Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old Jobs Give Old Leaders New Base Thrasher, Arnall Shift to Lobbying

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old Jobs Give Old Leaders New Base Thrasher, Arnall Shift to Lobbying

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- For the past two years, John Thrasher and Joe Arnall were at the "epicenter" of deciding the state's major issues.

With Thrasher serving as House speaker and Arnall the chairman of the powerful House Rules committee, the Jacksonville-area Republicans used their influence to push a pro-business agenda through the Legislature.

Now, with both forced out of the House last fall by term limits, Thrasher and Arnall are pushing that agenda in a different way: They have become lobbyists representing big-business clients.

Thrasher has become president of Southern Strategy Group, a Tallahassee firm whose clients include the Jacksonville-based St. Joe Co., one of the state's largest landowners.

Arnall, meanwhile, has formed a lobbying firm with his former legislative aide, Joe York, and is representing companies such as BellSouth and GTE.

Arnall, who is from Jacksonville Beach and served 12 years in the House, called lobbying "sort of a natural transition for John and me."

Thrasher and Arnall said they were not cashing in on their service in the House. Thrasher, for example, said he lobbied for the Florida Medical Association before getting elected to the House and was going back to lobbying.

"Am I cashing in?" said Thrasher, who will split time between homes in Orange Park and Tallahassee. "It's a matter of perspective."

To prevent influence peddling, the state Constitution bars Thrasher and Arnall from lobbying the Legislature for two years. But both said they can work behind the scenes, crafting legislative strategy for their firms' other lobbyists and for clients.

Also, both can lobby agencies controlled by Gov. Jeb Bush and state Cabinet members. Those agencies regulate high-stakes issues such as insurance and health care.

Arnall, who has long worked in the insurance industry, said his legislative background could help him with tasks such as getting appointments with agency officials. …

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