October 31, 2022
Florida is now the third-largest state. One way we can look at policy is in the rearview mirror and doing a natural experiment to see where people move after elections. Florida has overcome New York to be the third largest state. Moreover, it’s economy is the size of Mexico‘s. We can see cities like Miami, the so-called “capital of capital” where investors have $1 trillion under management. The governor is considered a front-runner to be president in the future as is the Miami mayor Francis Suarez. I caught up with Dr. Bob McClure, President and CEO of the James Madison Institute.
So what is it about Florida as a policy leader?
Florida has traditionally played an outsized role in U.S. policy for a number of years now, and recent trends will only amplify its importance in national politics. Between July 2019 and July 2020, more than 252,000 people moved to Florida, marking the fifth consecutive year that the state held the top spot for net migration. And making itself a migration hub has clearly paid off; the state has gained over $200 billion in annual income from other states in the past two decades. This growth is largely a result of Florida’s low taxes, job opportunities, and light regulatory and business-friendly government. Florida is consistently rated as one of the freest state in the country by every major index. In addition, as Florida has grown, it has become more socially diverse, and more politically conservative. As a result, the rest of the country can see Florida as a roadmap for how economically conservative policy can be successful both in prosperity and politically.
Discuss your view on the role of the state policy think tank. There is of course a vibrant state policy network, but is JMI somehow better or different and why? Moreover do we see Florida playing a lead role because of the shift and population in the economy?
A state policy think tank is in the business of providing policymakers with ideas to solve real challenges faced by real citizens. Our role is to be the ammunition for policy battles – providing legislators, members of the administration, and other key stakeholders with objective research that helps them formulate and enact real reforms. Our principles – a commitment to limited government, free market capitalism, and economic liberty – guide our approach to policy.
We have been called Florida’s most influential think tank in America’s most important state. What makes us different from groups in other states is that there is a light shining on Florida that magnifies our policy decisions nationally. Each and every state think tank operates in the way that best suits their demographic, legislative composition, and policy track. Florida is unique in many ways – as a result of term limits, the size of our economic footprint, and our growing conservative majority – policymakers regularly seek us out as a resource from the moment they win their first election. JMI is celebrating our 35th anniversary next year and we continue to make it a priority to be strategically omnipresent both around the state and outside of Florida – helping other states as they follow Florida’s lead.
Florida has seen more population and wealth migration than any other state in the U.S. As residents of Illinois, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and other high-tax/low-growth states flee – they come to Florida. As a result, the policy needs of the Sunshine State are different from those of Kentucky, or Michigan. Our economic footprint is massive – at more than $1 trillion in GDP, we are roughly the 15th largest economy in the world.
What’s special about technology policy in Florida? First, maybe provide your definition of technology policy. What are the key issues?
Technology policy has a nebulous definition given the vast amounts of topics that it covers and also how it interacts with other policy areas. I think a good general definition is that tech policy looks at how the government sets the rules of the road of how the public, public entities, and private entities use and interact with pieces of technology and grapple with its broader societal and economic implications.
Florida has positioned itself as an innovation hub – which aligns well with conservative policy. In Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez has made it his catchphrase to ask “how can I help?” This can-do mindset is turning Miami into the Silicon Valley of the 21st Century. In addition, the central Atlantic Coast of the state is known as the “Space Coast” with good reason. Florida’s tech infrastructure is massive and growing.
Two areas of recent policy concentration in tech that JMI was able to lead on are in the regulatory space – in 2021 Florida became one of the first states to establish a regulatory sandbox for financial technology companies. Then in 2022 the state followed up that policy and established a light-touch regulatory policy for money transmission – effectively saying to cryptocurrency companies “come here.”
On September 22, 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis issued his Strengthening Florida Cybersecurity Against Foreign Adversaries executive order that prohibits state agencies from procuring or using technology from nations like China, Russia, Iran, or Syria.. This is perhaps the most strict effort in the US today, even exceeding the federal government. How do you judge this executive order and its impact?
While the EO Governor DeSantis issued is a tremendous step in the right direction, by its nature any future Governor could rescind or reverse it. In order for the policy to have a lasting impact, the legislature would need to pass the order into law. This is a distinct possibility given republicans dominate both legislative chambers.
In many ways, I think his order represents DeSantis’ deep commitment to enhancing cybersecurity in Florida. In June, for example, announced $15.6 million to expand cybersecurity training. This was on top of the $20 million his administration announced in March. For a state that ranks second in both the number of cyberattack victims and financial losses from cyberattacks, these investments are vital to protecting Floridians.