No Florida Internet Taxes

   Statement by Blake A. Wilson, Executive Vice President, Florida Chamber of Commerce On Passage of CS/CS/SB 404/414 Blocking Taxation of Internet as a Telecommunication Service

   "When Florida announced it was going to be the first state to put a toll-booth on the information superhighway, it was the taxing message heard 'round the world'."

   "Now, the Florida legislature has sent the world another message - a very positive one : 'Florida is a state that is committed to ensuring a warm climate for high-tech industry. Come on down.' This was the right thing to do. The bill passed yesterday is an example of the kind of pro-jobs, pro-future legislation that is sending the right kind of signal for those who are looking to bring jobs and opportunity to the Sunshine State and to those who are looking to expand existing operations within our borders."

   "The legislature took the first step, last year - and Governor Lawton Chiles followed through with an executive order to create a Governor's Telecommunication Task Force to find solutions. Senate President Toni Jennings and House Speaker Dan Webster demonstrated their commitment to ensuring a positive economic climate and for creating well-paying, productive jobs with their leadership in backing this important legislation. With their work, legislative sponsors, Sen. Fred Dudley (R-Cape Coral) and Sen. Jim Scott (R-Ft. Lauderdale) and Rep. Bob Starks (R-Casselberry) and Rep. Lindsay Harrington (R-Punta Gorda) sent the clear signal that Florida needs to encourage, not stifle growth of high-tech business. The business community values their leadership on this important legislation."

   "We also appreciate the technical background provided by the Florida Internet Service Providers Association (FISPA) and the many small businesses who responded to our fax alerts and web broadcasts for help."

   The Internet Tax issue began almost two years ago when a small Internet service provider Mercury Communications in Gainesville, FL telephoned the Florida Chamber's Helpline asking whether or not he was liable for taxes on the Internet service he provided. A subsequent Technical Assistance Advisory issued by the Department of Revenue called for taxing the Internet as a telecommunications service and spurred a mammoth grassroots effort, launched by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, reaching literally thousands of small business owners and individuals across the state to enlist their support for "banning the net tax."

   The Florida Chamber last year rolled out over 5,000 fax and Internet e-mail responses from businesses and individuals around the state calling for a ban on the tax. The faxes were copied on green paper, taped together on 30 foot strips and spread out in rows outside the capitol in Tallahassee in a "Silent Rally" against the Internet Tax. Each fax represented an individual who couldn't come personally to Tallahassee to attend the rally, but who wanted their voice heard.

   The legislature took similar action last year, but the issue was included in a bill loaded with other tax issues that was vetoed by the Governor. The Governor, however, demonstrated his commitment to the Internet matter by immediately issuing an executive order blocking collection of the tax by the Department of Revenue until July 1, 1997, to allow a Governor's Task Force to make legislative recommendations. Those recommendations against taxing the Internet are included in this bill.

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