Like Easter, Memorial Day and Juneteenth, the Fourth of July will be little different this year.
Neighborhood barbecues aren’t advised; all but a few fireworks shows across the state have been canceled; pro sports are on hold; bars have been shut down; and even gaudy mailers attempting to drum up business at the car lot are nowhere to be seen.
Still, there’re ways to celebrate Independence Day in the coronavirus era on a smaller scale, and there’s a heap of advocates in the Capitol who, in some small way, helped ensure the nations 244th birthday is a smash.
Here’s a look at the “Fourth of July in Lobbying.”
Other than the flag, fireworks are perhaps the most iconic symbol of Independence Day. Just a few days ago, it was legal to buy ‘em, but illegal to light ‘em. Plus, depending on what part of the state you’re in, shooting off bottle rockets could start a major blaze.
The old ban ban required buyers to sign a form saying they would use fireworks to scare birds on a farm — a claim that only a few Floridians can make in earnest. But legislators passed a bill doing away with the pretense during the 2020 Legislative Session.
Legal or not, fireworks displays mean firefighters will be on duty to ensure any fires get put out quickly.
When the Florida Professional Firefighters needs some help in Tallahassee, they turn to Screven Watson of Screven Watson & Associates. That relationship bore fruit this year, with Gov. Ron DeSantis lending his signature to a bill that will help firefighters and other first responders get counseling to manage the stresses related to their occupation.
For a lot of Americans, a festive Fourth means imbibing.
Florida’s beer and spirit industry is a big one — from renowned craft breweries such as Cigar City, to nascent distilleries such St. Augustine Distillery. Macro brews operations have a major footprint in the Sunshine State, too.
For its lobbying needs, the Beer Industry of Florida has tapped Brian Bautista, Laura Boehmer, David Browning, Nelson Diaz, Mercer Fearington, Seth McKeel, Sydney Ridley, David Shepp and Clark Smith of The Southern Group.
The association also has its president, Justin Hollis, and former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli in their corner.
St. Augustine Distillery, meanwhile, has John Harris, Joe Salzverg, Robert Stuart and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson while St. Petersburg Distillery has retained Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, and Christopher Finkbeiner of Rubin, Turnbull & Associates.
Another homegrown association with a seat at the bar is the Florida Independent Spirits Association, which has been represented by Ramba Consulting Group and SKD Consulting Group since 2015. They’ve since brought on the advocates at Nortelus Roberts Group and ADF Consulting.
Normally celebratory excess would warrant taking a cab or, more likely, an Uber to and from the bar. While that’s not the case this year, drivers will still be on the road ensuring customers can snag a bite to eat with a no-contact handoff through UberEats.
The ride-hailing company has an extensive lobbying corps, with nearly 30 advocates helping them out in the Capitol complex, including the teams at Colodny Fass, The Fiorentino Group, Floridian Partners, GrayRobinson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Pittman Law Group, RSA Consulting Group and Rubin, Turnbull & Associates are all pitching in to help in-housers Javi Correoso and Stephanie Smith.
The platoon of lobbyists delivered Uber — and drivers — a big win by helping get a bill allowing illuminated ads atop ride-share vehicles passed and signed into law.
But wait… what about “rockets red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air”? Who lobbies for them?
For the former, look no further than Taylor Biehl and Jeff Sharkey. The duo represent SpaceX, which recently transported a pair of astronauts from the Space Coast to the International Space Station.
For the latter, there’s Lockheed Martin, which has a massive presence in Central Florida. The defense company is loaded for bear with Michael Huey, Ty Jackson, George Levesque, Jessica Love and Todd Steibly of GrayRobinson walking the halls in Tallahassee.
And then there are the lobbyists for freedom itself: the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. They’ve got Pamela Fort of The Commerce Group and in-house lobbyist Kara Gross on watch to make sure lawmakers respect the constitutional rights of us all.
If Paul Revere-style muskets are your thing, those Bill of Rights enthusiasts at the National Rifle Association are, as ever, represented by 2nd Amendment stalwart and Adams Street staple Marion Hammer, who also represents the United Sportsmen of Florida.
If they aren’t, maybe the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund is more your speed. They’ve been represented by Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff and Teye Reeves of Smith Bryan & Myers four years and counting.
The Fourth of July falls on a Saturday this year, so most won’t get to enjoy a long weekend. Still, there’s enough time to sneak in a short trip.
With the ongoing pandemic, it’d be smart to travel by car rather than book a flight. Maybe opt for an Airbnb, too, to keep in line with social distancing guidelines.
For decades, motorists have relied on AAA for peace of mind when they hit the highway. The association has The Southern Group in its corner.
The Southern Group reps Airbnb, too, but they’re not doing the job alone. The premiere vacation rental company has a long list of lobbyists, including in-housers Viviana Jordan, Tom Martinelli and Joseph Leonard; Lori Killinger of Lewis Longman & Walker; and Robert Hawken of Leath Consulting.
However you celebrate in the Sunshine State, the holiday is good reminder that the nation has made it through tough periods, including the Revolutionary War, and it will make it through the pandemic too.