Advertisement
  1. Business

From toll roads to sales taxes, four ways Florida lawmakers affected your pocketbook.

The northern reaches of the Suncoast Parkway often don't get much traffic. Times (2017)
The northern reaches of the Suncoast Parkway often don't get much traffic. Times (2017)
Published May 9, 2019

Lawmakers had a chance to right some financial and business wrongs during the 2019 legislative session, or at least not make things worse.

They succeeded in some cases and failed miserably in others.

Here's how four key bills fared:

Sales tax letdown

Senate Bill 1112 was an easy way to remedy an obvious defect in the tax code. Nonetheless, the Legislature proved once again that common sense doesn't always prevail. Lawmakers decided to keep the playing field tilted in favor of out-of-state online retailers. They won't have to collect the state's 6 percent sales tax, a distinct advantage over their brick and mortar competitors.

The bill required nearly every retailer to remit the sales tax regardless of whether they have a physical presence in the state. The state would have netted about $700 million a year.

This wasn't a new tax. Floridians who bought products from online-only retailers were already suppose to send sales tax to the state, though few complied.

Even so, skittish lawmakers grumbled about getting branded as tax raisers.

They had a chance to close a gaping loophole that favors one part of an industry over another. Instead, they copped out. What's the opposite of a profile in courage?

Toll road romance

Republican lawmakers can't seem to help themselves. Someone proposes a toll road to nowhere and they say, "Sure, and here's a pile of tax dollars." They did it again this year, in grand style. (See SB 7068)

Senate President Bill Galvano, R.-Bradenton, pushed hard to expand the sparsely-used Suncoast Parkway to Georgia, connect the Florida Turnpike to the parkway and build a transportation corridor from Polk County to Collier County.

The exact routes and costs aren't known, but the last idea sounds a lot like the Heartland Parkway, scuttled a few years ago when studies showed not enough drivers would use it to justify the cost. No mind. It's never too early for our lawmakers to resurrect a bad plan and spend even more money.

Timeshare showdown

Many bills fail to get traction. They rot as the legislative session wears on. Thankfully, that's what happened to a bill that would have made it harder for consumers to hire a third party to help them get out of their timeshare contract.

Timeshare developers pushed the legislation , which targeted what are often called timeshare relief or exit companies. Developers and relief companies get along like lions and hyenas, with unsuspecting owners often caught in the middle. Neither side has a sparkling reputation. You can read about all kinds of crimes and hardball tactics by typing "timeshare scam" into your favorite search engine.

The bill (HB 435) would have put an unneeded thumb on the scale. Legislators were right to let it fail.

Craft vodka by the glass? Not yet.

Senate Bill 220 included several good ideas for supporting the state's small distillers. But in trying to do too much, it was easier to dismiss.

The legislation allowed makers of craft vodka, gin and other spirits to sell drinks by the glass at their distilleries. Currently, customers can only taste the product; they cannot buy a cocktail. For many distillers, the change would boost revenue. They equated it to beer makers who benefit from selling pints at their manufacturing site.

The bill also removed an unneeded cap on the number of bottles a customer can purchase each year. Distillers complained that keeping track was cumbersome and required asking customers for personal information.

But the bill also allowed craft distillers to blend alcohol made by other distillers and increased the number of gallons they could make in a year from 75,000 to 250,000. The changes drew the ire of the powerful Wine and Spirits Distributors of Florida. Even some small distillers questioned the big increase in production limits.

The state took years to catch up with the fast-growing craft beer industry. Remember the protracted battle over the size of growlers? Distillers will have to wait a while longer, too.

Contact Graham Brink at gbrink@tampabay.com. Follow @GrahamBrink.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Four Tampa Bay businesses made Fortune’s list of “Most Admired Companies” in the world for 2020. Pictured is a Publix location in the Channelside district last year. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times (2019)] ["OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Four Tampa Bay businesses made Fortune’s list of “Most Admired Companies” in the world for 2020.
  2. After a spike last week, gas prices in the Sunshine State are down slightly. Pictured is the Courtney Campbell Causeway in 20098. [Times file] [CLIFFORD, DOUGLAS R.  |  St. Petersburg Times]
    Low demand and higher gas supply are bringing cheaper gas this week, experts said.
  3. Next month the Pirate Water Taxi will debut a 100-passenger vessel and two smaller taxis as part of an expansion of the company's routes and coverage of Tampa's waterfront. (Yacht StarShip) [Yacht StarShip]
    The service, owned by the operator of Yacht StarShip Dining Cruises, is investing $1.6 million in three new vessels and adding a long-desired stop near the Florida Aquarium.
  4. The meat and seafood department at Lucky's Market in St. Petersburg. [Times (2018)]
    After Kroger’s split from Lucky’s, the chain is closing all but one of its Sunshine State stores.
  5. FIE - In this Feb. 5, 2019, file photo a ramp worker guides a Delta Air Lines plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. Delta Air Lines says it earned $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter by operating more flights and filling a higher percentage of seats.  The financial results beat Wall Street expectations. Delta and other U.S. airlines are enjoying a prolonged period of profitability thanks to steadily rising demand for travel.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) [TED S. WARREN  |  AP]
    The annual ranking from the Wall Street Journal placed Delta in first place for the third year in a row.
  6. [Getty Images] [[Getty Images]]
    You should look out for your own interests, the advice columnist writes.
  7. Tampa Premium Outlets, 2300 Grand Cypress Drive. The area’s newest outlet is touting the shop tax free weekend and extra savings on top of already reduced prices.
    Deputies are searching for a suspect. There is no public safety threat.
  8. Mike Bishop joins Pasco EDC staff. [Pasco EDC]
    News and notes on Pasco businesses
  9. Hernando County community news [Tara McCarty]
    News and notes on Hernando businesses
  10. A beer is pictured in the outdoor games area of Park & Rec on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Towers of Channelside condo association has filed a lawsuit against the bar, as residents complain about noise.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement