A new bill filed Thursday morning by Sen. Jeff Brandes would expand the field of projects that local governments can spend tourism tax dollars on to include public works infrastructure that would assist tourism.

Filed SB 658, the bill would open the door for local governments to spend tourism dollars on roads, bridges, water and sewer lines, and possibly public transit systems — but only if the local tourism development council recommends the projects as necessary to promote tourism, and the county commission agrees.

Currently state law allows bed tax dollars collected by hoteliers to be spent on a limited number of concrete venues such as publicly-owned convention centers, sports arenas and auditoriums, as well as a few privately-owned facilities such as aquariums and museums.

The law also allows improvements of a limited number of tourism amenities like beaches.

Brandes’ bill would expand that to public works infrastructure, making expansions of tourism districts possible. It allows the money to be spent to acquire, construct, extend, enlarge, remodel, repair, improve, maintain, operate, or finance capital improvements with life expectancies of five years or more for projects including transportation, sanitary sewer, solid waste, drainage, potable water, and pedestrian facilities, along with possible others.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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