Florida in focus: After ‘hard and messy’ battle, Visit Florida faces new problems

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Posted: Aug 03, 2017 1:00 PM

Tampa Bay Times: After ‘hard and messy’ battle, Visit Florida faces new problems

Weeks after Gov. Rick Scott struck a compromise with House Speaker Richard Corcoran to impose a list of new regulations on Visit Florida in return for its $76 million budget, the marketing of one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations is in serious disarray. You wouldn’t know if from the governor’s frequent references to record visitors, but Visit Florida has plenty of problems.

Tormented by fiscal uncertainty during the legislative session, several high-level tourism officials simply quit and moved on, forcing Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson to undertake a reorganization plan and to scramble to seek applicants for key jobs. At the same time, a dozen local tourism programs said goodbye, severing their partnerships with Visit Florida when the new fiscal year began July 1 rather than comply with the many new trransparency requirements.

“We have not renewed our partnership as we often would do,” said Visit Tampa Bay spokesman Patrick Harrison.  “We still don’t have a clear idea as to quite what the new regulations mean. We’re kind of in a wait-and-see pattern.”

Harrison said Visit Tampa Bay interprets the new law to require local tourism board members, who serve without pay but who also have full-time jobs in the private sector, to disclose their income (the bill requires disclosure of “employee and board member salary and benefit details from public and private funds.”) Said Harrison: “That is one of the concerns.”

Bay News 9: Florida’s back-to-school tax holiday begins Aug. 4

Get ready to shop and save. The back-to-school tax holiday is just around the corner.

The holiday runs Aug. 4-6, allowing Floridians to buy school supplies ($15 or less per item), clothing ($60 or less per item) and other items tax-free.

A change from last year: Computers are back on the list of tax-exempt items.

Floridians stand to save $33 million in taxes during the three-day weekend, according experts’ estimates. The state sales tax is 6 percent.

Florida Times-Union: Uber ride service in growing rift with Jacksonville Aviation Authority over fees for pickups at airport

Uber personal ride service officials are trying to hammer out a deal for continued customer pickups at the Jacksonville International Aiport while driving down stipulated fees charged by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.

Uber Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani sent a memo to JAA CEO Steven Grossman on Wednesday demanding fees that the JAA is requiring for passenger transportation pickup be modified. The JAA is requiring that by Aug. 7, Uber and other personal ride services pay a $3.25 fee for each trip made to the airport when they pick up passengers or such services will be prohibited. That’s more than the fee charged for taxi cabs, which pay $2.50 per ride.

“Over the last six months, we have worked hard to reach agreement with the authority’s staff on an operating agreement …,” Moshkani said in his letter. “Unfortunately, authority staff has refused to budge on its position that TNCs [transportation network companies] must pay more than the incumbent taxi cab provider.”

JAA officials acknowledge a deal is in the works for personal transportation services and don’t want to discuss negotiations publicly.