December 5, 2016
The 2016 Annual Conference held at FSU’s Turnbull Center in Tallahassee featured a full agenda of impressive speakers and topics. AIF members filled the room to hear from the top echelon of Florida government and to see several panel discussions.
New Member Panel
This panel featured two new members of the Florida House, Rep. Randy Fine (HD 53) and Rep. Ben Diamond (HD 68). The panel was moderated by AIF Chair of the Board and former House member, Trey Traviesa. Both Diamond and Fine gave examples of issues that they would like to tackle during their time in the legislature and education was cited as being important to both. Rep. Fine also had a strong opinion on the current health care system. He described the health care market as a “disaster” and attributed the situation in part to government involvement.
Workers’ Compensation Panel
Without a doubt the #1 issue for the business community in the upcoming session will be workers’ compensation due to recent actions by the courts which have resulted in a major spike in costs for employers. AIF CEO Tom Feeney talked about how these high rates will curtail the state’s ability to increase jobs in Florida as other states looking to keep employers will surely use this uncertainty against Florida. Bill Herrle of NFIB expressed how debilitating the high rates would be to small businesses and ripple throughout the economy.
Constitution Revision Commission
Every 20 years a critical panel is created to deal with changes to our state’s Constitution. It is called the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) and many consider the work of this panel some of the most important actions and ideas that Florida will deal with in the coming months. Judge Paul Hawkes, who was a member of the last CRC panel in 1996, gave conference attendees an overview of how the CRC Is put together, its possible scope and its overall effect on Florida’s Constitution.
Governor Rick Scott
The Governor was a big hit as he took a few moments to address the audience and give an update on the progress the state has made in the last 6 years. Increased jobs, which has been a major focus of the Governor, was a major topic of discussion when talking about the successes that Florida is currently enjoying. He also made an emphasis of discussing funding for the 15 seaports in Florida. The Governor has steadily pushed for increased funding for the ports and was successful last year in getting over $15 million to the Florida Seaport Transportation Economic Development Program.
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam
Commissioner Putnam spoke on numerous issues at the AIF Annual Conference. He spoke at length regarding the importance of the agriculture industry in our state. This industry has a $120 billion positive economic impact on our state. While the industry is robust, the Commissioner reinforced the need for continued research to eradicate citrus greening, which is hitting the state’s citrus industry hard. Putnam also spoke on the benefits of the state's Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which is designed to protect important agricultural lands through the acquisition of permanent agricultural land conservation easements. In addition, Commissioner Putnam called for meaningful tort reform in our state, pointing out that Florida has one of the most litigious environments in the United States.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran
Speaker Corcoran addressed the group on who the “real enemy” of the business community is, stating that it is the “seven individuals who wear black robes,” not the House, Senate or Governor. His solution to combat this issue is to appoint members to the Constitution Revision Commission panel that support term limits for those seven individuals in black robes, the Florida Supreme Court Justices. With the detrimental outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision on the increase of workers’ compensation rates, the business community hopes that the Speaker’s solution will help. He also spoke on new House rules that he has implemented and explained that these changes were made to keep House members accountable.
Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC President Sarah Bascom moderated "Covering the Florida Legislature in Today's Media Landscape" with the following panelists: Peter Schorsch with Florida Politics/SaintPetersBlog, Gary Fineout with the Associated Press, Brian Burgess with The Capitolist and Matt Dixon with Politico. Among the topics discussed with these Capitol Press Corps members were the 2016 Presidential Election, covering the state Capitol, top issues for the 2017 Legislative Session and media relations tips for the business community.
CFO Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer Atwater addressed the crowd on several issues that fall under the purview of his agency. He spoke on Florida’s excellent AAA bond rating. He explained the importance of these when it comes the Florida's borrowing power. In addition, the CFO discussed the out of control assignment of benefits (AOB) issue we are seeing across the state. Assignments of benefits fraud, the epicenter of which is currently in southeast Florida, is causing hundreds of millions of dollars in unneeded claims, thus increasing insurance premiums for everyone. He noted the need to address this serious problem in Florida's insurance market.
2016 Champions for Business Awards Ceremony
During lunch AIF presented several Legislators with their 2016 Champions for Business awards and/or their AIF 100% Voting Record award. Several representatives and senators, past and present, attended the ceremony and received their award from CEO Tom Feeney and VP of Governmental Affairs Brewster Bevis.