Florida Hotels Group Pitches Agenda To Legislators
By Claudio Mendonca
The Florida Hotel & Lodging Legislative Coalition Inc., the state’s newest hotel organization, met with legislators for the first time in Tallahassee last week with a three-pronged agenda.
Goals were to protect the current bed-tax collection structure, support legislation to end what the group terms abusive lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act and back legislation requiring Florida’s school year to start after Labor Day.
"Because schools started so early this year, we lost the month of August," said coalition president Stuart Blumberg. "In the past, classes only started after Labor Day."
Sen. Steven Geller of Hallandale said he doesn’t believe the Legislature would agree to move back the school year, at least in the short term, because the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is a top priority for Gov. Jeb Bush.
"I don’t think it is going to happen because kids need more time to prepare for the FCATs and need to get to school earlier in the year," Sen. Geller said.
What could happen, Mr. Geller said, is to set uniform dates for schools, perhaps a week before Labor Day.
The coalition, representing about 500 hotels and 125,000 employees, is comprised of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association, of which Mr. Blumberg is president; the Fort Lauderdale Lodging & Hospitality Association; the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association; the Hotel Motel Association of Daytona-Volusia County; the Palm Beach County Lodging Association; and the Tampa Convention & Visitors Association.
"We met with about 15 legislative leaders from the Florida House of Representatives and the Senate," Mr. Blumberg said. "We had a positive reception, and they were very supportive."
In seeking to protect the structure for collection of bed taxes, the group wants to insure funding of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism development arm, as well as tourist development councils and visitors bureaus throughout the state, Mr. Blumberg said. He stressed that the coalition has no intention of increasing bed-tax rates.
"We are against increases, and we want to insure they don’t happen," he said. "We fund 99% of the bureaus and need to be protective of it."
The next step for the coalition is a meeting in Miami, possibly in December, with Marco Rubio, incoming speaker of the Florida House. No date has been set.