Fla. Chamber of Commerce Announces 2012 Agenda

From teacher merit pay to a dramatic slashing of unemployment benefits, Tallahassee's republican majority is cranking out big, bold controversial reforms.

And almost every one them has a familiar fingerprint...that of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

It's a business-backed lobby with a strong hand in shaping legislation.

Thursday, the chamber unveiled its 2012 priorities, many of them virtually guaranteed to become law.

"We simply must find ways to return government back to its core service and focus on promoting private sector job creation, rather than funding new government programs," said Mark Wilson of the chamber.

So, the chamber's asking lawmakers to scale back workers' comp benefits, clamp down on the ability of teachers to collectively bargain, and phase out public pensions.

The chamber's a potent force in the capitol's halls of power, having declared victory on 31 of its 36 priorities last session, but critics are promising it won't be nearly that easy in 2012.

So far, democrats have tried and failed to block what they call the majority party's assault on the middle class, but when the legislature convenes in Fanuary, democratic Rep. Scott Randolph is expecting a wave of public outrage to wash over the Capitol and the chamber.

"This is where the chamber gets themselves in trouble, when they go outside of their mission to specifically attack workers in this state," Rep. Randolph said. "They need to stay within their mission about creating jobs, about helping small businesses, and stop being the big business lobby firm that they've turned into."

The fundamental debate? Whether what's good for business is good for Florida.

The chamber of commerce also plans to oppose any attempt by lawmakers to expand gambling in Florida. Legislation's already been filed to explore whether to allow Vegas-style resort casinos in exchange for billions of dollars in shared revenue.

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