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House to address Visit Florida as separate issue

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House leaders Monday filed a stand-alone bill that seeks changes at Visit Florida, detaching the issue from another measure that would abolish the economic-development agency Enterprise Florida.

"Dividing the issues into separate bills allows for more engaged and meaningful debate while putting Visit Florida on a path to real reform," House Commerce Chairman Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, said in a letter announcing the move.

Several members of the House Appropriations Committee last week expressed concerns about lumping the futures of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida in the same bill.

The proposal to end Enterprise Florida, along with the Office of Film & Entertainment, the Florida Small Business Development Center Network, Florida's international offices and several other programs, will remain in the initial bill (HB 7005).

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott have battled for weeks about funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida --- and whether the public-private agencies should be abolished.

In his proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, Scott requested $76 million for Visit Florida and $85 million for economic incentives at Enterprise Florida.

But Corcoran has objected to spending tax dollars on the agencies.

Diaz's letter said that funding for Visit Florida would be addressed in the budget, rather than in the stand-alone bill.

Both bills are expected to be addressed by the Rules & Policy Committee on March 6, the day before the 60-day annual legislative session begins.