The Corcoran Report: November 2010

Election Reflection

by Matthew Blair

Florida's elections are behind us and mirroring the national trend, Republicans enjoyed great success this election cycle.

The net results in Florida are the addition of five Republican members to the Florida House, two Republican members to the Florida Senate, four Republicans to the Florida Congressional delegation and a sweep of the Florida Cabinet. Additionally, Republicans hold veto proof majorities in both chambers of the Florida Legislature.

The closest statewide campaign ended up being the race for Governor, with Republican Rick Scott edging Democrat Alex Sink by approximately 61,000 votes. Scott, who spent more than $73 million personally in the primary and general elections, has not held elected office previously and comes to Tallahassee with campaign promises to spur new private sector job creation in Florida.

Next on the political calendar, Florida's Legislature will meet November 16th in Tallahassee for an organizational session. During this brief session, newly-elected members will be sworn into office and the chambers will formally vote on who will lead in each chamber during the next two years. In the House, Representative Dean Cannon will be Speaker of the House and in the Senate, Senator Mike Haridopolos will be elected Senate President.

Immediately following the organizational session, House and Senate leadership will exercise their new veto proof majorities and will override several bills vetoed by Governor Charlie Crist following the 2010 Legislative Session. None of the issues to be considered are particularly controversial, and in fact received bi-partisan support during the 2010 session.

Committee weeks for both the House and Senate will be held in December, January and February, with regular Legislative Session commencing in March.

In January, new members of Florida's Congressional delegation will be sworn into office. With a Congress that is solidly Republican in the House and a split body in the Senate, with Democrats no longer holding enough votes to break a filibuster (60 votes are required), the stage is set for significant conflict between Congress and the White House during the next two years.

Concern had mounted as the elections drew close, that Congress would act between now and the end of the year to advance the White House's agenda in a very aggressive manner. Those concerns are fading and in fact, within the last 24 hours, the White House has indicated a willingness to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, which will sunset at the end of this year if not reauthorized by Congress and signed by the President.

Also in January, Florida's newly-elected Cabinet will be sworn into office. While the Governor's Inauguration will certainly be the focal point, three other Cabinet members will also assume office. Pam Bondi will serve as Attorney General, Adam Putnam as Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Jeff Atwater as Chief Financial Officer.

As a Cabinet, two of the newly-elected members have never held elective office; the other two represented a state Senate district and a Congressional district, respectively. All four bring new vision and insights to the roles and policies of government and it is likely the Cabinet members will take a more proactive approach than previous Cabinet office holders.

Once the inaugural festivities are concluded, Governor-Elect Scott will submit his budget recommendations in mid-February to Florida's House and Senate and the 2011 Legislative Session will begin soon after.

Key issues are already surfacing for the coming session. They include Medicaid reform, which is likely to reflect a more managed care approach; tort reform efforts, including issues such as extending sovereign immunity to ER doctors; modifications in worker's comp law to compensate for recent court rulings; possible reductions to Florida's property taxes; modifications impacting homeowners insurance and designed to allow the market to more effectively set rates; modifications to Florida PIP insurance laws; and a phasing out of Florida's corporate income tax.

Of course Florida's budget will remain front and center, with an anticipated shortfall of $3 billion this year combining with Governor-Elect Scott's stated desire to cut the state budget by 10%, or approximately $7 billion. The budget reductions required to achieve these goals will create plenty of challenges for Florida lawmakers. And, as an added bonus, redistricting will occur during the 2012 Legislative Session. Preparation for that effort will begin during the coming session.

From a business perspective, Florida government will be led by some of the most fiscally conservative, pro-business-minded elected officials ever to serve. The opportunity for Florida businesses to witness the reduction of regulations, taxes and fees, exists more clearly now than in recent memory.

We appreciate the opportunity to serve the members and board of the Community Papers of Florida. As your eyes and ears in Tallahassee, we will continue to monitor and report on policies and proposals that directly impact your business and bottom line. We invite you to reach out whenever you need legislative or political information or guidance. We are here to serve you.


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