Issues of Interest

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION The GOP has picked Jacksonville to host the Republican National Convention keynote events in August. The convention’s official business meetings will take place in Charlotte. Portions of the convention events were moved to Florida after the governor of North Carolina expressed concerns about a potential spread of COVID at the larger events.

TOURISM COVID-19 has dramatically impacted tourism in Florida. During the first quarter of 2020, approximately 31.95 million people visited the state compared to 35.79 million visitors during the first quarter in 2019, a drop of 10.7 percent. Orlando International Airport passenger traffic was down 10.8 percent and Miami International Airport was down 13.1 percent for the quarter. Charter airline Miami Air International has filed for bankruptcy. However, since the end of May, beaches have opened, along with vacation rentals in most counties and, as we outlined above, theme parks are slowly resuming operations. VISIT Florida has re-opened their welcome centers located at the state line along I-10 and I-75 and plans to re-open the one at I-95 once the state line checkpoint shuts down.

GENETICALLY ALTERED MOSQUITOES The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an experimental use permit to a British lab to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys this summer. According to Oxitech, when the GMO males are released and mate with wild females, their female offspring die.

FLORIDA COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence is asking a court to force two insurance companies to cover costs resulting from a state lawsuit against them. The Miami Herald discovered that the nonprofit organization paid its former CEO, Tiffany Carr, more than $756,000 a year, prompting an investigation and lawsuit.

CITRUS The Florida Department of Citrus added $277,000 to an ongoing digital ad campaign aimed at increasing orange juice sales. Most of the funding came from employee travel that was cancelled due to COVID-19. Additionally, the Florida Citrus Commission has asked staff members to include in their June budget proposal the impacts of raising the per-box tax on oranges from the current 7 cents to 12 cents. The Citrus Commission approved a $250,000 contract with VISIT Florida to start offering juice on July 1st at welcome centers.

TIMBER INDUSTRY Florida signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to administer $380.7 million in grant funding for Florida’s timber industry due to Hurricane Michael damage. State officials will work with USDA to create a plan to distribute these funds. North Florida producers may apply to the USDA Emergency Forest Restoration Program