February 10, 2011
Florida’s business leaders, industry group members, and interested parties gathered at the Governors Club on Monday, February 7th to attend AIF’s annual Pre-Session Briefing in Tallahassee. Our annual briefing allows membership to listen to legislative leaders, AIF lobby team members and distinguished guests to discuss upcoming business issues for the 2011 session. Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services, was in attendance along with Republican and Democratic leaders from both sides of the aisle, including House Speaker Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park), Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando), Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich (D-Sunrise) and House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders (D-Key West).
Commissioner Putnam commenced the speaker portion of the briefing by discussing the initiatives that his office would be undertaking in 2011, particularly within the arena of Florida’s water quality & quantity. Speaking on the federal imposition of Numeric Nutrient Criteria on Florida’s water bodies, Commissioner Putnam expressed vast opposition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ruling, stating that the agriculture industry is not the only party to be affected by these rules – municipalities, utilities, consumers and virtually ALL of Florida’s businesses and consumers will have to pay the price. “Florida is being arbitrarily targeted by a federal mandate that no other state is compelled to comply with”, he said.
Following Commissioner Putnam’s remarks, Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich addressed AIF’s membership regarding her caucus’ proposals for the upcoming session. In light of Governor Scott’s recent budget recommendations, Leader Rich expressed concern regarding potential cuts to vital programs and services; however, the Minority Leader did express enthusiasm in working with Republican leaders to cut spending and take a responsible approach to filling the state’s $3.6 billion shortfall. From the House Chamber, Democratic Leader Ron Saunders’ message coincided with that of Leader Rich’s; cut bipartisan bickering and work together to promote economic growth in Florida. Leader Saunders further commented that leadership on both sides of the aisle must act in accordance with the best interest of Florida’s stakeholders, and not necessarily with their caucus.
Speaker Dean Cannon’s comments were well received by membership as the House leader expressed his intention to cut spending, avoid new taxes, and incentivize development within Florida’s economy. Attesting to the conservative nature of House & Senate leadership, including a pro-business Governor, Speaker Cannon identified that the political climate was ripe to stimulate job creation in Florida. “Not only do President Haridopolos and myself share many of the same ideals, but we are also close friends. This unique relationship, coupled with a conservative Governor, will prove positive for passing legislation that will jump start Florida’s economy.” Majority Leader Andy Gardiner’s comments slightly echoed those of Speaker Cannon’s as it relates to changes in the Legislature’s makeup. Instead of being a place where potentially viable legislation can go to die, Gardiner explained, the Senate will now embrace and consider a greater number of proposals that come from the House. AIF’s members were pleased to sit and listen as Leader Gardiner depicted the Senate as a more conservative body than in years past with an unprecedented desire to pass business-friendly reforms.