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May 11, 2009

Significant pro-business legislation passes despite budget challenges

TALLAHASSEE – Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today announced the results of its annual Voting Records Report.  The report is a detailed analysis of member votes on legislation impacting Florida’s businesses and employers as compared to AIF’s 2009 legislative priorities.  This year’s report marks the 34th year AIF has been tracking legislative members’ votes on pro-business measures making it the first group in the state to provide this service.

Overall, House votes in favor of pro-business legislation averaged 80 percent.  By comparison, the Senate averaged just one point less at 79 percent.  Limited available budget dollars resulted in noticeably fewer bills passed this legislative session.  The need to identify additional revenue sources also lead to an increase in policy and regulatory-related proposals, such as fee increases, that would have had a negative impact on businesses throughout the state if passed. 

“This was a very challenging budget year that resulted in numerous attempts to raise taxes on businesses as way to bolster state coffers.  AIF worked in conjunction with other business groups across the state to defeat the most onerous concepts, such as the Mandatory Assignment of Benefits bill, corporate income tax increases and 100 percent increase in truck title fees,” said Barney Bishop III, President and CEO of AIF.  “On the whole, 2009 was a good session for Florida’s business community.  We scored several major victories with the preservation of critical workers’ comp reforms and the stabilization of the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.” 

AIF tracked more than 10,000 votes cast on nearly 120 business-related bills and amendments.  In addition to floor and floor amendment votes, the report also accounts for legislators’ committee bill and committee amendment votes.  Since many critical business issues never make it to the floor, AIF’s voting records calculation provides a complete picture of members’ votes. 


Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) topped the Senate with 89 percent of votes in favor of pro-business legislation. Closely following Sen. Diaz de la Portilla were Sen. Thad Altman (R- Melbourne), Sen. Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami) and Sen. Jim King (R-Jacksonville) each earning a score of 87 percent.  The lowest scoring Senators from both parties were Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) with a 58 percent record and Sen. Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland) with a 63 percent record.  Freshman Democrats in the Senate earned an average of approximately 69 percent while freshman Republicans scored just above 85 percent.


Rep. Jennifer Carroll (R-Jacksonville) lead the way for her party and the House with an almost perfect score of 97 percent, casting only two votes against pro-business measures.  The top scoring Democrat in the House was freshman Rep. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington) with a score of 79 percent while Democratic Whip Rep. Evan Jenne (D-Fort Lauderdale) earned the lowest score at 51 percent.  The lowest scoring Republican was Rep. Peter Nehr (R-Tarpon Springs) with an 81 percent pro-business voting record.  Freshman Republicans in the House earned an average of approximately 92 percent while freshman Democrats scored 61 percent.


Compared to previous legislative sessions, anti-business legislation went further in both chambers this year.  Partisan politics and an ever-shrinking budget contributed to a disproportionate push for proposals that would increase revenue at the expense of Florida’s employers.  However, AIF was able to kill or amend several bills to limit the harm done to Florida’s businesses.  Additionally, the 2009 legislative session resulted in a number of pro-business victories including:

  • Workers’ Compensation:  AIF successfully protected the 2003 landmark workers’ compensation reforms, which have saved Florida’s businesses millions in premiums.  The passage of HB 903 restores of the cap on attorneys’ fees and keeps workers’ compensation premiums affordable. 
  • Property Insurance:  To return competition to Florida’s private property insurance market, AIF worked with legislators to remove the rate freeze on the state’s insurance company, Citizens, as well as pass HB 1171 which provides for limited residential property insurance rate deregulation.
  • Unemployment Compensation:  Listening to the input of Florida’s businesses, the legislature passed the least burdensome option for employers while maintaining the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund’s solvency and preserving benefits for employees.
  • Limit Increase Tax Burdens on Florida Businesses: Proposals in both the House and Senate this session would have increased taxes for business owners and radically altered Florida’s tax structure.  AIF helped defeat dangerous legislation on corporate income tax and unitary tax and pass property tax reform that provided tax payers with the ability to challenge their property’s assessed value.
  • Business Regulation: To help stimulate the economy, AIF pushed for legislative solutions to eliminate unnecessary government regulations by streamlining the permit process, extending existing permits, eliminating duplications in regulations and expediting permits to get “boots on the ground.”
  • Economic Stimulus Package 2.0 (ESP 2.0):  AIF, alongside 25 other business groups, helped pass a number of proposals that were part of the ESP 2.0, including the New Markets Development Program, seaport security legislation and expedited permitting for targeted industries.

“While this year’s legislative session held fiscal challenges never before seen by many Floridians or the members they elected, I predict another difficult year ahead,” continued Bishop. “AIF will be there to protect the principles of the free enterprise system and the interests of Florida businesses so they can keep their doors open and their employees on payroll.”

Later this week, AIF will announce the 2009 Champions for Business Awards which recognizes those elected officials who have proven to be strong and forceful advocates of Florida business. Award recipients are chosen for their support in meaningful and often controversial pro-business legislation that benefits employers and their workers.