|November 19, 2009 Fall Samboree
Wekiva River Resort, Sorrento, Florida
State Committee Meeting
By Bill Cotterell
FLORIDA CAPITAL BUREAU POLITLCAL EDITOR
Massachusetts company plans to build Florida’s first ethanol plant.
St. Pete Times, 16 January 2009-11-27
TALLAHASSEE – A Massachusetts company on Thursday announced plans to build Florida’s first ethanol plant,
and one of the first cellulosic ethanol plants in the nation.
Verenium plans to build a 36-million-gallon-a-year plant in Highlands County, northwest of Lake Okeechobee,
fueling it with a fast-growing plant similar to sugarcane. The $250-million project relies on a pioneering technology
developed by University of Florida scientists which unlocks the energy potential of plants other than ethanol’s
traditional feedstocks like sugar and corn.
Editor’s Note – But is it a good idea? Ethanol: Miracle or Mistake? Florida is sinking millions into ethanol research
and grants. But nobody is even close to making it profitable.
Senate committee hears from economic experts
Steering Florida out of the nationwide recession will require state legislators to take a new look at all sales-tax
exemptions, freeze the class-size amendment and slash the permitting red tape that often causes new business
opportunities to slip away to other states, a panel of economic experts told a special Senate committee Tuesday.
“We need to change the game we’re playing,” said Dale Brill, head of the governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and
Economic Development. “If you’re doing anything today the same way you were doing it five years ago, you’ll be
out of business in two years.”
Former House Speaker Allan Bense, incoming vice-chairman of Enterprise Florida; Marshall Criser III, president of
AT&T Florida and chairman of the state Chamber of Commerce, and Gulf Power Co. President Susan Story, who
chairs the Florida Council of 100, made a team presentation on six critical areas of economic recovery at the
request of committee chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
The select committee met amidst a special session that is bridging $2.8 billion in state revenue shortfalls with
spending cuts and trust-fund sweeps. “We need to refocus priorities from class size and instead look at pay for
performance,” said Story. A lot of studies have shown that class size is very critical from kindergarten through third
grade,” but that quality of teachers and academic offering is more important in the higher grades and colleges.
Bense, a small businessman from Panama City, also said the Legislature has to look at tax exemptions, to see
which ones spur economic growth and which should be eliminated to bring in needed revenues.
Former House Speaker Allan Bense told the Senate Select Committee Florida should cut permitting time in half for
construction projects and proposed inter-agency performance reviews. Criser said the state had better get ready
now for the next round of federal base realignment and closure recommendations from the Obama administration.
He said the military is a $50 billion economic force in Florida.
“I often find in our agencies that we have nay-sayers rather than facilitators,” said Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville,
who cited a small dock construction plan. He said it was approved by the city and county, then by the Water
Management District, Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers, “and it was
just a stupid dock.” Gaetz has said elimination of duplication will be one of his committee’s goals.
Gaetz said his committee will make recommendations during the 2009 legislative session for spurring the state’s
economy. But he said the state is largely at the mercy of national and international economic trends. “We know we’
re not going to turn the whole thing around,” said Gaetz. “We’ll have about as much effect on that as the Danish
navy did on the outcome of World War II.”
Three years ago, the Good Sam RV Owners’ Advisory Council, chaired by Tom Gonser, took on the task of
conducting a survey of Good Sam members, asking them to rank the most important RV-industry related issues.
The top three concerns were identified as:
1. Manufacture better quality RVs
2. Make qualified RV service more available
3. In the event that the RV cannot be repaired, to provide lemon law protection for RV buyers.
Tom and the Council worked diligently on behalf of not only Good Sam Club, but also all motor home owners, to
make sure that the model legislation provides new protection for motor home purchasers.
During the past several months, the Good Sam Club has kept the membership informed with regular updates in
Highways and on the Club website, of the progress in developing model motor home lemon law legislation, reaching
a remarkable compromise with the RV Industry Association, and with help of the International Association of Lemon
Law Administrators, created a groundbreaking document that gives motor home owners significant protection.
Unfortunately, IALLA has determined that it is not planning to entertain The Good Sam Club request that this
protection be extended to purchasers of non-motorized RVs in the foreseeable future. The Good Sam Club is
disappointed in IALLA’s decision and agree with the members who own travel trailers and fifth wheels that they
should be afforded protection as well.
The International Association of Lemon Law Administrators promotes the role of government agencies in legislating
and enforcing consumer-protection laws. If you would like IALLA to consider advocating lemon law protection to
towable RVs, Good Sam members can direct their comments to the IALLA leadership through it’s website at www.
Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former and likely future presidential candidate, sounded like a would-be RV
enthusiast as he entertained a crowd of about 400 diners at the RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards on
Wednesday Oct. 7 at a dinner held in conjunction with the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association’s (RVDA)
International Convention & Expo, at the Rio All-Suites
Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
In fact, Huckabee – a two time Arkansas chief executive who make a strong bid for the Republican nomination
during the 2008 presidential election – credited an RV dealer for resuscitating his presidential campaign in its early
“In the summer of 2007,” he said, “we were just about on fumes and were having to make a decision whether we
would go ahead and go all the way to the Iowa straw poll – which was going to be a turning point for us. We were
just about to the point where we had another week’s worth of funds, and then we were going to have to probably
close up shop.
“Jack Sizemore, from Amarillo, Texas, one of your fellow RV dealers…has been a friend of mine for some 30-plus
years. Well, Jack said ‘I’ll host a fundraiser for you in Amarillo.’ That was the summer of 2007. And it was that
particular event in his home—it wasn’t huge like it was a multimillion-dollar fund-raiser—but it was enough. It kept
us on our feet for another three weeks and kept us in the race. And we went on to come in second in the straw
pole. That shook out several of the others, and we went on to win the Iowa caucuses and about eight or nine other
states before finally Sen. McCain captured the nomination.”
A rumored contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Huckabee won a straw poll taken at the
Value Voters Summit, an annual gathering of Christian conservatives, in September in Washington, D.C., easily
outdistancing a field that included Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Alaska chief executive Sarah Palin and
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
A congenial celebrity to whom the industry crowd seemed to gravitate, the former Razorback governor followed his ’
08 presidential bid with a nationwide tour to promote his fifth book “From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 STOPS to
Restoring America’s Greatness.” He’s also enhanced his celebrity status with a stint as host of the popular weekly
show, “Huckabee,” on the Fox News Channel where the pundit’s conservative views resonate with many
While the former Baptist pastor did share some of those conservative views with his audience, however, he didn’t
spend the evening hammering the Democrats. Instead, it was his recollections of campaign motorhoming, mixed
with a folksy blend of opinion and storytelling that prompted repeated applause from the dinner crowd.
“In 2002, when I was running (for re-election) for governor, we bought an RV, a Class A diesel pusher,” he
recalled. “We used that thing the whole year, I lived in it, slept in it overnight—we parked in RV parks—it was the
greatest experience of my life. The best part was that I could take my dog with me, and the whole staff said, “You
are so much more calm and wonderful to be around when you’re in that RV because the dog is with you and the
dog just keeps your equilibrium set.”
Huckabee went on to use a Class C coach during his presidential campaign, and noted that motorhomes also were
put to good use not only during previous book tours but also one planned for November to introduce his latest
tome. “The reason I tell you this is because I don’t want you to think that for me this is just a speech. I absolutely
appreciate…how much an important part of the fabric of American life the RV industry is.”
Huckabee, likewise, noted the relationship between the economic health of the RV industry and the country at large.
“Most of us know that one of the first industries to feel the pain of a downturned economy is the RV industry, and
one of the first to be an indicator that it is starting to come back will be the RV industry,” he said.
“When recent numbers in the news started reporting that sales and manufacturing are beginning to rebound,
frankly, that was great news—not just for your industry. That was great news for all of America. And I’m hoping
that those numbers continue because it’s in all of our best interests to have an economy that once again lets
families enjoy the time that they can spend together.”
On a more local level, the November issue of the AARP Bulletin has an article Curbing Cuts In Services and Helping
Older Workers in the Southeast, with specifics for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
Good deeds for AARP Florida is encouraging members to engage in volunteer service, even if they have little time
to spare. AARP’s national Create the Good campaign offers busy people easy ways to make a difference in other’s
In October AARP and the Entertainment Industry Foundation spotlighted “volunteer stars” such as Terri Koopman
of Lake Placid, who helps run a free health clinic and lobbies lawmakers on issues affecting older people. The
need for volunteers is especially critical now, as many state residents are hurting from the economic downturn.
While the national unemployment rate doubled from March 2007 to July 2009, the number of unemployed
Floridians almost tripled from 335,000 to 984,000, according to Florida Tax Watch.
To find a volunteer opportunity, visit the website www.createthegood.org.
Sharon K. Bundy