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Florida Chamber: Special session offers second chance to get it right

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After a stubborn budget impasse, capped off by an abrupt adjournment by the Florida House, most will agree the 2015 Legislative Session was something of a disappointment.

Among those particularly dissatisfied with the outcome this year is the state’s business community, led by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

But hope remains for a victory, as Tallahassee now faces a sort of “sudden death overtime.”

Although 2015 didn’t produce – as the Chamber diplomatically puts it – “anticipated results,” the state’s leading business trade association believes a special legislative session will give Florida’s business sector a second chance.

“A special session, or several sessions, brings the hope that legislators can hit the reset button and pick up the business of making Florida more competitive,” said Chamber CEO Mark Wilson in a statement.

With a $4.2 billion difference between proposed budgets – based on widely divergent views on expanding health care coverage — lawmakers failed to achieve the one constitutionally mandated task: passing a balanced budget, which must be in place before July 1.

Now lawmakers get another shot at making things right, through a special legislative session.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and Wilson believes a delay in Tallahassee is no exception. A special session buys the group some time for persuading lawmakers to advance a budget that ensures Florida is ready for action.

Quoting Winston Churchill, Wilson said,A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Among the Chamber’s unresolved priorities: Smarter healthcare coverage in Florida; a comprehensive water quality policy; targeted tax reforms to help lower both business expenses and cost of living; school choice and pension reforms. The chamber also suggests bigger opportunities for children with special needs and increased investment in marketing Florida as a business haven.

Even before a special session, however, the year was not a total loss. In the Chamber’s 2015 win column: an education accountability bill (recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott), an infrastructure bill designating freight and logistics zones, a growth leadership measure and a private property rights bill.

For the remaining issues, Wilson calls leaders to “rally around a common bipartisan cause” – sustainable economic growth to expand opportunities for all Floridians.

Much of the Chamber’s remaining wish list is available on its 2015 Legislative Summary, taken from the Florida Chamber 2015 Competitiveness Agenda, which highlights the bills that did pass in the just-completed regular Legislative Session.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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