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The Southern Group Lobbying Firm of the Year

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MORE GOLDEN ROTUNDA WINNERS

Smith Bryan & Myers :: Nick Iarossi :: Matt Blair :: Eric Edwards John Holley :: Ashley Kalifeh :: Kelly Mallette :: Johnston & Stewart Behind the scenes on Sine Die

The ‘new’ Florida Chamber

Rick Flagg signs off


ANDERSON BAUTISTA BOEHMER BRADSHAW BRAYNON BROWNING CASTRO TALENT WINS GAMES. COHEN CONE DELOACH DIAZ

DUDLEY FASSI FEARINGTON GILMORE GRIMSLEY HAGAN HOGAN TEAMWORK WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. HOLLIS KELLY MCFADDIN MCKEEL


MEJIA MITCHELL RIDLEY ROCK SHEPP SMITH STEVENS PROUD TO BE THE #1 TEAM IN FLORIDA. THRASHER VANHOOSE

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PUBLISHER’S | NOTE

@PeterSchorschFL

Picking ourselves up

W

hy do we fall, sir?” Alfred Pennyworth rhetorically asks Bruce Wayne toward the end of “Batman Begins.” “So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” After a devastating 2020, who could have predicted that 2021 would be a true annus horribilis. I don’t know many people who have not fallen down during these past 18 months of the pandemic. Certainly I have. Certainly my family has. My wife endured a non-COVID-19 health scare that took every bit of our strength to overcome. But we fall so we can learn to pick ourselves up. And that’s what we’ve done. And that’s what those in The Process have done, as well. It has not been easy, not by a long stretch, to be involved in state and local government. I don’t know if there has been a time in my lifetime when more has been expected of our elected officials. There also has been a lot expected of those in proximity to power. Kelly Cohen, the uber connected Orlando-based lobbyist, explained to me that while there is a limit to what those in the influence industry can do in response to a pandemic, there is an overwhelming demand for the connectivity and information possessed by the lobby corps. Cohen is a partner at The Southern Group, this year’s Golden Rotunda recipient for Lobbying Firm of the Year. One of the main rationales for awarding TSG this title is the firm’s response to the politics of the pandemic. It would have been very easy for TSG or any of the other Golden Rotunda winners to clutch their positions tightly and weather the pandemic.

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Michelle, Peter, and Ella Schorsch, September 2021. But not The Southern Group. Nor any of the other 2021 Golden Rotunda winners, like Nick Iarossi or Matt Bryan. They are dominating the influence industry because in the current crisis they see an opportunity to help their clients navigate unprecedented times. Rather than contracting, they are expanding their business operations. The 2021 Golden Rotundas celebrate their efforts. Congratulations to all of the winners.

Peter Schorsch Publisher

Peter@FloridaPolitics.com


INFLUENCE MAGAZINE A FloridaPolitics.com Publication

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Capital City Consulting

WELCOMES

Jared Rosenstein An expert in disaster consulting, emergency management, information technology, appropriations, and electronic entertainment Former Legislative Affairs Director, Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) under Dir. Jared Moskowitz & Gov. Ron DeSantis, and a former legislative staffer Graduate from Florida State University and Nova Southeastern University’s School of Law 4

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INFLUENCE MAGAZINE features

94 THE GOLDEN ROTUNDAS INFLUENCE Magazine honors the lobbying firms, organizations and individuals who excelled during a Session unlike any other in Florida’s history. Above: Oscar Braynon, David Browning, Rachel Cone, Brian Bautista, Sydney Ridley

74 Sine Die in Pictures

A behind-the-scenes photographic look at the Florida House on the last day of the 2021 Session.

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2021 FLORIDA CHAMBER ANNUAL MEETING & FUTURE OF FLORIDA FORUM MAGIC IS HAPPENING IN FLORIDA! JOIN US AS WE UNITE THE FLORIDA BUSINESS COMMUNITY FOR GOOD. OCTOBER 27 - 28, 2021 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando If you are interested in the future of Florida, don’t miss the opportunity to unite and attend our premier event of the year to discuss how business leaders are engaging in the Florida Chamber’s Six Pillars Framework and the 39 goals of the Florida 2030 Blueprint.

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Thank you to our nearly two dozen sponsors who are all-in on making a Florida a top 10 global economy by 2030.

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departments

74 152

53 50 All About the Benjamins What is the top lobbying firm in Florida? Check out our list of the state’s Top 25 advocacy shops.

60 The ‘New’ Florida Chamber

45 8

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22 146 What I’ve Learned After more than 40 years covering politics in Florida’s capital city, Rick Flagg drops his mic to spend more time with his family and in his backyard.

With a successful navigation of pandemic challenges, a long-term plan in hand and new a revamped organizational chart, the Florida Chamber is looking forward to growing the Sunshine State’s economy.

On the Move Political Aficionado’s Guide

11

Briefings from the Rotunda

31

68 Making ‘the Best’ Even Better

Fourth Floor Files

45

As he ascends to the top job at Associated Industries of Florida, Brewster Bevis seeks to make Florida a national leader for businessrelated legislation.

Insiders Advice

53

The Big Question

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18 INFLUENCE Fall 2021


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Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

the Political GOOD READS

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WRITING

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Trump Dump BY ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER

Readers are awash with books chronicling the tumultuous presidency of the 45th President of the United States

L

ibrarians take note: Now’s the time to free up some room on the 973.933 shelves, because a “tsunami of Trump tomes” is headed your way, according to Axios’ Mike Allen. He estimates 17 books currently are in the publishing pipeline about Donald Trump throughout the remainder of this year and into 2022. If past is prologue, each book will tease its contents by dropping little scooplets about this or that in the weeks before publication. The first wave of books dropped in July, with the appearance of “Landslide” by Michael Wolff and “Frankly We Did Win this Election” by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender. They debuted at Nos. 2 and 3 on the New York Times Bestseller list (bookended on the nonfiction list by books written by Fox News hosts Mark Levin and Jesse Watters). Wolff’s book was his third about Trump, following “Fire and Fury” and “Siege.” Unlike most of the other authors providing autopsies on 45’s presidency, Wolff has no ties to mainstream media outlets and a reputation for sometimes playing a little fast and loose with his facts and at-

tribution. But it did have its share of revelations — Trump considering postponing the election because of the pandemic, for one — and critics praise its quick pace and readable prose. Bender had been teasing the contents of “Frankly We Did Win This Election” for six weeks before its release date. Over the course of 150 interviews and reviewing reams of documentation, “What struck me was how these senior people around Trump were worried that he was a danger to the country that he’d become violent in his desperate attempt to hold on to power,” the author said. One theme throughout the book was Bender’s chronicling of “Front Row Joes,” a group of Trump supporters who attended 50 or more of his campaign rallies. “They were mostly white, older, kind of (living) paycheck to paycheck with time on their hands to fill and a little lonely,” he said. “Some of them never had kids or were estranged from their families and Trump in a weird way enriched their lives, made their worlds bigger.” A week later, “I Alone Can Fix It,” by Pulitzer Prize winning reporters Phillip Rucker and Carole Leoning, hit the bookFall 2021

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stores and became an immediate bestseller. This well-respected duo from the Washington Post chronicled, as they put it in the subtitle, “Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year.” Clocking in at 500 pages, it’s not an easy read, but it is a fairly complete chronicle of what occurred during the tumultuous time. Three more recent books focus on the COVID crisis, but that story can’t be told without including the President who presided during the pandemic and was a victim of the virus himself. Check out “The Premonition: A Pandemic Story” by Michael Lewis, the prolific unveiler of the story behind the story in nonfiction such as “The Big Short” and “Moneyball.” Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright has written “The Plague Year,” which tells the complete story of the pandemic with precision and emotion. Bookshop.com calls “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic that Changed History,” “the definitive account of the Trump administration’s tragic mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic,

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and the chaos, incompetence, and craven politicization that has led to more than a half million American deaths and counting.” It was written by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta. There’s no title yet for Maggie Haberman’s highly anticipated book, due out sometime in 2022. In addition to extensively covering Trump’s presidency — including a Pulitzer Prize for her work on a team that investigated his advisers and their Russia connections — the New York Times reporter has a long view and an enviable network of sources developed while covering Trump for more than 20 years. When announcing the deal, her publisher promised “an instant classic, a definitive and fascinating account of Donald Trump, his life and his presidency.” Despite what seems like the never-ending parade of books about Trump’s tumultuous presidency, he has a long way to go to surpass Abraham Lincoln’s record. The New York Society Library estimates 150,000 have been written about America’s 16th President.


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n o x i D The ent m t a e r T M W MEACHA BY ANDRE

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ATT DIXON

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

WRITING

I

n May 2020, POLITICO published a lengthy analysis of Florida Republicans with presidential aspirations for 2024. Donald Trump was still in the White House, and no one was challenging him. The magazine’s Florida bureau chief, Matt Dixon, had talked to 20 political veterans, many of whom had worked with Sen. Rick Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis or both. “These insiders reveal that almost every story involving Florida’s statewide politicians is best understood by viewing it through the lens of the 2024 race,” Dixon wrote. Dixon compared the state’s GOP prospects to the early stages of a horse race, much too early to call apart from the identity of the three front-runners: Scott, DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio. “It just occurred to me that all of these large national Republicans called Florida home. (Donald) Trump now, DeSantis, Rick Scott in the Senate. And before some of his legal troubles, Matt Gaetz was rising fast. All these nationally known big-name, big-personality Republican figures here, so I thought it might be an opportunity to do a big project other than a story.” That project will soon be a book. Published by Little, Brown and Company and due out early in 2023, Dixon’s work promises to be a user’s manual no Florida political watcher should be without. That remains true regardless of the apparent winnowing that has taken place since the early months of the pandemic. “When I first started considering (the book), it was a somewhat level playing field with Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, DeSantis and Matt Gaetz,” Dixon said. “Since that time it’s kind of become DeSantis and everyone else.” A Wisconsin native, Dixon graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee before moving to Florida in 2008. His path included stops at The Villages Daily Sun, the Panama City News Herald and the Florida TimesUnion. He left the Naples Daily News in 2015 to join POLITICO, the year the blog began expanding its coverage to state politics.

With the dexterity of an airboat captain, Dixon has kept readers abreast of the latest trends in the political swamp. In August, he revealed the extent to which the Governor’s $40 million campaign war chest has been fattened by anti-lockdown politics. Two weeks later, he documented a drop in DeSantis’ poll numbers below 50% as COVID infection rates shot up. Dixon followed up in mid-September with a story that could render those losses moot, as Democrats appear to be running out of new voters to register at the worst possible time. From where Dixon sits, the state’s Republican mantle—and its most likely presidential hope—is still the Governor’s to lose. “DeSantis has become fluent in lib owning,” Dixon said. “And a lot of his policy priorities through the Legislative Session were very much focused on things that drive Democrats nuts and the conservative base loves— the transgender thing, and he’s starting to talk about critical race theory a lot. Basically all of the national conservative media talking points that get the attention of those audiences are the things that get distilled into DeSantis’ legislative priorities and are the things he governs on here. He reads the room well and he knows how to tap into that intensity.” As for any rumored tension or distancing between DeSantis and Trump? Don’t count on it. “I don’t really buy the idea that there is really any tension between the two at this time,” Dixon said. Trump is focused on defeating the

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10 Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach him. Picking fights with DeSantis is not part of that. And stylistically, DeSantis is still tacking hard Trump.” It hasn’t been all work, of course. The same month Dixon’s story broke down Florida’s 2024 GOP hopefuls, the pandemic forced the cancellation of his May 30, 2020, wedding to Ana Ceballos, now a politics and policy reporter for the Miami Herald. The wedding finally took place this past June. The couple enjoys camping and kayaking North Florida’s springs, rivers and lagoons. Like the best tour guides, Dixon has developed a healthy respect for nature’s unknowns, including how one of the nation’s quirkiest swing states will next vote, starting with DeSantis’ reelection prospects in 2022. “It’s helpful to remember he only won by 35,000 votes,” Dixon said. “It’s a kind of different political moment now but it is still Florida and statewide, it’s very competitive. I think without question DeSantis is the prohibitive favorite at this moment in time, no matter who the Democrat is. But a lot of people have gone broke trying to predict Florida politics. I don’t intend to be one of them.”

Dixon’s forthcoming book is scheduled to publish in early 2023.

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C: 850.228.0757

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Miami * Ft. Lauderdale * Tallahassee * Washington, D.C.

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the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

STUFF

Go, Go Hard work and dedication are staples for success, but having the right gadgets and gizmos — whether it’s to make work more

Stay Fit On The Go

efficient or to keep your mind,

Hitting the gym can be hard when The Process gets into full swing, but thanks to technology, staying fit doesn’t have to require a ton of time. These gadgets help keep you on track without messing with your daily schedule.

doesn’t hurt. From high-tech or-

body and soul in the game —

With this subscription service, users have access to 11 workout types including HIIT, Pilates, strength training, yoga, and even walking. The app, which can be used with an Apple Watch and is available on iPhones and iPads, helps users stay motivated with real-time metrics including heart rate on screen. Latest workouts include 20-minute cycling workouts with Kym Perfetto set to a hip-hop playlist and pilates with Darryl Whiting, a former running back for the Fordham University Rams, set to a dance music playlist to focus on your glutes and hips.

More Peloton?

The Peloton rocked the world of home cycling when it first launched in 2014, later adding a treadmill to its catalog of home workouts. The instructor-led videos allow riders to fit workouts into their day without having to sweat it out in a gym on a strict schedule. Now, rumors are the company is looking to add boxing and rowing to its repertoire. In the meantime, competitors are already on the market.

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there’s not much you can’t find to check all those boxes. Here are some of the latest to stay fit and keep on top of your day.

Apple Fitness+

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ganizational tools to home gyms,


Hydrow

Check out Hydrow’s similarly immersive machine that simulates being in the water. With a 22-inch touch screen display and front-facing speakers, the machine lets rowers take their workout just about anywhere. The fit-for-home design allows users to store the machine upright to save space, and its wheel system makes moving it from room to room a breeze, not a part of the workout.

Cubii under-desk elliptical

Don’t have time to pull the Peloton out? No worries. Cubii has created an under-desk elliptical designed to keep you moving even while you sit. The design provides a whisper-quiet workout that won’t disturb your office mates or Zoom meeting participants. With some models clocking in at less than $300, it’s also a cheap way to stay fit even with a busy lifestyle.

Fitbit Charge 5

The new Fitbit includes tools to track daily readiness, manage stress, measure heart health and staples like its go-to health metrics and built-in GPS. The daily readiness score tells you whether you’re ready to workout or should prioritize recovery while a daily stress management score measures how exercise, mindfulness and sleep help manage stress. And with Will Smith backing the new product who wouldn’t want to get on board?

Nexersys home boxing

Nothing gets the stress out like throwing a solid punch, and with Nexersys’ suite of home boxing machines, you can enjoy an interactive workout from the home or office. Anatomically accurate punch pads measure punches while a flat screen delivers workout routines for all skill levels. Products include traditional boxing, a kickboxing variety and even one for youngsters.

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Keep Connected COVID-19 delivered many blows, but it also taught some valuable lessons about working in a digital world. With these new cultures comes the need to stay connected in all new ways, and the tech world is responding with these must-have new gadgets and some reboots of old staples.

New Apple Watch

Apple’s Series 7 line of watches includes five new colors — green, blue, red, starlight and midnight — with its biggest screen yet. But the bigger screen doesn’t mean a bulkier watch. Apple re-engineered the screen to reduce borders by 40%, increasing the screen size from its previous Series 6 by 20% and 50% larger than its Series 3. The new watch also includes an always-on Retina display for crisper images, a smooth design and a more durable wear. And it has all the features Apple Watch lovers have come to expect, including health information, notifications, calendars, apps and new, faster charging.

Magical calendar app

This start-up app is coming, though it’s not clear exactly when. The app, which has raised $3.3 million for production so far, aims to reimagine the calendar experience from one of merely personal time management to a team collaboration tool. You can sign up for early access at Magical’s website, magicalhq.com.

Office Gadget Must-Have

Ticktime countdown timer

Trio portable dual and triple screen laptop monitor

Trio and Trio Max fit just about any laptop to optimize viewing capabilities in dual or tri-screen. The portable design allows multiscreen functionality on-the-go and eliminates the need for more traditional home or in-office set-ups. The screens range from about $250 for the dual screen option to about $500 for tri-screen. 20

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Whether you’re counting down the time until your next meeting, Legislative Session or the next election, this productivity gadget provides three ways to count time, with a style that looks good on the desk. It includes options for a preset countdown, a customized countdown and a start to count, which can time upward from 0 to just under 100 minutes.


Gazepad Pro wireless charging mouse pad

Coming in at less than $50 on Amazon, this mousepad doubles as the basic office staple and a wireless charger. The large design has plenty of room for mouse operation and a large smartphone and is compatible with most devices. It’s a sleek way to ditch some cords without losing any charging function.

Eric Johnson, President 75 NE 20th Street Wilton Manors, FL 33305

(202) 306-6046 Johnsonstrategies.net Fall 2021

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the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

TECH

A whole new Vū BY JANELLE IRWIN TAYLOR

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I

n the 1940s, as World War II threatened professional baseball and put ballparks on the chopping block, Philip K. Wrigley had an idea. Why not field teams of women? It worked, and birthed the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, later the inspiration for the ‘90s classic, “A League of Their Own.” Much like that, the film industry faced crippling challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic that temporarily suspended productions worldwide. And it was a Florida company largely leading the charge to bridge the gap, in a way that will likely forever reshape cinematography. Tim Moore is CEO of Tampa-based Diamond View Studios and, now, Vū, a cutting edge offshoot that utilizes LED walls to produce content from a single studio of

scenes from virtually anywhere. The studios serve as an alternative to green-screen technology, which uses, as the name suggests, a green screen to superimpose actors into various scenes without them being there. But unlike green screens, LED walls can capture video in real time that is virtually indistinguishable from a real scene — whether it’s a commercial shot of a luxury car on the autobahn or an actor scaling Mount Everest. The walls are giant screens that show various backgrounds and can be used to film in real-time, with a simplified editing process that captures all of the benefits of green screen without all the time needed to merge the actor into the background with special effects.

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Top: Vū’s virtual production studio uses giant LED screens to project panoramic images of locations, which replace green screen technology. Left: LED Walls allow fewer staff to capture images and bring them back to a high-tech studio, saving potentially millions in overhead costs. Right: The editing process under LED Wall technology allows footage to be edited in all new ways and may be the future of film.

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“This represents a paradigm shift in the industry,” Moore said. “When digital hit distribution, you saw that Netflix took off and Blockbuster tanked.” Now that’s happening in production, too. “What’s going to happen is traditional studios will become inferior to these digital studios,” Moore said, and Florida is at the epicenter of the opportunity to take over.

CAPITALIZING ON OPPORTUNITY

The technology behind LED walls for video production hit around February of last year, Moore said. The next month, cities began shutting down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the pandemic took hold in the U.S. and around the world. With California — the epicenter of the film industry — under some of the strictest lockdowns in the country, productions were put on hold. One example is the NBC crime drama “The Blacklist,” which like so many others, was forced to halt production amid the pandemic. So producers got creative, finishing the final episode of its seventh season, which had been nearly complete when the studio suddenly shuttered, with animated scenes juxtaposed with live action shots that had already been filmed. While that out-of-the-box quick thinking allowed producers to finish the season

with a graphic novel kind of feel, it was by no means a long-term solution. Others found that LED walls afforded the opportunity to not only meet production demands in a COVID-19 world but also allowed studios to cut costs. Instead of using huge production teams to shoot onsite at distant locations, LED walls allow much smaller teams to deploy to an area, capture environments digitally and then bring them back to a studio. “Producers are always chasing the bottom line,” Moore said. “This tech can reduce costs up to 70%.” The space isn’t cheap. Moore said using an LED wall studio runs about $30,000 a day, compared with $1,500 to $2,500 for traditional studio space. But it saves much more in other areas. As Moore noted, the cost to shut down the Howard Frankland Bridge for a shoot can be as much as $2 million. With LED wall technology, that cost is no longer needed. Likewise, he said the White House is constantly being recreated on sets, only to be torn down and rebuilt later. Now, digital images of the White House can be used over and over, without having to absorb the cost of building a set. Crew sizes are smaller, too. So as far as overhead, producers can see a major reduction in overall costs.

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And now that the technology is here — not to mention getting better by the day — it’s not going anywhere. Moore likened the emerging trend to 2007, when some production studios shifted to using digital cameras rather than tape-based. “When it got good, no one ever went back,” Moore said, adding that those who took that first leap were at a huge advantage over those who didn’t. And that’s where his new company comes in.

FLORIDA GOT A BOOST FROM THE GOVERNOR Top left: Vū has so far produced several commercials and has been featured on national television programming. Bottom left: LED Wall studios are a big time operation. Vū’s Tampa studio took over an entire shuttered department store. Top right: Welcome to Vū: Rather than sending large production teams to on-site filming, LED Walls allow the images to come directly into the studio, without sacrificing visual quality. Bottom right: LED Walls, much like green screens, can simulate motion and give as-if-you-werethere vantage points of grand scenes — Whether it’s a vast mountain range or the peak of Mount Everest.

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While much of the country remained under at least some level of lockdown, Florida quickly reopened, giving the state a 12-month head start on launching LED wall production technology, Moore said. Gov. Ron DeSantis faced heaps of criticism for his approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, with critics arguing he should have done more to protect Floridians. But he maintained a strict anti-lockdown approach beginning last April. DeSantis cited the need to keep the economy rolling. The film industry may emerge as one of the biggest winners of that approach in Florida. Moore looks to Disney for evidence. The happiest place on earth has two U.S. locations, one in California and one in Florida. “Anaheim was so affected, they’ve now

brought a significant part of their workforce to Orlando,” he said. Moore calls it the Matthew effect. “It comes from a verse in the Bible. It’s cumulative advantage. If you are the first mover in a market and then you get business and then advertising, newcomers are so far behind it begins to snowball,” he said. That’s a space Moore hopes to fill with his emerging LED wall endeavors.

GROWING FAST Vū took over a shuttered department store in University Mall to create a 35,000-square-foot production campus with a 100-foot-by-20-foot curved LED wall. There, the company shot high-tech commercials for Jeep and Mercedes Benz, which played during the Super Bowl in Tampa, and a 21 Pilots music video. The company’s work has since been featured in USA Today. Vū has opened eight studios in Florida so far and one in Toronto. It also launched partnerships with the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and Florida State University to serve as a training ground for new tech, with commitments to donate about $5 million to state universities and colleges to help build the future workforce to continue growing. It gifted its own patented technology to USF and UT to further build the workforce. Vū is now the largest producer of LED studios in North America.


HELPING FLORIDA OVERCOME ITS INCENTIVE PROBLEM For years, Florida has faced a major problem in the film industry — incentives. Simply put, the state doesn’t have them. It means television shows, movies and commercials set in Florida are sometimes shot in other states, most recently in Georgia, where sets are erected to look like Florida even though the real deal is only a couple hundred miles to the south. “Live By Night,” a big-budget Hollywood film starring Ben Affleck, was filmed in Brunswick, Georgia, in 2015 and not in Ybor City where the film was set. It’s because Georgia, which has no cap on its film incentives, was able to offer up to 30% in incentives to shoot in their state. Florida, as is usually the case, had nothing to offer. Instead, a fake Ybor City was erected. But six years later, that problem might not be such a big deal. Incentives typically run about 20% of total costs, while LED studios

can save producers as much as 70%. So even without an incentive, there’s still a bottom line win if Florida can maintain its advantage in the new LED space. “These studios are emerging by the dozens in Florida,” Moore said. “It could shake things up and put Florida in play.” That will be welcome news to lawmakers in Florida who have long been split over the incentives issue, some within their own political parties. Republicans, who dominate the state Legislature, frequently debate whether to fully fund the state’s now defunct film incentive program. Lawmakers in 2010 stocked the program with nearly $300 million. By 2012, the cash was gone, and in 2016, lawmakers allowed the program to sunset. Critics argue the state doesn’t see a return on investment from film incentives. One estimate showed the state recouped less than half the total $296 million paid out for incentives. Those who support incentives, however, say the estimates ignore private spending. Film Florida Executive Director John Lux told the Tampa Bay Times in 2017 the Tampa Bay area would have received about $30 million from the “Live By Night” production in addition to creating thousands of jobs. If Moore has his way — though he notes incentives still would help — Florida could reap the fiscal benefits of film production even if it doesn’t have to foot the bill for incentives. “There’s such a big opportunity for Florida to become a mover and shaker in this video realm,” Moore said. “One of the big advantages is we have three patents around this country and we’re right here in Florida. Obviously the tax incentives would help with that, but we could really become what Atlanta did to Hollywood.”

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Briefings from the Rotunda

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Father, daughter duo tapped for jobs in Biden administration

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ook out, Washington. The Williams family is coming. Alan Williams was recently tapped for a key role at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The former member of the Florida House of Representatives will serve as the deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental relations in the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations. Not to be outdone by her father, Adrianna Williams landed an appointment as a special assistant within the Office of Management at the U.S. Department of Energy. Alan Williams served in the Florida Legislature from 2008 to 2016. During his time in the House, he chaired the Florida Legislative Black Caucus and worked as House Democratic Whip from 2012 to 2016. Since 2017, he has worked as a government relations consultant for Meenan Regulatory and Legislative Attorneys. During his political career, Alan Williams served as the Secretary of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and a member of the White House Legislators Working Group on Middle Class Economics. In 2014, he was named National Legislator of the Year by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. The elder Williams has also served on a variety of advisory boards, including Leadership Florida, Leadership Tallahassee, the Bethel Community Development Corporation Board of Directors and the Leon County Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Florida A&M University. Both father and daughter were engaged in the 2020 Biden-Harris campaign, with Alan Williams serving as a coordinated coalition strategic adviser in Florida. Adrianna Williams served as national co-chair for Black Students for Biden and was a leader of National Students for Biden. In these roles, she educated young Americans about climate change, environmental justice and infrastructure reform. Before joining the Biden administration, she served a stint as an intern for North Carolina District 20 State Sen. Natalie Murdock. Adrianna Williams is a Duke University graduate, where she studied neuroscience.

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Dean Mead selects new government affairs head, expands practice

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here’s a new woman in charge of Dean Mead’s government relations and lobbying practice. The powerhouse firm has tapped Jennifer Ungru to lead the practice, succeeding Pete Dunbar in the role. Ungru is the first woman to serve in this capacity at the firm. Ungru brings nearly 20 years of political, policy and governmental experience to the role, serving in several high-profile roles in the Governor’s Office, Florida Legislature, and national and statewide campaigns. Ungru previously served as then-Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff, overseeing nine agencies, including the health care and public safety departments. She also served a tenure as the chief of staff for the Agency for Health Care Administration. Ungru received her bachelor’s degree from Loyola College of Maryland and a law degree from Capital University Law School in Columbus. In addition to Ungru’s appointment, the firm also announced Emily Duda Buckley and Timothy Riley would be joining the firm. Duda Buckley will serve as the firm’s government relations manager. Before joining Dean Mead, she served as the director of legislative affairs for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Her public sector work also includes time in the Executive Office of the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget and the Florida House of Representatives. Riley brings a broad-based environmental law practice to the firm. With clients primarily in the manufacturing and public utilities industries, Riley aims to use his real-world knowledge to help clients through all phases of a project’s development. He also serves as an officer and judge advocate in the Florida Army National Guard.

Above: Emily Duda Buckley and Jennifer Ungru Below: Timothy Riley

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Wright joins The Able Trust

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onna Wright doesn’t grade papers anymore, but she is still a teacher. Her classroom is the state of Florida, her students the companies that want to improve their access to people with disabilities. As Director of Development and Marketing for The Able Trust, she educates business leaders on the most neglected sector of our population, a service gap that exists in part because we do not see them. Wright is also a perennial learner, a voracious consumer of information. She has stayed up late and worked weekends, and put full-time hours into allegedly part-time jobs because she wanted the work done correctly. She expends the same kind of energy supporting her children’s sporting events, her new home in Tallahassee or the vegetables she grows in the backyard. There is no off switch. She cited a verse from First Thessalonians to sum up the total endeavor: “Therefore encourage and build one another up, just as you are already doing.” “That’s all I’ve ever known and all I’ve ever believed,” Wright said. She speaks in crystal clear sentences that become paragraphs, the paragraphs joining into themes, the themes into lessons on disability — a condition, she argues, that better describes accessibility gaps to hidden millions among us than within the people themselves. “You probably won’t realize that one in four individuals have some sort of visible or invisible disability,” Wright said, the latter including chronic pain or dizziness, mental illness and epilepsy, a long list that encompasses 70% of the disability spectrum. “So that’s over 5 million Floridians and a billion and a half across the globe. From a business standpoint, some of your best customers, some of your best suppliers probably have interactions with persons with disabilities.” People with disabilities have had a hard time getting recognized despite those numbers, even despite landmark legislation modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted under President George Bush in 1990, required schools and workplaces to have ramps, elevators, curb cuts and a range of accommodations for those with visual or hearing impairments. More than 30 years later, most public buses now have wheelchair lifts, children with disabilities attend schools alongside nondisabled peers and we have access to a wider range of telecommunications devices. Yet in 2020, 12.6% of disabled people were unemployed while the unemployment rate overall stood at 7.3%, and twice as many people with disabilities live in poverty as the nondisabled, according to the National Council on Disabilities. “Incredibly important equity and inclusion conversations are happening around the country right now, as they should be,” Wright said. “But if you think about it, disability inclusion often takes a back seat to racial inequities, and to gender or sexual orientation. We are really trying to insert ourselves into the diversity, equity and inclusion conversations because it really deserves a seat at that table.” Donna Hicks grew up in Roxboro, North Carolina, where she enjoyed helping her great-aunt, a teacher, decorate her fourthgrade classrooms for the fall. She graduated from Meredith College, where she met her future husband, Baker Wright, who was 34

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on his way to a doctorate in behavioral psychology. She went on to earn a master’s degree at Florida State University in special education. Her first student, a 12-year-old named Derek, had suffered a stroke at birth. He contended with seizures, then an operation to remove the brain tissue that had caused them. His cerebral palsy led school authorities to place him in increasingly restrictive classes rather than toward assimilation. “This is a student nobody expected to graduate,” Wright says. Wright got to know the boy and his family. At certain key junctures in the ensuing years, she spoke up on his behalf. “Not only did Derek mainstream out of my class, he graduated high school, he graduated college and he has an incredible career in IT,” she said. She regards that ongoing relationship as a guiding example, a North Star — her “true why” — for pushing herself and her students to break barriers. Wright left teaching to raise a son, then a daughter. She volunteered heavily, serving on the boards of the Red Cross, the American Lung Association and as President of Heart Gallery Big Bend, which seeks permanent homes for children who have spent years in foster care. Five years after teaching, Goodwill hired her as a spokeswoman. The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity came calling next, needing a leader. Wright headed the Unique Abilities Partnership Program, a new initiative. For several years, she traveled the state with Gov. Rick Scott, who had campaigned on jobs, pitching corporations on disability awareness. Their emphasis differed somewhat from the legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has been criticized as a fallback option for underperforming employees, a haven for plaintiff’s lawyers pursuing settlements, even a “shakedown racket,” according to opinion pieces by lawyers in the City Journal. “I can’t take credit for this, Gov. Scott, now Sen. Scott, used to say this all the time,” Wright said. “But I believe the best thing that you can do for any person is to help them get a job regardless of their age, disability level, the color of their skin or whether they like pizza or hamburgers,” Wright said. “It doesn’t matter.” Toward the end of Scott’s second term, she accepted a position as Chief Operating Officer of the Florida Chamber Foundation. A lasting imprint of that experience, Wright said, was cultivating “a bird’s eye view, seeing how economic development, innovation, things like quality of life and education all impact one another.” One key relationship paved the way for yet another transition. Tony Carvajal, the foundation’s Executive Vice President and a mentor, moved in 2019 to The Able Trust, which advocates for education and employment for people with disabilities. In April 2021, Allison Chase, president and CEO of Able Trust, hired Wright at his recommendation as the nonprofit’s director of development and marketing. She has attacked the new challenges with characteristic gusto, working until the job is finished regardless of the clock or calendar. “I do not believe in the notion that business is just business, that it isn’t personal. There are lives and livelihoods that are impacted by business. So I don’t do anything that I don’t care about on a personal level. So a job has never been just a job for me. It’s about the opportunity to create and to learn and to grow.”

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850.980.0421 ASHLEY@ROSSCONSULT.NET

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King promoted to partner at RSA Consulting

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n the early 2000s, California seemed like a costly paradise to Natalie King, its bitter politics no longer inviting, her job a casualty of NAFTA. So the product of a military family did what she always did. She relied on her internal compass. Sometimes that meant sticking to the plan, such as plugging away at a college degree over nine years while working full-time. At other times she took big leaps, such as leaving California for Hawaii. “I thought I wanted to move out there,” King said of the move that landed her at Communications Pacific, Hawaii’s oldest public relations firm. “I got there and realized that was wrong. And so the person I was with at the time — we were together nine years — he had a brother who lived in Florida. He thought it would be a good idea to move here and it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.” Today King is the Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of RSA Consulting Group. In retrospect, it was a journey too perfect to have been planned. She tells the story easily, her speech rapid and clear. As a newcomer to Tampa in 2004, she connected with seven temp agencies. One was so impressed, they dropped the traditional third-party posture and tried to hire King directly. “It was just one of those coincidences in life,” she said. “I was in their office, which was on the same floor of the building where the Tampa Bay Partnership had their office. They were having a big meeting that day with


Briefings from the Rotunda key business leaders and elected officials. And while I was sitting in the hiring manager’s office, a call from the partnership came in. Their receptionist for the meeting had called in sick. “She said, ‘Can you hop over there? Just do this for today.’ I said sure. It was the best spontaneous thing that’s ever happened to me.” As the stakeholders checked in at her table, King noted their names and the roles each played as interlocking puzzle pieces in the Tampa Bay landscape. “It was the Rhea Laws, the Kim Berfields, the Dewey Mitchells, the Roy McGraws,” she said. “I don’t know anybody and I’m sitting there meeting them all.” Ideas about the area as a nerve center of the state struck home in myriad ways. “That first day, I realized how rich this community is,” she said. “It’s a small town but a big dynamic place to live, work and play. I’m like a walking billboard for the EDC or the Chamber. I just saw the vision. It was like, ‘Oh my god, this is awesome, I have to be here.’” King soon joined the Tampa Bay Partnership. She spent the next three years immersed in policy and legislation around water, energy, ports and airports, health care, K-12 and higher education, tort reform and growth management over eight counties. In the public policy committee, she met Tom Pepin, the President and CEO of Pepin Distributing Company and a well known philanthropist. Over time, Pepin began to see King as a potential key player in the family business and related nonprofits, Pepin Academies and what is now known as AdventHealth Pepin Heart Institute. The “community development” position she accepted in 2007 drew on King’s human resources and marketing backgrounds, a hybrid spokeswoman and chief of staff post also involved in philanthropic activities. “He let me make hard decisions and backed me up when I needed backup,” King said of Pepin. “He called me out when I needed to be called out. He’s the hardest boss I’ve ever worked for but also the most generous, the most supportive. I can’t express strongly enough how critical he has been to my success.” The Pepin post brought her in and around legislative affairs but fell short of full-time lobbying work, which was something she wanted. She found it with RSA Consulting, a small firm King joined in 2011. As with other big moves, this one also grew organically out of a relation-

ship. King’s work with Pepin sometimes brought her into the orbit of the Tampa Bay Lightning and its top lobbyist, Ron Pierce, with whom she organized the occasional fundraiser. When Pierce, a former legislative adviser in Tallahassee, founded RSA Consulting in 2009, she lent him marketing and PR help. “When Ron started RSA,” she said, “I joked, ‘Well, you’re going to have to grow this company big enough to hire me.’ And about six months later he called me. He said, ‘Were you serious?’” King joined RSA as its community relations leader, striking an agreement on the way out the door to retain Pepin Distributing as a lobbying client and to keep serving as the company’s community liaison. RSA’s 70-plus clients include hospitals and schools, developers and local government, arts organizations, professional sports teams and tech companies. Her role as Vice President and COO didn’t change with the advent of

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COVID-19. The pandemic did prompt Pierce and King to grow her title by one notable word: partner. “I care nothing about titles,” she said. ”That’s one of the ironies of this. Rounding out the legislative team are Edward Briggs, who directs community and governmental affairs, and senior lobbyist Kaitlyn Bailey. Briggs “is going to be one of the best lobbyists ever in existence, he just doesn’t know it yet,” King said; while Bailey is “just so smart … an overachiever on every level.” While that 4,700-mile move to Florida ranks as one of the best decisions she had ever made, it’s not the best. That distinction rests with her marriage to yacht captain Mikel King. They lived on a boat for four years but now make their home in Seffner, a semirural bedroom community 20 minutes from Tampa International Airport. She’s more bullish than ever on the Tampa Bay area, a one-time destination of chance that now feels like destiny.

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Former Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal Joins Holland & Knight

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olland & Knight has brought on Amit Agarwal as a partner in its Tallahassee and Washington offices, boosting the firm’s federal and state litigation practices. “Amit is a brilliant lawyer and advocate whose impressive achievements in the public sector bode well for success in private practice at Holland & Knight,” said Christopher Kelly, the head of Holland & Knight’s Litigation Section. “He will, without question, be an incredible asset to Holland & Knight’s Litigation Section and clients, as well as the firm’s regulatory and government affairs practices, which are well known in Washington, D.C., and across the country.” Agarwal grew up in South Florida and is a graduate of Duke University, where he earned a degree in English. He earned his law degree from Georgetown University, graduating magna cum laude and serving as Editor-in-Chief of the American Criminal Law Review. Most recently, he worked as Florida’s solicitor general from 2016 to 2021, a stretch covering the administrations of former Attorney General Pam Bondi and current Attorney General Ashley Moody. In that role, he oversaw civil and criminal appeals involving the state’s interests in all state and federal appellate courts. Before becoming Florida’s solicitor general, Agarwal served as the deputy chief of the Appellate Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the

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Southern District of Florida, during which time he worked with Wifredo “Willy” Ferrer, the chair of Holland & Knight’s Global Compliance and Investigations Team and the executive partner of the firm’s Miami office. “At the U.S. Attorney’s office, Amit stood out among his peers because of his professionalism, dedication, unparalleled legal research, writing and oral skills, and leadership. Holland & Knight’s clients will absolutely benefit from having a powerhouse lawyer like Amit on their team,” Ferrer said. Agarwal’s resume also includes a trio of prestigious legal clerkships, including under U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his time on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and Judge Edward Becker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia. “Holland & Knight’s outstanding reputation in both Florida and Washington, D.C., was a major factor in my decision to join the firm,” Agarwal said. “Similarly, the firm’s expansive litigation department, including its first-rate State Attorneys General and Global Investigations practices, convinced me that this was the ideal place to continue my career.” At Holland & Knight, he joins a team with a global reach — the firm has more than two dozen offices worldwide and employs more than 1,400 lawyers with practices in litigation, business, real estate and governmental law.


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Berger Singerman add father-son team to roster

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he Stratton family has found a home at Berger Singerman. The business law firm announced Charles Stratton and Joshua Stratton have joined the firm as partners in the dispute resolution team. The father-son duo brings decades of experience to the firm’s eminent domain practice and will focus their practice on representing private property owners and lessees in eminent domain and other related matters. “Charlie and Josh Stratton are two of Florida’s most distinguished eminent domain practitioners whose passion for defending the rights of property owners and lessees is a perfect match for Berger Singerman’s focus on representing entrepreneurs and their businesses,” said Paul Steven Singerman, co-chair of Berger Singerman. “They exemplify our commitment to recruiting and retaining culturally compatible top legal talent.” Charles Stratton brings nearly 40 years of eminent domain expertise to the practice. He began his career at the Florida Department of Transportation, becoming the state’s chief eminent domain attorney. He entered private practice, joining Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel in Tallahassee, where he focused his practice on representing property owners affected by eminent domain and related proceedings. Charles Stratton received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and his law degree from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Joshua Stratton also specializes in eminent domain matters, representing private property owners and lessees around Florida, practicing at Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel before joining Berger Singerman. He received his bachelor’s from Brandeis University, his law degree from Rutgers University, and his LL.M in intellectual property, commerce and technology from the Franklin Pierce Law Center.

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Baird, Phillips join Consensus Communications

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his has been a year of growth at Consensus Communications, which added two new team members to its ranks in June. Joining the Orlando-based public relations firm were Trent Phillips and Margaret Baird, both of whom will help develop client strategy and communications. Phillips comes to the firm from the Florida Senate Majority Office, where he served as a legislative analyst, advising members of the Republican caucus on policy, strategy and communications. He has also worked as a legislative assistant to Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. James Grant. “Trent brings a unique blend of communications, legislative and political experience to our team,” said Ryan Houck, a partner with Consensus. “His work for the Senate Majority Office and noted GOP lawmakers will help our clients shape the message, develop content, and pair new tactics with time-tested strategies.” A native of Orlando, Phillips graduated from the University of Central Flori40

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da with a degree in political science. In 2016, He was named one of Florida Politics’ “30 Under 30” rising stars. “No one does creative or communications better than Consensus,” said Phillips, who joins the firm as a director. “I’m excited to join this exceptional team, work in this collaborative climate, and create communications that help our clients succeed.” Baird, meanwhile, most recently worked at Tavistock Development Company, where she served as a marketing coordinator and took the lead on marketing and communications for the Lake Nona Life Project longitudinal health study. At Tavistock, she developed social media strategies for all of Lake Nona’s social media channels, implemented digital and print residential marketing strategies and produced residential communications strategies by way of email campaigns, social media and event promotion. “Margaret brings a refreshing perspective of public relations and mar-

keting tactics to our team,” Consensus partner Dana Loncar said. “Her prior experience will help provide our clients with innovative ideas for content development and communication strategies.” Baird, who is from St. Pete Beach, also attended UCF, where she earned her degree in advertising and public relations with honors. “Joining the Consensus team and its storied history is very exciting, and I look forward to bringing my knowledge of the very latest technology and tactics to bear for our clients,” said Baird, who joins the firm as an account manager. The new hires were announced on the heels of the firm’s hardware-heavy awards season, which included five Pollies, four Reed Awards and 11 Tellies. Consensus Communications manages strategic communications for a range of corporate, political and civic clients across Florida. The firm is especially active in Central Florida and has topped the Orlando Business Journal’s list of leading public relations firms seven times in the past decade.


Telling your story

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Ron Pierce Natalie King Edward Briggs Kaitlyn Bailey Owen Melody Arnold

LEGISLATIVE, LOBBYING AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS With over 85 years of combined experience representing clients before the Florida Legislative and Executive branches, LLW’s Legislative team zealously advocates for our clients throughout the state, helping them navigate through the governmental and regulatory processes.

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Jasmyne Henderson expands Pittman brand to Orlando

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he Pittman Law Group is expanding into the Orlando market with a new office headed by Jasmyne Henderson. “As our firm celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, we are excited about growing our presence in the Central Florida market as we continue striving to represent our clients to the absolute best of our ability,” founder and managing partner Sean Pittman said. He added that Henderson is “ready and prepared to lead” and has proved “invaluable to the firm” during her tenure. “The firm’s expansion to Orlando to serve and engage a growing list of clients is incredibly exciting, but Jasmyne’s added work ethic, leadership and commitment to success will make it extremely special,” Pittman said. The lawyer and Florida State University College of Law alumna will be leaving her longtime position as director of the firm’s governmental affairs team in Tallahassee to open and manage the new office. “I’m honored to lead this next era of expansion to the Pittman Law Group. The I-4 corridor is the heartbeat of Florida, so it is a logical next step for me personally and the Pittman Law Group to establish a strong presence in Orlando,” she said. “I look forward to serving clients in and around the City Beautiful and setting a foundation for the next 20 years of excellence.” Henderson had a fast ascent at the Pittman Law Group. She was immediately promoted from law clerk to lawyer after graduating from law school in 2015. In the six years since, Henderson has become a state Capitol insider and a trusted attorney to many. She was included in the National Bar Association’s class of 40 under 40: Nation’s Best Advocates and has been recognized as a

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Rising Star of Florida Politics in a past edition of INFLUENCE magazine. After announcing Henderson’s shift to the Orlando market, the firm followed up with a new hire at the Tallahassee office. The new face on the government affairs team is Evan Steinberg, a 2020 FSU graduate with experience across all levels of state government. In addition to his experience as a staffer in the Senate

and the Broward County Commission, he — like Pittman — is a former FSU student body president. Founded in 2001, the Pittman Law Group is a boutique law and lobbying firm that represents a diverse set of clients ranging from local governments such as Miami-Dade and Broward counties to major corporations such as Uber and AT&T.


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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES USING THE GOLDEN RULE AS A GUIDING PRINCIPLE FOR GOOD Significant other? Children? Grand kids? Wife, Leslie, and two daughters, ages 6 and 9. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I advocate for the best university in the country – Florida State University! Go Noles! Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. Government operating within its constitutional limits. If you have one, what is your motto? It is hard to beat the Golden Rule. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Being “InHouse” hasn’t afforded me the chance to do this.

Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? To quote the character Michael Bolton from the movie “Office Space” when asked which of the singer Michael Bolton’s songs is his favorite, “I guess I sort of like ‘em all.” Other than Florida Politics. com, your reading list includes… Lately there have been a lot of books about Fairies and Wimpy Kids with the girls, but I’m looking forward to some more grown up books over the summer. What swear word do you use most often? I’m working on this.

Three favorite charities. So many noble organizations to choose from but if I have to pick three I’ll start with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Pace Center for Girls, and Take Stock in Children.

What is your most treasured possession? My National Championship Ring. It reminds me of what can be accomplished with true teamwork.

Any last-day-of-Session traditions? A quiet dinner with the family after Sine Die.

The best hotel in Florida is… The Port Inn in Port St. Joe.

What are you most looking forward to during the 2022 Legislative Session? Seeing the Capitol full of people again.

You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Jim Rimes, Randy Enwright, Todd Thomson, and Peter Schorsch.

If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be… I couldn’t top the one I have! Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? My work to help active-duty members of the military transition to professional civilian careers in Florida while I was a member of the House of Representatives.

When you pig out, what do you eat? My tops would be anything on the menu at Smokey’s Real Pit Bar-B-Que or a burger from Blue Dot. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Sir Winston Churchill

Clay Ingram

PHOTO: The Workmans

Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I do not — saving to send my kids to college!

Favorite movie. “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”

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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES ADVOCATING WITH SOME OF THE BRIGHTEST MINDS IN THE BUSINESS

In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I build relationships, educate, and advocate, on behalf of our amazing clients, for the best lobbying firm in Florida, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion Somewhere in the middle. If you have one, what is your motto? It’s a beautiful day, and it’s great to be alive. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Justice for Dan Three favorite charities. The Humane Society, Jack and Jill Center, Children’s Miracle Network Any last-day-of-Session traditions? We are usually still working! But once things slow down, we order pizza and start cleaning up the office to head back home. What are you most looking forward to during the 2022 Legislative Session? Hopefully something that resembles a more normal Session. I’d so much rather be walking the halls of the Capitol than sitting at my desk.

Anita Berry

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If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be… I wouldn’t trade our clients for anything! I am incredibly honored to work with each of them and call so many friends. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Being part of the team that came down from Baltimore to integrate Johns Hopkins Medicine with All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete. It was an incredible experience that helped to shape my career and honestly change my life. I may have never moved to Florida if it wasn’t for that job and 10 years later, I’m still here.

Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No loafers for me! It is rare that you will find me in the Capitol in anything except heels. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? I like so many of them! Peter Schorsch, Matt Dixon, Gary Fineout, and Christine Sexton, to name a few. Other than Florida Politics.com, your reading list includes… I’ve been reading Capitol Hill Style since my first job in D.C. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s a wonderful community of professional women, many of whom work in politics, and it has been a great resource for career development and insightful policy conversations. What swear word do you use most often? I don’t swear! What is your most treasured possession? My family, friends, and dogs. The best hotel in Florida is… The Vinoy in St. Pete. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? This is a tough one! It would be impossible to pick just four. I’ll just say that if you’ve spent any time in our office, you know our firm is a show in and of itself. We are a tight-knit family, and I’ve had the opportunity to be part of conversations that include some of the brightest minds in Florida. Whether it’s a strategy discussion with a client, or quality time with legislators, the dialogue is always entertaining. Favorite movie. “Say Anything.” We should all be a little more like Lloyd. When you pig out, what do you eat? If I’m in St. Pete, Hawkers is my go-to. Anytime else, popcorn or chips with dip. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Can I say my late grandmother? I was named after her and have been told we would have had a lot in common, including our interest in politics. I would love to meet her and hear about her experiences.

PHOTO: The Workmans

Significant other? Children? Grand kids? My husband, Ben, and our two dachshunds, Doyle and Hazel.



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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES FOSTERING RELATIONSHIPS ACROSS PARTY LINES FOR A BETTER FLORIDA Significant other? Children? Grand kids? Married for 40 years to my beautiful wife, Kay Cooksey Dick. Three caring children, Steven Dennis, Mehgean Willoughby and Stephanie Clary. One terrific daughter-in-law, Teresa, and two supportive son-in-laws, Geoff and Luke. Seven grandkids ranging in age from 16 years to 14 months – Paige, Cole, Parker, Isabella, Peyton, Scott and Benjamin. All live in Tallahassee. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Lobbying is about building relationships with policy makers, clients and other lobbyists. It also takes a thorough knowledge and understanding of the issues and hard work. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. After almost 46 years in the Process I focus on my clients’ issues and keep my political views separate. I focus on doing the job for my clients and let politics sort itself out. If you have one, what is your motto? Always take time to smell the roses. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff, A.J. Smith, is a close friend and has done a terrific job in curtailing — and is close to eliminating — the meth problem in his area. He has some excellent “out-of-the-box” ideas for treatment and life after prison for individuals with substance abuse disorders. Three favorite charities.Big Bend Hospice, Children’s Miracle Network and March of Dimes.

PHOTO: The Workmans

Any last-day-of-Session traditions? I make sure I have plenty of adult beverages on hand for sine die (and maybe a little beforehand). What are you most looking forward to during the 2022 Legislative Session? The Senate and House and the Governor working together to provide Florida’s citizens a safe and vibrant environment during these difficult times. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? In 2017, the Legislature passed legislation that would have allowed the big box stores to sell hard liquor in their main stores. I was

lobbying against the measure on behalf of ABC Liquors and Florida Independent Spirits Association. The Senate passed it by a few votes, and the House passed it by one vote. After the vote, several representatives switched their yes votes to no votes. While this didn’t help our effort, it showed how contentious the issue had become. The bill then went to Gov. Rick Scott. After our team spearheaded an aggressive, grassroots, veto-campaign, the Governor vetoed the bill. Contentious issues such as this highlight the importance of working with both Republicans and Democrats, which is something I have always taken pride in doing. The issue has resurfaced several times since 2017, and I am sure it will do so again. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No, never liked the way they fit – too tight. I am a Cole Haan kind of guy. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Steve Bousquet. He has been around for a number of years and understands the Process — both in the open and not so open. He’s persistent, works hard, and represents the issues/ stories fairly. What swear word do you use most often? I can’t sugar coat my swearing – the “F” word is used quite often in my vocabulary. What is your most treasured possession? My family! The best hotel in Florida is… The Biltmore in Coral Gables. A lot of history, especially the Al Capone Suite. Favorite movie? “The Godfather” – all of them. When you pig out, what do you eat? Dark chocolate covered almonds and heated dark chocolate peanut M&M’s. Enjoyed with a nice bottle of pinot noir or cabernet.

Scott Dick

If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Martin Luther King Jr.

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Top 25

FIRMS BY LEGISLATIVE LOBBYING COMPENSATION SECOND QUARTER OF 2021

OVER $1,000,000.00: 1. The Southern Group $3,268,000

2. Capital City Consulting $2,365,000

3. Ballard Partners $2,348,000

4. Ronald L. Book $1,930,000

5. Greenberg Traurig $1,195,000

6. GrayRobinson $1,090,000

7. Rubin, Turnbull & Associates $1,026,000

8. Metz Husband & Daughton $1,006,000 50

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Amount Earned Based on Median Principal-Level Figures


SIX FIGURES: 9. Corcoran Partners $978,000

18. Anfield Consulting $500,000

10. Smith Bryan & Myers $795,000

19. Ramba Consulting Group $485,000

11. The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners $750,000

20. Peebles, Smith & Matthews $470,000

12. Johnson & Blanton $665,000

21. Dean Mead $360,000

13. Becker & Poliakoff $620,000

22. Hopping Green & Sams $350,000

14. Floridian Partners $605,000 15. The Mayernick Group $590,000 16. Rutledge Ecenia $530,000 17. Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies $505,000

23. Heffley & Associates $335,000 (Tie) 23. McGuireWoods Consulting $335,000 (Tie) 25. PooleMcKinley $325,000

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The Long Term Care Labor Crisis is Here Now 9 out of 10

Florida Health Care Association Members say their workforce needs have gotten worse since 2020.

52% are reducing admissions to try

to address these workforce challenges.

loss or negative total margin.

74% at least once in the last month

98% at least once in the last month

needed to bring in temporary staff through an agency to fill shifts.

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59% of facilities are operating at a

We must prioritize our long term care centers and support solutions that help them recruit and retain the best caregivers. | INFLUENCE Fall 2021

had to ask staff to work overtime or take extra shifts.


{ insiders’ ADVICE

The

power of partnerships by brittany castillo

I

n the immediate hours and days after an emergency, political and ideological differences are put aside and people unite, moving heaven and earth to help each other. But as we’ve often seen, when the recovery timeline grows from days to weeks and months, or even years, those divisions return and can harm recovery efforts. Sustaining partnerships is critical in emergency response. We in Florida have seen firsthand how elected officials, businesses, and nonprofits put aside their differences to help communities heal in the wake of hurricanes, the pandemic, or other disasters. Debris is cleared, power is restored, residents receive assistance, vaccines are administered – life slowly begins to normalize. When partnerships endure the response, communities are left stronger and more resilient. AshBritt, an emergency management and logistics contractor, helps communities across the nation recover after emergency events. Recently, our logistics division worked with state and local partners to set up vaccination centers and COVID-19 medical facilities, many in the heart of underserved communities. But we didn’t stop there. We worked with local houses of worship, communi-

ty organizations, and nonprofits to encourage participation and help overcome misinformation. We made sure our team was versed on the community they were serving, and we hired local. In times of crisis, government must team up with the private sector to help communities get back on their feet. Emergency response works best when leaders take these steps:

1. Cultivate public-private partnerships before an event. Government

and the private sector serve different roles in recovery. The private sector often moves more quickly, pulling in capital and regional and national resources while government manages the rescue phases. Nonprofits have their pulse on the community, are trusted by residents, and make sure assistance is quickly directed to areas where the needs are greatest. Pre-planning task forces must build cross-sector coordination; a strong foundation before an event ensures lasting partnership weeks and months after the event.

2. Leverage private sector ingenuity to improve emergency response. The private sector leads innovation, and government must be open to new

solutions, ideas and ways of doing things. In the aftermath of a disaster event, we need innovative solutions to respond to the unique nature of the event at hand as well as to build back better.

3. Improve the way disaster response is funded. Money doesn’t flow fast

enough from the federal government and states down to counties and cities, a key factor that often impedes rebuilding post-disaster. Recently, Florida has accelerated the flow, administering funds much more efficiently. Financial support allows cities and counties to act and is a game changer for homeowners and local and small businesses. Partnerships matter, and that includes across government bodies. In almost every instance, crisis events bring out the best in people who want to help their families, friends, and neighbors and restore the hometown they love. Through the power of partnership, let’s be ready to help when our neighbors need us the most, and to see it through. Brittany Castillo is the CEO of Deerfield Beach-based AshBritt Inc.

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Results Matter. Public Affairs Strategic Counsel Political Communications Legal Communications Crisis Communications Media Relations ALIA FARAJ-JOHNSON PRESIDENT

T. 850.212.8317 E. Alia@AliaStrategicGroup.com ALIASTRATEGICGROUP.COM 54

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{ insiders’ ADVICE

When to hire a campaign finance lawyer

W

hen I tell people that a large part of my firm’s practice is campaign finance and election law, it often leads to questions, especially if the person is a new candidate or new to the world of the legislative process. Others may think they understand our state’s election and campaign finance laws well enough that a campaign finance attorney is an unnecessary expense. But in many cases, proactively working with a campaign finance attorney can save you time, headache, and compliance issues later. Here are some instances where working with a campaign finance attorney is a good idea.

To review political communications

Most people with political experience know that political communications need disclaimers, and they likely know the correct disclaimer to include. But it’s a good idea to have any communications from your campaign reviewed by an attorney, as there may be other considerations that should be taken into account, such as whether the communication implicates the Hatch Act, whether claims in the communication are properly sourced, or whether the communication is considered express advocacy.

by natalie kato

For your corporate political giving program

If your corporate client is new to political giving in Florida, asking a campaign finance attorney to provide you with a memorandum outlining how our state’s laws differ from federal campaign finance guidelines or from other states may be helpful to help achieve your giving goals. I can think of many instances where a national government relations manager was shocked to find out that in Florida they could give directly to candidates, as that practice is outlawed in many states.

If you’re working with an association or other type of tax-exempt entity

While you may know the state campaign finance laws cold, if you are working with an entity that has certain IRS designations (Such as 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(6), federal regulations may also apply. It’s always a good idea to check with a campaign finance attorney to ensure the political activities by these types of entities are compliant.

For municipal or other local elections

Many local jurisdictions have their own campaign finance ordinances, reporting dates, or other special regulations. Don’t assume that these or-

dinances are consistent with state law; checking with an attorney can save you headaches later.

For ethics questions

In the course of a political campaign, questions relating to state ethics laws may arise, especially for incumbent candidates. It’s best to check with an attorney knowledgeable in both ethics and campaign finance to help inoculate against ethics concerns.

When you receive a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission

Violations of Chapter 106 can carry fines and, in some instances, criminal penalties. Consulting with a seasoned campaign finance attorney can help you handle these issues as they arise (and help prevent them in the first place!). While basic campaign finance (including state-mandated reporting) can often be handled by seasoned campaign staff, you should strongly consider consulting with an attorney for any complex questions. Natalie Kato is the founder and owner of Kato Law, a boutique government relations, campaign finance and elections law firm.

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insiders’ ADVICE}

The realities of political consulting

A

fter spending more than two decades as a professional political campaign consultant the most frequent reply I give when asked what I do is, “I’m a garbage man.” Because I have learned over the years that replying, “I’m a campaign consultant,” usually generates replies such as, “For whom?” or “Eww, you’re a Republican?” Or my actual favorite, “What does that mean?” And if I’m being honest, “garbage man” is both an easy way to end the conversation and also the closest thing to the truth. The common perception that most have is that being a campaign consultant means you are the super genius who comes up with some unexpectedly brilliant strategy or idea that swings the race in favor of your client. If only. The reality is, it’s mostly a management position — whether you are directly managing the campaign (as I’ve had the fortune of managing six races for the U.S. House) or if you are acting as a general consultant for one or more campaigns. Your job isn’t to develop the winning strategy so much as it is to hire and manage the people who do so. It’s more of a management job than anything else, and I would like to think that my previous background in hospitality and retail management has helped. Certainly more than having a degree in political science would. In reality, a political campaign is literally just a small- or medium-sized business with a defined life cycle. Finance, marketing, organizational and

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by jacob perry

overall business plans are all part of the modern campaign. Someone needs to know who must draft all of those things, hire folks to execute them and keep the organization on track. In fact, name any campaign that failed to meet even basic expectations and I’ll show you a campaign that wasn’t managed by a professional. The fun part about the business is the stories — and I’m sure we all have the same ones: bailing a candidate out of jail, being ghosted by a client for three weeks, begging a journalist over drinks to not write that unflattering article they are working on, scheduling a conflicting event so that your candidate won’t appear at a rally with Donald Trump, steering a drunk former Ambassador away from your 23-year-old female staffer, sitting next to Burt Reynolds at his personal table at a private holiday party at his home and hearing him tell stories about Marilyn Monroe…. Well, I am probably the only one who can tell that last story. And it is a good one. When you really think about it, what a garbage man really does is take away the refuse of our society to some unseen location to never be seen again. Seems like what a campaign consultant does is probably the reverse of that. Maybe I should stick to describing myself that way. Jacob Perry was a Republican campaign consultant for more than 20 years. You may find him on Twitter at @ RealJacobPerry.


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insiders’ ADVICE}

Hot Take: Is Joe Biden secretly running Ron DeSantis’ 2022 race? by melissa sellers stone

G

ov. Ron DeSantis is starting to gear up for his 2022 reelection, and he may not have announced a formal campaign yet, but it’s becoming clear that President Joe Biden is his de-facto campaign manager. No one is doing more for the Governor’s reelection efforts right now than the constant flow of failures from the White House. When Biden failed in Afghanistan, DeSantis was able to tout his own record of military service. When Biden promised to send more monoclonal antibody treatments to the country in a public address, DeSantis had already been doing antibody treatment press conferences for months. Then, when Biden reversed his promised “50% increase” and cut Florida’s allotment of treatments, DeSantis got to point out his petty political retribution and let us all ask ourselves: Is Biden a hateful liar or just incompetent? Whichever one he is — he is helping the Governor gain even more momentum going into his reelection. If his opposition remains Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist, his campaign message is easy: Do you want “Joe Biden Lite” in Florida? Do you want to risk our jobs and economic growth for government greed? That will be a hard “NO” for Florida voters, especially as we build back from the rocky year of the pandemic. Fried and Crist are junior versions of Joe Biden. They may love a good press conference, but they don’t have much in the policy arena. Like Biden, Crist has spent a lifetime in politics, but Floridians aren’t looking for a professional pol-

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itician in 2022 (again like Scott’s reelection in 2014). They are smart enough to realize that lifetime politicians only look out for themselves, not Floridians. What they want is a Governor who is a fighter and an optimist. That’s why they will vote for Ron DeSantis. Similar to the contrast we illustrated between Crist and Gov. Scott in 2014 (thanks to the skilled leadership of Curt Anderson, the OnMessage ad team, and messenger-extraordinaire Jackie Schutz Zeckman), DeSantis gets to say he is keeping the failures of Washington out of Florida. Scott railed against the crazy spending (train to nowhere) and mandates (remember, “if you like your insurance plan you can keep it?”) of the Barack Obama White House. DeSantis gets to remind us of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plans, immigration blunders, the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan that killed U.S. service members … oh, and I almost forgot, the pandemic lockdowns, business shutdowns and vaccine mandates. (To be fair, the Obama-Biden team loves them a mandate. Bonus points for consistency.) DeSantis has a great team of messaging experts around him already — including Phil Cox on the political side and Taryn Fenske in the Governor’s Office. They are seasoned political operatives who will surely lead him to a big win in November. Their only challenge, as I see it, will be to not waste any time on the thousands of opportunities their opponents give them to attack, but to instead keep DeSantis out in front and fighting

for Florida. He doesn’t need to waste his time talking about the three sides of every issue Crist has been on (and Crist is skilled enough to find a third side). The 2014 Scott reelection campaign was about a $200 million race and I am sure the DeSantis 2022 effort will be even more expensive. (Gov. DeSantis, like now-Sen. Scott, is a relentless fundraiser, and he will no doubt have every dollar needed to win.) In 2014, Scott won independent voters by over 50% (up from Romney’s loss of independents in 2012). This block, along with the Hispanic voting block (which the Scott campaign won around 50% of in 2014), will no doubt be a huge focus for the DeSantis team next year as they ask voters if they want to slam on the brakes with “Joe Biden Lite” or go full speed ahead into Florida’s Sunny Future with Gov. DeSantis behind the wheel. Of course, we can never lose sight of the fact that Florida is always a fight. But as things stand today, it looks like we will have Campaign Manager Joe Biden to thank for saving our tax dollars by avoiding a recount and letting the Governor win in a landslide next fall. Melissa Sellers Stone is the CEO of Cavalry Strategies. She served as senior adviser for the super PAC supporting Gov. Rick Scott in his 2018 U.S. Senate race, general consultant for Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ campaign, and was previously Scott’s Chief of Staff as well as campaign manager for his 2014 gubernatorial reelection campaign.


When policy impacts your business…

You need a team to help you impact policy.

Our lobbying team’s racial, ethnic, gender, and political diversity provides you with the distinct advantage of working with an array of state and federal legislators and local government officials from both sides of the aisle, as well as the various caucuses. Like all highly functioning teams, our lobbyists rely on each other’s unique set of political contacts, knowledge of various issues, and political intelligence to best help you tell your story. Our team enjoys access to the resources of a large law firm but operates like a “boutique” lobbying practice, providing you with personal attention and “on call” availability.

Government Law & Lobbying

Fearlessly Moving You Forward | beckerlawyers.com Fall 2021

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The Florida Chamber revs up for 2022 by drew wilson photos the workmans

F

lorida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson believes the Sunshine State is at a crossroads. One road leads to the embrace of policies popular in other large states that Wilson and other business leaders believe would stifle economic growth. The other path would allow businesses to take the lead in bringing Florida into the future and grow into a Top 10 world economy. “We’re either going to continue to be Florida, where we create good jobs and focus on free enterprise, or we’re going to go the way of New York, Illinois and California,” he said. From afar, it seems like the Sunshine State has already made its choice: the Florida Chamber is a perennial winner in post-Session autopsies, Gov. Ron DeSantis is about as un-California a leader as any, and economic metrics are bright — or, as bright as they can be during a once-in-a-generation pandemic. But maintaining Florida’s economic success isn’t easy. “Free enterprise isn’t free. We’re working with razor-thin margins here,” Wilson said, noting that a relative handful of votes separated DeSantis from Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Wilson has spent years, racked up tens of thousands of miles and, for a time, used billions of bytes of bandwidth to unite the state’s business community behind his vision for the future of Florida. On any Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson (center) spent the past 18 months building an all-star leadership team, including (L-R) Executive Vice Presidents David Gillespie, Ivette Faulkner, Katie Yeutter and Frank Walker.

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F E AT U R E

“We’re either going to continue to be Florida, where we create good jobs and focus on free enterprise, or we’re going to go the way of New York, Illinois and California,”

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given day, he’s pitching that vision in the C-suites of Florida businesses large and small or to execs receptive to relocating here. Many of the bullet points he cites in boardrooms are likely familiar to anyone roaming the halls of the state Capitol. And anyone who has attended or tuned in to one of the Florida Chamber’s many conferences over the past few years has likely heard the pitch from Wilson himself. Florida’s population is growing by 800 people a day and will likely hit 26 million at the dawn of the next decade (it’s currently approaching 22 million). The state will need to create another 1.5 million jobs to accommodate the influx of new residents. And it will need to put in the work to attract the industries of tomorrow by building a workforce with the agility to adapt to businesses’ needs.


The top brass at the Florida Chamber are hard at work strategizing ways to unite businesses behind their vision of lifting the Sunshine State’s economy into the top-10. The multipronged effort involves Yeutter’s efforts to boost workplace safety, Walker’s to help elect pro-business politicians, and Gillespie’s intelligence background.

Each of those end goals has several checkpoints, each extensively detailed in the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s “Florida 2030” research project. The $2 million effort, released in 2018, is the latest in a series of cornerstone research projects undertaken by the Chamber. It asserts that if Florida plays its cards right, it could claw its way up to the 10th largest economy in the world. When the Florida 2030 report debuted in September 2018, that goal seemed outside the Overton window of believability, if there is such a thing. Yet Florida is well on its way. At release, Florida would have ranked as the No. 17 largest economy in the world if it was measured as its own country — roughly on par with Saudi Arabia. While COVID-19 was by no means a boon for the econ-

omy, Florida managed to climb a couple rungs. By mid2021, it was neck-and-neck with Mexico as the No. 15 economy in the world, and the state’s per capita GDP is now higher than Germany’s. “You think of Germany as an advanced, technological economy. We’re right there with them,” Wilson says with uncontained enthusiasm. The pandemic didn’t hinder the Florida Chamber, either. Last year ranked as the second-best membership recruitment year in Chamber history. So far, 2021 is on pace to be even better. While Wilson’s road warrior spirit is no doubt a significant factor, this is not a one-man show. In late 2019, on the eve of the pandemic’s arrival, the Florida Chamber began executing an internal six-year plan Fall 2021

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Experienced Innovative Effective Public opinion affects your goals. We affect public opinion.

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850.296.7142 | TALLAHASSEE.TUCKERHALL.COM


backed by a combined $105 million in funding to start checking off some of the 39 goals outlined in Florida 2030, such as slashing childhood poverty in half and ensuring 100% of third-graders are reading at grade level. About $40 million of the investment is heading to political operations to ensure the “right candidates” are elected to office. The political investment includes the rollout of a robust candidate training and recruitment effort through the Florida Institute of Political Leadership, which helps recruit, develop and prepare wouldbe candidates to run for office. “We want to recruit people who’ve signed a paycheck before, not people who’ve sued people who’ve signed a paycheck before,” Wilson said. The Chamber also recently pulled back the curtain on a massive, data-rich platform detailing the shifts in population and voter registration since the last time Florida’s state legislative maps were redrawn. The Florida Partisan Performance indexes rate each House and Senate seat along the same lines as the Cook PVI ratings. For now, the Chamber is allowing any interested party to peruse the data. But the most significant undertaking in that six-year plan was an aggressive restructuring of the Chamber’s key leadership positions. It was a tall order. The Florida Chamber of Commerce is not merely one entity, but 17 separate organizations, each with its own leader and mission. The Florida Chamber Foundation, for instance, produces research like Florida 2030. Other branches oversee the organization’s political operations and lobbying efforts. On that front, Wilson said the Chamber has hammered out two years of work in a matter of months. Among the most significant additions is Katie Yeutter, who was recruited to the Florida Chamber from the Wisconsin Chamber, where she held the dual position of Chief Operations Officer and Chief Financial Officer.

ivette faulkner

katie yeutter Fall 2021

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F E AT U R E

“If we can unite the businesses in Florida for good, then a lot of good things can happen.”

frank walker Yeutter, whom Wilson describes as “one of the most innovative leaders in the United States,” also holds two major positions at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. In addition to serving as COO, she is the inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Chamber Safety Council. Thus far, the hire has been a home run. Since it launched in mid-2020, the Safety Council has quickly become a leading voice in workplace safety. The Safety Council’s most significant benchmark was achieved less than a year in, when it became the official Florida chapter of the National Safety Council. It has since developed a full suite of workplace safety training for organizations of all types and sizes, and its first statewide conference was a resounding success. Next year’s will feature Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame as the keynote speaker. The Florida Chamber has also upped its media game by putting Ivette Faulkner in command. Under her lead66

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david gillespie ership, the Chamber has gone from producing simple press releases and the occasional video to a full-scale media production powerhouse. It has two in-house film studios, which helped make it uniquely ready when the pandemic forced the Chamber’s usual slate of events into the cyber realm. For its political arm, the Chamber went with a familiar face: Frank Walker. For the six years leading up to his September promotion, Walker led the Florida Chamber’s lobbying team and took the lead on developing the Chamber’s annual legislative agendas. Now, as Executive Vice President of Government & Political Relations, he will be in charge of the Florida Chamber’s extensive legislative and political operations. “Unifying the business community is not for everyone, and Frank has proven he has the integrity, experience and belief in free enterprise to make sure the right issues are addressed and the right leaders are elected,” Wilson said when he announced the personnel move.

Most recently, the Florida Chamber added David Gillespie as an Executive Vice President. The retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who spent 20 years as a senior intelligence officer will bring a unique set of skills to the Florida Chamber Foundation that Wilson said will ensure the state makes the right turn at its current crossroads and the crossroads to come. “To have someone with an intel background will help the Chamber have a ‘war footing’ and develop a perspective of who’s on our team and who’s against us,” Wilson said. Wilson and the team, both old and new, have put in countless hours of work. Despite some pandemic-induced hiccups, there has already been substantial progress in achieving the key goals outlined in the Florida 2030 project, too. Plus, the Chamber has optimism — and momentum — on its side. “If we can unite the businesses in Florida for good, then a lot of good things can happen,” Wilson said.


SCIENCE WILL BRING

US BACK TO NORMAL.

See the progress at PhRMA.org/coronavirus Fall 2021

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It’s

Brewster Time B

rewster Bevis got his start in the policy and politics world by picking up bagels on the 19th floor of the Capitol and buying pantyhose for Katherine Harris. Now, a decade after joining the influential Associated Industries of Florida, Bevis, who was recently named the group’s President, is set to become its next CEO in 2022. Bevis joined AIF in 2011 as vice president of external affairs. Two years later, he was promoted to senior vice president of state and federal affairs. When AIF CEO and former President Tom Feeney announced his plans to leave the business group, Bevis emerged at the forefront of about a dozen staff members to replace the former Congressman and Florida House Speaker. “If it’s not me, then who else?” Bevis recalled asking himself.

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by renzo downey


F E AT U R E

PHOTO: Left-The Workmans, Right-Mary Beth Tyson

Brewster Bevis and his predecessor, Speaker Tom Feeney, on the balcony of AIF’s Adams Street headquarters.

The new President and incoming CEO inherits a nonprofit that has become a big player in Tallahassee since its founding in 1920. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the group’s latest curveball, but Bevis said the team’s core functions didn’t change much. One positive from the pandemic was bringing businesses and trade associations together in the Restore Economic Strength through Employment and Tourism, or RESET, Florida Task Force. Bevis came up with the idea for the task force after the AIF team discussed the challenges businesses faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. He then took the idea to people like Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley and then-Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson. AIF and others helped assemble the panel in April 2020. What started as a small group of interest grew into about 90 businesses and trade associations offering input. “I think truthfully businesses and trade associations here in the state really kind of came together for the first time,” Bevis said. “I’ve been here almost 11 years. Not once have I seen a group of that size come together to work on business issues, how do we survive.” The task force made recommendations on COVID-19 liability, which the Legislature passed and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved mid-Session 2021, and on codifying the pandemic-era alcohol togo policy, which also became law. Now Bevis has a vision of the priorities of the business community for the coming years that includes consumer data priva-

cy and tort reform. Addressing data privacy will likely be AIF’s goal for the 2022 Session. Lawmakers punted on data privacy after a majority couldn’t agree on private cause of action and matching Florida’s regulations to those of other states. But data privacy remains one of DeSantis’ goals. Other states like California and Virginia have adopted data privacy policies, but each have their flaws. Bevis hopes Florida could become a model. “I think a lot of other Republican governors and Republican-led states will look at what Governor DeSantis does on data privacy, so let’s help him create a model that is good for the business community and good for consumers,” he said. Bevis interned in the Florida Department of State’s Office of International Affairs when Harris was Secretary of State. When she was elected to Congress, he followed her to the nation’s capital. Later, he became a presidential appointee in the Bush administration.

I think a lot of other Republican governors and Republican-led states will look at what Governor DeSantis does ...

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INTEGRITY ADVOCACY

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WWW.CORCORANPARTNERS.COM

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F E AT U R E

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Can the best become better? I think we can for sure.

In Washington, he says he didn’t witness torts and the litigious environment to the extent Florida has it. Whittling away at it with tort reform is a long term goal. Reducing lawsuits could help reduce insurance premiums and lead to consumer savings. One recent lesson for Bevis is the newfound importance of cybersecurity. Recent attacks on companies have reinforced the importance of protecting businesses. “I think that’s always going to be an issue, because once you stop it here, they’ll figure out a new way, so it’s always evolving,” he said. In AIF’s coming board meetings, Bevis plans to hammer out specific visions for the association. “I don’t want us to stagnate. I don’t want us to just say, ‘well this is just what we’ve done forever and this is how we’re going to do it’,” he said. Part of the new President’s plans for AIF is to adapt by expanding its goals, build on its strengths and improve its weaknesses. To match that, the association would also need to grow its small team. “If there’s something that you know you hear time and time again from a member of this is a service we could provide you, well, maybe that’s somebody we need to hire to provide that service,” Bevis said. “Can the best become better? I think we can for sure.”

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We are dedicated advocates. Let’s conquer challenges together.

www.dacfl.com | 850.583.2400 201 East Park Avenue, Suite 200B, Tallahassee, FL 32301

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Florida Sheriffs Association

THANK YOU SPEAKER CHRIS SPROWLS for creating the new honor of the Law Enforcement Officer of the Day in the Florida House of Representatives. Fall 2021

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Amid the grip of a deadly global pandemic, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Chris Sprowls led the 120 members of the Florida House to an historic Sine Die on April 30, 2021, delivering remarks from the rostrum of the House Chamber to a round of applause. Despite changes to many legislative traditions over the course of the 60-day Session, the closing day adjournment ceremony, or Sine Die, lived on.

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Sine Die a photo essay photos by the workmans

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Conrad Sprowls, 5, dashes into the Speaker’s Office as a House staffer exits on April 30, 2021. Speaker Chris Sprowls and his wife, Shannon, have two sons, Prescott, 6, and Conrad. Both boys spent the last day of Session behind the scenes, lifting the spirits of everyone they encountered and even making a memorable appearance at the closing day adjournment “hankie drop” ceremony.

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Appropriations Committee Chairman Jay Trumbull stops by the Speaker’s Office before heading to the House floor for the last day of the 2021 Legislative Session.

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Speaker Sprowls takes a break from early morning briefings to have a quick breakfast in his office — oatmeal and coffee from a nearby Starbucks.

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A miniature Lego model of the Florida Historic Capitol stands atop a shelf in Speaker Sprowls’ office, an homage to the opening day of Session gift Sprowls gave every one of the 120 members of the Florida House. The much bigger counterpart, a 400-pound 372,435-piece display from Legoland, resides in the Fourth Floor rotunda of the Florida Capitol.

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House Sergeant at Arms staffers stand guard at the double doors leading to the House Chamber ahead of session on April 30, 2021. The Sergeant at Arms is charged with maintaining order in the Florida House under the direction of the Speaker.

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From left, Reps. Scott Plakon, Michael Grieco, and others eat lunch in the Members’ Lounge on April 30, 2021.

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At left, Rep. Bob Rommel chats with Speaker Chris Sprowls on the Florida House floor following the close of the last day of the 123rd Regular Session of the Florida House.


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At right, freshman Rep. Fiona McFarland visits House Communications Director Jenna Sarkissian on April 30, 2021, in Sarkissian’s office. A colorful helium remnant of baby celebrations lingered in the background; both women served the full session while pregnant — Rep. McFarland with a boy, Robert “Robby” Michael Melton born July 26, and Sarkissian with a girl, Ava Ann Sarkissian born May 3.

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While his dad leads the Florida House in its last day of Session, Conrad Sprowls, 5, plays with a babysitter behind the scenes in the Florida Capitol on April 30, 2021.

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Members of the Capitol press corps huddle around Gov. Ron DeSantis in a post-Sine Die gaggle. “[The Legislature has] been able to tackle issues that matter to our citizens, and [they’ve] done it in a way that will have a lasting impact,” DeSantis said.

Speaker Chris Sprowls exits a briefing with his Chief of Staff Mat Bahl on April 30, 2021, before heading to the House floor for the final day of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Florida House had a remarkable session, seeing nearly every piece of legislation Speaker Sprowls pushed make it through the process with near-unanimous votes in both Chambers and the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis. From the forward-looking workforce revamp to the first statewide plan to address sea level rise in Florida, the Speaker’s policy priorities all had one common theme: addressing the state’s long-term challenges. “Together, we didn’t prepare for the next Legislative Session,” Sprowls said at the Sine Die ceremony. “We prepared Florida for the next decade.”

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AD House Members have lunch in the Members’ Lounge on the final day of the 2021 Legislative Session.

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INFLUENCE Magazine’s

PHOTO: The Workmans

2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

BY PETER SCHORSCH, RENZO DOWNEY, ANDREW MEACHEM CHRISTINE SEXTON, AND DREW WILSON

It was a year like no other. But that didn’t stop the best and the brightest from stepping out of their comfort zones, into the confines of their home offices and myriad Zoom meetings to seek out creative solutions to fresh problems.

Lobbying Firm of the Year Legal-Lobbying Firm of the Year Boutique Lobbying Firm of the Year Lobbyist of the Year More Lobbyists of the Year: Appropriations Agriculture Environmental In-house Local Health Care Insurance

This year’s Golden Rotunda awards recognize the leading lobbyists and firms that most stood out in the worst of times, taking lemons and turning them into lemonade. From every industry — the COVID-19 ravaged health care industry to the crippled hospitality sector writhing under the hardships of a battered economy — everyone rose to the occasion. But some stood out for their particular dogged determination or out-of-the-box thinking. Many stood out for both. For Florida’s lobby sector, these are their Oscars, and while we still haven’t crafted those gold-plated statues, we hope the recognition is appreciated for the value it represents to an industry often demonized and always under-appreciated. As in years past, we reached out to industry professionals to submit nominations for individual lobbyist awardees and firm winners. We asked each to submit three nominations, weighted the results, and viola, the 2021 Golden Rotundas are here again. Never has there been a year more appropriate for this recognition, and never has there been a class of devoted professionals so worthy of the honor. And now, as I like to say, the Golden Rotundas please … >>

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The Southern Group

LOBBYING FIRM OF THE

YEAR

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ne of Paul Bradshaw’s takeaways from 22 years in the lobbying world is that growing government is the new reality. “If there’s a meta lesson from COVID, it isn’t whether you believe in ivermectin versus a vaccine,” Bradshaw said. “It’s really that government activity pervades our life at every level and is becoming increasingly pervasive over time.” That’s a phenomenon that Bradshaw, a co-founder of The Southern Group, linked to economic growth and Donald Trump’s presidency. Under Trump, Bradshaw said, the Republican platform stopped being about smaller government. “Nobody out there is really saying anymore we need to cut government budgets or we need to shrink the size of government,” Bradshaw said. “That creates a lot of opportunities for lobbying.” Bradshaw credits the group’s success on its limited structure and adaptability, which helped it innovate and thrive during the pandemic. That helped earn the firm the Lobbying Firm of the Year for 2021. “What you’re seeing is we’re starting to reap the benefits of something that really began two decades ago, which was to come up with a structure that is scalable,” Bradshaw said. “It allows it to support a very large team. It incentivizes people to work as a team.” The firm includes 32 members in Florida, spread across six offices in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and the Florida Keys. Part of Bradshaw’s vision of a scalable structure, inspired in part by the national consolidation and expansion of law firms, is for members to focus on their areas of expertise. “People are starting to realize that big clients have big needs across the spectrum, and you need to be able to offer a basket of services to them,” Bradshaw said. “You conform to their needs, they’re not necessarily conforming to what is

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convenient for you to provide them.” The team includes people that only do professional content generation. They research, go to committee meetings and draft reports tailored to what clients need. “It’s sort of weapons grade intel that our clients are able to tap into as a result of that,” Bradshaw added. Despite being a large firm, The Southern Group is still looking to expand. In September, John Thrasher rejoined the team, which he left in 2009 to run for the Florida Senate. After five years in the Senate, he became Florida State University’s president. Now back at The Southern Group, his duties will include client development. When hiring new members, the firm looks to fill gaps in areas of expertise. But it also aims to expand local lobbying efforts. Of its 32 Florida-based team members, 17 are located outside of Tallahassee. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he has watched The Southern Group grow for more than 20 years. He first interact-

ed with them as a State Senator and continues to do so now as Mayor. “They were the first lobbying firm to create a regional footprint across the state,” Dyer said. “During the pandemic, they leveraged technology to once again elevate the industry.” “However,” he added, “what I admire most is that they are true partners who are deeply immersed and committed to their communities.” Despite its logistical challenges, the 2021 Legislative Session proved to be a successful one for The Southern Group. The firm helped secure $168 million in appropriations projects for its clients and addressed major policy issues. The environment was an important topic this year, particularly for local governments that scored major wins. The Southern Group’s clients accumulated more than $70 million in environmental projects for clean water, stronger infrastructure, and sustainable communities. One of the major policy areas was the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which reaches from the Panhandle to the Everglades,

Top Left: Seth McKeel has been involved in state politics since his 1999 election to the Lakeland City Commission. He went on to serve four terms in the House before landing at The Southern Group in 2014. Under his leadership, the Tampa Bay office has reached new heights. Bottom Left: Chris Dudley, INFLUENCE’s 2016 Lobbyist of the Year, has been at the firm since the beginning. During his 20 years at The Southern Group, he has become an integral part of the firm’s efforts in policy areas spanning from education and energy to gaming and land use. Middle: John Thrasher was on the ground floor when The Southern Group opened its doors in 2000. After a successful seven-year tenure as Florida State University President, the former House Speaker and Senator rejoined the firm to work on client development. Right: Michelle Grimsley, a third-generation Manatee County native, joined The Southern Group’s Tampa Bay team a year ago.

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Carlo Fassi of The Southern Group’s Jacksonville office speaks during a firm meeting. Fassi joined the firm in 2019 after building a reputation as a top-tier political operative in the Bold City.

connects a large section of the state’s conservation lands, and includes more than 2 million acres of ranch lands. The corridor promotes conservation and sustainable development through a connected network of lands including secured wildlife habitats, protected watersheds, farms, ranches, and forests. The Southern Group helped its clients get the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act signed this year. Lawmakers approved $300 million for the corridor. Bradshaw compared Tallahassee’s current attitude on the environment to the days under Gov. Rick Scott when, according to rumors, administration officials were prohibited from saying “climate change.” “They’re willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, probably one day billions of dollars, to mitigate that,” Bradshaw said. “That’s something they proba98

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bly don’t get enough credit for.” In higher education, the firm helped secure more than $25 million in critical support dollars for the state’s institutions. The team also helped direct $11 million toward nonprofits, including those providing critical community services for vulnerable Floridians. “The partners at The Southern Group consistently position their clients for success,” Florida Blue Senior Director David Pizzi said. “Whether we’re focused on minute policy details or stepping back to talk about long-term, big picture strategy, they match us, step for step, on both levels and we’re a more successful organization thanks to their insights.” Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo said she knows she can trust the partners at The Southern Group.

“They’re well prepared to advocate for their clients’ priorities, and they are skilled at navigating challenging issues,” Passidomo said. “With a record like that, it’s no surprise they’re a pillar in the political process.” The Southern Group has a dozen women on the team. Members also include former lawmakers, legislative aides, and campaign operatives. “The team at Southern is diverse in that they have a tremendous amount of deep government experience among all their team members, but they don’t ever lose sight of common sense,” Rep. Tom Leek said. “They understand government is supposed to work for people to solve problems, and they work with their clients to make sure any solution they’re bringing to the table is founded on good, principled logic.”


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Smith Bryan & Myers “When you’re walking the halls, you see people and say, ‘Oh, I need to talk to you about that or ask him about this.’ It kind of comes just naturally walking around,” he added. “Sitting in your office, you really had to start thinking proactively, who can I call to see what’s going on.” The collaborative approach exists in part because, unlike some other firms, the team isn’t siloed into areas of expertise. That didn’t stop SBM, the runner-up Lobbying Firm of the Year, from achieving major wins on some of the most contentious issues at the forefront of the 2021 Session. Bryan was involved in curbing the ef-

Runner-Up

LOBBYING FIRM OF THE

YEAR fort to delay the start date of college athlete pay legislation from the year before that nearly made its way into law in the final days of the Session. To address issues that crop up at the last minute like that, Bryan said knowing

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

A

key to the success for the team at Smith, Bryan & Myers is that the tightknit group puts their heads together on some of their toughest projects. Twice a week, the firm gathers and notes every client and the issues they’re targeting. That way, all seven team members are caught up on what each other is tackling. “That’s been helpful in the past because seven people are smarter than one,” said SBM President Matt Bryan. “I think a lot of firms end up getting stuck with one person handling each account that they have but there’s no cross-pollination.” While the Capitol was closed to the public for the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important to be organized and make calls to lawmakers, their staff and other lobbyists, SBM Vice President Jeff Hartley said.


the legislative rules is key. For the name, image and likeness language, that meant scrambling in the last few hours of the Session to save an issue the firm has tracked for years. “We had to jump into action to make sure we understood why the changes were being made and if they were able to be refined a little bit so everybody can be happy,” Bryan said. “Fortunately, at the end of the day, I think it worked out where everybody was happy.” The firm’s president also helped score a win for thoroughbred horse breeders during the Special Session on gaming. He helped preserve the live racing requirement while parimutuel betting sites sought to decouple racing from casinos, which would allow them to stop hosting racing while continuing to function as a casino. Some studies show the thoroughbred industry has a larger economic impact in Florida than baseball’s spring training. “Live racing is important to us because, if there’s no live racing, there’s no reason to raise a horse,” Bryan said. Hartley helped lead the effort to pass legislation preempting local ballot initiatives from restricting commercial activities at seaports. Local seaport rules have broader implications than just one seaport, Hartly noted. Banning fossil fuels, like Tampa hoped to as it strives to achieve 100% clean energy, could significantly impact the state’s fuel supply. “It sounds like a politically good narrative, but in reality, you shouldn’t have one port or one ballot initiative dictate what really can affect the whole area of the state or the region in that matter,” Hartley said. Some complicated topics like data privacy and COVID-19 liability, which Teye Reeves took lead on for SBM because of her legal experience, require in-depth conversations with interest groups. But the pandemic hampered the ability to hold those longer talks. “The amount of time we would have usually been able to sit and work through issues was much more limited than historically,” Reeves said. On consumer data privacy, a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis, SBM helped put together a large meeting in the Governor’s Office for business interests to share their fears for the potential financial impacts of the plan. Both data privacy and COVID-19 liability will resurface again for the 2022 Session, Reeves predicted. Lawmakers only cleared the liability legislation for a year, and they punted on data privacy after a majority couldn’t agree on private cause of action and matching Florida’s regulations to those of other states. When it comes to achieving results for clients, Bryan, who routinely works 12-hour days in the Capitol, says there’s no substitute

The team at Smith Bryan & Myers (left) includes (left to right): David Daniel, Jeff Hartley, Jim Naff, Tom Griffin, Lisa Hurley, Teye Reeves, and Matt Bryan. Above: Teye Reeves has a deep knowledge of insurance, health care and employment law. COVID-19 liability is a complex issue that sits at the intersection of all three, making her a natural pick to represent Smith Bryan & Myers’ clients in the push to get the bill through the Legislature. for hard work. He called the team grinders. “The early bird is usually rewarded, so if you have your legislative agenda in place earlier and you have the conversations with legislators well in advance of Session, that helps,” Bryan said. SBM’s semiweekly meetings are a time for SBM to get organized. Additionally, their collaborative approach is reinforced by the physical nature of their office — a former house a couple of blocks from downtown that has been repurposed as a homely office space. “There are no other people that I’d rather be stuck in a building with for 60 days straight,” Reeves said. As for expanding the firm, Hartly said they’re likely looking to add one or two more people in the near future. “We haven’t had anybody join in a couple of years, so it’s probably about time,” Bryan added. “Don’t use that as a call to send resumes to 311 East Park, but we’re always looking.”

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GrayRobinson

LEGAL

LOBBYING FIRM OF THE

YEAR the Budget Conference. Keeping the extra in reserve helped smooth disagreements between the House and the Senate, Cannon said. “Whether they can repeat that act, I doubt it,” he added. “I doubt they can do it again to the same extent, but I hope they do it again in concept.” This year was another successful one for GrayRobinson and its team of 24 lobbyists. The firm had a hand in

more than $1.7 billion in appropriations during the Session. Those funds included $72 million for the Canaveral Port Authority as part of $250 million from the American Rescue Plan state lawmakers set aside for deep-water seaports, which have been hit by the pandemic’s global economic slowdown. All of Florida’s 14 deep-water seaports received a slice of that quarter billion, but Canaveral received the largest share of the pot by a significant margin. Canaveral Port Authority’s Diane Luensmann called GrayRobinson’s role instrumental in helping the port, as it is year after year. The $72 million “is helping us stabilize our operating budget and recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic,” she said. In Hollywood, the firm scored a win on a multiyear effort to establish anchoring limitation areas prohibiting vessels from anchoring for an extended period

GrayRobinson President and CEO Dean Cannon and Tallahassee managing shareholder Jason Unger led a team that landed $1.7 billion in budget items for their clients.

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PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

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hile the pandemic could lead to a permanent change in how much personal interaction remains in the business world, GrayRobinson President and CEO Dean Cannon says there’s no substitute for being face to face on important issues. However, there’s at least one pandemic-era change to the Legislative Process that Cannon, a former House Speaker, hopes remains in future years — that lawmakers play with their cards close to their chest while drafting the budget. By April 2021, the state’s finances were better off than many expected, but lawmakers were still cautious with the budget until they neared the end of


of time. For Hillsborough County Public Schools, they lobbied for legislation recognizing schools with deep military ties as “Purple Star Schools.” Working with the Orlando Economic Partnership, GrayRobinson also helped the Governor’s Office and the Legislature develop rules to keep businesses open as long as possible during a future prolonged state of emergency. GrayRobinson led the charge on that effort, said the Orlando Economic Partnership’s Sharon Smoley, leveraging their relationships within the executive and legislative branches. That language ultimately made its way into the larger bill to reform how state and local governments handle states of emergency “This new legislation provides Florida businesses confidence in their ability to consistently and reliably operate and avoid the possibility of devastating loss of revenue due to shut downs that businesses faced in other states,” Smoley said. GrayRobinson is home to two dozen lobbyists. Four are based in Washington while the remaining 20 are spread across

14 offices from Tallahassee to Key West. “So much of lobbying is knowing where to allocate a finite number of minutes across a very large number of needs,” Cannon said. “We can be more targeted in our approach, and I think that gives us a distinct advantage.” While the firm has strength in numbers, it’s deliberate with what clients and projects it takes on. “We believe in these issues. We don’t take on clients that we don’t believe in,” said GrayRobinson’s Tallahassee Managing Shareholder Jason Unger. “When we’re in the trenches with our client, trying to get them to where they need to be, we’re pursuing all avenues, all thoughts, from a very big picture standpoint going all the way down to the granular, because we’re there to get it done, and we’re going to fight to the death to get it done.” While the team always tries to be “zealous advocates” for their clients, Cannon noted it’s important to also respect colleagues in the Process. “Even when we’re up against somebody in another lobbying firm or another law firm, treat them with respect.

I think good human dynamics make for good lobbying,” he said. Another of GrayRobinson’s strengths is that half the team are also lawyers — why it landed in the Legal-Lobbying firm category. GrayRobinson considers itself a full-service firm, able to see policy from becoming legislation to court, if necessary. Having lawyers in-house has an internal advantage too, noted Carlecia Collins. The GrayRobinson rookie left the Senate President’s Office in 2020 after serving as an aide there and in the House Speaker’s Office for nearly a decade. “It’s really great that we have lawyers one floor up that I can call and say, ‘Hey, George, I have a client who wants to figure out what’s the legalities of this bill being passed, how can that affect this’,” Collins said. “Because George Levesque has so many years in the Senate and the House himself, and he knows the law, getting an answer for legal advice, we have such an advantage on that as well.”

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Shutts & Bowen

LEGAL

LOBBYING FIRM OF THE

YEAR

I

t has been a banner year for Shutts & Bowen. Founded in 1910, the full-service business law firm has about 300 lawyers across eight offices in Florida, making it the sixth-largest law firm in the state. It’s also among the most diverse firms of its size, with minorities making up 18.4% of equity partnerships. It’s a perennial honoree on the Florida 500. And a pile of Shutts attorneys were named to the various “Best Lawyers” lists published by top-tier legal publications this year. A full trophy case is nice. But in the legal world, it’s all about results. In that arena, Shutts & Bowen excelled in 2021. Perhaps their biggest victory of the year came in August, when Shutts & Bowen appellate lawyers Jason Gonzalez

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Among the Shutts & Bowen attorneys who made progress reforming Florida courts are (left to right) Benjamin Gibson, Daniel Nordby, Jason Gonzalez, Amber Stoner Nunnally, and George Meros. and Amber Stoner Nunnally requested that the Florida Supreme Court ditch the Daubert evidence standard for the “apex doctrine.” Florida was one of a handful of states that hadn’t adopted the legal rule, which protects companies from plaintiffs’ attorneys demanding that their presidents, CEOs, or top officers sit for a deposition. The Court granted the request, delivering a win not only to Shutts & Bowen’s client, Suzuki Motor Corp., but to their peers in corporate law and major business and court reform groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Justice Reform Institute. Gonzalez, who chairs the firm’s appellate practice, described the ruling as “another positive advancement for the Florida civil justice system. We are catching up with other states in terms of fairness in our courts. Ending lawsuit abuse is a win overall.” But that was just one of six victories Shutts & Bowen achieved in the Florida Supreme Court within eight months. And it is only the biggest victory of the

year because another watershed ruling dropped on New Year’s Eve 2020. Gonzalez, along with lawyers George Meros and Julissa Rodriguez, succeeded in getting the Court to reform the state’s summary judgment rule, bringing it in line with the federal summary judgment standard. The change to summary judgment rules is expected to significantly decrease unnecessary litigation across the state by allowing lower court judges to toss meritless lawsuits more easily. The change benefits some of the largest business groups in the state, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Healthcare Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all of which are Shutts clients. Florida’s legal environment has been among the worst in the country for years, but with the string of lawsuit reforms passed by the Legislature or approved by the high court, there’s an air of optimism in the state. You can thank the lawyers at Shutts & Bowen for that.

PHOTO: The Workmans

Runner-Up


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Primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Johnston & Stewart

BOUTIQUE

LOBBYING FIRM OF THE

YEAR

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

T

o Jeff Johnston and Amanda Stewart, October 2019 seemed the right time to start their own firm. Johnston had been running a company, and Stewart had worked for him for 10 years. Johnston and Stewart Government Strategies launched just in time for the 2020 Legislative Session. “It was all done very amicably,” said Johnston, who had been in partnership with Michael Corcoran, brother of former House Speaker and current Education Secretary Richard Corcoran. “Amanda and I had worked very closely at that firm for over a decade, and we kind of decided it was time to start our own thing. There was not a lot of planning involved, it just seemed like a good time.” Stewart, a former aide for Reps. Heather Fiorentino and John Legg, now a Senator, was all in. She enjoyed advocating for charter schools, hospitals, cities and more. Johnston is a born competitor who found meaning and release in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He will always remember seeing UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie submitting much larger opponents and thinking, “How is this little guy doing what he does?” He spends several nights a week training, not just for self-defense but an even higher value — a kind of bedrock, elemental truth. “In the ring,” he said, “you can’t lie.” Both are temperamentally suited for high-stakes advocacy, bill tracking and negotiating, said Tracy Mayernick, who worked with Johnston and Stewart before they formed their own company. “Jeff and Amanda are very similar,” said Mayernick, who runs The Mayernick Group in Tallahassee. “They’re incredibly hard working and they build very strong relationships with clients.” They also complement each other well, Mayernick said. “Jeff is a tenacious fighter and Amanda messages incredibly well. They have an incredible rapport and complementarity.”

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So the new firm seemed perfect. They have offices in Lutz and Tallahassee but emphasize all-the-time-anywhere access to clients. The runway was cleared in 2019 when they joined forces, and a productive 2020 Legislative Session got them off the ground. Then, just like that, came COVID-19. One of their clients, American Airlines, was grounded. Stadiums and amphitheaters were suddenly empty while hospitals were overrun. They worked on the fly. There was no time to worry. “We had never been through a pandemic,” Johnston said. “Our clients had never been through a pandemic and so much unknown. So I will tell you, and I think other lobbyists would say the same — even though we were not going into work as much as before, we were all working harder because there was just so much unknown, so much information.” They digested federal rules that changed by the week and conducted meetings over Zoom, trying to keep clients abreast of protocols. With so much at stake and the rules shifting as authorities grappled with a new virus, Johnston said, “Our clients were — I don’t want to say panicking, but people were really scared.” Along the way, Anita Berry joined the team, adding her experience in government relations at the local, state and federal levels. Berry relocated from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg in 2012 and brings her knowledge of health care policy to all levels of government in the Tampa Bay area. “We had gotten to work with her previously,” Johnston said of Berry. “It’s one of those things. She fit with us, we just worked well together and she’s a hard worker, bright and energetic. And most importantly, we all just enjoy each other. It doesn’t seem like work for us.” That general description repeats itself across specific subjects, a blending of enthusiasm, skills, and passions. The company evolved the way instincts work, if we’re lucky: First as an intuition, then confirmed fact as those bets on the chemistry begin to pay off. And now even that phase seems far in the rearview mirror, as the muscularity of the team is a given among their peers and clients and legislators statewide. “This business is a really difficult one,” Stewart said. “It’s really challenging when you’re not in a pandemic so you can never take a step back. You’ve got to be the best you can be. We never want to let anyone down.” Stewart spends free time with her husband, Abe, and her children, ages 10 and 4, or at the gym. Relaxation is important in a high-stress arena. “We have big scary issues we work on but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” she said. “If you can’t have fun, I don’t know why you would want to do it.” As the dust settles, the choice to start Johnston and Stewart confirms itself in new victories. “Almost every day is a milestone for us,” said Johnston, who with his wife, Cristina, has two daughters. “Our firm dictates so much of our lives it’s all consuming because now it’s your own firm and you’re working on things you want to. Our clients are like family members, and so when we have wins the wins are bigger than they usually would be. It makes all of the fight worth it.”

Partners Jeff Johnston and Amanda Stewart have built a powerhouse firm in a short time of being in business.

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Delegal | Aubuchon

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Runner-Up

BOUTIQUE

LOBBYING FIRM OF THE

YEAR

A

PHOTO: The Workmans

little over a year ago Mark Delegal and Josh Aubuchon teamed up to launch a new firm, the aptly named Delegal | Aubuchon. Those familiar with the two lobbyists’ careers before they came together won’t be surprised by their success — Delegal was this magazine’s 2016 Insurance Lobbyist of the Year and brought a quarter century of lobbying experience to the new venture, while Aubuchon had quickly risen to senior counsel at Holland & Knight’s Tallahassee office, where he worked alongside Delegal.

Since their July 2020 announcement, the firm has added a slew of clients spanning the health care, transportation, insurance and retail industries. And on its first anniversary, business was good enough for Delegal | Aubuchon to expand, plucking Scott Jenkins from the Florida Bankers Association to serve as the firm’s government affairs director. Delegal | Aubuchon’s rise to a top-tier boutique firm stems from the named partners’ ability to get results for their clients, both in policy and the budget. Among their most impressive accomplishments in the 2021 Legislative Session was landing $62 million in health care funding for the three members of the Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance — Moffitt Cancer Center, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and UF Health Cancer Center. The duo also snagged a share of the credit when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation protecting businesses and health care providers from frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits, which was one of the top issues early on last Session and

a major priority of clients such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Their fingerprints are also on the property insurance reform package aimed at curbing the costly litigation some have blamed for rising premium prices and, in some cases, insurers’ decision to pull out of the market. Just as important as the bills they helped pass were the ones they helped kill. The biggest in that arena was legislation that would have given everyday Floridians more control over how their personal data is shared or sold online. While popular on its face, the proposal would have placed an outsized burden on business — nonpartisan watchdog Florida TaxWatch estimated it would cost the private sector as much as $21 billion to comply in the first year and up to $12.7 billion a year going forward. Delegal | Aubuchon may be the youngest shop — and one of the smallest — to snag a Golden Rotunda this year, but its partners have shown over the past 16 months that they can hang with the biggest and best lobbying firms in Florida.

Josh Aubuchon and Mark Delegal strategize with government affairs director Scott Jenkins, who came aboard in August, shortly after the young firm celebrated its first anniversary.

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

A

possible key to Nick Iarossi and Capital City Consulting’s successful 2021, which was possibly their best year ever, was the firm’s new building about a block from the Capitol. At a time when members of the public, lobbyists included, had to receive an invite to set foot in the Capitol, Iarossi could offer lawmakers and officials a change of scenery at CCC’s new space on West Jefferson Street.

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As a co-founder and one of the firm’s 13 lobbyists, he retained high-profile clients like AT&T, Citigroup, Delta Airlines, the Everglades Foundation, Florida Power & Light, and more. Just as important as his fortuitous business decision is his dedication to understanding every facet of the issues. If there’s a court ruling, research study, news article or obscure board meeting about an issue affecting one of the firm’s clients, chances are Iarossi has read it before the Google alert lands in his inbox. And the subjects he’s familiar with are as diverse as Capital City Consulting’s client roster. Both qualities have earned him the respect not only of his colleagues but of his competitors. “In relatively short order Nick Iarossi has managed to build one of the powerhouse lobbying firms in Florida with all the indicia of being a ma-

jor player for decades to come. Large, talented roster of lobbyists? Check. Top-drawer clients? Check. Cool new headquarters in the shadow of the Capitol? Check. These traits, coupled with a legendary work ethic, are why Nick’s Capital City Consulting has been steadily climbing the revenue ladder among Florida’s lobbying firms, and just weeks ago quarterly fee disclosures placed them one rung from the top,” said Paul Bradshaw of The Southern Group. “Less noted but perhaps more important: Nick’s firm bills more per lobbyist than any large lobbying team in Florida. All of this speaks to keen business acumen underlying a very effective group of advocates; one that deserves praise, and speaking as a competitor, close attention.” While Iarossi could deliver a keynote — or at least a tight five — on most policy issues, his knowledge of gaming law and its many intricacies is unmatched. Gaming issues crop up every year, usually in the 11th hour of the Session, but 2021 provided Iarossi an opportunity to prove his mettle. Influencing the Governor and Seminole Tribe while they hammer out a new Compact is a tightrope act. Jump into the mix too early and you risk alienating the key players. But, as they say, you must be present to win. Iarossi knows this, and his savoir faire may well have prevented designated player games from leaving pari-mutuels in a Compact that otherwise delivered the Tribe everything it wanted. The Special Session on gaming followed a 2021 Legislative Session that saw Capital City Consulting celebrate several wins. Some of them flew under the radar, such as a provision in the tax cut package repealing a bizarre and arcane rule that prohibited retailers from including sales tax in sticker prices. Or legislation requiring license plate agents to disclose service charges and enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles regarding the use of the Florida Real Time Vehicle Infor-

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Nick Iarossi


mation System. Iarossi’s fingerprints can be found in the state budget, too — Capital City Consulting landed hundreds of millions of dollars for its clients in the record-setting $101.7 billion spending plan. The goings-on in the Capitol tell only part of the story. While COVID-19 changed the status quo in the Capitol, it also required lobbying

firms to shake up their definition of client service. Capital City Consulting did so without missing a beat. Iarossi was at the forefront of the firm’s efforts to secure testing supplies and emergency management expertise for clients. By working with the state Division of Emergency Management and Agency for Health Care Administration, he also helped get boots on

the ground as the state scaled up testing and data sharing efforts. “Nick enjoys every attribute a successful lobbyist aspires to possess,” said Ron LaFace, Iarossi’s business partner of 18 years. “He is likable, persuasive, quick thinking, and true to his word. Nick’s selection as Florida lobbyist of the year is well deserved.”

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Matt Bryan Runner-Up

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

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ter often has a stake in the biggest issues of Session, year after year. In 2021, Bryan and the firm were thrust into the middle of the Gaming Compact conversation representing the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association. When it came to the Special Session on gaming in May, Bryan helped guide thoroughbred horse breeders through the weeklong sprint, guaranteeing the industry’s survival by keeping racing tied to parimutuel wagering, which hoped to separate from live racing. “Live racing is important to us because, if there’s no live racing, there’s no reason to raise a horse,” Bryan said. Unlike most legislative lobbying, lawmakers had to work within the confines of an agreement signed ahead of time by the Governor. While legislative leaders were involved, negotiations at the top

level were between Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office and the Seminole Tribe. “You have to know when your time to go is, because if you start being a pain in the rear at the top of the negotiation where you’re not really involved, you can have yourself shown the exit door for later in the negotiations,” Bryan said. “You have to politely stay involved and monitored closely and understand the complexities of the bigger issues when it comes time to get your issues.” As for the future of lobbying, he expects younger lobbyists to embrace digital means of communicating with clients and lawmakers. As for himself, however — “I’m probably too old to change, so I’m going to go back to the way I know how to do it, which is face-to-face, hand-to-hand, hourto-hour, minute-by-minute,” Bryan said.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

U

ntil the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith, Bryan & Myers President Matt Bryan had a daily routine at the Capitol. Arrive at 7 a.m., follow a detailed plan, and leave around 7 p.m., 7:16 p.m. But Bryan, who started with SBM on the first day of the 1984 Legislative Session, proved an old dog can learn new tricks and a new routine. Like everyone else who was shut out of the Capitol for public safety reasons, he had to adapt to phone calls and Zoom calls. Bryan played a large role in handling the name, image and likeness legislation, which flared up in the final week of the Session. In last-minute matters like that, Bryan said the key is to know the quirks of the legislative rules or to know the right lawmakers who know the rules. “We had to jump into action to make sure we understood why the changes were being made and if they were able to be refined a little bit so everybody can be happy,” Bryan said. “Fortunately, at the end of the day, I think it worked out where everybody was happy. But we were still making some suggestions on the fly there for a while.” Another key is knowing the motivations of those driving the issue. “You can figure it out pretty quickly but that’s part of the fun of the job. It’s the puzzle, right?” Bryan said. “Something like this gets dropped in the last few days of Session, you’ve got to, ‘OK, why is it happening, who’s doing it, how do we make them happy?’ It happens every day in the Session in the end, and you just have to kind of work your way through it.” Smith Bryan & Myers is among the top lobbying firms in the state, with quarterly earnings routinely topping $1 million. The firm’s extensive client ros-


2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

STATE CAPITOL

I-4 CORRIDOR

From the Capitol to the Courthouse

INFLUENCE WHERE YOU NEED IT.

TRI-COUNTY

ColodnyFass.com 850.577.0398 | 954.492.4010

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Jeff Hartley

LOBBYING

PLAY

OF THE

YEAR

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

D

uring the final week of the 2021 Session, it looked as if lawmakers were abandoning ship on a bill blocking local governments from limiting cruise tourism. But some savvy behind-the-scenes work from Jeff Hartley of Smith, Bryan & Myers and others saved the measure from the depths with just days to spare. Last November, Key West voters passed referendums restricting large cruise ship traffic in the area. Those provisions banned large cruise ships from docking entirely and limited the number of cruise passengers that could embark per day. During the 2021 Session, Republicans responded. The Legislature looked to override those Key West rules with a bill preempting local governments’ ability to approve such restrictions. Sen. Jim Boyd spearheaded the Senate version, while Rep. Spencer Roach carried the House bill. But some Republicans began feeling the pressure from groups opposed to the state preemption bill. Though the measure passed the Senate, GOP Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez — whose district covers Key West — opposed the bill. And the measure was held up entirely once it got to the House floor. On April 26, four days before Session ended, the standalone bill appeared to be walking the plank. The group behind the Key West referendums — the Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships — cheered news the bill had stalled after vocally opposing any state effort to override local control over the issue. Republican lawmakers had plenty of other priorities to finalize in Session’s final week, which could have left the cruise preemption bill dead in the water. Enter Hart-

ley, who went all hands on deck with the bill sponsors and GOP leadership to find a path forward. It was sink or swim, so preemption backers decided to abandon the original bill and tack relevant language from the original legislation onto a larger transportation bill. Hartley worked to secure a deal with Senate and House holdouts and the Legislature approved the transportation package — with the preemption language included — just two days before the Session ended. Gov. Ron De-

Santis signed it into law on July 1. The 2021 Session featured plenty of heated fights, but Republicans mostly stuck to their guns along the way. The cruise preemption fight was one where proponents were nearly forced to back down before finding the narrowest of paths forward. Credit goes to Hartley’s strong working relationship with Senate and House lawmakers for closing the deal, sinking the Key West regulations and securing the Lobbying Play of the Year.

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Gaming Deal Runner-Up

LOBBYING

PLAY

OF THE

YEAR

T

he lobbying push to secure the largest gaming Compact in history required an all-hands-on-deck approach to help secure approval from a polarized Legislature. It started at the top with Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming, and Jim Shore, the Seminole Tribe’s General Counsel, sitting down with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to make their case about the benefits of the 30-year agreement that would guarantee billions in shared revenue to the state. The Tribe’s designated lobbyists, Will McKinley, Angela Dempsey, and Fred Dickinson of PooleMcKinley, were simultaneously keeping the lines of communication open between the Plaza Level and the Tribe as the two sides hammered out the nitty-gritty details of the Compact. Several other contract lobbyists were in on the push, including Gus Corbella and Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Trau-

rig, Charlie Dudley of Floridian Partners, and Marc Dunbar, Chris Moya, and Jennifer Ungru of Dean Mead. Though the Compact has tremendous upside for the state, and strong support from the Governor and legislative leaders, passing it was not a cake walk. The Tribe faced opposition from gaming and anti-gaming interests alike. The sports betting exclusivity clause drew in some of the biggest platforms in that sector, No Casinos — the group behind the 2018 anti-gaming amendment — said it was an illegal expansion,

and parimutuels got into the weeds on decoupling. Any one of them could have derailed the process, but none did. The lobbying team didn’t do it alone. Behind the scenes, the squad received air support from the Seminole Tribe’s formidable political operation led by Rick Asnani, the founder and President of Cornerstone Solutions. Asnani teamed with long-time Florida media strategist Adam Goodman and recruited the latter’s brother, Max Goodman, who has established himself as a growing force in statewide politics, to produce a multimillion-dollar ad campaign touting the benefits of the Compact. Lawmakers could not turn on their Tallahassee televisions without seeing Seminole Tribal Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. sitting side-by-side with Gov. Ron DeSantis putting ink to paper on the historic agreement. Ultimately, the Compact cleared the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, forever changing the landscape of Florida gaming. Top: Gov. Ron DeSantis and Marcellus Osceola Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, celebrate the signing of the Gaming Compact. Bottom: Gov. DeSantis with representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

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A SEAT AT THE TABLE ACROSS FLORIDA & THE U.S. MIAMI | JACKSONVILLE | ORLANDO | TALLAHASSEE | NEW YORK CITY | BOSTON

www.convergegov.com

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Florida

Eat Local.

Tiffani’s Green Corner Restaurant had to overcome a lot throughout 2020. That’s why we distributed over 100 Restaurant Relief Grants in Florida, totaling $500,000 to assist small business owners like Tiffani with keeping their doors open. Learn More About the Uber Restaurant Relief Grants https://restaurants.ubereats.com/us/en/local-flavor 118

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JOHNSON

BLANTON

RELATIONSHIP IS EVERYTHING

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TEAMJB.COM Fall 2021

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Eric Edwards

AGRICULTURE

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

O

n March 26, 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began to grip the world, the U.S. Department of Agriculture classified farming as part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure,” which paved the way for companies like U.S. Sugar to continue harvesting sugarcane, green beans, sweet corn and more than a dozen other food crops critical to our nation’s food supply. In Clewiston, known as “America’s Sweetest Town,” employees at U.S. Sugar continued working around-the-clock as Americans started to feel uneasy when it seemed like finding food at the grocery store was anything but certain. The U.S. Sugar farms are in an agricultural region critical to feeding Americans, where enough food is produced to feed 180 million people on the east coast during the winter and spring months every year. “When cities and counties started to encourage folks to quarantine, our company took every necessary precaution to keep our employees safe, and our farmers never stopped farming,” said Eric Edwards, vice president of State Government Affairs at U.S. Sugar. “Our employees have always had a sense of duty to grow food and provide fresh fruit and vegetables for American families, and this was only heightened during the global pandemic.” For folks like Edwards, the importance of farming in South Florida suddenly became crystal clear. Instead of focusing on typical pre-Session meetings with legislators and staff, Edwards and U.S. Sugar’s public affairs team were laser-focused on distributing the company’s fresh produce to numerous food distribution sites throughout South Florida. The company provided crops such as sweet corn and green beans to the public along with a significant amount of critical medical supplies such as N95 masks, gloves, and even hand sanitizer made from sugarcane molasses. “The demand for food and supplies was overwhelming,” Edwards said. “We were just happy to help Floridians struggling to find food with some-

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PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

thing when they needed it.” The sudden demand for Florida-grown food and jobs tied to agriculture helped lay the predicate for a Legislative Session like no other. “In years when Florida faces economic uncertainty, agriculture usually becomes the backbone of our economy, and 2020 was no exception,” Edwards said. “We were proud to play a small role in keeping our farmers employed and Floridian’s well-fed.” In total, the company provides 2,500 jobs in South Florida. Throughout the pandemic, U.S. Sugar donated more than 11,000 crates of locally-grown Florida sweet corn to residents in Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Naples, LaBelle, Moore Haven, Buckhead Ridge, Ortona, Clewiston, Montura Ranches, Pioneer, South Bay, Belle Glades, Pahokee, Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Greenacres, Indiantown and Stuart. The donations were made possible in cooperation with Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Pioneer Growers, Cheney Brothers, the Naples Board of Realtors, Harry Chapin Food Bank, United Way of Palm Beach County, Boys and Girls Club of Indiantown, Project LIFT in Martin County and dozens of other local community organizations. Additionally, U.S. Sugar joined Florida Crystals and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative in the “Neighbors Feeding Neighbors” initiative to provide Glades residents with 15,000 hot meals, 500 per day, from local, Glades-area restaurants over several weeks. Many of the donations were arranged working closely with state and local elected leaders. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Legislature tackled many bills important to farmers statewide, and Edwards and his lobbying team helped marshal support for key water projects, such as Everglades restoration and storage and treatment north of Lake Okeechobee. Reflecting on a year that also involved a promotion at U.S. Sugar and a full-time move to Tallahassee with his family, Edwards said the 2021 Session was a memorable one. “I will always remember the Zoom meetings, social distancing and quarantines, and how participating in the legislative process seemed to be incompatible with COVID-19. Despite those obstacles, we made it work,” Edwards said. “We look forward to getting people back on the farm though and showing them how we feed America.”

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Twenty-five years of

winning strategies for Florida’s best. “Sachs Media enjoys a well-deserved reputation for its expertise, experience, and energy in the diverse communications services the firm provides. All of my interactions with the firm on high-profile collaborative projects have been highly successful because any partnership with their team helps your team be so much more effective.” – Dean Ridings, CEO, America’s Newspapers “Sachs Media’s poignant and powerful messaging struck the important balance of being both informative and inspiring, while avoiding any hint of negativity. They helped us create positive pressure – and it worked!” – Cathy Timuta, Executive Director, Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions “A great strategic partner – quick to mobilize, powerful messaging, intelligent strategy, unparalleled relationships, and passionate about the causes they take on.” – Dave Lawrence, Founder, The Children’s Movement of Florida “…able to be nimble and adapt; willing to juggle competing ideas and needs. I am continually impressed by their work products.” – Kellyn Garrison, Senior Campaigns Advisor, The Nature Conservancy “…learned our issues, offered strategic and sage advice, got us thinking outside the box, and ran our campaigns at the utmost level of professionalism and ultimately success.” – Matthew Kastner, Director of Media Relations, American Chemistry Council “Thanks to the tremendous work of Sachs Media, we were able to quickly connect thousands of Floridians whose homes were devastated by Hurricane Irma and get them relief, delivering results that far surpassed our expectations.” – Jon Mabry, Vice President of Disaster Recovery, IEM

sachsmedia.com | 850.222. 1996 Public Relations | Public Affairs | Research | Crisis | Digital 122

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Florida’s seaports have leveraged federal and state port infrastructure programs to invest billions in freight mobility infrastructure, increasing the flow of goods through Florida. These investments support an industry providing over 900,000 jobs and generating $117.6 billion in economic activity. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s seaports have remained open and active, ensuring a steady flow of critical cargo such as medical supplies, food and fuel to Floridians and the entire Southeast, while also putting safety measures in place to protect the port industry workforce.

When you think economic success, think Florida first.

Port Canaveral | Port Everglades | Port of Fernandina | Port of Fort Pierce | JAXPORT Port of Key West | Port Manatee | PortMiami | Port of Palm Beach | Port Panama City Port of Pensacola | Port of Port St. Joe | Port St. Pete | Port Tampa Bay

502 East Jefferson Street | Tallahassee, Florida 32301 | flaports.org Fall 2021

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Ron Book & Kelly Mallette

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APPROPRIATIONS

LOBBYISTS OF THE

YEAR

Q

uarter after quarter, Ron Book and Kelly Mallette post compensation reports that rival firms with 10 times as many lobbyists. How? Top-notch customer service. The duo has a relatively insane policy that every call — every single call — gets returned the same day. This often means dialing up clients well after hours, many times well past midnight. Many lobbyists burn the midnight oil, especially when the Legislative Session is in full swing, but it’s a rare day that Book

D

is not in his office, at the computer or on the phone long before the sun rises. Book and Mallette are legendary workaholics, and Book has long carried the title of “hardest working lobbyist in Tallahassee,” but the truth is that hard work only gets you so far. It’s the intensity of those hours, the fierce loyalty to their clients and the devotion to and respect of the Process that has kept this dynamic duo at the apex of Florida’s lobbying elite. For these reasons, the law firm of Ronald Book P.A. is the Top Appropriations Lobby Firm in Florida once again. As a leading firm, they helped bring home millions upon millions to their broad roster of clients, but one story stands out from the rest. It’s not exactly an appropriations bill, but it will mean tens of millions to Miami-Dade County. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the firm was tasked with helping Miami-Dade fix a $100 million problem: Florida law had required that all toll revenues generated within a county must be spent within that county and only to

SAY

build or expand roads. But all the roads and road corridors in Miami-Dade are completely built out, leaving the county with $100 million in toll collections and nothing to spend it on. The duo faced an uphill battle. After all, the Florida Legislature is not known for being mass-transit friendly and the Florida Department of Transportation is notoriously stubborn. But as a direct result of Book’s and Mallette’s tireless work, the law was amended to give Miami-Dade the flexibility it needed to address its unique transportation needs, including mass transit solutions. The best part? Everyone was happy with the solution. It didn’t require a bloodbath — in fact, FDOT commended the outcome. We could list the line-by-line appropriations that Book and Mallette secured for their clients but they wouldn’t fit on the page. Regardless, we’re confident this will not be the last time a small but mighty firm earns a Golden Rotunda.

ADVOCATE

PHOTO: The Workmans

Public Relations l Communications Marketing l Action Communications

www.YellowFinchStrategies.com

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Association Leader

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

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F

lorida Health Care Association President Emmett Reed already had a tough job, and the pandemic only raised the stakes. In the nearly two years since COVID-19 hit Florida, he has worked around the clock to ensure Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities have all the resources they need to safely get seniors through the pandemic. In the early days that meant securing personal protective equipment, which was in short supply. In the months since, he has needed to pivot many times to help meet the needs of the more than 700 facilities the association represents. One of the biggest challenges was finding ways to replenish the industry’s workforce, which he helped accomplish by raising $160,000 in scholarship money to help caregivers advance their careers and landing a $1.8 million federal grant from

the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to attract more Certified Nursing Assistants to the field. Some needs aren’t so obvious, but they haven’t gone unnoticed thanks to Reed’s constant contact with association membership. Since the pandemic began, FHCA has held more than 1,000 calls with facilities across the state to offer resources, support and education assistance, among other things. It helps that he has made slam dunk hires, most notably the addition of experienced long-term care professional Susan Anderson as director of government affairs. The pandemic isn’t over yet, and longterm care facilities will doubtless face more obstacles before it is, but they couldn’t ask for a better advocate to promote education, empower our state’s health care heroes, and develop effective strategies for keeping residents safe and healthy.

PHOTO: The Workmans

Emmett Reed


Thank

YOU

Our team extends our gratitude to our heroes and first responders in the war against COVID-19. Thank you to the doctors, nurses, grocery workers, restaurant staffers, manufacturing and research teams, essential government workers, and so many others.

(850) 205-9000

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Runner-Up

Association Leader

LOBBYIST

Audrey Brown

OF THE

YEAR

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

F

irst, do no harm. Audrey Brown’s focus during the 2021 Legislative Session — in the middle of a pandemic — was beating back bills that would have limited the ability of a managed care company, whether commercial or one that served Medicaid or Medicare patients, to help hold down costs. To that end, the Florida Legislature did not pass any laws regarding the regulation of provider benefit management companies. PBMs negotiate with drug manufacturers on behalf of insurance companies in an effort to purchase drugs at reduced prices or with the promise of additional rebates. State Rep. Jackie Toledo has called what PBMs do a “passthrough” service. Others have called PBMs middlemen. At least 12 states passed legislation this year to further regulate pharmacy benefit manager companies, but Florida wasn’t one of them. Brown, President and CEO of the Florida Association of Health Plans, also focused her efforts during the 2021 Session on defeating bills that would have required individual and group health insurance policies and health maintenance organization contracts that provide coverage for prescription insulin to cap monthly cost-sharing obligations at $100. But it wasn’t all defense all the time for Brown. She worked to beef up the solvency of the Florida Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association, the association that indemnifies the policyholders of most of the companies that sell life and health insurance policies or annuities in Florida. Brown and others pushed to put the association on solid financial ground by removing a $250 per member cap on assessments. Before heading the Florida Association of Health Plans in 2013, Brown was chief of staff to Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty. Before joining McCarty’s office, Brown had worked at AvMed Health in Gainesville.

FAHP Vice President and General Counsel Wences Troncoso worked with Brown at the Office of Insurance Regulation and followed her when she departed to head FAHP. Troncoso said Brown, “had a vision for the future of health care” when she took the reins at the association. “Since then, we have worked to champion consumer-focused issues, including support for ending egregious balance surprise billing practices,” Troncoso said. A federal judge on Oct. 12 upheld a 2020 law Brown worked to pass that bans

non- contracted air ambulance providers from balance billing insured patients for emergency transportation services. Brown worked alongside other insurance lobbyists to pass the 2020 balance billing law, a follow up to a similar 2016 law that banned contracted air ambulance providers from balance billing insured patients. “It is not a job,” Troncoso said of Brown’s work, “The best health care for Floridians is her passion and as a member of the team we believe and share that passion.”

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John Holley

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IN-HOUSE

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

F

biggest challenge of the 2021 Legislative Session for Holley. What’s remarkable is not that he was able to get it done, but how. Lobbying is a competitive and, at times, cutthroat industry. But Holley is neither. Friends and foes alike describe him as a good-faith, honest advocate for his employer, and more than one has said there is not a vindictive bone in his body. Quite the opposite. He actively seeks out win-win solutions and, if none emerge, he buckles down and finds a way to make the better argument. That’s not to say he shies away from a tough fight or tough issue. But when that happens, he brings his opponents to the table rather than working behind their backs. That was true in 2021, when he worked with telecom companies to get the pole bill passed. In the 2021 bill’s case, the winning argument essentially wrote itself — it will make Florida’s utility and communications infrastructure stronger across the board, delivering tangible benefits to residents across the state.

PHOTO: The Workmans

lorida Power & Light lobbyist John Holley is consistently among the best and best-liked in-house lobbyists for a reason: He finds a way to deliver wins to his employer by building bridges, not burning them. Holley won the 2019 Golden Rotunda for Best In-House Lobbyist for his successful push for legislation requiring utility companies to file storm protection, a move that made it easier for the state’s power providers to invest billions putting their lines underground and other storm hardening plans.

His efforts since have been just as consequential, especially his 2021 effort to get a law on the books allowing the Public Service Commission to regulate communications services poles. Much hay is made about comms companies attaching their equipment to utility poles — it’s often the most expedient way to get services such as high-speed internet into hard-to-reach pockets of the state. But sharing is a two-way street, and despite communications companies controlling a third of all poles in Florida, the state’s utility regulatory body was powerless to regulate them. While it may look like a small oversight on paper, it is a massive regulation gap in practice. Cable and internet providers certainly face pressure to get their services back online after an outage, but not nearly to the same level as utility companies. So many of the poles they own are still the brown wooden ones of yesteryear. SB 1944 was a commonsense bill to many, yet securing its passage was the

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Join us in fighting for

FREEDOM. Visit AmericansforProsperity.org 132

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Toby Philpot

Runner-Up

IN-HOUSE

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

PHOTO: The Workmans

I

n September 2020, the Florida Health Care Association was in the unenviable position of needing to replace chief lobbyist Bob Asztalos, who was set to retire after 30 years at FHCA. FHCA needed someone with the experience and institutional knowledge to deliver results for the state’s long-term care providers. With little room for error, they homed in on Toby Philpot, who had spent the past five years as the Agency for Health Care Administration’s Chief of Staff and had previously worked as director of government relations for Health Management Associates. The pick panned out. In his first months on the job, Philpot rallied the industry around legislation that created COVID-liability protections for businesses and health care providers. The priority bill didn’t include health care providers at the start, and the concept faced resistance even among those amenable to liability protections for other businesses. But with a concerted push from Philpot and the coalition he helped build, the final package included protections for nursing homes and assisted living facilities. While lawsuit protections were at the center of debate early in the 2021 Legislative Session, the issue was largely settled by the halfway point. Philpot still had much to address — including mechanisms to help rebuild the state’s long-term care workforce. Philpot came through on that front, too, persuading lawmakers to make permanent the Personal Care Attendant Program established in 2020 via an executive order signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Under the executive order, the program brought more than 2,000 people into the longterm care workforce as PCAs, helping the industry maintain staffing ratios necessary to provide seniors with adequate care and attention. And Philpot also did yeoman’s work convincing the Legislature to maintain Medicare reimbursement levels for nursing homes this year, securing much-needed funds for Florida’s nursing centers and the residents they serve.

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Matt Blair LOCAL

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

I

t was late in the 2020 Legislative Session when everyone’s fears became reality — COVID-19 showed up in Tallahassee and, at least briefly, interrupted the waning days of the 60-day Session. Things quickly went from normal to the now-dreaded adjective: unprecedented. Face-to-face meetings became rare. In-person negotiations on future legislative priorities turned to Zoom meetings and conference calls. Homes became offices and cars became conference rooms. But that did little to deter Matt Blair, a partner with the powerhouse firm Corcoran Partners. “While the pandemic reached all families across the state, our firm continued to deliver for our clients,” Blair said. “Through remote conference calls, we were able to link our clients with state leaders in the legislative and executive branch, keeping them in touch with evolving policies on education, the economy, emergency rules and more during that extremely challenging period.” Blair managed client relations as business as usual during a period of time that was anything but, however it’s his overall scope or work for which he’s most proud. Blair — along with his team at Corcoran Partners and bill sponsor Jackie Toledo — worked to get robust human trafficking legislation passed this year to “send a message that Florida will not tolerate human trafficking and that victims are not treated like criminals,” as Toledo described HB 523. The bill, which passed through its

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“Matt has been with our firm almost from the beginning. He’s my right hand and one of the most knowledgeable, hard working and capable lobbyists in Florida. I couldn’t ask for a more loyal partner and friend,” said Michael Corcoran, Corcoran Partners’ founding partner and CEO. This year, Blair is hoping for a bit more breathing room. “Florida’s economic outlook is strong as a result of the wise stewardship of our economy by the Governor and Legislative leaders over the last year,” Blair said, not revealing his cards too soon. “As a result, we are entering the coming Legislative Session in a much better posture than we were last year. This should make it possible for all of us to breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to a productive FY 2022-2023.” And those in power have faith. “Having known Matt Blair for over a decade, I’ve admired his integrity and passion for the causes he champions. Matt is a devoted friend, dedicated father, and great Floridian,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody. Monesia Brown, Director of Public

Affairs and Government Relations for Walmart, a client, added, “It’s important that our representatives have the highest level of respect for others and integrity that we as a company expect of our brand. Matt respects others in the room, is strategic in the way he thinks through client advocacy, and I trust him to represent us honestly and in a way that helps deliver on our priority issues time and time again.” Like all great leaders, Blair shares his success with mentors and colleagues. He looks first to his parents, including his disabled mother who “has held fast to her faith and remained a positive influence.” He also looks to Corcoran as a trusted mentor. Corcoran, he said, “has taught me to trust that hard work, integrity and graciousness are what sustains you in life, and in this Process.” “I’ve received so much grace and kindness in this Process over the years and have come to appreciate that, although we all wish we could turn back the clock and do some things differently, it’s the lessons we learn from those experiences that shape who we are,” Blair said.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

Senate companion (SB 1826), took effect July 1. It created a privilege between human trafficking victim advocates and the victim similar to those for sexual assault and domestic violence victims. The law also allows a human trafficking victim to expunge their criminal record at no cost if the crimes happened while the person was part of the human trafficking scheme. Over his 20 years in the business, Blair has also lobbied on claims bills seeking relief for victims wronged by the state in some way. That includes a medically needy foster child whose foster parents’ negligence led to a near drowning that now requires 24-hour medical care; a child who was allowed to be returned to an abusive mother and subsequently suffered life threatening brain trauma; an informant killed conducting a drug buy as part of a police investigation; parents who delivered a child with severe brain damage due to medical negligence; and others. Blair also played an integral role in ushering in legislation for e-fairness, which after years of debate allows the state to collect sales tax on online sales.

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

C

onservation photographer Carlton Ward Jr. isn’t a lobbyist, per se. But his dedication to documenting Florida’s nature was key to passing the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act this year. Ward, a National Geographic Explorer and eighth generation Floridian, founded the Florida Wildlife Corridor campaign in 2010 and Path of the Panther in 2016. In the last decade, he has made documenting and photographing the endangered Florida panther a priority. He has brought home pictures of gators, manatees, egrets, herons, and the Big Cypress Swamp black bear. Ward’s photograph was influential enough that House Speaker-designate Paul Renner gifted each Republican a unique photograph from in or near their district during his designation ceremony in September. “These photographs remind us that we’re responsible for preserving and improving this great state for our children,” Renner told his caucus. Conservationists marked Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signing of the Florida Wildlife

ENVIRONMENTAL

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR Corridor Act as key to protecting state lands and creating safe passage for species like the panther and black bear. Both the House and Senate passed the measure unanimously last Session. The 2021 budget includes $300 million for the Department of Environmental Protection to prioritize conserving wildlife corridors and both natural and agricultural landscapes. DEP and the Florida Cabinet have already started expanding the corridor. In September, the Cabinet approved six acquisitions in Hardee, Hend-

ry, Indian River, Okeechobee and Santa Rosa counties. “I thank Governor DeSantis and the Cabinet for their leadership in protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor,” Ward said. “Because of their leadership, there are now nearly 20,000 new acres of wildlands, wetlands, ranches and forests that will always endure to support Florida’s wildlife and people.” To get his award-winning photographs, Ward has explored more than 2,000 miles along the corridor in recent years. “Carlton’s passion for preserving wild Florida is palpable — and contagious,” said Seth McKeel, managing partner at The Southern Group’s Tampa office. “He explains the threat of future habitat loss through award-winning photography and relatable personal experience. But he promises a bright future through a common-sense plan for green infrastructure and realistic land conservation.”

Carlton Ward

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Keynote Speaker

Dr. Myron L. Rolle

NFL Hall of Famer

Derrick Brooks

Ambassador

Nancy G. Brinker

Volunteer Florida CEO

Corey Simon

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www.fahp.net Fall 2021

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Justin Senior HEALTH CARE

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

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it was Senior, a former state Medicaid director, who in 2019 cleverly branded the recurring supplemental dollars as the “critical care fund” and established a website explaining what the dollars do and showing which facilities benefit from the funds. “He is a rare blend of policy expert and communications government affairs extraordinaire,” said Melissa Stone, who first worked with Senior in former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration. “He’s always looking at data, but he’s able to translate that into communicating a clear message on issues that are important at the patient level and obviously at the policy level

with legislators and stakeholders.” In addition to serving as Medicaid director, Senior also worked in the general counsel’s office of the state Agency for Health Care Administration. He went on to head the department between October 2016 and January 2019, when he stepped down to head the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. “Working with Justin is a delight. His exemplary oratory skills and quick wit both impress and keep me in stitches,” said Lindy Kennedy, President and Chief Operating Officer of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.

PHOTO: The Workmans

I

t’s not often that an industry can avoid budget reductions when they are being pushed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, both. But Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida CEO Justin Senior seemingly did the impossible last year and helped persuade lawmakers to spare facilities like Jackson Memorial Hospital, Shands Jacksonville and Tampa General Hospitals from hundreds of millions in Medicaid reductions during a health care pandemic. When the Senate rolled out its first proposal for the state fiscal year 20212022 budget it had recommended reducing $328.5 million from hospital funding, including $77 million from the “critical care fund,” or recurring Medicaid dollars in the state budget that have been given to 28 hospitals that provide the largest amounts of care to the poor, elderly and disabled in the state. The House’s original proposed budget, meanwhile, would have reduced funds for Senior’s member hospitals by $514 million and included eliminating all $226 million in supplemental Medicaid funding for the hospitals. While all hospitals are impacted by proposed reductions to the Medicaid rates paid for inpatient and outpatient services, only 28 facilities are impacted by the elimination of the supplement payments. Indeed, whether the facilities should receive the supplemental has been the subject of industry infighting for years with HCA Healthcare leading the charge to eliminate the supplemental funding. While the fight predates his arrival at the safety net hospital association,


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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Jared Rosenstein

Runner-Up

HEALTH CARE

LOBBYIST OF THE

YEAR

H

e may have been the hardest working right hand man in government since Alexander Hamilton. Jared Rosenstein, known for his hunger for success and willingness to work nonstop, joined Capital City Consulting this summer after being immersed in the state’s emergency management headquarters during the COVID- 19 public health pandemic. Already his clients include CDR Maguire, the emergency management health and medical consulting firm that helps communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters, and Ceres Environmental Services, one of the nation’s largest debris and environmental services providers. That’s not surprising given that for the past seven years Rosenstein has been one half of what’s known as the “Two Jareds,” a tandem that includes his former boss, Jared Moskowitz. Power lobbyist Ron Book made the introduction when Moskowitz, who had been elected to the state House of Representatives, was looking to hire a chief legislative analyst. “You know ‘they live happily ever after?’ well the Jareds live happily ever after,” Book said of the initial introduction. When Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped Moskowitz to head the Division of Emergency Management in January 2019, Rosenstein agreed to serve as Moskowitz’s chief of staff. That put Rosenstein at the center of the government agency in charge of much of Florida’s response to the state’s COVID-19 pandemic and in the room where it happened when it came to high-level decisions about the disease. Moskowtiz said when he accepted DeSantis’ offer to run the division he knew Rosenstein would be part of his management team. The Jareds’ successes in both the Legislature and the Division of Emergency Management came from their willingness to work together on outworking everyone, Moskowitz said. “We may not be the smartest, but we can outwork them,” Moskowitz recalls being their mantra. Book, who also is known for his long work days, agrees. “They know the key is turning the lights on in the morning before anyone else and turning them off every night after everyone

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else has left,” Book said. “Control your success by the time you put in.” While Moskowtiz said he knew Rosenstein was going to be his right hand man at the division, neither of the Jareds knew they would be at the epicenter of the state of Florida’s response to a pandemic that shut down the economy for a month. In his emergency order declaring COVID-19 a statewide public health emergency, DeSantis named the Division of Emergency Management the headquarters of the state’s response. Among other things the division was charged with getting personal protective equipment to frontline workers, purchasing COVID-19 testing kits for nursing homes in order to test staff, and establishing for the general public testing — and eventually vaccine — locations. Book said the experience at the division has given Rosenstein a shot at success because it enabled him to “broaden his base” which, along with willingness to work with long hours and understanding of government, is a necessary building block for a successful lobbying career. “And what I mean by broadening your base is what doors you can knock on to ask people to give you an opportunity to do business for them,” Book said.

PHOTO: The Workmans

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

Ashley Kalifeh

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Jeff Porter


INSURANCE

LOBBYISTS OF THE

YEAR

­N

early every year, lawmakers toy with getting rid of the state’s nofault auto insurance system and replacing it with mandatory bodily injury liability coverage. In the 2021 Legislative Session, it was nearly a done deal. The Senate personal injury protection repeal bill (SB 54) passed both chambers of the Legislature, and it did so with overwhelming, bipartisan support — the House voted 100-16 and the Senate approved it 39-1 with Sen. Jeff Brandes casting the lone vote against it. There was surprisingly little debate on what could have been the most con-

sequential change to the state’s auto insurance laws since the 1970s, when the PIP system was first established, or at the very least, 2012, when lawmakers passed a lengthy PIP reform package. But behind the scenes, there was an all-out war with Capital City Consulting’s Ashley Kalifeh leading the opposition on behalf of insurers and Florida Justice Association Deputy Executive Director Jeff Porter serving as the point man pushing for the repeal-and-replace plan. Kalifeh and Porter each made compelling cases, often armed with the same data. Both pointed to Colorado, for instance, which repealed its PIP law in 2003. Porter hammered home that insurance premiums went down almost immediately. It was an effective argument, especially in a year when many Floridians faced a cash crunch. Amid economic turmoil, car insurance is often the first obligation put on the chopping block. For proof, look no further than Florida’s first-in-the-nation uninsured driver rate. Kalifeh, however, produced piles of evidence that the benefits were shortlived and that Colorado had since seen

rates skyrocket. While some past analyses on PIP repeal have shown it would lower premiums, she noted, the potential savings were minuscule compared to the risk warned of in competing studies, especially for less affluent drivers who purchase bare minimum policies — one of those studies estimated those drivers could see their insurance costs rise by 50% or more. Porter’s argument won in the Legislature, but Kalifeh’s resonated on the other side of the Capitol complex. CFO Jimmy Patronis, whose office houses the state Office of Insurance Regulation, was an early and outspoken opponent of the repeal who harped on the burden it might have placed on wage workers. And while Gov. Ron DeSantis never offered his opinion publicly, he vetoed the legislation in the 11th hour, showing the argument must have resonated with him as well. PIP repeal will no doubt resurface in Legislative Sessions to come, as it has for the past decade. When it does, expect Kalifeh and Porter to make another strong case for Insurance Lobbyist of the Year.

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FIGHTING FOR THE SMALL BUSINESSES THAT CREATE JOBS & POWER FLORIDA’S ECONOMY

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2021 GOLDEN ROTUNDA AWARDS

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What I’ve Learned

Rick Flagg 64, Tallahassee Former Dean Emeritus of the Capitol Press Corps AS TOLD TO ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER

YOU WERE A MILITARY BRAT, TRAVELING THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. HOW DID YOU END UP IN FLORIDA? We started off in Texas. Japan. Cheyenne, Wyoming. Worcester, Massachusetts. Denver, Colorado, Spokane, Washington. Oberammergau, Germany. Our last assignment was Hurlburt Field in Navarre where my father was the chief intelligence officer for the 1st Special Operations Wing. Before my family moved to Florida, I was back in the U.S. attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). They taught me that I should not be an engineer, and I left after a year. They saved me so much time and trouble. At the same time I was failing at RPI in engineering, I was the youngest editor of the paper there as a freshman. They taught me I should be in journalism and I am eternally grateful for that. By 1977 I had graduated from Okaloosa Walton Junior College and was on to FAMU. I did the paper (at Okaloosa Walton) and when I went over to Tallahassee I was working for the Flambeau while I was going to FAMU.

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I don’t claim to be any sort of luminary in journalism. All I am is a guy who’s been filing stories every day for the past 40-some-odd years.

PHOTO: The Workmans

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4 5

Natural gas is safe, affordable, and abundant. According to the U. S. Department of Transportation, the pipelines used by Peoples Gas are the safest form of energy transport.

Floridians love natural gas! From cost-conscious customers to world-class restaurant chefs, Floridians love having the option of natural gas.


HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN RADIO BROADCASTING BACK IN THE ’70S? I was a print major; radio was just something I did to pay the bills in college. Reuben Askew was Governor when I started. As a rookie reporter, I managed to get an interview with him standing in the driveway of the mansion, and my news director was so proud of me because she said no one got Askew before like that. Ray Starr — who was like the legend in Florida broadcasters when I was a young pup — was retiring. He had radio and TV, and he spun off the TV to Phil Stancil. He spun off the radio to me because no one else wanted it. Radio didn’t have a whole lot of respect. You had to bill stations every month and do this whole rigmarole, and it was not considered the most prestigious thing. YOU ALWAYS SEEM TO STAND OUT IN THE PRESS SCRUM AROUND POLITICIANS — YOUR SIZE, YOUR BEARD, YOUR CLOTHING, YOUR ATTITUDE. WAS THIS PURPOSEFUL? It kind of started accidentally. When I first started working, I was still a lowly college student and didn’t have money for anything. When other people were going out to lunch, I was bagging it and wearing jeans and flannel shirts and things like that. After a few years I sort of became typecast and … I wouldn’t have been able to transition because that’s sort of how I made myself known. It’s like no one knows the radio reporter, but everyone, everyone knows Rick. Give people a persona to latch onto and they’ll remember it. It’s not like I rush home at the end of the day and relax in a three-piece suit. Although, honestly, in the past year, I think my favorite choice of clothing has been nothing.

Top Left: Rick Flagg (State Archives of Florida). Top Right: Flagg, far right, listens as Supreme Court Chief Justice Parker Lee McDonald comments on a tax on services outside the Governor’s Office in 1987. (State Archives of Florida/ Mark Foley). Bottom right: Flagg, far left, joins a press scrum with then-Rep. Will Weatherford and state Sen. Durrell Peaden. At right is Mary Ellen Klas. (State Archives of Florida/Bill Cotterell). Growing up in the military I had to have a short haircut and I always resented that. As soon as I could grow it out, I did, and I just never cut it. There have been times when it’s been shorter, there have been times when it’s been longer, but again, it’s one of those things that I sort of trapped myself into. If I showed up now with short hair and no beard, no one would recognize me. The gray eyebrow that has been very distinctive for me … actually is a genetic deformity. It started when I was like 3 years old. It’s called Fall 2021

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Adios suckers. Ron DeSantis is someone else’s problem now.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED

Top left:Jon Mason-Hing, left, and Rick Flagg wait at the Division of Elections counter in June 2008 to see who qualifies to run. (State Archives of Florida/Rivers Henderson Buford III). Bottom left: Flagg joins others at the Division of Elections counter in June 2008. (State Archives of Florida/Rivers Henderson Buford III). Right: Rick Flagg. (State Archives of Florida). Parry-Romberg Syndrome. What happens is one half of your face — divided right along the nose line — doesn’t match. One side atrophies. I have a very slight case of it. There’s not much atrophy, but if I didn’t have a beard you’d see it right away. The white eyebrow was one manifestation of that. I hated it. My mom used to color it in for me. Only later did I learn, hey, that’s a good thing. IT SEEMS LIKE FLORIDA HAS GOTTEN A REPUTATION FOR THE WEIRDNESS OF #FLORIDAMAN AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE. HOW BAD IS IT? Florida was a crazy place back when I first got here in 1977, ‘76, and it’s been crazy all the time. We’ve gotten more crowded and we’ve gotten, what, almost twice as many people now as 40 years ago? So yeah, we’re getting crazier. Nothing in Florida will ever be as good as it is right now and nothing in Florida was as good as it was just a few years ago. More and more is taken every year more and more is plowed under. Pretty soon we’re going to run out and then we’ll wonder … “Gee, what happened to our nice little state?” In politics, I don’t think anything has changed at all. Big business still owns the Legislature and FP&L still owns the Legislature. Certain corporate interests will always control the Legislature until we figure out how to stop their influence. 150

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The thing that has always dismayed me about the rich people like Rick Scott is you’ve got $270 million. What the hell do you want to waste your time in politics for? Go off and enjoy your life. When did the multimillionaires decide it’s no longer important just to run things behind the scenes? The Legislature is made up of a ton of middle managers. No one really extraordinary. No one really that bad. But middle managers … don’t represent real Floridians. They’re the bosses in real life, they don’t need to be the bosses in politics, too. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO SHARE A NAME WITH DC COMICS HERO COL. RICK FLAG? Even better than you think. My dad was Col. Rick Flagg, and he served in Air Force Intelligence. And don’t forget the crazy intel officer on M*A*S*H who was always trying to bust Hawkeye. He was also Col. Flagg. AFTER MORE THAN 40 YEARS COVERING THE CAPITOL, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED? What did I learn? I learned that either my memories are bad or the people that ran state government back when I was young cared a lot more about it than the people who run it now. I have all these fond memories of governors and House speakers and Senate presidents and they all tried to accomplish things.

They all tried to do good. Lately though … they just want to come in here, tell people how to live their lives and go home. It’s sad to see, but it is what it is. I don’t claim to be any sort of luminary in journalism. All I am is a guy who’s been filing stories every day for the past 40-some-odd years. Maybe it is time to rip up the system and start up again, which I think is what we did when the internet came in. The young reporters, they used to just drive me crazy when they make stupid mistakes like leaving off attributions. And I just sort of learned to sit back and say, “Yeah, they’re learning. They’ll come along. They’ll be OK.” DID THE CURRENT OCCUPANT OF THE GOVERNOR’S MANSION TURN OUT LIKE YOU EXPECTED? I had high hopes for Ron DeSantis, especially after that first year when he came in with the teacher money and he came in with the environment money. He seemed to get it, but he took a turn somewhere …. and he carried (Donald) Trump’s water everywhere in the state. The thing about the (coronavirus) has probably driven me insane more than anything else. For the past two years I’ve covered every press conference this clown has had, so I’ve heard the same thing over and over again. DeSantis’ style is simply to be brash and abrasive, to attack the media when he should be answering their questions. OK, you obviously don’t believe the press has a function in this process. But can we at least try to communicate with each other? No, he’d rather lecture us, he’d rather go off on a tangent about how we’re so terrible. Especially out-oftown reporters, he is cruel to them. He just snaps their heads off. WILL YOU MISS THE ACTION AND INTRIGUE THAT IS FLORIDA POLITICS? I will be perfectly fine. Don’t worry about me. There are plenty of things to fill my time and I will not miss state government one tiny bit. I guess that’s a good way to sign off, isn’t it? Adios suckers. Ron DeSantis is someone else’s problem now.


AT GRAYROBINSON, WE ELIMINATE THE GUESSWORK.

LET US BE YOUR GUIDE. FLORIDA | WASHINGTON, DC | GRAY-ROBINSON.COM Fall 2021

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The Big Question

Q: WHAT IS THE TOP POLITICAL-RELATED GIFT

REQUEST YOU’LL MAKE/GIVE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON?

JUAN DEL CERRO A humble request for a return to our roots in my party, away from being a one-man cult and back to being focused on ideology.

JENNIFER GREEN A moratorium on fundraising calls.

MARION HAMMER Coffee mugs and T-shirts with mockingbirds on them.

GREG UNGRU

BETH LERNER Donation to Planned Parenthood in Tallahassee in honor of friends and loved ones. Their clinics are being used by women from Texas, and because of our own laws those women need help paying for extra hotel and unnecessary expenses.

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As a Northeast Florida-based firm, we try to showcase local businesses when sending gifts to our clients and friends. In the past, we’ve given custom candles from 5 Points Candle and a custom coffee blend from Brass Tacks among others. This year we look to spice up the holidays with an array of custom spices from Fresh Jax. So, if you don’t RUB us the wrong way, you can expect a unique set of SEASON’s greetings, with a political flare, of course.

ILLUSTRATIONS: Bill Day

JOE MOBLEY

Every year I look forward to giving and receiving the same gift — the White House Christmas ornament. My parents have given me this special gift every year since 2002, my first year working in politics. I always buy a few ornaments and give them to special people in The Process or friends who appreciate politics. Merry Christmas!


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INFLUENCE Fall 2021