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The Florida Senate

2023 Florida Statutes (including 2023C)

State of Florida international offices; direct-support organization.
F.S. 288.012
288.012 State of Florida international offices; direct-support organization.The Legislature finds that the expansion of international trade and tourism is vital to the overall health and growth of the economy of this state. This expansion is hampered by the lack of technical and business assistance, financial assistance, and information services for businesses in this state. The Legislature finds that these businesses could be assisted by providing these services at State of Florida international offices. The Legislature further finds that the accessibility and provision of services at these offices can be enhanced through cooperative agreements or strategic alliances between private businesses and state, local, and international governmental entities.
(1) The department is authorized to:
(a) Establish and operate offices in other countries for the purpose of promoting trade and economic development opportunities of the state, and promoting the gathering of trade data information and research on trade opportunities in specific countries.
(b) Enter into agreements with governmental and private sector entities to establish and operate offices in other countries which contain provisions that may conflict with the general laws of the state pertaining to the purchase of office space, employment of personnel, and contracts for services. When agreements pursuant to this section are made which set compensation in another country’s currency, such agreements shall be subject to the requirements of s. 215.425, but the purchase of another country’s currency by the department to meet such obligations shall be subject only to s. 216.311.
(2) Each international office shall have in place an operational plan approved by the participating boards or other governing authority, a copy of which shall be provided to the department. These operating plans shall be reviewed and updated each fiscal year and shall include, at a minimum, the following:
(a) Specific policies and procedures encompassing the entire scope of the operation and management of each office.
(b) A comprehensive, commercial strategic plan identifying marketing opportunities and industry sector priorities for the country in which an international office is located.
(c) Provisions for access to information for Florida businesses related to trade leads and inquiries.
(d) Identification of new and emerging market opportunities for Florida businesses. This information shall be provided either free of charge or on a fee basis with fees set only to recover the costs of providing the information.
(e) Provision of access for Florida businesses to international trade assistance services provided by state and local entities, seaport and airport information, and other services identified by the department.
(f) Qualitative and quantitative performance measures for each office, including, but not limited to, the number of businesses assisted, the number of trade leads and inquiries generated, the number of international buyers and importers contacted, and the amount and type of marketing conducted.
(3) Each international office shall annually submit to the department a complete and detailed report on its activities and accomplishments during the previous fiscal year. The report must set forth information on:
(a) The number of Florida companies assisted.
(b) The number of inquiries received about investment opportunities in this state.
(c) The number of trade leads generated.
(d) The number of investment projects announced.
(e) The estimated U.S. dollar value of sales confirmations.
(f) The number of representation agreements.
(g) The number of company consultations.
(h) Barriers or other issues affecting the effective operation of the office.
(i) Changes in office operations which are planned for the current fiscal year.
(j) Marketing activities conducted.
(k) Strategic alliances formed with organizations in the country in which the office is located.
(l) Activities conducted with Florida’s other international offices.
(m) Any other information that the office believes would contribute to an understanding of its activities.
(4) The Department of Commerce, in connection with the establishment, operation, and management of any of its offices located in another country, is exempt from the provisions of ss. 255.21, 255.25, and 255.254 relating to leasing of buildings; ss. 283.33 and 283.35 relating to bids for printing; ss. 287.001-287.20 relating to purchasing and motor vehicles; and ss. 282.003-282.00515 and 282.702-282.7101 relating to communications, and from all statutory provisions relating to state employment.
(a) The department may exercise such exemptions only upon prior approval of the Governor.
(b) If approval for an exemption under this section is granted as an integral part of a plan of operation for a specified international office, such action shall constitute continuing authority for the department to exercise the exemption, but only in the context and upon the terms originally granted. Any modification of the approved plan of operation with respect to an exemption contained therein must be resubmitted to the Governor for his or her approval. An approval granted to exercise an exemption in any other context shall be restricted to the specific instance for which the exemption is to be exercised.
(c) As used in this subsection, the term “plan of operation” means the plan developed pursuant to subsection (2).
(d) Upon final action by the Governor with respect to a request to exercise the exemption authorized in this subsection, the department shall report such action, along with the original request and any modifications thereto, to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives within 30 days.
(5) Where feasible and appropriate, international offices established and operated under this section may provide one-stop access to the economic development, trade, and tourism information, services, and programs of the state. Where feasible and appropriate, such offices may also be collocated with other international offices of the state.
(6)(a) The department shall establish and contract with a direct-support organization, organized as a nonprofit under chapter 617 and recognized under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, to carry out the provisions of this section; assist with the coordination of international trade development efforts; and assist in development and planning related to foreign investment, international partnerships, and other international business and trade development. The organization is exempt from paying fees under s. 617.0122.
(b) The direct-support organization shall act as the international trade and travel mission organization for the state, utilizing private sector and public sector expertise in collaboration with the department. The direct-support organization shall provide assistance and promotional support for international offices, trade and promotion, development and planning related to foreign investment, international partnerships, and other international business and trade development in conjunction with the department. The direct-support organization may coordinate and plan international trade missions, including setting up travel, arranging for participation by Florida businesses, and tracking data related to outcomes of the trade missions on behalf of the department. The organization shall comply with the per diem and travel expense provisions of s. 112.061.
(c)1. The direct-support organization shall be governed by a board of directors. The Secretary of Commerce, or his or her designee, shall serve as the ex officio, nonvoting executive director of the board. The Secretary of Commerce, or his or her designee, shall appoint seven board members, including a chair of the board. Appointed members must represent and reflect the state’s interest in international trade and development efforts and have experience or knowledge that will assist in development and planning related to foreign investment, international partnerships, and other international business and trade development. All appointments must be made by December 1, 2023.
2. Appointed members shall serve for a term of 4 years. A vacancy shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term in the same manner as the initial appointment. All members of the board are eligible for reappointment.
3. Members of the board of directors shall serve without compensation; however, the members may be reimbursed for reasonable, necessary, and actual travel expenses pursuant to s. 112.061.
4. The board of directors shall meet at least quarterly and at other times upon the call of the chair, and may use any method of telecommunications to conduct, or establish a quorum at, its meetings or the meetings of a subcommittee or other subdivision if the public is given proper notice of the telecommunications meeting and provided reasonable access to observe and, if appropriate, to participate. A majority of the total current membership of the board of directors constitutes a quorum of the board.
(d) The senior managers and members of the board of directors of the organization 1are subject to ss. 112.313(1)-(8), (10), (12), and (15); 112.3135; and 112.3143(2). For purposes of applying ss. 112.313(1)-(8), (10), (12), and (15); 112.3135; and 112.3143(2) to activities of the president and staff, those persons shall be considered public officers or employees and the corporation shall be considered their agency. The exemption set forth in s. 112.313(12) for advisory boards applies to the members of board of directors. Further, each member of the board of directors who is not otherwise required to file financial disclosures pursuant to s. 8, Art. II of the State Constitution or s. 112.3144, shall file disclosure of financial interests pursuant to s. 112.3145.
(e) The Legislature determines it is in the public interest and reflects the state’s public policy that the direct-support organization operate in the most open and accessible manner consistent with its public purposes. As such, its divisions, boards, and advisory councils, or similar entities created or managed by the organization, are subject to the provisions of chapter 119 relating to public records and those provisions of chapter 286 relating to public meetings and records.
(f) The department and the direct-support organization must enter into a performance-based contract, pursuant to s. 20.60, that includes:
1. Specification of the approval of the department, the powers and duties of the direct-support organization, and rules with which the direct-support organization must comply. The department must approve the articles of incorporation and bylaws of the direct-support organization.
2. Authorization by the department, without charge, for appropriate use of property, facilities, and personnel of the department by the direct-support organization for approved purposes. The contract must prescribe the conditions with which the organization must comply in order to use property, facilities, or personnel of the department. Such conditions must provide for budget and audit review and oversight by the department. However, the department may not authorize the use of property, facilities, or personnel of the department by the direct-support organization that does not provide equal employment opportunities to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin.
3. Conditions for termination of the contract by the department, at any time, if the department determines that the direct-support organization no longer meets the objectives of this section.
(g) The direct-support organization may conduct programs and activities; raise funds; request and receive grants, gifts, and bequests of money; acquire, receive, hold, invest, and administer, in its own name, securities, funds, objects of value, or other property, real or personal; and make expenditures to or for the direct or indirect benefit of the organization if such furthers the duties and mission of the organization and is in the best interests of this state.
(h) The direct-support organization may accept grants or other donations in order to facilitate trade missions and conduct other related international activities. Funds of the organization must be held in a separate depository account in the name of the organization, subject to the provisions of the contract with the department, and must be used in a manner consistent with the goals of the organization. Any funds and property held by the organization shall revert to the department if the organization is no longer approved to operate by the department, fails to maintain its tax-exempt status, or ceases to exist.
(i) The department must determine and annually certify that the direct-support organization is complying with the terms of the contract and is doing so consistent with the goals and purposes of the organization and in the best interests of the state. The organization is required to annually submit to the department its federal Internal Revenue Service Application for Recognition of Exemption form (Form 1023) and federal Internal Revenue Service Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax form (Form 990); an annual budget for approval by the department; an annual financial audit in accordance with s. 215.981; and an annual itemized accounting of the total amount of travel and entertainment expenses.
(j) The fiscal year of the direct-support organization begins on July 1 of each year and ends on June 30 of the following year. By August 15 of each fiscal year, the department shall submit a proposed operating budget for the direct-support organization, including amounts to be expended on international offices, trade missions, events, other operating capital outlay, salaries and benefits for each employee, and contributions and expenditures, to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(k) This subsection is repealed October 1, 2028, unless reviewed and saved from repeal by the Legislature.
History.s. 1, ch. 80-401; s. 1, ch. 82-115; ss. 3, 6, ch. 83-252; ss. 9, 10, ch. 88-201; ss. 1, 2, 3, ch. 89-150; s. 112, ch. 90-201; ss. 40, 44, ch. 90-335; s. 53, ch. 91-5; s. 9, ch. 92-277; s. 219, ch. 95-148; s. 30, ch. 96-320; s. 14, ch. 97-278; s. 80, ch. 99-251; s. 4, ch. 2000-208; s. 58, ch. 2001-61; s. 49, ch. 2010-5; s. 130, ch. 2011-142; s. 56, ch. 2011-213; s. 11, ch. 2013-39; s. 11, ch. 2013-42; s. 30, ch. 2016-10; s. 5, ch. 2020-93; s. 34, ch. 2023-173.
1Note.The words “of the organization” preceding the word “are” were deleted by the editors to eliminate a repetition of those words.