June 17, 2010
TALLAHASSEE – This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) annual Voting Records Report. The report compares state lawmakers’ votes on legislation impacting Florida’s businesses and employers to AIF’s 2010 legislative priorities, and is by far the most comprehensive report on legislative votes by any business association in Florida. AIF’s Voting Records Report uniquely documents every time a legislator voted for and against the business community, which then determines their percentage record.
According to AIF’s detailed analysis of member votes, both legislative chambers’ average scores ranked above 80 percent when it came to voting on initiatives that would positively benefit Florida businesses, employers and the state’s economy. Senate votes in favor of pro-business legislation averaged 85 percent – up 6 percentage points from last year – and the average House vote of 82 percent increased two percentage points over last year’s score. However, both are still below the historical high water mark of the 2006 session. In addition, the historical voting record of Democrats versus Republicans in both chambers was more pronounced, by a 32 percent margin of difference, for any year since 2001.
“The 2010 Legislative Session was one of the most contentious we have seen in recent years and was marked by tension between legislative leaders and a Governor who toward the end of the session left the Republican Party,” said Barney Bishop III, President and CEO of AIF. “Even in light of this uncommon occurrence and a very difficult budget year, legislative leaders appropriately focused on job creation and economic development highlighted by the passage of a landmark ‘Jobs for Florida’ package. In addition to that bill, other bills that were important to AIF included resolving the unemployment tax increase and importantly pushing through tort reform initiatives that will help the free enterprise system flourish in our state. Overall, it was a excellent session for Florida’s businesses and lawmakers recognized the importance of setting public policy that ensures the viability of the industries and companies providing jobs for Floridians as we attempt to come out of this deep recession.”
AIF has been tracking legislative voting records on business issues longer than any other group in the state. In 2010, the powerful business lobbying group tracked more than 14,832 votes cast on 133 business-related bills. In addition to floor and floor amendment votes, the report also accounts for votes legislators cast on committee/council bills and committee/council amendments. Since many critical business issues never make it to the floor, AIF’s voting records calculation provides a complete picture of members’ votes.
Leading the Senate was Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville) with 96 percent of his votes in favor of pro-business legislation. Sen. Gary Siplin (D-Orlando) ranked highest among Democratic Senators with an 84 percent voting record. For the second year in a row, Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) was the lowest ranking Democrat. Her AIF voting record for 2010 was only 66 percent. The lowest ranking Republican was Sen. Alex Villalobos (R-Miami) with a 67 percent voting record.
Five Republican House members topped the chart this year each scoring near perfect scores of 99 percent by only voting once against the AIF agenda – Rep. Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park), Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island), Rep. Carl Domino (R-Juno Beach), Rep. William Snyder (R-Stuart) and Rep. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland). The top scoring Democrat in the House was Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) with a score of 74 percent while Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) earned the lowest overall score at 46 percent, 120th out of 120 House members. The lowest-scoring Republican was Rep. Julio Robaina (R-Miami) with a 69 percent pro-business voting record.
PRO-BUSINESS 2010 SESSION VICTORIES
With 2010 being an election year and both chambers controlled by Republicans, the number of bad business bills that included tax or fee increases was minimal. Those that were filed did not make much progress during the committee process. While votes in favor of new health care mandates, tightening of state contracting guidelines (SB 1706) and the raid of the State’s Transportation Trust Fund (HB 5503) comprise the majority of the anti-business bills opposed by AIF members, the 2010 Legislative Session resulted in some important victories for the state’s business community.
Next week, AIF will announce the 2010 Champions for Business Awards, which recognizes those elected officials who have proven to be strong and forceful advocates for Florida business. Award recipients are chosen for their support in meaningful and often controversial pro-business legislation that benefits employers and their workers.
For more information on AIF’s 2010 Voting Records Report; to see how individual legislators voted; Chamber, Party, and subject analysis visit the AIF Voting Records main page.