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Strawberry Festival’s Dream Comes True

It’s another dream come true for the Florida

Strawberry Festival as its Board of Directors, Staff and community members observed the much antici- pated ribbon cutting for the Astin Farms and Ed & Myrtle Lou Swindle Family Pavilions. The new pavil- ion’s along with the 30,000 square foot multi- purpose agricultural complex that was completed in 2011 has been a dream in the making for more than 30 years. Friday, October 12th, hundreds gathered to hear Commissioner Adam Putnam speak on behalf of the Festival and the importance of youth in agri- culture today. To better serve our agricultural programs and the

communities’ needs, in 2011 the Florida Strawberry Festival board approved the construction of two open air pavilions that adorn the East and West

sides of the multi-purpose agricultural complex. The East Pavilion is named after the Astin Family while the West Pavilion is named after the Swindle Family both of whom are lifelong supporters of the agriculture industry and the Plant City Community. These gener- ous donations not only benefit the Florida Strawberry Festival and the Plant City Community, but it will have a life altering impact on the thousands of individuals who attend and participate in agricultural events. The two pavilions provide the complex with an additional 37,000 square feet of open air space. During the Festival the pavilions will

be used to house livestock and plants and will also be available to rent during the off-season. Make plans now and mark your calendars for the 78th annual Florida Strawberry Festival, February 28 – March 10, 2013 where

you can be one of the first to see the new agricultural complex. Please follow the Florida Strawberry Festival at, Facebook and Twitter, or call 813-752-9194 for further details.

Florida Federation of Fairs Legislative Report Phil Leary, AICP, Governmental Affairs Consultant With the start of the 2013 legislative session on March 5th, it is important to outline our success in the 2012 session, and look ahead at what the

major issues will be for the new leaders in the House and Senate. In the 2012 session not a single new tax, higher fee, new regulation or union backed mandate passed the legislature. In terms of success for the Federation of Fairs and our members, HB 449 Fairs & Expositions, passed both Houses unanimously and made significant and important revisions to Florida Statute Chapter 616 for the first time in almost 20 years. Our sponsors Rep Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) in the House and Senator Alan Hays (R-Umitilla) in the Senate did an incredible job working the bill through the leg- islative process. The Governor signed the bill into law in July and it is now in effect. In the upcoming session, both Senate President Don Gates and House Speaker Will Weatherford have established three priorities for the respec-

tive chambers; Ethics, Elections and Education reform, the three E’s. The Governor has stated that his priorities for the upcoming session include reducing corporate tax liability, economic development/job creation and education funding, specifically giving every teacher in the public school sys- tem a $2500 dollar raise. And, for the first time in over five years the Governor and Legislature will not be facing revenue shortfalls, as the projection by the revenue estimating conference for the 2013-14 fiscal year, is a $200 million dollar surplus. This may seem like a lot of money, but with a state budget of over $70 billion dollars a year, this is a very minor increase in revenues. The November elections changed the makeup of the legislature fairly significantly with the Republican’s losing their super majorities in both

Houses. The House now has 76 republicans and 44 democrats while the Senate has 26 republicans and 14 democrats. Overall there were 44 new members elected to the legislature, all with varying agendas and diverse constituencies. For our organization and industry, we will continue to watch closely the debate on sales tax as this is critically important to us. Both the House and Senate Finance & Tax Committee’s will be pushing for reform specifically related to internet sales, but as with every tight budget year all sales tax exemptions are reviewed. In the Department of Agriculture, the premium money for the Fairs is in the budget and we have a strong and committed advocate with Commis-

sioner Adam Putnam. The Commissioner and his staff have been very supportive of our legislative initiatives and our ability to have a direct line to key staff in seeking there help on issues we face has been and continues to be a great asset. As many of you are aware, due to tragic incidents that have occurred around the country, the “gun debate” will be a major issue in the upcoming session. Concern for the safety of Fair goers and providing a safe and family friendly environment is critically important to each and every

Fair and one in which the Federation Board and leadership take very seriously. We will be closely monitoring gun legislation this session and will report to you any significant changes in the law. As the state slowly pulls out of the “Great Recession” labor, immigration and having a stable workforce for Fairs is also of critical importance. I do

not anticipate any legislation being filed in the legislature on this issue in the upcoming session and the presiding officers have not put the issue in their list of priorities. Fortunately, it now appears Congress lead by Florida Senator Marco Rubio will finally be addressing the dilemma through com- prehensive legislation and hopefully solving this long standing problem. And finally, involvement in the legislative process and knowing your legislator is key to success of our organization. So now is your opportunity to

get involved. You can go to the Senate website at and the House website at to find out who your legisla- tors are, and contact them today. Invite them and their staff to your Fair and take time to assure they understand all of the benefits to the community your Fair provides. Over the past three years we have had great success in our legislative efforts, protecting our sales tax exemption and revising the statutory guidelines that regulate Fairs. Let’s keep the momentum going, get involved and help support this great industry.


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