How not to lobby, courtesy of the Florida Chamber of Commerce
Thursday in Tallahassee offered a particularly instructive lesson in politics. The subject: How Not to Lobby the Legislature.
Everything was rolling along nicely in a Senate budget subcommittee until a lobbyist for the Florida Chamber of Commerce stepped to the microphone, and in two minutes, one of the state's leading business groups became an outcast -- at least to one senator.
The Chamber's Carolyn Johnson said the group supports a bill creating a new $250 million pool of incentive money for the Scott administration, but only if the money is not distributed to companies on a pay-as-you-go basis. "If something like that did take place, we would have to oppose the bill moving forward," Johnson said.
That sounded like a threat, and the panel's chairman, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, didn't like it. He then sent a brutally direct message to the Chamber brass who were either in the back of the room or watching on TV while the young Johnson bore the brunt of his wrath.
"That's just really insulting," Latvala said. Raising his voice, he added: "I think it's just insulting that the Chamber of Commerce would come here and make these statements about that -- and if the leadership of the Chamber had an inch of guts, they'd be up here instead of you."
Then Crystal Sircy of Enterprise Florida effortlessly threw the Chamber under the bus. After praising Latvala's work on the bill, she said: "I'm not sure what the Chamber's concern is."
The session has a long way to go. It could be a rough few weeks for the Chamber until the handkerchief drops in March. Oh, yes: Latvala is soon going to be chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee for two years.