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AIF Celebrates 10th Anniversary of Champions for Business Awards Program;
Announces 2013 Winners

July 10, 2013

TALLAHASSEE – Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) announced the recipients of its 2013 AIF Champions for Business Awards, which recognize elected officials who go above and beyond to support a business-friendly environment in Florida. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the annual awards program. Since 2003, the association has bestowed a total of 128 AIF Champions for Business Awards upon 82 different elected officials, including two governors, three four-time winners, 10 three-time winners and 17 two-time winners.

Among this year’s winners are Gov. Rick Scott – only the second governor to receive an AIF Champions for Business Award in its 10-year history – and 14 legislators, including six Senators and eight Representatives. The 2013 award recipients are recognized for their outstanding efforts in the areas of manufacturing, legal reform, health care, education, environmental regulation, workers’ compensation, employee benefits and insurance. Additionally, several of AIF’s Policy Councils – groups of member employers who share a common subject area or interest – presented special Council Champions for Business Awards to lawmakers who were advocates for legislation affecting specific industries. A total of 21 awards will be presented this year. 

“AIF has a proud tradition of standing up for Florida’s businesses and taking a stance on tough issues impacting our state’s employers. We are champions for the industries that drive job creation and economic growth because we know healthy businesses secures a better Florida for all of us who call the Sunshine State home. AIF Champions for Business Award winners – past and present – personify the tenets upon which AIF was founded and demonstrate the type of bold leadership our state needs to continue moving toward prosperity,” said Tom Feeney, AIF President and CEO. “This awards program is an opportunity for AIF and our members to thank our elected officials for the extraordinary efforts they undertook on behalf of the business community. Whether they advanced an AIF priority bill, authored a key amendment or worked behind-the-scenes, these lawmakers and Gov. Scott are truly the ones who made a difference this past legislative session.”

The 2013 awards winners are:

Gov. Rick Scott (R) – A longtime friend and ally to the business community, Gov. Scott advocated for and signed various pieces of important legislation promoting the free enterprise system. Most notably, he signed HB 7007, which eliminates sales tax on the purchase of manufacturing equipment and machinery – one of his two legislative priorities for the year. This landmark bill will spur job growth in Florida, as well as a booming manufacturing industry. Under the Governor’s leadership, Florida has become one of the most attractive states in which to manufacture goods. AIF is committed to working alongside Gov. Scott to perpetuate this progress.
Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Naples) – One of AIF’s most decorated legislators, four-time AIF Champions for Business Award recipient Sen. Richter sponsored and played an instrumental role in the passage of legislation (HB 7015) that aligns Florida courts with the federal court system by adopting the Daubert standard for expert witness testimony. Keeping “junk science” out of our court system will help protect Florida’s businesses from being joined into costly and unnecessary lawsuits by trial lawyers.
Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City) – A three-time AIF Champions for Business Award winner, Sen. Negron proved to be the voice of reason in the hotly contested health care debate this year. His bill, SB 1816, would have established a state premium assistance program called Healthy Florida, to assist low-income Floridians in purchasing private health insurance coverage. The bill would have also encouraged healthy behavior through a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). AIF supported SB 1816 as it was the only health care proposal addressing the inordinate hidden tax that Florida employers pay to cover the cost of care provided to uninsured Floridians.
Sen. John Legg (R-Lutz) - As an outspoken education reformer, Sen. Legg sponsored a landmark bill to revise current career education programs and target funding in an effort to better prepare Florida’s students for the workforce. Building upon a 2007 initiative, the “Career and Professional Education Act of 2013” (SB 1076) will give high school freshmen five options toward earning a diploma, designates three areas for university performance funding, and encourages student development in technology in prekindergarten through grade 12. This is Sen. Legg’s first AIF Champions for Business Award.
Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) – Receiving his third AIF Champions for Business Award, Sen. Hays was involved in a number of issues of vital importance to employers across the state. This year, he is recognized for his relentless commitment to workers’ compensation legislation and the passage of SB 662. The bill addresses a drug repackaging loophole in Florida’s workers’ compensation system and will maintain necessary balance in the system, which is important to all businesses in the state.
Sen. Chris Smith (D-Oakland Park) – Three-time AIF Champions for Business Award winner, Senate Minority Leader Smith oversaw a Democrat caucus that voted with business 85 percent of the time. This was nearly a 20 percent increase since 2011. In addition, Leader Smith was a strong ally during Senate floor debate on an AIF opposed amendment to remove much needed fertilizer language from HB 999. While the amendment ultimately passed, Leader Smith’s commitment to the business community and AIF on this important issue was evident.
Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) – A first-time AIF Champions for Business Award recipient, Sen. Galvano tirelessly advocated on behalf of Florida’s manufacturers by supporting HB 357 and carrying the companion measure, SB 582. Also referred to as the “Manufacturing Competitiveness Act,” this legislation will authorize local governments to voluntarily adopt, by ordinance, a Local Manufacturing Development Program that will allow manufacturers to obtain master plan approval for manufacturing sites. Once the master plan is approved, the manufacturer would not need further local approval for future expansions or modifications (except for building code, life, or safety issues), thus improving the development approval process for Florida’s manufacturers.
Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) – Now a two-time AIF Champions for Business Award winner, Rep. Boyd displayed steadfast leadership in economic policy and insurance policy alike. Thanks to his sponsorship of the “Manufacturing Competitiveness Act,” manufacturers looking to locate or expand in Florida will benefit a Local Manufacturing Development Program if voluntarily adopted by local governments. This improved and streamlined development approval process will make Florida counties and the state a more attractive place to conduct manufacturing business.
Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) – Speaker-Designate Crisafulli is receiving his third AIF Champions for Business Award for introducing a critical amendment to SB 1832 that removed language harmful to Florida’s insurance businesses and employees. In its original form, SB 1832 would have eliminated an insurance premium tax credit, effectively crippling Florida’s insurance industry.
Rep. Matt Hudson (R-Naples) – Along with Sen. Hays, Rep. Hudson was instrumental in the passage of SB 662, by carrying its companion measure, HB 605. Championed in the House by Rep. Hudson, this vital piece of workers’ compensation reform will guarantee Florida’s workers will have access to prescription medications and medical treatment without delay, while also ensuring no unnecessary financial burden to Florida’s employers. This is his first AIF Champions for Business Award.
Rep. Larry Metz (R-Groveland) – A first-time AIF Champions for Business Award winner, Rep. Metz was the driving force behind HB 7015, which aligns Florida’s evidentiary standard for expert witness testimony with that of the federal courts and brings Florida’s courts in line with those of other states. The bill will help remove the hindrances to development and growth that come from costly lawsuits and unnecessary legal actions.
Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City) – One of only three four-time AIF Champions for Business Award winners, Rep. Patronis is recognized for successfully sponsoring and passing an omnibus environmental regulation bill, HB 999. The bill streamlines the permitting process for Florida’s businesses by amending and revising numerous provisions relating to the development of permit applications for marinas, boat yards, general permits for special events, well permits, regional water supply planning, and agriculture water supply demand projections.
Rep. Steve Precourt (R-Orlando) – A two-time AIF Champions for Business Award winner, Rep. Precourt led the charge to avoid this unnecessary patchwork of wage and benefit rules could have driven businesses away from Florida. Sponsored by Rep. Precourt, HB 655 successfully amended Florida law to further restrict political subdivisions from requiring an employer to provide employment benefits not required by federal law. The bill also blocks local governments from enacting their own sick-time rules.  
Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Valrico) – A proven leader in the agriculture industry, Rep. Raburn is receiving his first AIF Champions for Business Award for this unwavering leadership he displayed by championing language dealing with fertilizer application in our state, an AIF priority. With his continued support, AIF hopes to pass legislation that would enact commonsense fertilizer use policies that will ensure that our environment is protected and our businesses are able to operate without having to navigate through a patchwork of confusing local government ordinances.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) – Rep. Gaetz is being honored with his first AIF Champions for Business Award this year because of his leadership and support of various legal reform measures designed to reduce frivolous litigation. AIF salutes him for his sponsorship and commitment to new laws that increase access to health care, lower insurance costs and create a better regulatory and economic environment for Florida employers.


This year, three of AIF’s Policy Councils presented specific Council Champions for Business Awards in the areas of manufacturing, defense, environmental and agricultural sustainability and financial services. The 2013 Council Champions for Business are:

Manufacturing, Aerospace & Defense Council Awards
Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) and Rep. MaryLynn Magar (R-Hobe Sound) are both recognized as Manufacturing, Aerospace and Defense Council Champions for Business for their efforts in the Senate and House to pass legislation that would eliminate the sales tax on manufacturing equipment and machinery, thus making Florida a much more desirable place for manufacturers to do business. In addition, Sen. Hukill is recognized for sponsoring and passing SB 236 (HB 4013), which deletes caps on tax refunds for qualified defense contractors and space flight businesses.
Environmental & Agricultural Sustainability Council Awards
Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-New Port Richey) and
Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres)
are honored as Environmental & Agricultural Sustainability Council Champions for Business for their leadership on HB 7065, a bill that revises legislative findings for achieving water quality goals and the Everglades “Long-Term Plan.”  This legislation ensures the Everglades Restoration Plan will be completed and reflects cooperation between farmers, environmental advocates and legislators.
Financial Services Council Awards
Rep. Bill Hager (R-Boca Raton) is recognized with a Financial Services Council Champions for Business Award for sponsoring legislation aimed at “right-sizing” Florida’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (CAT Fund). Currently, the fund is overexposed and incapable of meeting its obligations if a devastating, Andrew-sized storm were to hit Florida. While politically difficult, Rep. Hager’s commitment to resolve this crisis of fiscal irresponsibility shows his dedication to the future of this great state.
Rep. Kevin Rader (D-Boca Raton) is receiving a Financial Services Council Champions for Business Award in recognition of his willingness to fight for sound public policy for Florida’s consumers and businesses. During the 2013 Session, he often took politically courageous positions supporting significant insurance reforms including the CAT Fund bill, omnibus insurance bill, and workers’ compensation drug repackaging bill.


AIF’s
Champions for Business Awards program was created to acknowledge the efforts of lawmakers who sponsored and defended pro-business bills, as well as those who worked behind-the-scenes on legislation critical to the prosperity of Florida businesses. The awards will be formally presented to winners during the AIF Champions for Business Reception and Awards Ceremony held in conjunction with AIF’s Annual Conference on August 21, 6 p.m., at The Breakers in Palm Beach. 

The 2013 Champions for Business Awards were announced following AIF’s annual Voting Records report released in May. AIF tracked more than 10,000 votes cast on 89 business-related bills. Members’ votes, which include committee and floor votes, are used to generate a percentage ranking of votes made in favor of pro-business legislation.

For more information on AIF’s 2013 Champions for Business Award recipients and the 2013 Voting Records report, visit www.aif.com.