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Sunshine State News: Most Lawmakers Score High in AIF Report Card

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just a week after the Florida Chamber of Commerce published its annual legislative report card, another of the state’s major business advocacy organizations has published its own study grading lawmakers’ business-friendliness, and most have come out scoring well.

“On the whole, the news is very good. I think the Legislature has responded well to five or six years of a very bad economy, bad economic conditions, and very high unemployment,” Tom Feeney, president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), told Sunshine State News shortly after his group released its annual report card. “I think that on the whole the House and the Senate – Republicans especially – continue to score outstanding, and the Democrats have tended to improve on their scorecards, too.”

According to its press release announcing publication of the report card, AIF tabulated over 10,450 unique votes – in the committees and on the chamber floor – on issues including “the elimination of sales tax on the purchase of manufacturing machinery and equipment, Manufacturing Competitiveness Act, health care reform, Career and Professional Education Act of 2013, environmental and Numeric Nutrient Criteria regulations, property insurance reform and preservation of the premium tax credits insurance companies receive for Florida employees’ salaries.”

Among the key findings of the AIF report:

— The Legislature’s overall score was 90 percent, up 2 points from 2012.

— In 2013, the Florida Senate was more business-friendly than the House: the average score for each chamber was 92 percent (up 7 points from last year) and 89 percent (the same as last year) respectively.

— Republicans were more business-friendly than Democrats: the average GOP score was 97 percent, while the average for Democrats was a mere 78 percent.

— Senate Democrats were significantly more business-friendly than their House counterparts: their average score in the Senate was 85 percent, while in the House it was 75 percent.

— Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, scored highest in her chamber, with an AIF voting record of 99 percent

— Top-scoring Senate Democrats included Bill Montford of Tallahassee (93 percent) and Gwen Margolis of Miami (91 percent).

— In the House, Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, cast the highest number of business-friendly votes.

— Freshman Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, was the House’s top-scoring Democrat at 95 percent.

“I think, on the whole, legislators have gotten the message to do what they can to have a favorable business environment in Florida and I think our score card shows that,” Feeney told SSN.

Asked whether his organization was suffering any “buyer’s remorse” from AIF-endorsed candidates not voting as expected, Feeney replied that the annual report card isn’t “the be-all, end-all of how we judge” legislators.

“There are legislators who might score a little lower than a colleague of theirs,” he explained. “But if the legislator with a lower score is really a leader on issues of great importance to us, when it comes time to do endorsements and to get involved in political races, the legislative score is not the only consideration that factors into who we support.”

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