Thursday, December 03, 2015

Tourism Leaders Oppose Rep. Gaetz's Unconstitutional Bill

Without citing the unconstitutionality of its features -- reported here on November 23 -- the Record reports that three local tourism leaders now agree with me and oppose Rep. MATT GAETZ's bed tax grab bill. Among its most obnoxious features, the bill would allow a trade group, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, to name 2/3 of local TDC members in 67 counties.
This would appear to be unconstitutional under the non-delegation doctrine: GAETZ is a lawyer, a graduate of the law school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and should know better.
I welcome the support of Messrs. Irving Kass, Richard Goldman and Andrew Witt for protecting the integrity of our local government's Tourist Development Council. Here's the article in The Record:
Tourism officials opposed to bed tax proposal
Local tourism officials are concerned about a state representative’s pitch to put more local tourism dollars in the state’s hands and remove some local control over an appointed board.
State Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, proposed bringing 20 percent of tourist development tax revenue to Visit Florida — which is a state organization that promotes tourism, according to the Times-Union.
Gaetz brought the issue up before the Finance and Tax Committee, which he chairs.
Among other things, the idea calls for allowing up to 10 percent of bed tax dollars to be used for law enforcement services related to tourism, according to the Times-Union.
The plan would also allow the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to appoint some [2/3] members of county tourist development councils. Members of the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council are currently appointed by the County Commission.
Gaetz called the proposal a work in progress.
Some St. Johns County officials said they are opposed to the idea.
“I’m opposed to anything that takes local control away,” said Irving Kass, owner of the St. George Inn and member of the Tourist Development Council. “I believe that the people in the market know ... what’s best [for] St. Johns County, and we shouldn’t rely on people outside the market making those decisions.”
Kass said while he thinks Visit Florida is a great organization, the money is better managed locally because the people here already know the market and how to advertise it.
The St. Johns County Tourist Development Council promotes tourism in the county through programs funded by the “bed tax,” which is paid by overnight visitors to the county in hotel or motel rooms, campground spaces, condominiums, apartments and even private home rentals that are rented for six months or less.
The county-wide tax is 4 percent and brought in more than $8.6 million in the last fiscal year, according to the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council. Funds are used for marketing the county for tourism, as well as for grants to events that promote tourism such as the St. Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival.
Under Gaetz’s plan, more than $1 million of that revenue would have gone to Visit Florida in the last fiscal year, according to the council.
Gaetz told the committee his plan came in part from a desire to get a dedicated funding stream for Visit Florida. The plan needs approval from one or more committees and then the House before being considered by the Senate, if Gaetz introduces it as a bill, according to the Times-Union.
He could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
While the future of the idea is undetermined, local officials are not waiting.
Richard Goldman, executive director of the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra, & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau, said he and others in the tourism industry are gathering opposition to the idea. Goldman said the proposal would reduce the budget and effectiveness of the VCB and other agencies, and Goldman said having the restaurant and lodging association in charge of some appointments “removes the county’s authority over who should sit in those seats and who should ... advise it in tourist development taxes.”
Goldman also spoke to the County Commission on Tuesday as well as Andrew Witt, executive director of the St. Johns Cultural Council. Both of them urged the commission to oppose the idea. The commission is expected to review the issue and discuss it further.
sponger2 12/03/15 - 08:43 am 208.6 million a year.
That's right, 8.6 million a year brought in by the "bed tax" which locals should be excluded from paying. I say leave the money here. Want to know why? The tourist economy is so robust that many locals avoid the area, with parking fees and traffic. But 8.6 million? Looks like I just found an existing revenue stream that will build help build schools every year without picking the pockets of the taxpayer. If only I knew! I hope the fresh meat candidates read this before they sign up to run for office in the next election cycle. Any nay vote on this one from greedy merchants?

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