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Visit Florida's future still open to debate in legislature

St. George Island was busy with beach goers on Sunday, May 30, 2021.
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.

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Valerie Crowder is a freelance reporter based in Panama City, Florida. Before moving to Florida, she covered politics and education for Public Radio East in New Bern, North Carolina. While at PRE, she was also a fill-in host during All Things Considered. She got her start in public radio at WAER-FM in Syracuse, New York, where she was a part-time reporter, assistant producer and host. She has a B.A. in newspaper online journalism and political science from Syracuse University. When she’s not reporting the news, she enjoys reading classic fiction and thrillers, hiking with members of the Florida Trail Association and doing yoga.