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2012 Pre-Session Briefing

December 13, 2011

On Monday, December 5th approximately 100 of Florida’s top business leaders, association executives and lobbyists gathered at The Governors Club in Tallahassee to hear from top lawmakers and agency staff, and ask questions concerning the business community’s priorities for the 2012 Legislative Session. To no surprise, the issue of reapportionment and declining budget revenue developed the tone for many policymakers; however, members from both sides of the aisle provided some valuable insight into policy for the upcoming year.

Senator Joe Negron (R-Palm City) commenced the program by sharing his insight into continuing budget woes, which are projected to range from $1.5 - $2 billion.  As Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations  Committee and Vice Chairman of Budget, Sen. Negron drove home the importance of continued reform to the State’s Medicaid system to effectively close such a gap and pass a balanced budget for fiscal year 2012-2013. Furthermore, Sen. Negron identified Personal Injury Protection (PIP) reform as a top issue for 2012 by eliminating fraud that exists in the current system.

Speaker Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park) was also present to address AIF membership in his last term as Speaker of the Florida House. In another tight budget year, Speaker Cannon emphasized the importance of continuing to make financially prudent decisions that will jumpstart economic recovery and maintain Florida’s impeccable bond rating. Speaker Cannon also vowed to end his term by passing a balanced budget with no new taxes.

Gray Swoope, President & CEO of Enterprise Florida, joined AIF members during the lunch portion of the program to discuss economic development efforts under his new administration as Commerce Secretary. At an unemployment rate of 10.3%, Secretary Swoope explained that Florida still has a long way to go on the road to economic recovery. Nonetheless, he praised the consolidation of state agency functions under the newly created Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) as a vital step to entertaining real change. At the helm of Enterprise Florida, however, Secretary Swoope identified a specific example of how his organization is successfully expediting the application process and eliminating duplication to bring “speed to the market” – a function that his agency is now performing on a daily basis. Following Secretary Swoope on the topic of economic development was Doug Darling, Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. Director Darling provided an in-depth look at his agency’s legislative agenda, which included many components of the Governor’s “jobs plan.” There are two items which Mr. Darling emphasized; working to rebrand the current unemployment compensation system and reforming the existing structure of regional workforce boards to serve at the pleasure of the Governor. In conclusion, Director Darling and Secretary Swope addressed the importance of dedicating resources that will not only bring new businesses to Florida, but focus on the expansion and retention of those already located within the State.

To conclude the program, AIF welcomed House Minority Leader Ron Saunders (D-Tavernier). Leader Saunders immediately opened the floor for questions to hear directly from the business community concerning issues most important to them. During Q&A, Leader Saunders identified 3 major issues in which the House Democratic Caucus will play a significant role this session; Destination Resorts, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) reform and state budget for FY 2012-2013.

In addition to AIF’s Pre-Session Briefing in Tallahassee, our staff has traveled state-wide this month to host briefings for our members at the River Club in Jacksonville as well as the headquarters of JM Family Enterprises, Inc. in Deerfield Beach. These briefings provide a special opportunity for our members to hear from local policymakers and provide their input on the issues most important to their business or association.