The Sunshine State News – November 4, 2010
Florida businesses have bemoaned the national Democratic policies they think constrain growth, but business leaders had no complaints after the midterm election results came in Tuesday night.
Republicans swept back into a majority in the House of Representatives, reclaimed the governors’ mansions of many states from Democrats and came up just shy of a majority in the Senate.
But business leaders are equally thrilled at the GOP sweep in the state races. Republicans gained veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate, took the governor’s race and all three Cabinet seats.
“Floridians have sent a resounding vote of confidence. They have elected pro-jobs, pro-business candidates,” Florida Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Edie Ousley said.
The GOP wins were also a victory for the Chamber. After spending $5.5 million on campaigns in the state, only four of the 80 candidates endorsed by the Chamber in the general election did not get voted into office.
Although Republicans held control of both state chambers before the election, businesses are most excited about the switch in governor from Charlie Crist — whose independent bid for the U.S. Senate fell to Republican Marco Rubio — to Rick Scott.
“We’re ecstatic. We see the election of Rick Scott as the second coming of Jeb Bush,” said Barney Bishop, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.
Crist garnered the ire of Republicans even before he ditched the party when Rubio surged ahead of him in the polls in advance of the primary. He vetoed a bill that would have linked teacher compensation to performance and one that would have required abortion seekers to undergo ultrasounds. Both bills were backed by the Republican leadership in the Legislature and could be back on the agenda next year.
In addition to Republican legislators, businesses are also glad to see the back of Crist.
“The difference starts at the top. Charlie Crist was a zero. He didn’t care about government, he only cared about his political career. Florida has suffered for four years under a bright, cheery guy that didn’t do anything,” Bishop said.
For businesses, lower taxes, less regulation and a streamlined government are the top priorities, and even though the Chamber endorsed Scott’s opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the Republican primary, they believe Scott is the man for the job.
It is believed Scott, the former CEO of a health management company, will run the state like a business — finding efficiencies and streamlining operations without excessive layoffs of state employees, a frequent complaint of his political opponents during the campaign.
“I don’t believe there’s any truth to the idea you can’t run government like a business. That doesn’t mean putting anybody out of work, it just means doing business in a different way,” Bishop said.
In state legislative races, the defeat of 41 pro-trial-lawyer and pro-union candidates was also a feather in the cap of the Chamber.
“(Floridians) voted against higher taxes, more lawsuits, and new regulations, and in favor of free-enterprise job creation, smart growth, and global competiveness (sic),” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Chamber.
Business groups also dodged a bullet Tuesday when voters rejected Amendment 4, which would have required all comprehensive plan changes to be placed on the ballot. Businesses said the measure would have ground Florida’s economy to a halt, and fought hard against it.
Now that the election is over, business groups are focusing on the next session.
“The first thing is going to be the transition team, getting all the agencies in order,” Bishop said.
Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, has already moved in that direction, shaking up staff members and saving $1 million in the process.