Florida Retail Federation Backing Tax Holidays, Proposals To Expand Pharmacist Duties

Jan 28, 2014

The Florida Retail Federation is gearing up for the 2014 legislative session by throwing its support behind a series of proposed sales tax holidays and proposals to expand the duties of pharmacists.

Vice President Randy Miller says the group is behind a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday pitched by Governor Rick Scott.

“This is the most wildly-popular holiday we encounter. People come out from all over, we bring people in from other states. It’s a great thing for citizens to be able to save on clothing and materials and supplies.”

Florida Retail Federation is also backing a sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies and another for energy efficient appliances, proposals also pitched by Scott and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. But others question the economics behind such measures.

There actually is some evidence that retailers may not offer quite as good a sale as they were going to offer because that sales tax holiday creates a lot of hype, gets a lot of people in the door—and so they’re sales don’t have to be as good as they would be otherwise," says Carl Davis is the spokesman for the Institute on Taxation and Policy.

He says the tradeoff to such holidays is a drop in state revenues—the state loses out on collecting dollars that could otherwise be spent on roads, schools and other areas of the budget.  And he says the people who may need the tax holiday the most—low-income people  living paycheck-to-paycheck – may not get to take full advantage of it:

“They’re not always in a great position to move around their shopping schedule to match with these sales tax holidays. And so, in a lot of cases, they’re the people getting left behind...and so, it’s not particularly targeted at the people who the sales tax hits the  most heavily.” 

Davis adds, tax holidays are politically popular: they makes politicians look good, and give retailers lots of advertising.  He says the state may fare better through another Florida Retail Foundation legislative agenda item: closing an internet sales tax loophole for out-of-state businesses.

Meanwhile, a battle between healthcare groups and retailers is cuing up again this year as FRF pushes two proposals that could anger doctors and pharmacists. The retailers want to expand the number of pharmacy technicians a pharmacist can oversee from 3-6: a move pharmacists argue leads to more errors and puts patients at risk. Rick McAllister, president of the Retail Federation disputes that assertion, and says he’s feeling good about the proposals chances in the legislature this year.

"I think education is part of the process and associations aren’t relationship or information based. We spend a lot of time helping people understand what this really means, and how it affects citizens. I think we’re making good progress on helping people understand.”

A similar bill last year died in the legislature. Meanwhile, FRF is also lobbying to expand the number of vaccines pharmacists can administer. FRF says letting pharmacists administer vaccines is a big help in rural areas where access to doctors can be limited. Physicians say they have concerns about patient care and giving vaccination power to pharmacists, who do not have the same training as doctors.

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