Economic Development and Tourism Development Accountability (Oppose – Mandate)

Economic Development and Tourism Development Accountability (Oppose – Mandate)

CS/CS/HB 3 (Grant, M.) was significantly amended in the House Ways and Means Committee on January 9. The bill defines economic development agencies to include public agencies, including cities, and third-party organizations that receive public funds and are engaged in economic development activities. The new definition of economic development activities includes, among other things, direct financial incentives, indirect financial incentives, fee or tax-based incentives, and below-market leases or deeds for real property. The bill provides new operational standards for economic development agencies that include financial disclosure requirements of directors, officers and board members; procedures for handling conflicts of interest; salary limitations for board members and staff; and travel restrictions for economic development agency members. Finally, the bill contains significant transparency measures, including reporting requirements associated with contracts and audit requirements. 

CS/SB 1714 (Perry) specifies reporting, contractual and accountability requirements for “economic development agencies” and “tourism promotion agencies” that engage in economic development and tourism promotion on behalf of local government's entities. The bill imposes the following measures on economic development agencies: 

• Requires board member financial and conflict of interest disclosures; 

• Prohibits compensation for board members; 

• Limits the amount of economic development agency employee compensation from public funds to the amount paid to the chief executive officer of the local government; 

• Requires compliance with state per diem and travel expense requirements; 

• Specifies ethics provisions and gift prohibitions; 

• Limits lodging expenses; 

• Requires that all contracts contain statutorily specified information and provisions; 

• Requires that contracts valued at $250,000 or more be submitted to the board of the appropriate local government, and be published on that entity’s website; 

• Requires the submittal of specified financial information to local governing boards; 

• Requires the posting of specified contract, meeting and financial information; 

• Provides that any contract or agreement required by the bill are public records; 

• Requires that agencies and the Department of Economic Opportunity maintain and provide online access to information; 

• Provides that agencies that fail to comply with certain transparency and accountability requirements may not receive or expend public funds until becoming compliant; 

• Requires auditor general audits of such agencies, and provides authority for doing so; and 

• Provides for a first-degree misdemeanor for willful noncompliance. 

The bill imposes the following measures on tourism promotion agencies: 

• Requires board members to disclose conflicts of interest; 

• Provides that board members serve without compensation; 

• Limits the amount of tourism promotion employee compensation from public funds to the amount paid to the chief executive officer of the local government entity; 

• Requires that agency contracts must contain specified information; 

• Requires tourism promotion agencies to submit to the local government a yearly report detailing public and private financial data; and 

• Provides that tourism promotion agencies that fail to comply with the transparency requirements may not receive or expend public funds until becoming compliant. 

The bill also enacts contract approval and additional reporting requirements for county governing boards that impose tourist development taxes, and modifies existing reporting requirements for entities that partner with VISIT FLORIDA or Enterprise Florida, Inc. (Cook)