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AIF Educational Conference News

September 9, 2003

Last Thursday, September 4, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) held its annual educational conference at the Marriott Bay Point Resort in Panama City.

AIF members received some important news during a lunch with two honored guests, Sen. Ken Pruitt (R-Port St. Lucie), who is in line to serve as the 2007-2008 Senate president, and Rep. Allan Bense (R-Panama City), who is scheduled to be the the next House speaker. Sen. Pruitt and Rep. Bense put to rest a lingering rumor that lawmakers would hold their fifth special session of the year during the October committee meetings. Sen. Pruitt told employers in the conference audience that he would recommend against a special session if Sen. King asked for his advice. Rep. Bense advised the AIF members in attendance that neither he nor House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (R-Plant City) were particularly enamored with the idea.

The specter of a Special Session E premiered on the first day of Special Session D when Senate President Jim King (R-Jacksonville) warned his members that the governor might call them back in October to deal with several issues, including water resources, phosphate contamination, a constitutional amendment to restore a parent’s right to notification that a minor child was seeking an abortion.

The meeting featured a daylong update on political matters at the state and national levels by Jon L. Shebel, AIF’s president and CEO, along with Barney Bishop and Doug Bailey, AIF’s chief and senior political consultants, respectively.

Attendees received a briefing on AIF’s latest statewide poll, conducted on August 24 and 25. The poll revealed that 47 percent of Floridians believe the state is headed in the wrong direction, compared to 40 percent, who believe the state is headed in the right direction. It was the first time in seven years that the greater number of Floridians expressed a negative, rather than a positive, view of progress here at home. Voters appear to blame their gloomy outlook on the economy’s ongoing weakness.

Despite that pessimism - and the protracted political battles of the 2003 regular and special sessions - more Floridians approve than disapprove of the job performance of the Florida Legislature, Gov. Jeb Bush, and President George Bush. In other words, the poll respondents are pessimistic about the state and the economy, but they’re not blaming the politicians.