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Associated Industries of Florida to host annual pre-Session blowout Monday night

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Session starts on Tuesday, which means three things for Monday: the drink, drop and dash fundraising frenzy before the 60-day curtain falls; last minute roommate arrangements; and the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) pre-Session welcome back reception for legislators, staff and politicos, drawing easily 2,000 attendees each year.

Tallahassee reaches full capacity during March and April, bringing some welcome energy to local businesses: Session generates an estimated $2 million per week in economic impact for the city a figure which could prospectively increase in following years if reforms to Florida’s lobbyist gift ban are passed as proposed in recent years. In recent years the Legislature has been squeamish about it, but in a non-election year it’s possible the idea could again gain some ground.

Considering the impact of the 2005 gift ban law on AIFs party planning (see here), no doubt they and their guests would welcome any such measure.

The affair is meant to be a festive last-night-before-the-work-begins kind of deal, and it is unlikely that wonky policy talk will predominate; but it couldn’t hurt for attendees to brush up on a few of AIFs goals for the 2015 session, at least as ice breakers for awkward moments on the cocktail line. Among them:

  • Aerospace. Particularly since AIF President & CEO Tom Feeney was elected to serve on the board of the Space Foundation, a national non-profit that runs the Space Symposium.
  • Modernization of Florida’s health care delivery system, including this year an intriguing pro-business Medicaid expansion effort mutually supported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
  • Water projects. Their new H20 Coalition will get plenty of time to stretch out and find its bearings as Amendment 1 implementation will eat up a lot of oxygen in a lot of hearings this Session.
  • As always, taxes. AIF supports making Gov. Rick Scott‘s short-term manufacturing sales tax exemption permannent, and will also seek to gradually phase out the corporate income tax.
  • Incentives for film and entertainment projects. This is another area of agreement with the Florida Chamber, though out-of-state conservative group Americans for Prosperity has recently blasted both groups because of it, along libertarian lines.
  • Casino gambling. Though the language in their legislative priorities is somewhat timid, they lend a lot of muscle to their cause of creating and independent Gaming Commission and a bidding process to dole out a handful of “Integrated Resort Licenses.”

But we all know the real juice is at the party itself, where the hospitality is as good as any large gathering in Florida. I’ll see you there.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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