Associated Industries party tonight signals beginning of legislative session

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Session starts on Tuesday, which means three things for Monday: 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.

Considering the impact of the 2005 gift ban law on AIF’s 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 AIF’s goals for the 2014 session, at least as ice breakers for awkward moments on the cocktail line. Among them, according to this story in the Miami Herald:

– On Medicaid expansion, AIF punts like other business groups have done—opting not to take a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ position. AIF does appear to move closer to Gov. Rick Scott’s position than other groups, stating that rejecting the federal money associated with the expansion would be tantamount to giving it away to other states.

– AIF supports Scott’s push to eliminate the sales tax on manufacturing equipment and phase out the corporate income tax by increasing the exemption to $75,000

– AIF agrees with Scott on spending more for transportation infrastructure, including ports and airports. It opposes any sweep of Transportation Trust Fund.

– AIF supports loosening restrictions on certain tax incentives for businesses. It does not weigh in on some of the Republican-led efforts to increase transparency and accountability for incentives.

– AIF supports using $200 million in Sadowski Trust fund money for affordable housing and opposes plans to sweep that money. Scott wants to use only $50 million for affordable housing.

– On gambling, AIF has taken a much more muted position than last year, when it threw its weight behind a push for three casino resorts in South Florida. Since that measure by Genting failed last year (and has not been revived for this session), AIF is only pushing for a “rational and comprehensive statewide gaming policy.” 

But what am I thinking? We’ve got weeks to talk about those things. For tonight, enjoy shrimp and drinks, and eyes open for ice sculptures.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.