Driven by efforts from Miami and the Tampa Bay region, Florida is fast becoming a destination for the blockchain and financial technology industries; However, state legislation regarding cryptocurrency is still in its infancy.
While much of the recent attention on state legislation has focused on the anti-vaccination laws that emerged from the special session, Republican lawmakers have also tabled laws to create a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies in Florida. St. Petersburg Senator Jeff Brandes tabled an almost identical bill earlier this year, which went unanimously through the House of Representatives before eventually dying in the Senate.
Senator Jason Brodeur took up Brandes’ concern for the Senate draft for this session (SB 486) and Rep. Vance Alouopis will again sponsor the House version. Brandes said that catalyst Legislation essentially starts with the basics and tries to create basic definitions to provide a clear path for further rules and regulations.
“People in the legislature have a hard time understanding cryptocurrencies,” Brandes said. “So we’re trying to get them to at least lay down basic definitions.
“Florida already has cryptocurrencies. We are already using it; we are already investing in it; People are already doing transactions based on it. We’re just trying to define what cryptocurrency is. So when we legislate in the future, we will have common definitions. “
Much of the confusion in the state legislature stems from a 2019 Florida ruling against Espinoza in which the court disregarded Office of Financial Regulation guidelines and found that people who own bitcoin cannot use their personal cryptocurrency without a license can sell. In essence, this would treat private owners as if they were brokers.
This judgment was based on an interpretation of what defines a “money sender”. The new legislation would restrict the definition to “an intermediary who is able to unilaterally carry out a transaction or prevent it for an indefinite period”. This includes platforms such as Coinbase, which enable cryptocurrency transactions and at the same time exclude private individuals from licensing obligations.
Brandes also believes that licensing requirements should only extend to institutions, noting that the court’s ruling put little stopping people from selling their bitcoins.
“I can guarantee you that most bitcoin sellers in Florida are selling these without a license,” Brandes said. “And most of them never get prosecuted.”
Brandes declined to give his personal opinion on the cryptocurrency and instead said, “Whether I like it or not, it’s there. It will change the world. “
The Senator adds that people obviously see crypto as an investment or a hedge against inflation, and as long as people believe that something has value and is easily transferable, it is a viable form of currency.
Brandes is by no means the only local elected representative who believes in the power and utility of blockchain and cryptocurrency. In early November, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced at the Florida Bitcoin & Blockchain Summit, along with Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez, that she would accept part of her salary in Bitcoin.
Not long after Castor’s announcement, Tampa City Councilor Guido Maniscalco took the stage and also expressed the need for lawmakers to recognize the new currency and embrace the future economy.
“We hear that Bitcoin is the future, crypto is the future, I heard that 10 years ago,” said Maniscalco at the summit. “The future is now; the future is here. That’s how the world works. “
Brandes said that crypto and blockchain will help boost both the local and global economies. He added that a financial transformation is taking place and Florida is an ecosystem where big financial firms want to thrive. He credits the tax environment and the quality of life that have drawn fintech industry leaders to the area, and believes that creating a framework for cryptocurrencies is a key factor in keeping the momentum going.
“That’s why we’re doing this,” said Brandes. “To acknowledge and support the conversation and encourage companies to settle here. The definitions and the right basics help because they then know the rules. “
Brandes said Brodeur’s bill was not much different from the one he tabled in January, saying the only reason his legislation never made it out of the Senate was because of political conduct.
“I went sideways with the leadership last year and most of my laws were dropped,” he said. “They tend to like compliance, and when someone gets up and has a different perspective on it and is willing to refer them to it, they get mad.”
Brandes expects that the legislature will vote on SB 486 at the beginning of December or the beginning of the new year. He also foresees further legislation on blockchain and crypto in the coming years, “but for now we need to establish the basic definition that we will all use in the future.”
The sponsor of the new bill believes it is time for the state to catch up and establish itself as a leader in the field.
“States like Wyoming and Delaware have already taken the initiative and codified how this type of currency can be used,” Brodeur said in a statement announcing the filing. “Now is the time for Florida to join the 21stNS Century.”