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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 7, 2014 8 years ago

Lobbyist roundup: A glance at top business lobbyists in Tallahassee

If you want to get something changed in Tallahassee — or if you want to keep something the same — you're going to need someone there to fight on your behalf.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

Ballard Partners
Offices: Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa, West Palm
Principals: Brian Ballard, Susan “Susie” Wiles, Chris Hanson, Mike Abrams, Tony Boselli, Carol Bracy, Brad Burleson, Mathew Forrest, Jan Gorrie, John Johnston, Sylvester Lukis, Joe McCann, Monica Rodriguez, Greg Turbeville, Amy Young, Chris Dorworth, Bridget Nocco
2013 Legislative branch revenue: More than $4 million
2013 Executive branch revenue: More than $4 million
Clients: Tampa General Hospital, Tampa Port Authority, New York Yankees, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida,, 3M, Xerox, Deloitte, Florida Power and Light, Public Health Trust, International Speedway Corp., United States Sugar Corp., Florida Society of Pathologists, Investment Corporation of Palm Beach, Sheridan Healthcare, Harris Corp.
Laws watching in 2014: Representing retired soccer player David Beckham and Nascar, Ballard says his firm is working to secure funds for facilities for Major League Soccer and Nascar in Florida.

The firm is also watching the gaming issue, though Ballard says, “it's a tougher one to predict.” Ballard represents the Palm Beach Kennel Club, The Trump Organization and the Genting's Resorts World Miami in bringing resort casinos to Florida.

The firm will also push for tort reform in nursing homes, and in Ballard's opinion, “it looks like a real year to get it done.”

Past successes: A lot of lobbyists just “push mud around with no end-of-day product,” Ballard says. “We pride ourselves in getting results.”

In 2012, Ballard was hired by the Florida Society of Ophthalmology in settling what was thought to be the unresolvable decades-long battle between ophthalmologists and optometrists, nicknamed the “eyeball wars.” With Ballard's help, the “wars” were resolved in a year.

His firm also helped pass the spring training bill, providing money to cities building both single team and double team facilities for baseball spring training.

Ballard Partners also played a big role in representing physicians who dispense drugs to treat people on workers' compensation.

History: Ballard launched the firm under a different name in 1998 with some other partners who decided that they wanted to focus on lobbying.
Notable fact: Lobbyists at firm include Tony Boselli, a former star offensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL and a prominent figure in Jacksonville.

Advantage Consulting
Office: Tallahassee
Principals: Rhett O'Doski, Sean Stafford and Ryder Rudd
2013 Executive Branch Revenue: $700,000 to $1.5 million
2013 Legislative Branch Revenue: $700,000 to $1.5 million
Clients: Alico, FCCI Insurance Group, Florida Justice Reform Institute, MGM Resorts International, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., General Electric Co., Family Dynamics, Covanta Energy Corp., Bok Tower Gardens, Genworth Financial, Florida Securities Dealers Association, Florida Association of Health Underwriters, Dosal Tobacco Corp.
Laws/Trends watching in 2014: “During the 2014 legislative session, we will be involved in most of the high-profile issues, which include gaming, telemedicine, water policy, tax policy, and the ever-popular tort reform,” O'Doski says.
Past successes: “Some of our most memorable successes involved stopping legislation that would have severely impacted our clients.” One such example includes defeating tobacco tax legislation on behalf of a Florida-based company, according to O'Doski. “Most recently, we have been involved in successfully passing legislation relating to tort reform measures, renewable energy policy and tax credits for businesses,” O'Doski says. The firm has also worked on “major rewrites of the workers' compensation laws, medical malpractice, auto and property insurance laws.”
History: Firm was founded in December 2008 by O'Doski and Stafford. Combined, the two have more than 30 years' experience in government relations. The firm doesn't like to advertise and depends on client referrals to spread the word. “In this business you only have your reputation and your record. We aggressively guard both,” O'Doski says. Over the past six years, the small firm has “built a book of clients that range from small, single-interest business to statewide trade associations and Fortune 50 companies.”
Notable fact: O'Doski is a racecar driver in his spare time, competing professionally in the Grand Am races.

Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky, Abate & Webb
Offices: Tallahassee, Fort Lauderdale
Principals: Fred Karlinsky, Mike Colodny, Joel Fass, Howard Talenfeld, Maria Elena Abate, Katherine Scott Webb
2013 Legislative branch revenue: $2 million - $4 million
2013 Executive branch revenue: $2 million - $4 million
Clients: American Managed Care, Florida Peninsula Insurance Co., FCCI Insurance Group, Florida Dental Hygiene Association, Florida Property and Casualty Association, Risk Management Solutions, Universal Insurance Company of North America, Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co., Guarantee Insurance Co., Florida Police Chiefs Association, Dell International Services India Private Limited, Dosal Tobacco Corp.
Laws watching in 2014: Karlinsky says the firm will track a number of activities in the judicial branch, making sure laws are applied correctly. The firm will also keep a close eye on any legislation impacting insurance.
Past successes: The firm assisted with the initial redraft of the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) laws a few years ago, according to Karlinsky. The firm also aided the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America with court challenges following the legislation.
History: Firm was founded in 1976 as a full-service law firm assisting in corporate and transactional work for businesses and legislative clients. It opened a Tallahassee office in 1998 to focus on governmental affairs.
Notable facts: The firm's 10 lobbyists include Tom Gallagher, Florida's former chief financial officer, insurance commissioner and state treasurer. In addition, 30-year Tallahassee lobbyist Doug Bruce joined the firm in January. Bruce has secured nearly $1 billion in legislative appropriations for various clients throughout his career. Fred Karlinsky, who has served on both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee, is also Florida counsel for the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America, general counsel and lead lobbyist for the Florida Property and Casualty Association and general counsel of regulatory affairs to the Florida Surplus Lines Service Office.

Capital City Consulting
Offices: Tallahassee
Principals: Nick Iarossi, Gerald Wester, Ron LaFace Jr., Chris Schoonover, Ken Granger, Ashley Mayer
2013 Executive branch revenue: $400,000 to $1 million
2013 Legislative branch revenue: More than $3.5 million
Clients: Aetna, Office Depot, American Insurance Association, CIGNA, Citibank, Visa, The Everglades Foundation, Florida Association of Ticket Brokers, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
Laws watching in 2014: Representing casino resort giant Las Vegas Sands, Iarossi says his firm is keeping close watch on the destination gaming and gambling legislation this year. The firm is also tracking increased graduate education funding to attract more doctors to Florida.
Past successes: Iarossi says his firm is successful because its six lobbyists have a good mix of policy expertise and political background, “a blend of politics and substance.” His firm is well known for helping pass substantive legislation for financial services companies, property and health insurance companies, hospitals and health care companies, Iarossi says. In addition, the firm has helped a number of clients, including Office Depot, with state appropriations. The firm also assisted in securing additional funds for expanding infrastructure at New College of Florida in Sarasota. This year it is focusing on securing funding for a new master's program. On the procurement side, the firm has helped Cheney Brothers Food Services and Oldsmar's Trinity Services Group with securing state contracts with the Department of Corrections.
History: In 2003, when a number of term limits were coming into effect, Iarossi, Wester and LaFace decided to leave the large Tallahassee law firm they were working for and start their own lobbying firm. Anticipating a high amount of turnover in the Legislature, they decided they wanted to start from scratch, meeting and getting to know candidates early on, to more effectively build partnerships from the start.
Notable fact: Iarossi says his firm has really started to work closely with members of the press over the last five years. “Social media and the press play a much larger role in shaping policy,” Iarossi says. Press can “drive messaging and educate the public and policy makers on issues.”

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