Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a loud proponent for tech investments in South Florida, has quietly pushed legislation that could create the state's first meaningful financial regulations for cryptocurrency.
But the mayor whose pro-business agenda and campaign coffers have benefited handsomely from Miami's place in the tech spotlight might be striking out in Tallahassee.
The measure, which would pave the way for a wider use of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other such cryptocurrencies, and more clearly define how they fit into the existing financial system, passed the House last week in a unanimous vote.
But the legislation has stalled in the Senate during the final days of the legislative session. Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican sponsoring the bill in the Senate, said the bill is highly unlikely to pass this year. In a text message to a reporter, he said the bill's chances were "80% no."
Suarez, who believes the conversation is crucial to interests statewide and in Miami, where the mayor has led a sustained public relations effort to attract Silicon Valley investors to South Florida, said of the bill when contacted Monday by the Miami Herald: "We need this to be passed if we are to position ourselves as the state that is most innovative and fosters the most innovation."
The effort is dwindling after it gained traction and bipartisan support in the Florida House. The House bill sponsor, Rep. Vance Aloupis, who represents a stretch of Miami-Dade from Doral to Palmetto Bay, suggested the debate can carry over into the future because Florida has remained silent on regulating cryptocurrency, unlike other states.
"At the very least, it began a very important conversation that wasn't happening before in the capitol," Aloupis said in an interview with the Miami Herald on Tuesday.
"There's been a lot of confusion over how Florida was going to regulate cryptocurrency," Aloupis added. "The intention here was to write into statute the definition of virtual currency and begin to move into a direction of creating a regulatory structure of cryptocurrency."
The legislation has support from state regulators and private industry.
Florida's Office of Financial Regulation, a cabinet agency led by Commissioner Russell C. Weigel, III, was also involved in the legislative effort, according to disclosure forms. He said his staff got involved in the legislative effort because of a Miami-based Bitcoin money-laundering case. The case exposed a need for fixes in the statutes that regulate cryptocurrency, he said.