees, freeze benefits of employees at current levels and prohibit bonuses for employees unless authorized by law.
–Prohibit Visit Florida employees or board members from receiving food, beverages, lodging, entertainment or gifts paid for by Visit Florida funds or funds from a local tourist or economic development agency.
–Ensure all contracts contain performance standards, operating budgets and salaries of employees of the contracting entity. Increasing transparency of Visit Florida contracts and partnership agreements.
–Post all contracts on the CFO Transparency website.
–Ensure that the Governor approves all out-of-state and international travel.
–Ensure the Office of Economic and Demographic Research is an original recipient of ALL source data that is used to develop estimates and measures.
–Remove the public records exemption for marketing projects and research.
The amendment provides for additional legislative oversight of Visit Florida by:
-Requiring Visit Florida to place proposed contracts worth $750,000 or more on 14-day legislative consultation. Upon objection by the chair or vice chair of the LBC or Speaker or Senate President, Visit Florida would be prohibited from entering into contract.
–Requiring Visit Florida to submit detailed operating budget to LBC each year in order to obtain release of funds.
–Requiring Senate confirmation of the Visit Florida President/CEO.
If these accountability and transparency measures are agreed to, VISIT FLORIDA would be provided a
–$25 million recurring appropriation for Visit Florida.
–Most significantly, the amendment restores current law related to Visit Florida (the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation) which was eliminated by HB 7005, and houses Visit Florida under the Department of Economic Opportunity. The amendment also modifies current law to provide greater accountability and oversight of Visit Florida as specified below.
Facts and Figures
–The average state tourism marketing budget is $20.1 million (source: US Travel Association)
–VISIT FLORIDA’S budget has shot up by 169 percent since 2009, from $29 million to $78 million.
–As of 2014, only 9% of tourism marketing dollars in Florida come from VISIT Florida public money (source: EDR)
–From 2011 – 2014, theme parks alone outspent VISIT FLORIDA 7 to 1 on advertising (source: EDR)
NOTE: The Renner Amendment to HB 7005 still includes the elimination of Enterprise Florida