2019 NFIB Florida Legislative Issues and Priorities
Taxes and Regulations
Cutting the Business Rent Tax (Support)
All small business owners who lease their business space pay a tax on the rent. Florida is the only state that charges this 5.7 percent sales tax. NFIB, alongside other business groups, successfully lobbied to bring the rate down from 6 percent in 2017 and 2018, and this year we’re fighting to reduce the tax even further. NFIB supports reducing the business rent tax for small business owners in Florida without providing a revenue offset.
Local Impact Fee Reform (Support)
The Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would reform the way local impact fees are applied to construction projects. Specifically, the bill requires local governments to issue a building permit at the same time an impact fee is paid, requires local governments to use the proceeds of impact fees directly on infrastructure that relates to the new construction project for which the impact fee was paid, and bans local governments from using impact fees to pay down existing debts unconnected to the construction project for which the impact fee was paid. NFIB supports reining in out-of-control local governments that have been using local impact fees to fund other projects in contrast to the legislative intent of impact fees.
E-Fairness Taxes (Neutral)
A bill is being considered that would require out-of-state businesses who ship products into Florida to collect and remit sales tax to Florida. This bill comes in response to the South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. U.S. Supreme Court case where the court found that states could compel businesses in other states to collect and remit taxes if they are conducting commerce in that state. NFIB is neutral on the requirement that out-of-state retailers be required to collect and remit Florida sales tax; however, we are pushing to ensure that if a bill does pass, Florida does not adopt the issue retroactively, which would require businesses to collect and remit sales tax for past sales. NFIB opposes any efforts to expand E-Fairness to a sales tax on services.
E-Verify Regulations (Oppose)
A bill is being considered that would require businesses to utilize E-Verify during the hiring process for all new employees to ensure that the applicant is authorized to work in the United States. The bill would allow for state and local business license suspension for any business who fails to use the system and would provide stiffer penalties for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized employees. NFIB supports the overall goal of requiring only documented workers be hired; however, we oppose requiring businesses to use a system wrought with software glitches and would allow regulators to subpoena documents from private businesses.
Prohibiting Employers from Inquiring about an Applicant’s Criminal History (Oppose)
Business owners have the right to know if a person they are interviewing for a job in their small business is a convicted, and possibly violent, felon. NFIB opposes efforts to shield an applicant’s violent criminal history from a prospective employer prior to a face-to-face interview.
Increasing the Minimum Wage (Oppose)
NFIB believes that market forces, not government regulation, should dictate the wages that employers must pay. Studies have shown that when the government artificially increases the minimum wage, employers are forced to do more with less which causes employers to lay off workers. While a higher minimum wage helps a few, others are pushed completely out of their jobs. NFIB opposes efforts to artificially raise the minimum wage.
Reforming the Workers’ Compensation System
Stabilizing the Workers’ Compensation System (Support)
Attorneys’ fees in workers’ comp cases are still skyrocketing following the Castellanos Supreme Court decision. Overall workers’ comp rates are only being kept in check by employers creating safer workplaces, but an unbalanced and unsustainable system has been created which will result in spiking rates. NFIB supports legislation to restore the fee cap for attorneys’ fees with a “safety valve” clause for certain cases.
Improving Healthcare for Floridians
Eliminating Certificate of Need (Support)
The Certificate of Need (CON) program is a burdensome regulatory process that requires certain healthcare providers to obtain state approval before offering new or expanded services. The CON program currently regulates hospices, skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled, new hospitals and certain hospital services. NFIB supports the repeal of this unnecessary regulation that stifles competition and drives up medical costs by creating monopolies and allowing costs to spiral out of control.
Curbing Lawsuit Abuse
Litigation Financing Disclosure (Support)
We are seeing a new trend in Florida and across the country whereby plaintiffs are being directly funded by Wallstreet bankers who give out cash advances on possible future settlements in exchange for a percentage of any award or settlement reached. These contingency fee contracts allow the funder to become an interested party in a lawsuit and have the practical effect of driving up the cost of litigation and dragging out cases. There is no provision in Florida statute or case law that requires plaintiffs to notify the judge, the jury, or the defense that a wealthy third party is financing a lawsuit. NFIB supports requiring plaintiffs in lawsuits to disclose third-party financing contracts.
Prejudgment Interest (Oppose)
Trial lawyers are pushing to allow interest to be charged on damages, attorneys’ fees, and court costs from the date an injury or tort occurred, not from the date damages are awarded. Delays in the legal system, which might not be due to the defendant, will only further drive up the cost of personal injury lawsuits against small businesses. This will force more companies to settle, regardless of the merit of the complaint, to avoid increased legal costs because of additional interest. NFIB opposes legislation that would force businesses to settle frivolous lawsuits.
Accuracy in Medical Damages (Support)
Under current law, attorneys defending businesses in medical damages tort cases are prohibited from presenting to juries the medical expenses paid by the plaintiff and/or their insurer. Juries are typically presented with the medical expenses as billed by the provider, but the plaintiff’s medical bills are often settled separately between the plaintiff and their insurer for less. In these circumstances, the defendant often ends up paying for medical damages that have never been paid and will never be paid. NFIB supports legislation that allows juries to see medical expenses actually paid by plaintiffs and their insurers when awarding compensation in medical damages cases.
Creating a New Protected Class for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (Oppose)
Small business owners, unlike major corporations, often don’t have in-house general counsels or the resources to keep law firms on retainer. When the legislature passes sweeping legislative change to employment law, small businesses are left to figure out for themselves what the new law means and how it affects their business. The legislation creating a protected class for sexual orientation and gender identity is vaguely worded and seeks to cast the widest possible net of protections with little consideration for how this would affect real life employer-employee interactions. It also adds to a Florida-based civil rights systems that is already out of step with the federal process. Under federal law, small businesses are actually treated better than under the current Florida system. NFIB opposes the creation of a new protected class where there are no protections for employers from frivolous lawsuits and puts Florida further out of line with the Federal Civil Rights Act.
Repealing the Constitution Revision Commission (Support)
Every 20 years, a group of citizens are appointed to consider amendments to the Florida Constitution. This panel, the Constitution Revision Commission, placed seven amendments directly onto the 2018 ballot, bypassing the legislative and petition collection processes. They received criticism from NFIB and other groups in Tallahassee for “bundling” amendments together that had nothing to do with one another, forcing voters to either approve multiple ideas or oppose all of the ideas grouped into a single amendment. NFIB supports repealing the Constitution Revision Commission.
Training the Workforce of Tomorrow
Vocational Training (Support)
Florida has a workforce training crisis that has been building for years. Small business owners are experiencing significant difficulties finding qualified workers. According to NFIB’s most recent monthly Jobs Report, 88 percent of small businesses with job openings reported few or no qualified applicants. NFIB supports legislation that would create additional pathways for students to get vocational training that would fill the needs of small business owners across Florida.