FLORIDA — Will it stay or will it go?
- Visit Florida's funding may end in October if not renewed
- Organization's CEO asking for $76M in funding
- Visit Florida paid Pitbull $1M for video, drawing criticism
- RELATED: Visit Florida paid Pitbull $1 million to promote tourism
Visit Florida, the state's tourism agency, has seen its fair share of controversy in the past few years. Those controversies put the agency on probation.
Now, without a new bill in the Florida Legislature, Visit Florida will go away later this year.
The new CEO of Visit Florida, former State Sen. Dana Young, appeared before the Senate Commerce and Tourism committee Monday, which is considering a new bill to remove Visit Florida's repeal date, SB 178.
That decision was struck largely behind closed doors, which prompted outrage from many people across the state.
Then-Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature later signed into law that a new set of transparency rules needed to go into effect. Those rules required members of Visit Florida's board of directors to disclose their personal incomes. Because of this, a dozen tourism bureaus cut ties with Visit Florida following the decision.
Young convinced the Senate committee that changes made since then meet the needs of Florida lawmakers and taxpayers, and the agency is too important to shut down.
"Everything we do is done with full transparency," Young said. "In fact, on our website, contracts, expenditures, salaries and pretty much anything else the public would want to know about Visit Florida is available with a click of a button."
The committee passed the bill unanimously. It now has two more committee appearances before it reaches the Senate floor for a final vote.
A similar bill in the House has not been assigned any committee hearings yet.
Young is requesting $76 million to fund Visit Florida, which is the same amount Gov. Ron DeSantis requested in his 2019-2020 budget proposal.
In Monday's posted presentation (page 38-59), Visit Florida touts record-breaking success. It cited tourism numbers from 2017, writing that 118.8 million people visited the state from 191 countries.