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Visit Florida's future still open to debate in legislature

Overhead view of packed parking lot at a beach
Valerie Crowder
St. George Island was busy with beach goers on Sunday, May 30, 2021.

Florida lawmakers are moving toward extending the lifespan of the state’s marketing and tourism arm: Visit Florida. But the House and Senate still haven’t agreed on an expiration date — with the legislative session wrapping up next Friday.

Visit Florida is set to run out of funding in fall of 2023 — unless state lawmakers act before then. The Senate voted last month to extend the not-for-profit-corporation’s lifespan to 2031, while the House is keeping with its proposal to set the expiration year at 2028. On Tuesday, House lawmakers amended the bill that passed in the Senate last month.

Republican Rep. Linda Chaney filed the amendment, shortening Visit Florida's sunset date. Speaking on the House floor, she explained that the not-for-profit corporation's return on investment is $3.27 for every $1 spent on "marketing efforts to promote tourism, including a number of rural county marketing initiatives."

Chaney said that in some cases Visit Florida covers 80% of the media costs and the entirety of production costs to promote the state's tourism attractions.

The amended bill will get a floor vote in the House Wednesday. If it passes, then it will go back to the Senate — as the two chambers work to negotiate an agreement.

The two sides are also working on a plan to fund Visit Florida. During Tuesday morning's budget negotiations, the House proposed a one-time trust fund allocation of $50 million, while the Senate would make those dollars recurring.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.