The day following the end of the 2018 legislative session, Florida’s business community is assessing the impact this year’s Legislature had on the state’s business climate.
“Rightly so, the last three weeks of session were focused on school safety following the Parkland tragedy,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Unfortunately, when you look at the other work of the legislature, on balance they made it a little more expensive for families and a little less competitive for businesses.”
Wilson says for the second year in a row, some in the Florida Senate blocked pro-jobs legislation that he says would have lowered the cost of living on families and businesses, helping to support jobs and economic opportunity.
The Chamber says the added expense on families is largely due to the Legislature’s failure to address auto and property insurance reforms. Floridians currently pay the sixth highest automobile insurance rates, while homeowners are facing up to a 10 percent increase in their property insurance rates mainly due to fraud and abuse of the systems. That abuse is partly due to the result of Assignment of Benefits scams, which occur when property or auto owners sign over their rights to a claim to a third party contractor who oversees the claim. Frequently, those AOB’s result in fraud.
Chamber officials say lawmakers could have improved the state’s business climate, but failed in two areas. One of those was failing to address the $1.5 billion impact from workers’ comp rates that the group says remain 14.5 percent higher than they should be. The other was choosing not to fix what the Chamber calls “Florida’s broken lawsuit climate” that costs families an average of $3,400 each year in lawsuit abuse costs.
Both the Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which represents Florida’s small businesses, give lawmakers credit for placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that, if approved by 60 percent of voters, would make it harder for future Legislatures to raise taxes and fees.
The two business groups also applaud legislators for further reducing the state’s Business Rent Tax (BRT). Included within the approved legislative tax package is a 0.1 cent BRT reduction, which brings the two-year total BRT reduction down by 0.3 cents.
NFIB was also supportive of passage of a direct primary care bill which passed this session. The legislation permits business owners to contract directly with primary care doctors. It was a top priority for small businesses. The bill would allow businesses to pay a what NFIB calls a “manageable” monthly membership fee for primary care services for themselves and their employees that would save business owners on costly traditional health insurance plans, with the purpose of helping small business owners connect their employees and their families with quality primary care services.