Posted by: Tony T. Brown on Wednesday, March 9, 2022


LT’22 Tallahassee Retreat

By: Tony T. Brown, Tampa Bay Economic Development Council

The Leadership Tampa Class of 2022 traveled to Tallahassee on February 22 for a 2-day retreat. The class was excited about the road trip. The bus departed Tampa at 6:30am; and one classmate, while yawning, said that she’d been up since 4:00am.  “What an invaluable retreat and lesson on state government,” commented many classmates.  For several of the LT’22 class, the trip to Tallahassee was their first.

The purpose of the Tallahassee Retreat was to provide class members with a better understanding of our state government, with access to local leaders. The two-day session was filled with many wonderful interactions and highlights. We saw all branches of the state government at work:

  1. Florida Supreme Court
  2. Florida Senate
  3. Florida House of Representatives
  4. Administration: The Governor’s office & Cabinet

The LT’22 Class enjoyed a Lobbying Legislative Session with a panel of influential lobbying firms.  Audrey Brown, President & Chief Executive Officer, Florida Association of Health Plans, moderated the panel. The panel included Jan Gorrie, Managing Partner, Ballard Partners; Darrick McGhee, Vice President of Government Relations, Johnson & Blanton; Michael Corcoran, Founding Partner, Corcoran Partners; and Seth McKeel, Managing Partner, The Southern Group.  The discussion was invigorating and interactive. The class learned about the significant role lobbyists play in passing a bill or in some cases stopping one that could be hurtful to a company, area or industry.  The session was quite interactive, and several key questions were asked. 

What bills are you following? 

Funding for Visit Florida, budgets for specific clients, and the redistricting process are hot topics in this legislative session, commented the panel.

What happens when lobbyists are on different sides of the same issue?

This question sparked a fun interaction among the panelists. They all indicated that they were friends that respected and trusted each other. The key is not to lie and to respect the institution of state governance.

A series of speakers highlighted Day 2 that included a session on the Present & Future Political Landscape with Sarah Bascom, President, Bascom Communications & Consulting and Steve Schale, Political Strategist, Florida. There are several key realities learned from this session:

  1. During the Legislative Session it’s about the budget. If your budget item is not in the bill by week 7 then “forget about it.”  The Florida Legislature meets in session every year for sixty consecutive days.
  2. Redistricting is an issue that comes up every 10 years. The Governor and Florida Legislature negotiate over maps and key interest groups follow the process as well.
  3. Florida elections for 2022 will include the gubernatorial race, US Senate and House, and other state offices. The panel commented on several controversial bills and noted that with the speed that information travels, because of social media, it is important to be both quick and right when addressing issues.

The LT’22 Tallahassee Retreat was sponsored by Moffitt Cancer Center and TECO.  We thank our committee chairs, Gina Evans, Tampa International Airport and Kim DeBosier, WGI; along with the rest of the committee (Nic Glover, Tampa Bay Chamber; Mathew Blair, Andrea Tovar, and Michelle Kazouris, Corcoran Partners) for a great and informative event.