The Florida state legislature—both its House of Representatives and its Senate— was scheduled to convene its regular session on March 7, with no one really certain that the state’s tourism promotion organization, Visit Florida (it is a public-private partnership) will survive the 60-days that legislators are meet.
In the two-and-a-half months leading up to the convening of the legislature, Visit Florida’s top four officials lost their jobs (primarily due to a highly visible level of indignation and controversy over the state agency’s refusal to open its books on a contract it had with a Miami rapper, “Pitbull,” to promote the state) as different state assembly members and state senators outdid one another in their proposals to punish the agency, finally agreeing to eliminate it.
Declaring that the state should not be in the business of doing the type of promotion that the private sector should do on its own, legislators agreed on a bill that would eliminate both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida—the latter being a public-private partnership aimed at promoting the state both in the U.S. and internationally.
During the run-up to the start of the legislative session, Florida’s travel and tourism industry fought furiously against the elimination and, following weeks of intensive lobbying, key legislators announced that there would be separate votes on eliminating Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. As well, another measure would keep Visit Florida alive, but at a vastly reduced level of funding: $25 million annually vs. the $78 million it had before. Also, this new Visit Florida bill calls for more stringent terms that would require it to raise more of its own cash. Although the agency could negotiate with the legislature over the amount of taxpayer dollars it receives, it would have to match those dollars with privately generated funds
Florida Gov. Rick Scott would like to keep both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida alive, but it seems that—if one had to wager on the issue—it would be safer bet to predict that Visit Florida will manage to survive.