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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida House takes first steps toward killing Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida

State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Jacksonville

Jeremy Wallace/Times

State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Jacksonville



The Florida House took a stunning first step towards killing the state’s primary tourism marketing agency and state's chief economic development agency.

By an overwhelming vote, a Florida House committee voted to eliminate Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida despite testimony from dozens of businesses and economic development groups from around the state that warned them not to.

The 10-5 vote is a blow to Gov. Rick Scott who just a day earlier lashed out at the House for even considering the idea which he said would hurt Florida’s economic momentum and result in few jobs.

But State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Jacksonville, said he wasn’t deterred at all from pushing his legislation. He said economic incentives are inherently unfair because it is essentially the government picking some companies for incentives over others.

“For me, this issue is an easy issue,” Renner said. “It’s not hard to stand on principle.”

The bill still has a long way to go, with more committee stops in the House and a Florida Senate that appears far away from backing a plan to kill both agencies. And even it if got passed in both chambers, Scott would have a chance to veto the bill to block it from becoming law.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has questioned both Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida spending, but said he wants to “recast” those agencies, not eliminate them like the House.

Brandes is the chairman of a Senate budget writing committee with jurisdiction over both agencies. He held a hearing earlier on Wednesday that questioned the return on investment Florida gets from Enterprise Florida and how much more the taxpayers are funding Enterprise Florida compared to private business. The agency is supposed to be a 50-50 split.

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 8, 2017 4:26pm]


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