A sign of the damage that can be done when bills with unintended consequences slip through to final passage, Gov. Rick Scott prioritized the repeal of one as his first bill signed into law during the 2013 Florida legislative session.
Flanked by consulates general from countries across three continents, Scott signed HB 7059 Tuesday, thus scratching a law off the books that would have required foreign visitors to get an international permit to drive in Florida.
The provision had incensed travelers, especially those from Canada who frequently visit the state for business or pleasure.
Florida is committed to being the No. 1 tourist destination in the world, and signing this bill into law will ensure that our international visitors continue to come to Florida, Scott said. Florida has had two consecutive years of record visitation to Florida, which has created thousands of jobs for Florida families.
International travelers accounted for nearly 15 percent of Floridas 87.3 million visitors recorded in 2011. Canada tops the list of foreign visitors at 3.3 million, followed by 1.5 million Brazilian and 1.3 million British tourists.
Tourists from all over the world should be able to visit our state and see everything we have to offer, said Rep. Daniel Davis, the bills sponsor. I thank Governor Scott for his support of this bill, and I am proud to join him in this bill-signing event.
Lawmakers had to act fast, as the ban could have also violated the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949), an international treaty to which the United States is a signatory. Such treaties pre-empt state laws that are in conflict with them.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, the bills co-sponsor, said, I am proud that Governor Scott joined the Legislature in supporting this bill. This new law will allow all visitors to enjoy what we take advantage of every day here in Florida, while also adding to our economy and supporting jobs for Floridians.
Showing the importance of the repeal to motorists, the AAA was also on hand at the signing, as was the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).
Kevin Bakewell, chief public affairs officer for AAA, welcomed travelers back, saying, "This repeal illustrates the state's commitment to remaining a top U.S. destination for international tourists, including our Canadian neighbors, many of whom call Florida their winter home."
According to Visit Florida, the Florida tourism industry welcomed nearly 14 million visitors from 181 countries who spent $15 billion in the state last year alone.
Effective immediately, Canadians in Florida can go back to doing what they have always been able to do drive with peace of mind in the Sunshine State using their provincial drivers license, said Jeff Walker, CAA vice president of public affairs. CAA is pleased that the voices of its members and others were listened to by state officials, and that the state of Florida has removed any uncertainty.
Anne Smith writes special to Sunshine State News.