In politics, there is strength in numbers. NAIOP of Florida, serving as the voice of commercial real estate, hosted its annual state Day at the Capitol last week. The event brings together members across the state, which altogether represent more than 1,000 members of NAIOP chapters in Florida.
NAIOP members spent time in meetings with lawmakers and walking the halls of legislative power to advocate on issues of importance to commercial real estate, including:
- Regulations that are friendly to business
- Feasible sustainability policies
- Fair tax rates
- Economic prosperity
During our time in Tallahassee, NAIOP members heard from several state leaders. We met with House Ways and Means Chair Bryan Avila, Senate Finance and Tax Chair George Gainer, Senate Regulated Industries Chair Joe Gruters, and House Commerce Chair Mike La Rosa, among others. In addition, Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears spoke with us about reducing government bureaucracy and establishing a “48-hour” rule in issuing licenses.
Following NAIOP of Georgia’s lead, we are spearheading an effort to implement what’s called the FAST Act. Representative Scott Plakon filed a bill last week that would improve the construction climate by incentivizing local governments to meet permitting deadlines. If a government entity misses its own deadline, thus delaying the approval process, the fees it could collect would decline. This structure and certainty would allow developers to better plan their projects.
Lawmakers are also considering sensible bills to reform permit fees. Identical bills in each house would require the governing bodies of counties and municipalities to post their permit and inspection fee schedules and building permit and inspection utilization reports on their websites, and also to require certain governing bodies of local governments to post their building permit and inspection utilization reports on their websites by a specified date. This law would make it easier to understand the permitting process and to plan out new projects. The law is expected to pass this year.
Another key issue for NAIOP members is the business rent tax. Florida is the only state that imposes this tax, which puts businesses in the Sunshine State at a competitive disadvantage in attracting business to the state. We continue to support the elimination of the tax through incremental reductions. It was encouraging to hear that efforts are underway to establish a set burndown schedule so as to remove this issue from future negotiations.
Lawmakers are also moving forward with another NAIOP priority, enacting legislation to allow electronic signatures on commercial leases. A pair of bills, again one in each house, would specify requirements and standards for performance of such online notarizations, and require the Department of State to adopt rules in time for next year. This matters to CRE because Florida has especially strict witness and notarization requirements that can make it difficult for out-of-state tenants. The proposed law would make it easier to invest and do business in Florida.
Florida’s Day at the Capitol is one of many such events that NAIOP members will participate in throughout 2019. Last year, NAIOP members from 25 chapters made visits to their state capitals. It’s a way to remind state lawmakers of the importance of commercial real estate, and to encourage sound policy at the state level.
Across the country, NAIOP is growing its membership, and letting state policymakers know we count.
Yvonne Baker is president of NAIOP of Florida and Regional Managing Partner of Franklin Street.