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AIF Voting Records Report: Record Number of House Members with Perfect Scores; Increasing Disparity Between Republicans and Democrats in Both Chambers

June 9, 2011

TALLAHASSEE – Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) today announced the release of its 2011 Voting Records Report, the most comprehensive annual report on legislative votes by any business association in Florida. After completing a thorough analysis of more than 18,200 votes cast on 146 business-related bills, an unprecedented number of legislative members, including 33 House members and one senator, earned perfect scores prompting the creation of a new “AIF 100 Percent Club.” Go here for more information on historical voting patterns, party breakouts and individual members’ voting records. 

Additionally, the report demonstrates an increasing gap between Democrats’ and Republicans’ historical voting records on pro-business legislation. 2011 marked a 48 percent margin of difference bested only by the 2001 Legislative Session’s difference of 50 percent. Despite some predictions that this would be the most business-friendly Legislature, this session did not match the 2006 Legislative Session when both chambers combined for a 94 percent voting record in support of business issues.

This session, the major bills that led to the dramatic disparity between the majority party and those in Democratic Party included:  SB 736 – the teacher merit pay bill; SB 408 – the major property insurance reform bill; HB 7005 – an unemployment compensation tax bill that reduced the number of benefits weeks; HB 7107 – Medicaid reform; and SB 2100 – reforms to the state’s pension system. For the most part, members of the minority party voted as a block in opposition to these business-backed proposals.

Overall, the Senate’s votes on legislation that would positively benefit Florida businesses, employers and the state’s economy were slightly more favorable and averaged 85 percent. The House followed closely with an average score of 81 percent. 

“While we haven’t quite reached the landmark levels of support we saw in 2006 and 2007, the Republican supermajority in both chambers, new leadership in the Senate and House and a new Governor are all contributing to an increasingly business-friendly political and legislative climate,” said Barney T. Bishop III, President and CEO of AIF. “With Gov. Rick Scott leading the way with a pro-jobs agenda, the Senate and House did their part to support job creation by enacting legislation on tort reform, streamlining and enhancing our economic development toolbox, eliminating duplicative port security requirements, maintaining efforts to keep Florida’s space industry a top priority, and passing unemployment compensation tax relief for employers.  Moreover, the Legislature agreed with the Governor and decreased our state corporate income tax and provided significant property tax relief, which will help make us more competitive with other states.  Most importantly, the Legislature supported the Governor on state pension reform at a time when many Floridians are out of a job and also tackled Medicaid reform which threatened to take control of our state budget.  By the time you add in education reform, property insurance reform, growth management and permitting reform, the Senate President and the House Speaker have every right to say they did their part to create a positive landscape for job growth in Florida.”

Topping the list with the only perfect score in the Senate was Sen. JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales).  Also receiving high marks were Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff (R-Ft. Lauderdale), Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) and Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville) each with 98 percent of their votes in favor of pro-business legislation. Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Naples) cast the most pro-business votes in the entire Senate with 136. 

Freshman Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) ranked highest among Democratic Senators with an 83 percent voting record. With less than half of her votes in favor of pro-business legislation, Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) continues her domination at the bottom of the Senate with a 48 percent pro-business voting record and the most votes against pro-business legislation (61). (Note:  Due to medical leave, Sen. Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami) was only able to vote on three business-related bills during the 2011 Legislative Session.) The lowest ranking Republican was Sen. Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland) with a 74 percent voting record.

A record 33 House members received a score of 100 percent and did not vote against AIF’s agenda even once. More than two thirds of the entire House – all Republican members – earned a score of 96 percent or higher. Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Melbourne) cast more votes – 145 – for pro-business legislation than any other House member. 

Leading his Democratic peers was freshman Rep. John Julien (D-North Miami Beach) with a score of 64 percent while Rep. Barbara Watson (D-Miami Gardens) and Rep. Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach) each ranked at the bottom of the entire House, voting only 30 percent of the time on pro-business legislation. Rep. Pafford voted more times against pro-business legislation than any other legislator.

The Voting Records Report compares state lawmakers’ votes on legislation impacting Florida’s businesses and employers to AIF’s 2011 legislative priorities. AIF’s report documents every time a legislator voted for and against the business community, which then determines their percentage record. In addition to floor and floor amendment votes, the report also accounts for votes legislators cast on committee/subcommittee bills and committee/subcommittee amendments.  Since many critical business issues never make it to the floor, AIF’s voting records calculation provides a complete picture of members’ votes.  AIF has been tracking legislative voting records on business issues longer than any other group in the state. 

Next week, AIF will announce the 2011 Champions for Business Awards, which recognize those elected officials who have proven to be strong and forceful advocates for Florida business. These lawmakers go above and beyond the call of duty regardless of their voting record. Award recipients are chosen for passing or defeating legislation critical to maintaining a vibrant private-enterprise system.