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Politics

Florida Chamber Urges Lawmakers for More Business ‘Competitiveness’

January 15, 2013 - 6:00pm

Floridas top lawmakers have been the archetype of a business-friendly body the past couple of sessions.

Legislators and the governor have advanced more than 50 of the Florida Chamber of Commerces recommendations in the past two sessions.

Chamber President Mark Wilson said Wednesday theyre just getting started.

Behind the position they want to make Florida more competitive, with competitiveness the buzzword, the chamber released a new list of recommendations that calls for more tax reform, legal reform, business climate reform, education reform and quality of life improvement.

While Washington is slogging it out, we have uncertainty; in Florida we have an opportunity to lead the nation, said Lars Houmann, chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, during a media conference in the Capitol on Wednesday.

Chamber leaders say their proposals can make Florida more competitive nationally and globally, while helping the Sunshine State add more jobs -- up to 170,000 by their count --about 35,000 more than in 2012.

Its our belief that we can create 170,000 jobs this year unless some bad decisions are made that make Florida less competitive, Wilson said.

Were assuming that many of our recommendations will be approved. Were assuming were going to lower taxes on manufacturers, We assume were going to even out the online tax situation for online retailers and small businesses.

Among the 2013 businessrecommendations:

Tax Reform -- Leveling the playing field for small businesses and Main Street through E-Fairness, and eliminating manufacturing equipment sales tax to help grow Florida-origin exports.

Legal Reform -- Improving Floridas 41st worst legal climate which, studies show, could save $2.8 billion in legal costs and increase employment by as much as 2 percent.

Business Climate Reform -- Pre-empting special interests from creating a patchwork of local paid sick referendums, stabilizing and lowering workers comp rates that are artificially higher due to drug repackaging abuses, and reforming Floridas broken property insurance system by addressing major systemic flaws in Citizens Property Insurance and the CAT Fund.

Excellence in Education -- Providing a globally competitive education by ensuring education readies Floridians for the 21st century economy, enhancing education options, preparing future generations for a changing workforce, and making Floridians competitive in the global marketplace. Included in reforming education would be via the Parent Trigger for charter schools and virtual classrooms.

Quality of Life -- While every state is dealing with the federal health care act, the Florida Chamber looks forward to being a part of Floridas debate. As we grow another 6 million people by 2030, Florida will need more health care professionals to pursue medical residencies. Additionally, Florida must repair its unfair medical malpractice system thats causing doctors to choose other states to open their practices. The Florida Chamber continues to oppose the expansion of Las Vegas-style gambling.

Chamber officials discussed the proposals with legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott prior to the midday release. A number of legislators, including Sens. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine,Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, while not saying they were endorsing the entire package, joined the powerful business advocacy organization as they made their announcement.

Richter said the chambers position against the expansion of Las Vegas-style casinos wont impact the comprehensive study he wants done on the gambling industry in Florida.

Its work right now is not to head in any particular direction, but to get information so we can decide if were going to head in any direction and then make informed decisions as to the status quo, expand or reduce, said Richter, who chairs the Senate Gaming Committee.


Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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