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Gruters pitches reforms for embattled agencies

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State Rep. Joe Gruters, the only Republican who voted this month against a House proposal that would abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, introduced a bill Monday aimed at reforming the agencies.

The proposal (HB 889), which calls for more transparency from the economic-development and tourism-marketing agencies, was written with input from Gov. Rick Scott's office, Gruters said.

The bill was filed a day before the House Appropriations Committee will hear a bill (HB 7005) that seeks to eliminate the two agencies, along with a number of other state programs.

"A lot of people, including some that voted against (HB 7005), said they wanted to talk about reforming the system," Gruters, R-Sarasota, said. "People want this arm of the government to continue on. This makes everything more accountable and in line with other (state) agencies."

When the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee voted 10-5 on Feb. 8 to back the 172-page bill that would abolish the agencies, some members said they expected the proposal to change if the agencies could quickly show they can be more transparent and focus more on small counties and small businesses.

Meanwhile, Scott continued his assault Monday on House members who have supported abolishing the agencies.

After stops last week across the state where he called out local representatives for their votes on the issue, Scott on Monday wrote an op-ed criticizing the House for "playing politics with families' jobs."

While House leaders have called economic-incentive funding "corporate welfare," Scott has requested $85 million that would go to Enterprise Florida for business-recruitment incentives and $76 million for tourism marketing as part of next year's budget.

"This is no time to stand still," Scott wrote in the op-ed. "In business, you are either moving forward or you are moving backward. The Florida House is currently planning to take our state backward. I will fight to stop them, and so should you."