Big business toasts Scott agenda

TALLAHASSEE — At the end of a day of photo op pre-inaugural events, Gov. Rick Scott finally spoke Monday evening at a cocktail reception for Florida business leaders, who are starting to like what they hear from the Naples businessman.

Some major business leaders had initially supported Scott’s primary opponent Bill McCollum, but the more Scott talks about his agenda, the more they’re starting to like him. Music to their ears in Monday evening’s brief talk was Scott’s repeat of pledges to dramatically reduce regulations that he says burden business owners and a stronger pledge to tighten court rules to reduce lawsuit payouts.

Scott mingled with about 100 representatives of business groups, lobbyists and corporate officials at Tallahassee's historic Goodwood Plantation on the eve of his swearing-in as Florida’s 45th governor. He’ll take over from Gov. Charlie Crist just after noon on Tuesday.

At the reception, which followed other events earlier in the day aimed at honoring the military, women, and youth, Scott didn’t stray much from broad-brushed, pro-growth themes that dominated his campaign.

But he gave a few fresh insights into how he will tackle his twin goals of creating jobs and shrinking state government.

Scott said he planned to appoint a high-level staffer to review state regulations and recommend those worth eliminating. He recalled during his days as a hospital executive telling his staff to quit sending out rafts of paper records that were available on the Internet as a money-saving tactic.

"I asked, if we stopped doing it, what would happen?" Scott said. "I'm certain there are things we've done in government that don't work."

Scott said the state would "get rid of regulations that don't work."

Also, he would advance "fair tort reform," Scott said. “If we're fair to business and if we're fair to people, we'll win," he said.

Scott’s inaugural committee has raised $3.5 million for the events surrounding his swearing-in, much of it from the business community as it warms to Scott, who was an unknown in Florida politics a year ago.

Also on Monday, Scott echoed his call for "education reform," essentially a second shot at the tenure-ending, teacher merit-pay legislation opposed last year by the state's largest teachers' union and vetoed by Crist.

Scott said improving schools, ending "job-killing regulations," and combining and eliminating some state agencies to save money and improve efficiency are part of what he'll push for after his swearing-in.

The subdued cocktail event was in marked contrast to Scott’s earlier events, which were more populist in nature, and bigger. About 1,000 people – many of them service members and their families – were at Scott’s salute to military personnel and veterans. Scott is himself a Navy veteran, as is Lt. Gov.-elect Jennifer Carroll.

Carroll, who becomes the first African-American woman lieutenant governor, reminded Scott that she retired as a lieutenant commander, which means she outranks him. “Until tomorrow,” she said.

A portion of the contributions to the inaugural events is also going to the Wounded Warrior project, which assists injured veterans.

Susan Story, president of Gulf Power, who introduced Scott, said she'd been impressed by the governor-elect's meetings with business site selectors in Fort Lauderdale, home to his transition office.

"I tell you, those site selectors thought he was awesome. There's some people who get it, and that's great, and there's some people who get it and can do something about it."

Among those attending were representatives of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and the Florida Retail Association.

Bud Chiles, the son of late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles and who ran, himself, briefly as an independent for governor last year, said Scott had sought his advice on job creating efforts.

"He's got a lot on his shoulders," Chiles said. "But I think whoever was elected in this cycle was going to face a really tough job. He knows that."

Categories: News