Champs and records
The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) has run the numbers to find out which lawmakers are the state’s “Champions of Business.”
AIF this week identified a half dozen Champions, including Senate President Wilton Simpson, President-designate Kathleen Passidomo and President-designate-elect Ben Albritton. Similarly honored are Sen. Jim Boyd and Reps. Andrew Learned and Jay Trumbull.
“A true ‘Champion for Business’ is a legislator who takes risks for his or her belief in the free-enterprise system, defies the status quo when it is harmful to our state’s competitive climate and faces down the opponents to the growing prosperity of Florida’s citizens,” said AIF President and CEO Brewster Bevis. “Each of the six legislators honored this year are the epitome of a champion for business, and we thank them for their unwavering support of the business community in Florida.”
A common thread through the awards are the lawmakers’ defense of the business community’s position on data privacy. Simpson led the Senate in resisting civil enforcement, Passidomo worked closely with AIF on the matter, and Learned — a freshman lawmaker and the only Democrat on the list — shared how the legislation would impact his tutoring business as he filed 23 amendments to the bill.
AIF recognized Boyd and Trumbull for leading negotiations to address Florida’s property insurance crisis. Meanwhile, they said Simpson and Albritton led on environmental policy.
This week, AIF also released its 2022 Voting Records scorecard. In an analysis of the 3,755 votes cast on 49 bills, AIF graded lawmakers on the 2022 Regular Session and the property insurance Special Session.
AIF, which calls itself the “Voice of Florida Business,” touts the list as the most exhaustive and complete record of the Legislature’s approach to the concerns of employers.
AIF goes to great lengths to express their positions to lawmakers, Bevis said.
“For 48 years, AIF has published Voting Records, yet these records only tell part of the story,” he continued. “AIF also helps its member companies detect which bills and amendments are filed and by whom and who is taking part in behind-the-scenes efforts and debates on behalf of the business community. These intangible forms of support through non-voting actions are also of vital importance and merit recognition.”
Data privacy was a flashpoint during the Regular Session and precipitated contentious policy debates. The 2022 Voting Records report provides its usual year and lifetime percentages, but it also dedicates two pages to scoring House members for their votes regarding the data privacy legislation (HB 9). Under Simpson, the Senate never took up data privacy legislation.
“The calculated percentages we have used in years past to determine a legislator’s score are a simple and easy tool used by both AIF members and legislators,” said Adam Basford, AIF’s vice president of governmental affairs. “However, from time to time, an issue arises that affects the majority of all Florida businesses regardless of industry, size, location, etc.”
He noted data privacy was one of several priorities alongside workers’ compensation, tort reform and business taxes. But his comments singled it out as a rising issue — and possibly cast some shade at House Republicans.
“All of these factors are considered when AIF makes recommendations to our members as to which legislators truly show strong support for Florida’s business community and that is why this report is an invaluable tool.”
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first …
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
15-week abortion ban overruled — A state judge has found Florida’s 15-week abortion ban unconstitutional and will issue an order halting the law. Judge John Cooper’s ruling Thursday is a preliminary win for abortion rights advocates, who sought to stop the Republican-backed law (HB 5) before it took effect. Cooper plans to issue a temporary injunction against the legislation but said the written order formally pausing the law wouldn’t come Thursday because of time constraints. Cooper cited the right to privacy enumerated in the Florida Constitution.
Bills take effect with new fiscal year — Although it will be paused, likely beginning Tuesday, the abortion legislation is one of nearly 150 laws that took effect Friday. Chief among them was the $109.9 billion funding outline for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which includes at least a 5.4% pay raise for state workers. Also new is the “Stop W.O.K.E Act” and a bill banning the teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Lawmakers also designated strawberry shortcake (with natural Florida dairy topping) as the official state dessert.
State awards $140M Medicaid IT contract — Florida is going with Automated Health Systems (AHS) to handle a multiyear, $140 million IT contract involving the state’s massive Medicaid program. The Agency for Health Care Administration initially awarded the contract to AHS earlier this month. The company’s competitors had until June 27 to submit written notice to challenge the decision, but none did. The contract could be for up to a 10-year period. The underlying contract is for a seven-year stint, but the invitation to negotiate allows the state to enter into a three-year renewal.
Pediatric panelist ousted over vax views — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis pushed out a pediatrician from the board in charge of running the state’s Healthy Kids program because of her viewpoints on vaccines for children under 5. A brief email did not go into great detail but said Patronis was removing Dr. Lisa Gwynn because she had made “some very political statements that do not reflect the CFO’s point of view, even going so far as to say that the state is ‘obstruct(ing)’ access to vaccines.”
Gov. DeSantis promotes civics education; training scrutinized — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced that Florida’s civics and history education scores have risen significantly since he put an emphasis on it in schools and began cracking down on versions of history he calls “distorted.” DeSantis and Education Commissioner Manny Díaz laid out results of 2022 school civics literacy and history exams that showed a 5-point increase from the previous year, to a passing rate of almost 70%. Students’ passing rate in history went up by 2 points. Meanwhile, his department is under the gun for the slides shown to teachers during Florida’s civics training sessions, which some teachers say show a one-sided view.