August 11, 2016

Florida firefighters head west to battle Colorado wildfire


AP Photo


With the peak of Florida's wild fire season over, more than 3 dozen firefighters are heading west to help Colorado try to contain more than 50,000 acres of fires raging in that state.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the state is sending 40 people to Colorado, which already has more than 280 firefighters battling a pair of massive fires, including a 35,000 acre fire near the Colorado and Wyoming border.

“This type of work can be exhausting and hazardous due to the extreme terrain and intense flames found in Colorado," said Jim Karels, Florida's Forest Service Director under Putnam's office. "By assisting other states, our wildland firefighters build their expertise and enhance their capability to protect Florida from approximately 4,000 wildfires every year."

In addition to the latest crew deployment, there are currently 30 Florida Forest Service personnel battling fires in eight other states.

Some of Florida's more than 600 forestry firefighters often head west after the state's fire season to supplement their income. By fighting fires in other states, fire fighters can collect overtime subsidized by other states or the federal government. Florida forestry firefighters are paid on average $27,000 a year. In the spring the Florida Legislature, at Putnam's urging, agreed to give the firefighters a $2,000 per person raise.

July 19, 2016

Live, from Cleveland, it's Florida's 2018 GOP governor's race


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The Republican race for Florida governor in 2018 began, as successful courtships often do, through the stomach.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam served up a crowd-pleasing breakfast of chicken and waffles, cheesy grits and -- of course -- Florida orange juice -- for delegates at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday. The grub (and the drinks, mimosas and Bloody Marys) came with big-name GOP guests -- and the unwritten acknowledgment that Putnam intends to be on the next midterm-election ballot.

Not that he admitted to it.

"We're having a wonderful time as Commissioner of Agriculture and focused on one election at a time," he told reporters, using the royal "we" often employed by well-versed political candidates.

He didn't have to announce his plans, though. Everyone in the room at the Embassy Suites-Rockside in the Cleveland suburbs was in on them.

"It sort of laid the foundation of what his intentions are -- as if everyone in Florida didn't know," said state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez of Miami. "He definitely ventured from the confines of agriculture!"

The only time Putnam talked about agriculture was when he joked about the breakfast spread, several notches above the average hotel intercontinental buffet.

"I know that a number of you were partying like Republicans last night -- actually partying like Democrats," he told attendees. "Now you're paying for it. You can drink your vegetables here at the Bloody Mary bar. It may not be Florida-grown, but it's Florida-inspired."

Instead, Putnam portrayed Florida a state other people dream about living in -- which he attributed to years of Republican control in Tallahassee. Under prior Democratic rule, he contended, the state was "turning prisoners loose after serving 33 percent of their sentence."

Continue reading "Live, from Cleveland, it's Florida's 2018 GOP governor's race" »

July 05, 2016

Donations pile up for expected 2018 GOP contender for governor


The man expected to be a leading contender for governor in 2018, has a $5 million head start on potential challengers thanks to some of Florida biggest industries.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican from Polk County, raised more than $200,000 in June for a political action committee he controls called Florida Grown PC, new campaign finance reports show. That helped Putnam surpass $5 million raised in the political committee since it was created in February 2015. After spending $1.4 million, Putnam has more than $3.7 million in the committee.

Putnam has not announced for governor, but is widely considered a top challenger for the post when Gov. Rick Scott’s term ends in 2018. Scott cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

Asked earlier this year why he’s raising so much money in the fund, Putnam said it was to “advance the conservative causes” in Florida.

Putnam is in his second term as Florida’s elected Agriculture Commissioner. Prior to that he spent 10 years in Congress representing parts of Polk and Hillsborough counties.

Putnam’s committee is the second most prolific fundraising committee of its type affiliated with a politician. Only Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee has raised more, collecting $6.5 million since the start of 2015 and spending $4.9 million, according to Florida Division of Elections records. Like Putnam, Scott has not said if he is running for another office, though there has been speculation he could make a run for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, in 2018.

Associated Industries of Florida, a trade group that lobbies for businesses before the Legislature and governor, has been by far the biggest supporter of Florida Grown. AIF gave $350,000 to Putnam’s committee since the start of 2015 including another $100,000 check just 11 days ago. And a political action committee affiliated with it, The Voice of Florida Business, has donated $400,000 since the start of 2015.

The next biggest supporter of Putnam has been Florida Jobs PAC, a committee associated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Florida Jobs PAC has given Putnam’s committee $325,000, including $110,000 just since May 20.

Here are the top 10 donors to Putnam’s Florida Grown PC since February 2015

$400,000 - The Voice of Florida Business

$325,000 - AIF PAC

$325,000 - Florida Jobs PAC

$256,275 - Florida Power & Light

$150,746 - Florida Phosphate Political Committee

$125,000 - Disney Worldwide Services Inc

$125,000 - FCCI Services Inc

$110,000 - Publix

$110,000 - US Sugar Corporation

$110,000 - Duke Energy

April 29, 2016

U.S. Education Secretary John King, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam to speak at FAMU graduation


U.S. Secretary of Education John King and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will deliver the commencement addresses at Florida A&M University on Saturday.

King will speak at the 9 a.m. ceremony, while Putnam is scheduled to speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony. More than 1,200 students are graduating from FAMU this spring.

The ceremonies will be held at the Al Lawson Jr. Multi-Purpose Center on FAMU's campus in Tallahassee and be broadcast live online.

King was appointed by President Barack Obama last year to be the nation's top education official.

Putnam, a Republican and former U.S. congressman, was first elected in 2010 as state agriculture commissioner. He is widely believed to be planning a run for governor in 2018.

March 17, 2016

Pam Bondi: I am not running for governor


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi left no doubt on Thursday that she is not interested in running for governor in 2018.

Moments after Fox News host Neil Cavuto introduced her as "frontrunner, maybe" for governor in 2018, Bondi, a Republican from Tampa, was quick to shoot down the idea.

"I will say on the record, I am not running for governor," Bondi told Cavuto 19 seconds into the more than 8 minute long interview. "I’m supporting Adam Putnam who I feel, he is our Agricultural Commissioner, and I think he’ll be a great governor for our state.."

Though Putnam, a Polk County Republican, has been widely speculated as being interested in running for governor, Putnam has not declared for the race and has sidestepped questions about whether he is running.

Despite Bondi's assurance she is not running in 2018, Cavuto wasn't done suggesting Bondi could still do it.

"I’ve looked at polls that indicate otherwise, but you could be right," Cavuto said on his program called Your World with Neil Cavuto.

Cavuto then closed the interview by saying "so far she says not governor, we'll see."

While Putnam has been building up his fundraising in a political action committee he runs for most of the last year, raising over $4 million in 12 months, Bondi has done little in her political action committee. In her fund, called Justice For All, Bondi has raised just $53,000 since Sept. 1, 2015.

March 10, 2016

Putnam raises more than $1 million in three months for political committee

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continues to be one of the state's most prolific fundraisers in the state, adding to speculation that the Republican from Polk County will make a run for governor in 2018 when Gov. Rick Scott will be unable to run for re-election because of term limits.

Just since December, Putnam raised over $1 million for a political action committee he runs called Florida Grown and has now raised just short of $4.3 million in the last 12 months, according to new campaign finance reports with the Florida Division of Elections.

Why all the money for Putnam, who because of term limits cannot seek re-election as Agriculture Commissioner?

"To advance the conservative causes of solid public policy for our state," Putnam said on Thursday.

Putnam has only spent $253,426 since Dec. 1, according to the new campaign finance reports.

Putnam's biggest donor has been Associated Industries of Florida, and a committee they run called The Voice of Florida Business PAC. Through those to vehicles, Putnam has collected $625,000 in the last 12 months - and $50,000 in just the last six days of February. Florida Power and Light has also been a big donor, giving Putnam's committee more than $250,000.

Putnam's fundraising since December has been only outdone by Scott's. Since December, Scott has raised $1.3 million for his Let's Get to Work political committee. But Scott's committee has also spent $1.6 million during that same period on, among other things, television ads and a bus tour promoting his legislative agenda.
Scott has reportedly been interested in running for the U.S. Senate in 2018, but has refused to say publicly if he is considering the race.

March 08, 2016

Crackdown on gas-station skimmers goes to Gov. Rick Scott's desk to be signed into law


Among the bills to clear the Legislature during this last week of the 2016 session is a proposal that cracks down on illegal credit-card skimming devices at gas stations.

SB 912 passed the House unanimously on Tuesday, after unanimously clearing the Senate last week. It now goes to Republican Gov. Rick Scott's desk for his signature.

"Skimmers" are devices that steal credit and debit card information. The legislation requires gas pumps to have certain security measures to better thwart criminals' attempts to install the devices and steal customers' financial information. It also increases law enforcement's ability to make arrests and prosecute criminals with harsher potential penalties.

The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, with support from state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regularly inspects the state's nearly 8,000 gas stations and has found more than 190 skimmers since the start of 2015, Putnam's office said.

This past week, inspectors found one device in Pompano Beach, two in Tampa and one in Orlando, the office said.

“Protecting consumers from identity theft at gas pumps requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. I thank Senator Flores, Leader Young, the Senate and the House of Representatives for their support of this key consumer protection legislation,” Putnam said today.

Flores and Young added in the statement that the legislative approval is a "victory for consumers."

“Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about identity theft when filling their gas tanks, and this legislation will help protect Floridians and visitors from skimmers," Flores said.

About 100 consumers are victimized by each skimmer, resulting in $1,000 stolen from each victim on average. Each skimmer represents an estimated $100,000 threat to consumers, Putnam's office said.

February 04, 2016

Capitol Buzz: Five things to watch today in Tallahassee

Legislative committees continue meeting in Tallahassee, while the state's top officials go to the fair. Here's what we're watching:

* They won't have an official cabinet meeting, but Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi will still be at the Florida State Fair in Tampa to help kick off the festivities. The governor will host a luncheon there at noon.

* At 9 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will again take up the proposed "Pastor Protection Act," which allows clergy to turn away gay couples seeking to marry. The committee's vote was postponed last week.

* The House State Affairs Committee could vote to send to the House floor a proposal that changes the legal language of Florida's absentee voting to "vote-by-mail." That panel also meets at 9 a.m.

* The Senate Transportation Committee, also gathering at 9 a.m., will give a first hearing to a bill by Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, and Anitere Flores of Miami, which aims to outlaw the use of red-light camera devices in Florida.

* A bill dealing with cremation fees that counties charge is set for its final committee hearing in the House. The Regulatory Affairs Committee meets at 1 p.m.

January 08, 2016

Putnam caps 2015 with big fundaising haul


Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam ended 2015 with quite a bang, according to new campaign finance data.

On New Year’s Eve, the Polk County Republican who is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2018 when Gov. Rick Scott’s term in office ends, raised $275,000 from three donors for a political action committee he runs called Florida Grown PC.  Those donations included $150,000 from Florida Power & Light, $100,000 from Duke Energy, and $25,000 from U.S. Sugar Corporation.

It capped off a lucrative December for Putnam’s political action committee, which raised more than $755,000 for the month, according to Florida Grown PC’s records. For the year, Putnam raised about $4 million, making him second for the year to Scott when it comes to raising money for political committees of the sort. Scott has raised over $4.4 million for his Let’s Get to Work committee.

Politicians are limited in how much money they can raise for their traditional campaign accounts. But many elected officials have created political action committees that have no limit on the size of a donation that a person can give, though there are added restrictions on how the money can be used.

December 22, 2015

Virginia to no longer recognize Florida concealed weapons permits


Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam blasted a decision by the state of Virginia on Tuesday to no longer recognize concealed weapons permits from Florida and 24 other states.

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, a Democrat, said effective February 1, 2016, his state will no longer recognize concealed weapons permits from 25 states that they previously recognized. That is because laws in those states “are not sufficient to prevent someone who is disqualified under Virginia law from receiving a concealed handgun permit,” Herring said.

Because Virginia will no longer recognize permits from Florida, Florida legally will not be able to recognize permits from Virginia. It all means Floridians wanting to carry a concealed handgun in Virginia would have to apply for a permit in that state to do so.

Putnam, a Republican who has jurisdiction over the issuances of Florida’s concealed permits doesn’t like the decision by Virginia. Florida has issued more than 1.4 million concealed weapons licenses.

“The real losers of the Virginia Attorney General’s decision are law-abiding gun owners in half the states in our country” Putnam said. “The Virginia Attorney General’s politically expedient decision to end reciprocity for concealed weapon licenses is a knee-jerk reaction that tramples on people’s Second Amendment right.”

He had company in blasting the decision. The National Rifle Association slammed Herring shortly after he held a press conference in Virginia announcing his decision.

"Plain and simple, Mark Herring is putting politics above public safety,” said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “This decision is both dangerous and shameful.”

Virginia bans people with a history of stalking, drug dealing or inpatient mental-health treatment from obtaining obtain a permit. They also bar people who have been convicted of two misdemeanors in five years or someone who is an “unlawful user” of marijuana or other controlled substances.