Through the years Associated Industries of Florida has become an extreme organization, more or less advocating unfettered free enterprise in the state and tort reform as the solution for just about every situation that may involve a degree of liability.
While AIF has the usual list of dangerous tax breaks in this year’s agenda (which I will remind readers have not produced the types of jobs and corporate re-locations promised), anti-environmental rhetoric (like advocating offshore oil drilling, something that potentially could destroy Florida’s tourism industry and send the state into an economic depression reminiscent of southern Europe), and various pro-insurance industry measures, it is notable for what is missing.
AIF believe it or not is showing a little more practicality this year than in past sessions. They’ve omitted any mention of Medicaid expansion from the legislative priorities document and surprisingly have not taken an aggressive stand on casino gambling. Personally, I line up with the most conservative forces on this issue as I strongly oppose gambling (I have never bought a lottery ticket in my life) and have felt AIFs forceful position on the issue through the years coupled with the organization’s clout in Republican fundraising circles have pushed GOP Legislators who claim to be social conservatives into advocacy for something that directly contradicts the ideology they purport to hold.
Last year, the Malaysian Gambling outfit Genting attempted to break into the Florida market with the strong support of AIF. Thankfully this year the powerful business organization appears to be sitting out any attempt to push Casinos into south Florida. Florida has a lot to offer as a potential “shining city on the hill.” I believe we don’t need casinos to come into our state and turn our pristine beach areas into another Atlantic City or Biloxi. This was one issue I stood strongly with former Governor Jeb Bush on. Perhaps it was the only issue I agreed with him on.
Bush felt strongly that Florida’s natural assets could and would be undermined by a large scale expansion of casino gambling. On that point, and that point alone the former Governor was a wise man.
AIF’s agenda has the usual offensive features but also has some surprises. Pragmatism has long been something missing from the business lobby in Tallahassee. Perhaps it is too much to hope this session will be different?